Brookville and the Railroad
The coming of the railroad in 1852 established the foundation for the growth of Brookville. The surrounding villages were platted earlier, had larger populations, and included more businesses. In 1846 the Greenville and Miami Railway Company was chartered and a right-of-way secured from Dayton to Greenville. The right-of-way passed through what would become the village of Brookville.
General Anthony Waynes troops cleared a former animal path and Indian trail for easier travel in 1793. This widened trail became known as the Slant Road or Military Road, which is the present day Brookville-Pyrmont and Brookville-Salem Roads. Later travelers used this road to journey between Eaton and Salem (now Clayton). The road crossed Wolf Creek near the present Main Street, and north of this location Warren Esterbrook established a general store in 1831. Work began on this new rail line in 1848 with one of the construction camps located in the area. With the railroad a reality, there was a need for housing and business places. Using the railroad survey lines, Jacob Flory laid out the first plat in 1850. Warren Esterbrook had become so successful that the village of Brookville was named after him.
As work progressed on the railroad, houses and businesses were built along Main Street from the railroad right-of-way to Wolf Creek Turnpike. There was a need for a railroad waiting room. Benjamin Baker built the first business building along the railroad tracks at the intersection of Salem and Liberty Streets (now Mulberry Street) to house his general store. He became the first railroad station agent, and the first waiting room was located in his general store.
Following the completion of the tracks from Dayton to Greenville, the D & G Railroad Company was ready for travel. The grand opening was held on June 10, 1852 and people gathered to watch and wave to the many persons who rode the first train from Dayton through Brookville to Greenville. Later in the same year, the tracks were extended to Union City and became known as the Dayton and Union (D & U). In 1852 the Dayton and Western Railroad Company completed its tracks as far as Dodson. In 1853 the Dayton and Western line was extended to Richmond, Indiana and on to the Great West. Service during the first year was reportedly irregular, and passengers going to Dayton by train for the day often were compelled to stay overnight or walk home. The influence of the railroad on the growth of Brookville through the mid-1900s cannot be over-stated. During the early years, the waiting room (later the depot) was the center for most all business entering and leaving the village.
In 1863 Isaac Hay built a large brick warehouse at the corner of Market Street and the railroad tracks (area now bordered by Sycamore Street and Hay Avenue.) The waiting room was moved to this location and Mr. Hay became the station agent serving until 1870. John Bernard served the following ten years. John H. Smith was the telegraph operator, ticket and freight agent from 1880 to 1882. In 1882 David C. Williamson became the owner of the building and served as the agent for the next 18 years through 1899.
On September 28, 1899, a special village council meeting was held to consider the building of a depot at the corner of Hay Avenue and the recently platted Cusick Avenue. Council gave its approval and on January 15, 1900, the depot (western part of the present building) was opened housing a waiting room, agent office, and a small freight room. Mr. Williamson resigned and Jesse Johnson became the agent and served until 1905, Reuben Piatt, the next agent, served until 1913. The agent for 1914 to 1916 was Mr. Mefford. T. R. Smith came in 1917 and served until 1923.
Brookville was the largest and most important village in the northwest section of Montgomery County. The need for a larger freight room was apparent. In 1918 the present large freight room was added to the original depot. A new agent Vance Burba arrived in 1924 and stayed until 1926. Fred Knierim who remained during the Depression and World War II followed him. Mr. Knierim retired near the end of 1945 and Paul Kahl became the new and the last station agent at the depot. With less and less shipping by rail, the depot was closed in 1974.
A tragedy involved the depot on Labor Day of 1945. The Spirit of St. Louis Special train and an automobile collided at the Albert Road crossing. Many passenger cars were derailed along Cusick Avenue and one of the engines narrowly missed crashing into the structure.
The last passenger train to Greenville was in 1931 and all passenger service was stopped in the 1940s.