Greenville Falls Had Role in Bringing Electricity to Rural Miami County
By Judy Deeter
COVINGTON - This early 20th century post card is of Greenville Falls on Greenville Creek near Covington, Ohio. In 1908, it was sent by a person named Grace to her Aunt Alta (Mrs. Lawrence) Blacke in Indianapolis, Indiana. It has a Covington post mark of "3:00pm, June 3, 1908." It is from The Troy Historical Society’s Grilliot collection.
The card’s picture shows the Falls, a mill building on the left side of the photograph and a dam on the right. The image on the card is not just a pretty scene; it also represents a bit of history regarding the start of rural electricity in Miami County and America. And, along with its electrical history, Greenville Falls has a rich human and natural history.
Historical records of the Falls contain stories about people and nature going back hundreds of years. They include tales from the days of Native Americans to the coming of both white soldiers and settlers to the area. In the late 1790’s, famous American General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and his men were in the area of the falls. Under Wayne’s command, a fort named Fort Rowdy was constructed nearby.
The story of electricity at the Falls begins in 1897 with a local sawmill owner and carpenter named R.M. Albery. (Note: R.M. Albery was Richard Milton Albery. He was known to his friends and acquaintances as “R.M.” Albery. Some records also indicate that he served as a Mayor of Covington sometime prior to 1909.) Albery had three sons named Martin, Morris and Richard, who were interested in how machines and lights could be powered by electricity. In the late 1890s, R.M. Albery’s sons talked him into buying the Falls Electric Company at Greenville Falls.
Following Albery’s purchase of the electric company, he and his family upgraded the power production operations. The book HISTORY OF MIAMI COUNTY (1982, edited by E. Irene Miller) says: “…R.M. Albery and Sons built a dam across Greenville Creek a little more than a mile from Covington. At this site, they constructed a power plant where the twenty-eight foot fall turned the generator to supply the first electric power to Covington. This plant was one of the best hydro-electric plants in the state and later furnished electricity to Pleasant Hill, Ludlow Falls and a number of rural lines.” Work at the plant went on 24 hours a day; seven days a week.
In the coming years, as the demands for rural electricity grew, more electric lines were needed to expand operations to new areas. Sometime around 1911-1912, the Albery family decided the expansion was more than they could financially handle. They sold their electric power operations to an eastern utilities company and the company was reorganized as the Buckeye Light and Power Company. Albery’s son Richard F. remained with the company as General Superintendent for the plant until 1930. J.H. Marlin of Covington became the new company President and T. Russell Robinson of Boston served as secretary-treasurer.
The book HISTORY OF MIAMI COUNTY OHIO (previously cited) says, “The Buckeye Company promoted and built the first rural electric lines in the United States and filed the first rates with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio for the construction and operation of rural lines.”
Just months after the purchase/reorganization of the company, the great flood of 1913 did damage to the electrical plant at Greenville Falls. Though damage was significant, the power plant was back on line in a matter of days.
The increase in power demands, stretched the capacity at the sawmill. Eventually, a new power plant was built beside the sawmill building shown in the post card picture. Photographs taken over the years show the mill and power plant standing side by side.
In 1927, the United Public Services Company of Chicago purchased the Buckeye Light and Power Company for $285.00 per share. Stockholders of Buckeye Light and Power Company had originally purchased their shares at $100.00 per share. Buckeye shareholders greatly benefited from the sale. Dayton Power and Light Company purchased United Public Services Company on February 4, 1948 and the power operation at the Falls became part of Dayton Power and Light Company.
Dayton Power and Light Company owned the land at Greenville Falls and the surrounding area over the coming decades. In the late 1960’s, Dayton Power and Light donated land there to the Village of Covington. Dayton Power and Light did, however, continue their operations at the Falls. Years later, the land was transferred to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Today Greenville Falls and the land around the Falls is a 92-acre park named the Greenville Falls State Scenic River Area. It is located at 9140 Covington-Gettysburg Road & 4720 Rangeline Road. It has nearly 1 mile of trail. Remnants of the wooden dam, the Albery mill building and electrical power equipment are still at the park. Interpretive signs along the trail tell the story of Greenville Falls.
In the early 2000s, Miami Park Commissioner Terry Netzley compiled a booklet about the history of Greenville Falls. It is titled “A History of Greenville Falls & Vicinity.” It was compiled for The Miami County Park District and The Covington-Newberry Historical Society. It gives a detailed account of the Falls and has several photographs of the Greenville Falls from both 19th-21st centuries. It can be seen online at website named “Angelfire” (www.angelfire.com) and at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library, 100 West Main Street in Troy.
The Troy Historical Society website (www.thetroyhistoricalsociety.org) contains stories about the Albery family. They are in the “biographies” link on the website.
For further information about this story, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greenville Falls in the fall. The foundation of the old mill can still be seen on your left. A trail at this Miami County Park leads down to the old foundation, as well as to other relics from the past, including this leftover metal on the right. (Photos by Matt Bayman)