Farmers, many of Irish descent, were among the first settlers of Verona and that surrounding community. They may have chosen Southern Boone County because of the gentle sloping hillsides were a reminder of their homeland.
One of the earliest pioneers in that area was James Stephenson, who built Stephenson Mill along the creek in 1830. The success of the mill, which was famous for almost a century, attracted other businesses to the area. Flour, corn meal and grits were ground there and delivered to residents as far away as Cincinnati.
The mill was powered by a waterwheel using waters from McCoy's branch of Mud Lick Creek, just before it emptied into the Ohio River.
Milling appeared to have been a family trade for the Stephenson family. James' father, Billy, operated a water mill along Cruisers Creek in Kenton County. James moved from Kenton to Boone County and purchased 2,000 acres of land at the mill site for $2 an acre. Billy helped his son establish the business by importing 200 Mexicans to surround the vast holding with well-constructed dry laid stone walls.
McCoy's branch of the3 creek was dammed up a quarter of a mile above the mill. A head gate and pen stock were installed. Two millstones were imported. The bed stone was from England, while the top, the burr stone, was imported from Paris, France, then famous for the quality of those types of stones.
From miles around people brought their grain to be ground at Stephenson Mill. The mill ran eight months of the year, 24 hours a day, except for Sundays.
Marion Stephenson was the last member of the family to live at the mill. In 1884 it was sold to Thomas Montgomery, a native of Green County, Kentucky. He operated the mill for several years before it was touched by disaster.
The removal of trees and other brush around the banks of the creek made the water hard to maintain. A flood destroyed the head gate in the sluice - the man-made channel for water, which had a gate to control the flow. All the water was then let out.
Roller mills also came into existence and marked the end of the water wheel grist mills. The mill went out of business in the first part of the 20th century.
The burr stone was sold to an antique collector and the bed stone remained at the site of the mill because it was too heavy to left.. Part of the millstone sits on top of a headstone of Raymond Stephenson a descendant of James, in the New Bethel Cemetery in Verona.
Only two buildings remain today as evidence of the town's first major growth period in the 1880's. They are the old post office and general store at the center of town and St. Patrick's Church.
The store gave a sense of local importance by the round-headed windows and doors, raised platform sidewalk, and sheltering canopy.
In 1883, the postmaster and dealer in dry goods and general merchandise was J. N. Dickerson. Since that time the store has been used for several businesses and has been occupied by many owners. The post office moved up the road and the old building is vacant.
he Catholic Parish was begin by a number of Irish immigrants. Many of the congregation, who worked on Verona farms, first met at the home of Thomas O. Dwyer on the farm of a man named Hudson. These early families, the Flynns, Ryans, Carrs, Canes, and Dempseys practiced their faith with a visiting priest from Covington, Father Willey.
In 1865, John Dempsey, who lived near the present location of the old church donated a lot to have the church built and St. Patrick's Church was established. The church eventually moved to Walton and the building is presently used for a Masonic Lodge.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Verona's businesses included F. T. Mansfield, a dealer in general merchandise, who claimed, "We pay the highest prices for country produce." Kennedy and Whitson were dealers in leaf tobacco, L. J. Hume was a trade in stocks and bonds, and C. D. Lewis and Son were carpenters and builders.
A depot was located on the south side of town. Dr. R. L. Finnell's office was in the center of town. Miss Lizzie Roberts was the school teacher and J. J. Bromback was the county magistrate. In the early 1900's, the Verona Deposit Bank opened its doors. W. M. Whitson served as the first president and the deposits were $13,500 at the start of business. The old bank building still stands in town next to Clayton Reneker's service station. The bank expanded and relocated nearby on Walton-Verona Road.
Verona High School also came into existence around the turn of the century. The two-story brick building closed about ten years ago and is now used as a craft shop.
During the late 1800's students in Verona received education at the League Institute in Verona under the management of Miss Nannie Hamilton and B. B> Hamilton. Today, Walton-Verona Elementary School located on Porter Road near Verona and the Walton-Verona High School in Walton provide education for the residents.
After the completion of I-71 and I-75, Verona was no longer used as a primary crossroad town. Travelers and residents may reach Gallatin County on Highway 16; Walton on Highway 14; and Crittenden from 497. All of these roads come together in the middle of town.
Although the small community of 300 had public water, they are not governed by a city council or police department.
Only a handful of businesses are left. But, the Hamilton-Stanley Funeral Home, the bank, a volunteer fire department, video store, restaurant, churches, and a couple of grocery stores seem to meet the needs of the residents.
by Janice Gallagher. It originally ran in the Dixie News on April 7, 1988