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Milton Town

Milton Town Hall is located at 43 Bombardier Road, Milton VT 05468; phone: 802-893-4111.

Beginnings [1]

The Town of Milton is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, with the Lamoille River traversing from the Georgia to Colchester borders. It is located in the northwestern corner of Chittenden County.

Milton was a popular Native American camping ground. Because the western boundary was on Lake Champlain and the Lamoille River ran throughout the town and emptied into the lake just south of the Sand Bar, Native Americans, especially the Mohicans, came for the good fishing. This, perhaps, accounts for the number of arrowheads found near the water and near the sandy plains. Milton was also in the region claimed by many Indian tribes as their hunting ground. Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire granted the charter of the Town of Milton on June 8, 1763. This grant of land was made to sixty two grantees. At the time, the Town was comprised of 23,040 acres in approximately six square miles. On November 10, 1868, Milton acquired the Colchester land that lay north and west of the Lamoille River.

The Town was not settled until the worst of the Revolutionary War was over, although settlements were encouraged in order to increase the value of the land. The records of the proceedings of the proprietors previous to the war were lost.

Early Settlers

William Irish, Leonard Owen, Amos Mansfield, Absalom Taylor, and Thomas Dewey first settled Milton in February of 1782. Mr. Mansfield was one of the most enterprising of the early settlers. He saw the advantage of lumbering in the middle section of Milton where giant pine forests lined both sides of the Lamoille River. The first gristmill and sawmill were erected on the river by Mr. Mansfield for which he received four plots of land totaling approximately 400 acres.

Other early settlers were John Mears, John Jackson, Joseph Clark, John Sanderson and N. M. Manley. Mr. Mears came to this town from Fair Haven, Vermont prior to 1800. His grandson, Rodney Mears, later owned his farm. Paul Mears, a fifth generation family member, now owns the farm. John Sanderson also came to Milton with his family at an early age. His son Levi bought his farm in 1804 and was the father of Charles P. Sanderson, who lived with his wife and two sons Floyd and Orlow, at the original homestead.

West Milton

According to records, West Milton was the first part of town to be settled. West Milton and Milton were over abundant in old growth pine and timber that the English wanted for their Navy. In the early 1800's, Joseph Clark and H.P. Boardman bought land and rights from John Jackson, who then owned all the land in West Milton. Clark and Boardman hired crews of men to cut lumber and large timbers that were used in the British Navy. The logs were hauled from Milton Village to West Milton Valley and stored on the Lamoille riverbanks. When the water was high enough in the spring, the logs were sent down the river to Lake Champlain and to their destination in Montreal, Canada and foreign markets. The church at West Milton was built in 1831 at the top of the hill, now known as "Meeting House Hill," near the Paul Morgan home. As late as 1862 and 1863, people from Checkerberry Village attended services at West Milton. The original church had two rows of windows with side galleries and pews with doors that fastened with a button. Services lasted all day, with a sermon both morning and afternoon. People brought their lunch or dinner and ate it, weather permitting, in the pine grove behind the church. Harley Perry, a local carpenter, tore down the church in 1943, but the bell is still located in the steeple of the Milton Historical Museum on School Street.

A school located on the Clark farm, now owned by John Rowley, was rebuilt in 1869 from a one-story to a two-story building. The upper part of the building was used for a Grange Hall and for entertainment. Over forty years ago this building was converted to a home now owned by the Morgan family. A 325 foot long covered bridge built in 1835 was the third bridge built to cross the Lamoille River in West Milton, having been preceded by one above and one below this site. This covered bridge was destroyed March 2, 1902, by high water and ice. A steel truss bridge was erected across the river in its place.

Checkerberry

Checkerberry became the second thickly settled section of Milton. The first Town Hall, known as the Town House, was built on land known as Checkerberry Green and first used when voters met on March 26, 1806. Previous Town meetings had been held in private homes. In 1849, Dr. Daniel Onion deeded one half acre of land to the town for the purpose of erecting a building for use on funeral occasions and religious meetings. However, at the same time Joseph Clark along with Lyman Burgess and George Ayers, were instrumental in the building of a Town House located near Milton Falls on River Street. After balloting at least three different Town meetings, it was finally decided to hold all Town and Freeman's meetings at Milton Falls.

The well known Checkerberry Green, with its lovely flower gardens is said to have been enclosed by a fine green fence. On the corner south of the Green was a large hotel called "The Rest," believed to have been built before 1800. It was a place for social functions such as dances and the so-called "trainings" of the war days, which were held every few months. All the young men were expected to take part in the activities.

