The first mill at this site was built in 1803 by Owen Davis. The Davis Mill burned in the 1840's. Within a year, John Patterson built another mill at the same location. The Patterson Mill provided cornmeal and flour to soldiers during the Civil War. Unfortunately, this building was destroyed by fire in the late 1860's.
The present building was built by the Armstrong Family in 1869. The Armstrong Family owned and operated the mill until 1889. Issac Preston bought the mill and three generations of his family operated it until 1948.
From 1948 until 1963, the old mill building was inactive. Robert Heller discovered the vacant mill while hiking through Clifton in 1962. Heller was an engineer and was intrigued by the mill's deteriorated condition and the prospect of restoring it to function on waterpower. Heller and his wife purchased and restored the mill. Clifton Mill has been a functioning mill every since.
Clifton Mill is perched above Clifton Gorge on the Little Miami River. With the headwaters of the Little Miami River only 20 miles northeast of Clifton, the river is about 20 feet wide at the mill site. The river is deeply entrenched and layers of bedrock are exposed creating a spectacular gorge. About one mile upstream, a large dam creates a millpond to supply water via a millrace to the water-powered turbines at Clifton Mill. This dam was built in 1840 by the Clifton Power and Light Company to provide power for several shoe factories, a couple of mills and electricity for local communities. The dam is constructed of large cut limestone blocks that were quarried from the walls of Clifton Gorge. A portion of the dam collapsed as a result of an ice jam in the 1970's and required repairs that included a concrete addition.
Clifton Mill is an impressive structure with six levels. It is built with two floors below the rim of the gorge, and four floors above the rim. The lower level contains the water turbine. The upper levels house all of the milling equipment and storage of the ground corn and wheat. Many pieces of antique milling equipment are on display. A tour of the mill is available for a nominal charge. The tour is self-guided but there are plaques that describe the machinery.
The exterior of the mill is in good condition. It is sided with red planks and the building is trimmed with white paint. The mill is well lighted with many 4 X 4 double-hung windows. The entrance to the mill faces the road. The surrounding area is exceptionally maintained and displays one large wooden waterwheel and one smaller steel waterwheel in a picnic area located between the millrace and the Little Miami River. A new addition to the mill site is a wooden waterwheel that can be observed from the restaurant.
One of the best views of the mill building is obtained by descending the gorge to the stream's bed. Here the building, the spill way for the millrace, the turbine's water release and the seepage of natural springs can be seen as the water escapes from under the mill building and cascades down the rocky banks and into the river.
The mill operates 7 days a week from 8 - 5 on weekends and 8 - 4 on weekdays. The old wooden structure, the antique machinery and the ambiance of yesterday is a treat for the entire family. Plan on breakfast or lunch at Clifton Mill's Restaurant! Don't forget your camera. You will fall in love with Clifton Mill! ("Come Back to the 1800's, Visit Clifton Mill."; "Gap in Dam Imperils Historic Clifton Mill."; "Ohio Grist Mill Grinds Away.").