OREGON WISCONSIN LOUISIANA NORTH CAROLINA MASSACHUSETTS
HOW BIG IS MILTON (always changing)? 7050 people 5550 people 303 people 196 people 27,000 people
HOW OLD IS MILTON (as of 2014)? 63 years old- It was established in 1951 when the neighboring towns of Milton and Freewater merged. 46 years old- Today’s Milton was “born” when the neighboring villages of Milton and Milton Junction merged. 129 years old- Unincorporated Milton was first settled in the 1700’s by Acadians from Nova Scotia. It was named in 1885. 218 years old- Milton was established in 1796. Through its first 100 years, it was a real center of commerce and activity in NC. 350 years old- Milton’s birth year was 1662– it recently had a big 350th year old birthday party. It is the oldest of our 5 Miltons.
HOW DID MILTON GET ITS NAME? Originally called Freeport, when a new mill was proposed in 1868, the community changed its name to Milltown, which soon became Milton. We heard a few stories about how Freewater got its name:  Some folks who wanted to have bars in Milton got voted down– so they started their own town just up the road a bit where the water was free. OR: to attract people to the town, the city provided water service for free. Milton is named after poet John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. When Businessman Joseph Goodrich settled in the area, he remarked that after leaving the East coast (which was Paradise Lost), this was “Paradise Regained.” This was also a strategic way to get other people to come move out to the town as well! Milton Junction was originally named for being the main area for the railroad. In 1885, Dr. Milton R. Cushman came to the area to practice medicine. In order to facilitate his work, Dr. Cushman petitioned for a post office, thereby becoming the first postmaster there. The mail was left at his medical office. When postal officials asked for a name for the locale, Dr. Cushman’s wife decided upon Milton—the name of her husband and son, Milton S. Cushman, who was born in 1890. The town was named after the old mill, near Country Line Creek. John Schelp says: “You can still see the mill foundations in the woods. Start at the Dan River bridge (across from the cemetery), walk north along the Dan, past the old train depot, turn right at the creek, walk under the tall railroad trestle bridge posts and you’ll see the large stone and brick foundations up on your right. Mill Town (Milton) was named after this mill. The area was originally called “Unquity,” the term used by the Neponset Tribe of the Massachusetts Indians meaning “Lower Falls,” which was translated into “Lower Mills” after the establishment of the Stoughton Grist Mill in 1634. In 1662, a part of the Town of Dorchester commonly called ‘Unquatiquisset’ was established as an independent town and named Milton in honor of Milton Abbey, Dorset, England.
WHO LIVES IN MILTON? Wikipedia tells us that Milton-Freewater is 70% White, 30% Latino, less then 1% other; most folks in town say the town is about basically 50% White, 50% Hispanic. You can really feel that when you go into the middle school! Wikipedia says Milton, WI is 96% white, and this was our experience in town as well. An exception is the popular proprieter of the beloved Milton Family Restaurant, who is of middle Eastern descent. Wikipedia tells us Milton is 95% white, 2% African American, and 3% “other”. For the most part, the white “oldtimers” are descended from families who originally owned the land and settled the town. They identify as Cajun. According to Wikipedia, 60% of folks living in Milton are white, and 40% living there are African American. Most people we met have long roots in the area. These days, it’s very rare for someone to just move into Milton. Wikipedia says Milton is 77% White, 14% African American, 4% Asian, 4% Latino, 1% Other. It has the highest percentage of residents citing Irish heritage of any town in the US (38%), and an extremely vigorous immigrant population (especially Haitain and Vietnamese).
HOW MANY RELIGIOUS INSTUTIONS ARE IN MILTON? Milton-Freewater has 19 churches– many are Spanish-speaking or have Spanish services, and there is one called “Cowboy Church” (it floats around from place to place, and is often in Walla-Walla). Milton, WI has 14 churches. Although it’s not the Milton with the most churches, it feels like it is — because most of the Churches are listed on the many “Welcome to Milton” signs around town. There are 2 Churches (Catholic and Baptist). The town was built around St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which was called “the little green church” before its recent renovation. Many folks who go to the Baptist Church don’t live in Milton. Milton proper has 4 churches, but there are several more that float on the outskirts of town. The churches break down larely along race, but there are several events throughout the year where all churches get together. Some churches attending congregation is only 5 or 6 folks. Milton has 14 churches, and is the only one of the five Miltons that has a Unitarian Church, a Jewish Temple and a Muslim Mosque (although that’s actually in neighboring Quincy). For a time the Unitarian Church also housed a Haitian service.