Milton Falls

There originally were seven waterfalls on the Lamoille River within the Town of Milton. The falls supplied the needed power for the saw, grist and other mills that grew up along the river. The part of town known as Milton Falls grew up around Clarks' Falls and Great Falls. Today this is known as the village. The early settlers of Milton deemed it one of their first duties to establish schools in town. There were twelve districts where schools were later erected. In 1806, a school was built near the Earl Bevins home. There was also a "Young Ladies Select School" on River Street, which was later destroyed by fire. The old Town Hall at Checkerberry was also used for school purposes for many years. The home of Joseph Clark, known as the Clark Memorial, which served as the Milton Town Offices for many years, was extensive and grand. The lawn was decorated with flowers, shrubs, and a fountain. The residence is said to have been surrounded with a heavy brick wall and massive piers and iron gates. Joseph Clark died in 1879 at the age of 84. On January 7, 1916, his granddaughter Kate R. Clark deeded the Clark Memorial building to the Town of Milton with the stipulation that the building is kept in repair and that certain groups be allowed to use it.

Milton in the 1800's

Milton was a lively place at that period. The hotels were the center of entertainment. In 1874, a drama club was formed which presented dramas, farces, and recitations. When circuses came to town, the elephants had to swim the Lamoille River, as the authorities were afraid they would wreck the old covered bridge. Whenever entertainments were given in the churches, care had to be taken that no dancing was allowed.

In 1788, soon after the Town was organized, roads were officially laid out which took the place of the old trails. The road known as East or Stage Road was built from the southeastern part of the Town, to the north line of Milton. For over fifty years, it was the main thoroughfare through Milton. Another early road went from Checkerberry across the Lamoille by the so-called "Poor Farm," then west of Arrowhead Mountain and on to the Town of Georgia.

The sand bar between the island of South Hero and Milton made it possible to ford the lake in the early years. In 1850, a toll road was built across the sand bar at a cost of $25,000. The bar was filled with rocks hauled by wheelbarrows and by two wheeled dump carts. Trees were then placed on the rocks and covered by fill. A tollhouse was completed on the island side of the bridge. Toll rates were: single or double horse team 25 cents, 4 horse team 38 cents, cattle 10 cents, hogs 4 cents, sheep 2 cents and walkers 5 cents. A family's yearly passage was $3.00.

Between 1870 and 1880 was the busiest period in Milton Falls' history. There were 3 meeting houses, 9 stores, a paper mill, 2 gristmills, 3 fulling mills, 3 tanneries, a weekly newspaper, numerous shops, 3 hotels and an iron bridge across the Lamoille River. Over 200 men served their country during the Civil War and 74 are buried in Milton cemeteries. On September 6, 1909, there was a celebration in Milton marking the dedication of the Soldier's Monument honoring the "Boys in Blue" who marched from this town to the battlefields of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

Milton in the 1900's

By the turn of the century, many changes had occurred in Milton. Around 1898, the International Paper Company built a pulp mill at Great Falls on the Lamoille River, one mile below the village. When the pulp mill was being built, as many as 250 men were employed. This started a new period of prosperity for Milton. All houses were occupied, and lodging places were hard to find. The mill employed as many as 100 men during the winter rush season.

Around 1920, the Milton Water Corporation was formed to supply the village with water. The source of the water was a pond east of the village, known as Milton Pond. Water was stored in the McGrath Reservoir at the top of the hill on Westford Road.

A volunteer fire department was formed in 1937. The fire department was said to have come into existence because of the efforts of the Ladies of Milton Improvement Society. A fire station was built on upper Main Street on land donated by Mrs. Ellen Miller.

By 1935, only a small amount of land was not used for farming. Most of this was in urban and recreation areas. Farming had increased by 11 % since 1870, however, this was not reflected in population. In 1935, there had been a 17% drop in the population of Milton. As machinery and new methods became better known, the output per farm worker increased and many people went to the industrial centers to work and live.

In the 1950's, Milton's population was approximately 2,000 and it remained fairly stable. Then the 1960's saw rapid growth with the addition of three mobile home parks and several new housing developments. By January 1976, the population had grown to well over 6,000 residents.

  1. Milton Planning Commission and Milton Selectboard, Town of Milton Vermont 2008 Comprehensive Plan, Draft, December 2007; history adapted from "Milton's Story 1763-1976," published by the Milton Bicentennial Committee.
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