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


Staunton, a town and postoffice in Posey township, on the Vandalia Railroad, twelve miles east of Terre Haute and four miles southwest of Brazil, founded in 1851, at the time the railroad was in process of building, by Michael Combs and Lewis Bailey. This town was originally named Highland, for the reason that an old time resident of the site, familiar with the country, claimed that the plat occupied the highest ground along the line of the railroad survey between Terre Haute and Indianapolis. When the application for a postoffice was granted it was necessary to propose a different name, as there was then a "Highland" in Lake county. As Staunton, Virginia, was the place of proprietor Bailey's nativity, this name was chosen for the postoffice and that of the town and railroad station made to conform. As to who was the first postmaster, there is diversity in recollection on the part of survivors of the early population. John M. Bailey thinks that it was A. H. West, while Nelson Gregory thinks that it was George Whidden. Along the line of succession in this position may be named Hezekiali Wheeler, William Koile, James M. Lucas, Albert Webster, George E. Hubbard, Emery White, Isaac S. Donham, C. G. McClintock, Samuel Cooper, Eugene Wardlaw, L. S. Byers, C. E. Biller.

Of the merchants of the place in the various lines of trade may be enumerated A. H. West, George Whidden, Wheeler & Carter, J. & J. Wardlaw, Carter & Huffman, Hubbard Brothers, Webster & Vancleve, Milton Carter, John G. Scherb, T. E. Eppert, Edward Summers, Samuel Cooper, C. J. McClintock, E. McCullough, Charles Gillaspie.

Among the practicing physicians have been: John H. Hawkins, James N. Wardlaw, Dr. Kester, J. S. Kiser, F. B. McCullough, Dr. McCorkle, Ben Davis, J. C. Maxey, Myron L. Boor, P. H. Veach.

One of the early and substantial industries here was a steam flouring mill, built by Lewis Bailey, in i856, which was remodeled in 1859, wrecked by a wind storm in 1861, rebuilt by Joseph Graham within the year following, and twenty years later (in 1881) destroyed by fire. William Gilbert operated a grist mill of minimum capacity, for several years, on the eastern border of the' town. Collin W. Carter conducted a stave factory, which burned out in the early seventies, was 'rebuilt and again operated. Here, too, for a time, was a broom manufacturing plant, established and operated by a blind man. And a tannery is said to have been one of the industries of the town, for a time, within the first twenty years of its history.

Coal was mined here at a very early day, and immense quantities produced and shipped. Many mines were operated in this field. This was the home of Michael Combs, who is credited with having not only discovered, but with having developed and shipped the first coal produced within the county.

Here was erected the first two story brick district schoolhouse in the county, built by Trustee Adam C. Veach in 1868, completed in 1869, at a cost of $6,000.

Staunton was incorporated in 1873, having then a population of 554, the preliminary election having taken place on Saturday, June 28th, when 107 votes were cast - 8 in favor of and 22 against the proposition.

Four church societies and as many houses of worship are maintained at this place - Christian, Methodist, New Light and German Lutheran, of which the last named was dedicated November 3, 1872. As to time of dedication and details pertaining to the other churches there are no reliable data at hand from which to write.

During the first ten or more years of its history Staunton was the rival of Brazil commercially and industrially and ranked, for a time, as the most important shipping point and railroad center in the county. It was then, in the business sense, what Williamstown and Cloverland had previously been. Then, emigration to Clay county and the borders of Owen knew more of "Highland" than of Brazil and had their goods shipped to this point, when, also, grain and other products were hauled here for market and shipment. The time was when Brazil's population was dependent on Staunton and Cloverland for bread stuff, when the average Brazilian, out of bread, would take in hand a "pillowslip" or dishpan and go to Bob Conley's or to George Kress's grocery store and have scooped into it a baking of flour from a barrel which had been hauled from the mill at one of the points named and left for sale on commission. In midwinter, when the mud was too deep to haul a. barrel of flour, the dernier resort of the breadless Brazilian was to buy a bushel of corn from "Uncle Johnny Hendrix" or other adjacent farmer and borrow one of his horses to go to Staunton to mill. Reminiscently, in this connection, it is a distinct recollection of the writer, that in the month of October, 1859, wanting a peck of cornmeal, which the Brazil market did not afford, he walked to the Cloverland mill, bought and carried home the meal, a round trip of twelve miles. Such were the diversions and luxuries of "Brazil's 40o," just half a century ago. Staunton, at a time, also, maintained a line of daily communication with Bowling Green, by hack, when the town of Center Point and Bowling Green people, in part, transacted their express business at this point. This place is the residence of Rev. Samuel Slavens, now the oldest native resident of Posey township. A phenomenal fatality befell a prominent citizen and familiar character of this place thirty nine years ago. All the surviving residents of that time have distinct recollection of P. H. Veach, Sr., uncle of Dr. P. H. Veach, whom everyone knew as "Pat." In those days Staunton usually maintained a debating society during the winter season. In this circle Pat was accorded an honorable position and was regarded an able debater. Though comparatively a young man, while on the floor making an argument at a meeting of the society, in the month of March, 187o, he was stricken down with paralysis, from which he never recovered, dying in the month of August following. Present population 700.

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