HOW MANY BARS ARE THERE? The bars are mostly on the “Freewater” side of Milton-Freewater– 4 total, including the “Let’s Go Inn”, where we met the man who laid down all the sidewalks in town. 13, with most of them in the Milton Junction part of town; we particularly enjoyed the Cove Bar which is in an old soda fountain (although it’s almost impossible to tell). Milton ahs 1 bar called Wa-Wee’s on the River. Wa-Wee is the life-long nickname of the bar’s owner, George Broussard. It has a big deck and is a beauitful place to watch the sunset. No bars here, but Aunt Millie’s Pizza place serves beer and wine, and the porch is a great place to sit and drink it. Otherwise, head down the road toward the Virginia International Racetrack (VIR). There are no straight-up bars in Milton. Many restaurants serve beer and wine, and a restaurant with a full bar just opened up– it’s the first since the 1800’s.
HOW MANY SCHOOLS ARE THERE? There are 6 schools In Milotn (4 elementary, 1 middle school and 1 High school, which is called “Mac High”). There are no private schools. The schools have a large Spanish speaking population, and have hired bi-lingual para-professionals to work as translators for Hispanic families or students who need that service. There are 8 schools in Milton (1 main middle school and 1 main high school, and there is also an alternative high school). It’s been recommended that we visit Milton, WI during homecoming when students can be seen the whole week wearing wacky outfits and the schools’ colors of red, black, and white. There is 1 school in MIlton (K-8), called Milton Elementary. The school is well respected and much loved– it’s a big reason why families move into the sub- developments sprouting up around there (although these newcomers work in Lafayette or other surrounding towns, as there is no real employment oppotunity in Milton itself). There are no schools in Milton, which corrolates to the fact that there are also really no school-aged children in Milton. Any child who does live in Milton goes to school in Yanceyville, and several Yanceyville teachers live in Milton. There did used to be public schools in Milton, segregated between whites and blacks. There are 6 public schools in Milton: 4 elementary funnel into one middle and one high school (one Miltonian spoke about the diversity in Milton, describing Pierce Middle School as a “little U.N.”). Two elementaries offer a popular French immersion program. There are several private schools, including the boarding school Milton Academy.
WHERE DO THE KIDS HANG OUT? Some go to the library after school, and there’s a great pool in the summer time that draws family not only from Milton-Freewater, but from its sister-city Walla Walla. There are several big parks to run around in, and many families have large properties or farms. Many adults and kids here talk about loving being outside, on their horses, or hiking or hunting. Some folks are working on making a Youth Center available to all kids– we heard many families speak of a their strong desire for healthy, constructive places for kids to go after school. Schilberg park is a popular place for sports and new playground equipment was recently put in the east end of Veterans Park. There is a park that used to be pretty active, but now activites are more centered around the school (both in Milton, and in the high schools around Milton). There are no other particular gathering places; many families have large properties or farms and so kids play there. There are sometimes family-based Church events. There aren’t really kids to hang out in Milton anymore, but we did hear stories about sledding down the main road in the winter time (this was before the racetrack was built, so there was very little traffic). There also used to be a general store where the kids would go after school to get candy– though that is long closed Today the kids in Milton seem to love the same places their parents and grandparents loved: Turner pond, Houghton pond, the Blue Hills trails, and Cunningham park (with its enormous swimming pool). After school sports is a really big deal here, with lots of kids and families involved in that. The library is also a popular hang out after school.
WHAT IS MILTON’S PAST INDUSTRY? Milton-Freewater has always been a farming area. In the early 20th century it was known as the “Pea Capital of the World.” Fruit orchards (apples, prunes, cherries) were a major business, which brought a lot of migrant labor to the area– first white laborers, and then Mexican. We were told that the housing for migrant workers in both Milton-Freewater and neighboring Walla Walla was particularly good; most of the Hispanic population in M-F were originally families who came to the area as migrant labor, and then settled here permanently. A popular housing complex in town is still called “the Labor Camp,” a left-over from the migrant farm worker days. Wisocnsin was and continues to be a major farming area. In Milton itself, there is a mix of white and blue collar workers, with mostly blue collar– the GM plant in nearby Janesville was a major employer here, and the Parker Pen Company one of the top employers in the area for over 70 years (the company was eventually sold off in a leveraged buyout in the 1980s). There used to be a college in town called Milton College (now commonly referred to as “the now defunct Milton College”)– it brought both faculty and students to the area. Since it closed, those buildings are being used for other things (a church has taken over what was once the gym, and the historical society resides in a main building). In the early days, most families who settled in Milton were farming families. Now the major crop is sugar cane, but there was and continues to be a wide range of crops. Because of their farms, folks were pretty self-sufficient when it came to both meat and vegatables, and the community was drawn tightly together through resource sharing especially in the very hot summer months when meat had to be shared and eaten before it rotted. There have always been a high percentage of teachers living in Milton, teaching at both Milton Elementary and a surrounding schools. Tobacco farmiing was the main industry in the area of Milton, NC well into the 20th century. However, there were mills and factories that provided work as well: Milton is located on the Dan River which made it a center of industry in the 19th century. Thomas Day, a free black cabinet maker lived and worked in Milton from 1821-1864 ). His furntiure was and is exteremly sought after. Many folks also worked for the thread company in Danville. In its earliest days, Milton was a capital industrial center– Milton housed the headquarters and track bed for the nation’s first commercial railroad. It was the site of the Baker Chocolate Mill which from 1785 was a major employer of the town. By the mid-1800’s there were 4 chocolate factories in Milton alone! There were also several early paper mills. Milton is the home of many “firsts”, including the first pianoforte, manufactured by a Mr. Crehore who also produced the first artificial leg.
