History of Saline, Clay County, Indiana
From: A History of Clay County, Indiana
By: William Travis (of Middlebury)
The Lewis Publishing Company
New York - Chicago 1909


Saline City, a town in Sugar Ridge township, at the junction of the main line of the Evansville & Indianapolis Railroad with the Brazil Branch, founded by Henry Jamison in 1870. When first laid out this town was named only Saline, but at the September term of Commissioners' Court, 1872, on petition of the proprietor, the record was changed so as to make it read "Saline City." To the uninitiated the name of this place is misleading. On the train from Terre Haute out to Clay City, a good many years ago, were two strangers, seated side by side, one of whom, when the name of this station was called, looking out of the window, inquired of the outsiders, "Where are the salt works ?" Though disappointed in not seeing the "works," the stranger was right in his deduction from the call he had heard. On the hillside just south of the town site was a salt lick in pioneer times, so much frequented by deer that their constant licking lapped out and undermined a large oak tree, so that the winds blew it down. From this circumstance the town was given a name suggestive of salt. The site of this town is historic ground, standing on the east side border of the Birch Creek Reservoir, or canal feeder, which the people in that part of the country were just as much determined to abate as the canal trustees were determined to maintain it. Here, within a few rods of the site of the E. & I. Railroad station, were encamped in the summer of 1855, the two companies of Indiana Militia, under command of Colonel Dodd, sent out by Governor-Wright to protect the canal property.

A postoffice was established here when the railroad from Terre Haute out to Clay City (known as "The Y" at that time) went into operation in the fall of 1872. The postmasters have been: James Long, Jonathan Beeson, Mrs. Martha Chord, John Overton (R. Gantz having declined), Jacob Batimunk, A. L. Witty, E. G. O'Brien, James Lash, Adam Baumunk. Adam Baumunk succeeded Jacob Baumunk, also, in 1889. Saline City was made a money order office in 1892. The practicing physicians have been: T. H. McCorkle, R. Gantz, L. C. Griffith, D. Brown, George W. McMillan, Dr. Harris, Eugene Hawkins, B. F. Spelbring, J. B. Shepperd, M. D. Stephenson, W. T. Selfridge, Dr. Muncie.

Dr. F. M. Pickins, of Bowling Green, built the first business house, and W. B. Holmes, the second, perhaps both intended for the drug trade. Other individuals and firms who engaged in mercantile pursuits may be enumerated as follows: Pickett & Jenks, E. Nutting & Co., Patton, Forsythe & Co., Wilson Brothers, Z. T. Barnett, J. & J. Wardlaw, Jonathan Beeson, Edward Coffey, Baumunk & Evans, The Richardsons, George Lane, R. H. Moore, Waters & Baumunk, T. H. Johnson, James Watson, R. Gantz, Edward Myers, W. W. Risher, D. S. Lindsey.

The first schoolhouse was a frame of one room in the north part of the town, which was used about ten years, when the present two story frame house was built by F. M. Barnhart, who was trustee of Sugar Ridge township from 1882 to 1886.

The first religious society organized at this place was that of the Presbyterians, who erected a house of worship in the year 1874 or 1875, on ground donated by the proprietor of the town, the charter membership said to have been just the number of the apostles. This society, from lack of number ands interest, or other cause, did not flourish, and the house was practically abandoned a few years later, which stood idle until the United Brethren came into possession of it, when it was reconstructed. A Methodist Episcopal society, organized about the year 1876, built a church in the northwest part of the town in the year 1883. Dr. John Williams donated the rock for the foundations of both buildings.

The timber industry gave commercial life, activity and prosperity to Saline City. Pickett & Jenks founded a stave factory here within the same year that the railroad went into operation, who also did the first general merchandising business. This firm was succeeded by E. Nutting & Co., and they by Patton, Forsythe & Co., all of whom operated the stave industry extensively, consuming millions of feet of timber. About the year 1880 or 1881, while Patton, Forsythe & Co. were doing business, as now remembered, James H. Grayson located here as superintendent of the firm's timber and manufacturing interests, under whose management immense quantities of lumber were produced and shipped. At times the large mill yard was completely covered with logs and huge stacks of lumber. After the retirement of this firm Mr. Grayson continued in charge of the mill and industry for a number of years, succeeded by his son, William M. Grayson.

Very soon after the founding of the town Edward Barnett built the two story frame hotel, which for a number of years past was conducted by Jason W. Brown, and now by Mrs. Brown. As a reminiscence, it is told by survivors of the earliest history of the place that this hotel first kept by Z. T. Barnett, was thronged beyond its capacity by regular boarders, as many as thirty five or forty, all of whom were served their meals at the hotel tables, but that many of them had to provide their own sleeping apartments, who bunked by permission at private residences, the stores, the stave factory and other places.

Here was the Knickerbocker coal shaft, the first mine opened and operated in the county south of Brazil, worked from 1872 to 1876. The pyramid of earth thrown up from the excavation is yet visible to mark the spot, a little distance east of the track of the E. & I. Railroad, just before reaching the station from the south, so named for the reason perhaps, that its promoters and proprietors hailed from New York, the Knickerbocker State. The Risher mine, a later development in this coal field, is located here, immediately alongside the railroad, on the south side of the town.

The flouring mill was built in 1005 by O. H. Markle, proprietor, who has continuously operated it.

A lumber mill is said to have been operated on the border of the site of this place at the time of the building of the Birch Creek Reservoir by a contractor on construction of the same. In the latter part of the fifties and the early sixties, perhaps, Abijah Donham had a sawmill at or near the point of the junction of the side cut with the feeder, where, on the 25th of June, 1858, was drowned his son, William Donham, age 20 years, one of the few fatalities from this cause in the early history of the county. At a still later day, subsequent to the time of the founding of the town, Fred Fender operated a lumber mill here.

Another industry here, but of short life, was the manufacture of brick, by Ed Coffey, whose plant was located on the south side of the town and railroad, who, for one season, had a contract for four hundred thousand brick. Population 225.

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