Bear Branch, Indiana

Bear Branch, Indiana

Abandoned Level 2 Ghost Town Discovered in Ohio County, Indiana, Watts Mill, Bear Branch

Bear Branch, Indiana is one of those very small Indiana towns that you may have heard of but probably have never been to. It’s not a “Ghost Town” but it definitely was a much busier town in the past.

Bear Branch began in the early 1800s when George French moved his family into this area. As other families set down roots the area took the name of Freedom and Coles Corner. The Bear Branch Post Office located along Bear Branch Creek about 1 mile west of this intersection was relocated to this town in 1855. When the move was completed the town changed it’s name to “Bear Branch” after the Post Office which remained open until 1937.

Original settler George French died in 1857 and is buried on a local farm. His two sons, Peter & John French are buried at the Olive Branch Cemetery just South of town.

Bear Branch and Pike Township are still very rural but over the years the township has been home to several general stores, a casket maker, several blacksmith shops, a telephone exchange, a flour and feed mill, two churches and at least 4 school houses.

Here’s what I’ve been able to find out…

A fairly large general stored last owned by Robert Turner stood at the Northeast corner of the Bear Branch intersection. It served as a grocery store, dry goods store, hardware store, telephone exchange and living quarters. A barber shop and pool table was located on the second floor. The store burned down in 1951. After the fire the Chevrolet dealership across the road was purchased and remodeled into a store. That store ran until the early 2000s and then sat vacant for years. It has recently been purchased but is no longer in use as a store.

The Kammon General Store was built on the south side of Bear Creek along Bear Creek Road by the Kammon Family. Word has it that this establishment held the first tavern license in the State of Indiana although it was and is so far out in the middle of nowhere, I’m not sure how the state even knew this place existed. The store carried groceries, dry goods, hardware and farm tools. Supplies were hauled in by wagon from the railroad that ran through Dearborn County. They also ran a horse drawn huckster wagon throughout the community selling groceries and delivering the mail. Business continued here until 1917 when the Kammon Family moved to Cross Plains, Indiana and purchased a flour mill built in 1906 and which still stands today. Once vacated the Kammon Store was used by many different families over the years as a private residence. The house still stands although the barn has collapsed.

James McCreary built a garage on the east side of town where he worked on radios and televisions.

Around 1846 a grist mill was operated in the area by Hugh Anderson. Later a flour and feed mill was run by Albert Pate. A saw mill was operated by Jack Rimstidt about 1/2 mile north of Bear Branch until the mid 1940s.

In 2024 the Bear Branch Supply Feed Mill is the only business in town and employs 6 people. It began in 1953 by Harry Althoff and Howard Wiesman and was named the AW Feed Mill. These 2 men operated the mill until 1998.

Prior to the feed mill John French made caskets at this site. Caskets were not made until after a death and then the casket would be constructed overnight to be ready the next morning.

Over the years at least three blacksmiths operated in the Bear Branch area. One by Will Selmeyer in 1920, John Althoff had a blacksmith shop across from the Freedom School and Henry Althoff also had a blacksmith shop at the north end of Cutter Road around 1950. This was the last blacksmith shop in the area.

A Good Templars Grange Hall stood at the northwest corner of Aberdeen Road and Cutter Road. Unfortunately it’s long gone now.

Albert Pate operated a flour and feed mill next to the current firehouse. This was originally a 3 story building cutdown to 1 story for use as a garage.

In the 1880s there were 10 Cooper Shops in Pike Township, one owned by Samuel Ward and another by Jonathan Carpenter.

Two Cream Stations operated in the Bear Branch area in the 1950s by Mary Elder and Bertha Althoff.

The softball diamond was established in 1950 with organized leagues playing until 1983.

There were also 2 doctors in the Bear Branch area, Doctor Fuller and Doctor John Elder.