WHAT IS ITS CURRENT INDUSTRY? It was recently discovered that the soil in Milton-Freewater is particularly good for wine-making. What used to be pea fields and then fruit orchards are mostly being converted into vineyards. The wine business is taking over the area! Neighboring Walla-Walla is loading itself up on Wineries and tasting rooms; the folks in the Downtown Alliance of Milton-Freewater are thinking about how to capitalize on wine tourism while still keeping the area very family friendly. The G.M. plant in neighboring Janesville supported Milton for many years. SInce the plant closed down recently, the city is working to find its footing and its new identity. There are many small businesses in towns: restaurants, bars, a bowling alley, a coffee shop, a plant-and-gift store, and of course the many churches. There is still blue collar work available in the area surrounding Milton (for example, we met a couple welders who worked in a factory between Milton and Janesville), and there are still functioning family farms. Not much in Milton itself except teaching at the school and working at the few small businesses in town (a local grocery called Nu-Nuu’s and some corner markets). Most employment can be found most in Lafayette or in the small towns surrounding Milton. The Oil Industry is probably the biggest employer in this area, with many men working off shore. There are some folks who stillf farm (or crawfish farm) for a living. THere is a recording studio just on the other side of the Vermillion River from Milton, which occasionally brings some big name recording artists to the area. Milton NC no longer has any industry driving its existence. Tourism is something that could help the town survive; the Thomas Day house is a historical site of major importance and interest. Surrounding it on Milton’s main street are several small artisan and antique shops. There is one historic inn less than 2 miles away that can house guests. What brings most of the people through Milton these days is the VIR (Virginian International Racetrack)– but most folks don’t stop in Milton when they’re headed out that way. Today, Milton is a bustling bedroom community of Boston, with shops, restaurants, a strong school system. Several business that began hundreds of years ago still thrive today: Thatcher Farms still actively produces and distributes (and home delivers) milk as well as particularly amazing chocolate milk; Bent’s Cracker factory, established in 1801, was reputed to have made the first water cracker,and is still a popular place to get cookies: The Fruit Center, Milton’s only grocery store, began as the tiny Fruit Store, a green grocer in Milton Village.
WHAT IS SOME TYPICAL FOOD? These days, it’s wine and hard cider… although it used to be onions, apples, and cherries. The Milton Family Restaurant is the place to go after church on Sunday– we were there 3 times over the course of 2 days! If you go to Milton, you have to eat MEAT: Boudin sausage and smoked meats from local grocery Nu-Nuu’s; crawfish crawfish crawfish. We would have to say that Aunt Millie’s pizza is the most typical Milton food we had… along with an egg-and-toast breakfast at the Tire and Grill! Here’s a long-time local after-school snack: Bent’s cookies washed down by Thatcher Farms Chocolate milk (Bent’s is for sale, though).
