A BRIEF HISTORY OF MILFORD, MICHIGAN
by Barbara Young
Milford began at a point where Pettibone Creek flows into the Huron River. It started when the Ruggles Brothers, Elizur and Stanley, built a sawmill on the Huron River in 1832. Elizur went into farming and sold his share to his brother Stanley in 1834 and Stanley sold to the Armstrong Brothers in 1836. They added a gristmill across the river in 1839. Elizur’s farm was south of Atlantic Street and east and north of the river. He later platted the farm in 1872 and the houses now there were built in the 1870s and later. This area was called “Egypt” in the 19th and early 20th century. Elizur’s farmhouse still stands.
The Huron River, and Pettibone Creek flowing into it, provided waterpower for the 14 mills built in the area in the 19th and 20th centuries. Luman Fuller built the first gristmill on the Huron in 1834, where Peters’ bridge is now. This later became the Peters Mill. There were also a woolen mill, a cooperage and a tannery in that complex. The first street connected the Ruggles saw mill and the Fuller grist mill and is now called Huron Street.
Jabesh Mead platted part of South Milford, called Mead’s Addition, in 1836. The same
year he and his brother-
Settlement north of the river began shortly after that of South Milford. In 1836
Aaron Phelps built a dam on Pettibone Creek and created the Lower Mill Pond, building
a sawmill and distillery at its foot. The Upper Mill Pond was developed in 1845,
and had at least five different mills on it.
Milford was established as a township in 1835, and then, on April 12, 1869, Milford Village was incorporated. The main concerns of the first Village Council were streets and sidewalks and the formation of a fire department
The local weekly newspaper, The Milford Times, was founded in 1871 by Isaac Jackson.
It continues to this day and is the oldest contin-
The coming of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad in 1871 spurred growth and vitality by supplying a route for the marketing of farm produce. Hotels, stores, saloons, and homes were needed for the expanding community and much building took place in the 1870's and 1880's. Fire protection became a concern and the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century saw the beginning of a fire department and, in 1895, a community water works.
The presence of the waterpower allowed Milford to become one of the earliest communities
in Michigan to have a system of electric lights, in 1892. A dynamo was placed in
the old Fuller-
Growth slowed, even decreased, in the last decades of the Nineteenth Century. Small
industries were established; some succeeded, some failed. Then, as now, efforts were
made to attract businesses to Milford, with varying success. Buggies, sausages, door
knobs, window screens, cultivators, bath tubs, toilet seats, dried apples, Kentucky
jeans, fine furniture, carburetors, honey, jam, whiskey, flour-
The invention of the automobile had a great effect on Milford. Mr. Bacon brought
the first car to Milford in 1900 and after that car dealer-
In recent years has come a large influx of residents who have found, as did the author of an 1877 History of Oakland County, "a landscape of wondrous beauty, and one well worth the pencil of the artist."
The history of Milford is not the story of national heroes and mighty events. It is rather a living model of how Michigan villages developed in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Much of its history is still evident in its surviving structures and existing millponds. Its fabric gives us a sense of character and identity and builds a bridge from our past through our present and into our future.