A Ghost Town

The Watts & Hart Families moved into the norther tip of Pike Township along Laughery Creek in the early 1800s. A small village soon formed at this location called Watts Mill. At this site there were 13 houses, the Bear Creek Baptist Church, a mill, a trading post, a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a cooper shop and a broom maker. There were two cemeteries for the town, the Watts-Hart Cemetery and the Bear Creek Cemetery. In 1867 a church fire destroyed the Bear Creek Baptist Church. The town is completely gone but the mill race along the creek is still visible.


The original Olive Branch Baptist Church was organized in the old March School House which was a log structure located at the northeast corner of the present day Olive Branch Cemetery. The current structure was built in 1884.

The original St. Peters Lutheran Church was built around 1855 and then replaced in 1878. That structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1974. The current church was built within a year.

As mentioned previously, in 1867 a church fire destroyed the Bear Creek Baptist Church in the northwest corner of Ohio County. After the fire some members decided to rebuild a church closer to their homes. The new church was named East Union Baptist Church and was built on the northeast corner of Aberdeen Road and Cutter Road. This church was also later destroyed by fire resulting in the members joining the Olive Branch Baptist Church. There is nothing left of the East Union Baptist Church.

Fire Departments

A volunteer fire department was organized in 1969 with Harry Althoff being the first Fire Chief. The first fire house which still stands today was constructed in 1969 and built out of material of the Patriot School which was being demolished at the time.


At one time there were 5 schools in Pate Township.

The school in town was known as the Freedom School. It was a one room school house which sat just next to the present day baseball field. It was open until 1951 when this new two room school house was built. The only remains of the original school house is the hand pump. The two room school house operated until 1964 when it closed and the children then attended the C ass Union School. The two room school house still stands today as a community center.

The Carpenter or Hebron School House was located 1/2 mile north of St. Peters Lutheran Church on Milton Bear Branch Road. It closed in 1941.

The Mt. Olive or Beech Grove School was located farther north on Milton Bear Branch Road.

The Agenda School was located on Mexico Ridge and closed around 1916.

The Bear Creek School was first located near the Kammon General Store then later was moved to its present location further south on Bear Creek Road. The school closed around 1924 and is now a private residence.

The St. Peters Lutheran School was located behind where the current church building now stands and was built in 1880.

The Marsh School was built before 1850 and was constructed where the Olive Branch Cemetery is now located.

Other one room schools included the Carpenter or Mt. Hebron School about 2 miles north of town on Milton Bear Branch Road, the Agenda School House on Mexico Ridge Road, the Bear Creek School House and the Beech Grove School House.


The Bear Branch Boulder was originally located at the Earl Sommers Farm. It was moved to the present location in 2006 weighing in at 10,976 pounds. This large boulder is probably the only one of its kind in the county.

Pate Farm

The Pate Farm on Pate Road along Laughery Creek was obtained from the Federal Land Grant Office in Cincinnati, Ohio between 1810 and 1820. The original farm was over 600 acres with a large portion being dairy cows. The farm remained in the Pate name until 1969. The present house was built in 1902.

Cemeteries Watts Mill

Watts Hart Cemetery is located along Mexico Ridge Road and is surrounded by a stone wall in the middle of a cornfield. This is one of 2 cemeteries for the Watts Hart village mentioned earlier. This cemetery was in use up until the 1800s.

The Bear Creek Cemetery is located just 200 yards from the Watts hart Cemetery very near Laughery Creek.

The Cooper Voris Cemetery is located on Aberdeen Road just east of Mexico Ridge Road.

The Olive Branch Cemetery is located next to the Olive Branch Baptist Church.

The Phelps Cemetery is about 1 miles east of Bear Branch off of Aberdeen Road. Only 2 graves are suspected and the exact location is not known.

The Marker Althoff Cemetery is about 1 mile north of Bear Branch at the corner of Milton-Bear Branch Road and Iceburg Road

The French Cemetery on Iceberg Road is on private property and was mentioned earlier as the final resting place for George French.

St. Peters Lutheran Cemetery just behind the church

Pate-Carpenter Cemetery is located to the west of Milton Bear Branch Road about 1/2 mile north of St. Peters Lutheran Church.

GPS  Location:  38º54’46.1N 85º04’30.0W