ARE THERE ANY TOWN FESTIVALS? The biggest festivals in Milton-Freewater are the annual Muddy Frogwater Festival and the Pendleton Round-up (in nearby Pendleton). Many people reminisced to us about the Pea Festivals that used to be held when M-F was known as the pea captial of the world (mid-20th century). Choral singing concerts and competitions are a big part of Milton, WI- both for students and community groups. Homecoming is a big all-city event every Fall, with students wearing whacky outfits and celebrations happening. Throughout the summer, there are summer concert series and Church-based family events. In Milton, LA we’ve heard about church and school functions, and we’ve been to a couple lots big family BBQ’s– but no “whole town” events that we’ve encountered. Mardi Gras is not a big celebration in Milton proper. The Acadiana Music Festival is right nearby Milton, and a big Cochon de Lait festival is less than 2 hours away. The women’s club has bake sales and the volunteer fire department has stews which are both fun all-community gatherings–and there’s always a “Christmas in Milton” day in December with music up and down mainstreet as all the shops open their doors for the day. The big event that brings family back each year is “homecoming weekend” which the Churches all share. Each year there is a Milton festival in the fall– with craft and food tents, music and events. The town just had a huge 350th birthday celebration. Local Brian Kelley held an inaugaural Milton celebration complete with fireworks this July 4th, and hopes to continue that each year.
WHAT IS MILTON’S IDENTITY BASED ON? Several years ago, a marketing consultant advised Milton-Freewater to adopt frogs as its theme. There are now large wooden frog statues in front of businesses all over town. Some people love them, some people really think they’re dumb. Whatever the opinion, they’re clearly here to stay. Milton-Freewater has a fast growing new identity as a wine and cider producer, along with sister city Walla Walla. Milton is anchored by the Milton House, a historic building that the town founder built as an inn and later used as a general store. Milton prides itself on the fact that the Milton House was a major stop on the underground railroad (and the only part of the the “underground” railroad that was actually underground), and many enslaved people traveled through Milton to gain their freedom. Unincorporated Milton is slowly becoming a suburb of Lafayette. Large parcels of land initially owned by one family can be sold to a developer for a significant amount of money, who then breaks the land into smaller plots and builds new houses, very close together. One question the Milton oldtimers face: how to maintain the town identity when it was originally based on a few families who owned much of the land and its now based on many families owning tiny plots of land? Milton calls itself “The Museum without Walls.” It is proud of its complex and fascinating history. The Thomas Day house is a focal point of the town’s civic spirit, energy and interest. Residents are split on the best strategies to bring life and commerce back into the town: focus on hisotrical preservation and tourism, or bring modern chain stores or gas stations to main street? What would induce people to stop and engage with the town? What would make them happiest living there? Milton, MA was recently ranked 2nd best place to live by MONEY magazine, and the town takes a lot of pride in that. Almost every resident we spoke to also feels like the city’s diversity is a big source of pride, and one thing they want the town to be known for. The identity of Milton is also rooted in the Blue Hills: the city is close to Boston but really feels like its a small town in the middle of incredible natural resources: walking trails, woods, water, and trees are never far away.
CAN YOU TELL ME ONE LAST THING ABOUT MILTON? Milton-Freewater still is a farming and ranching town. Many people (most people?) have horses or other large animals, and the outdoors is a big passion for folks who live here: whether it’s sky gazing in the front yard or at a nearby ranch, going horseback riding, or hiking in the Blue Mountains. There was a new highway bypass just built that is going to have major impact on Milton. Will it bring more buisness? Less? Will Milton fade away into a suburb of Janesville? Already apparently it’s having some negative impact on both businesses that now get less traffic, and local domestic roads that get more One thing we learned from talking to 98 year old Mrs. Nola was that in the years before refrigeration, the folks in town had to rely on each other in a way people don’t have to today.  Namely, meat wouldn’t keep that at well (even buried under the house)– so the families in town would take turn slaughtering an animal.  The owners would get the best cut, and the rest of the cuts were rotated amongst the rest of the town– that way, each family got some meat each week, and everyone had a turn with the bad stuff as well as the good stuff! On our first trip to Milton, we learned the phrase “Milton Widow”– which refers to the phenomenon of many houses in Milton being inhabited by a single elderly widow. We also heard a great story about African American midwife named Henrietta Jeffries. In 1911, she who was brought to court by white doctor who wanted to take her business away. When the judge asked “who here was delivered by Miss Jeffries?” practically everyone in the courtroom stood up (both black and white). The white Judge stepped down from bench to represent her himself, then personally dismissed the case. Milton has no Mayor, it is run by town meeting, the oldest form of government in the U.S. It has been home to five Massachusetts governors, including our current one, and is the birthplace of a US president. It’s also home to the Suffolk Resolves, which became the colonies’ first collective statement against the British government, a precursor to the Declaration of Independence.
DOES MILTON HAVE A WEBSITE? Milton-Freewater website Milton, WI website no town website but here’s the school website Milton, NC website Milton, MA website
DOES MILTON HAVE A MOTTO? Muddy Frogwater Country or “A Toadly Awesome Place to Live” (see the story here) History in Progress none Museum without Walls where Preserving the Past is our Future none