The Twentieth Century and the Coming of the Automobile

 By the end of the nineteenth century residents were adding furnaces, steam-heating fixtures, bathrooms and steel ranges to their homes.  By 1909 two farmers were using milking machines in their dairy business, and by 1910 four vacuum cleaners were in use to clean the Methodist church.

The greatest event of the twentieth century was the advent of the automobile, and Milford, like the rest of the country, reflected this.  F.W. Bacon, owner of the Peters Mill, bought the first automobile in town in October 1900.  He traveled all the way to Ohio to pick it up and apparently drove it home.  By 1910 the Milford rural mail carriers had autos.  On July 9, 1910, H.M. Coulter broke all Milford records by driving home from Royal Oak in only one hour and thirty-five minutes.  He met sixty-three autos during the drive.  

In 1915 Bert Vincent tore down the old Tenny & Greig Hall, which had been moved in 1876 from the flatiron to the west side of North Main Street, and built the  

Mil"Ford" Garage.  The building, which stood across the street at 424 North Main Street, was razed in 1919 and a garage built on the site.  In 1934 the McPherson Oil Company built a small service station on the southwest corner of North Main Street and West Liberty, which is now on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites. Another service station was built in 1932 on the northeast corner of North Main Street and East Liberty, and the Standard Station was built on the northeast corner of N. Main and E. Commerce in 1939.

In 1924, Mr. V.M. Schlieder decided to move his Schlieder Manufacturing Company from Detroit to Milford, and announced the need for twenty-five homes for his employes' families.  His new factory, which manufactured valves for the Chevrolet Motor Company, was built just south of the depot in South Milford, and probably is the building which later housed the Milford Jelly Factory.  He also needed a home for his own family, and he bought a lot at 614 North Main Street and contracted with Floyd Sands to build a semi-bungalow in Dutch Colonial Revival style for him.  The house was completed in1924.

The Detroit Autodash Company operated on the west side of the Upper Mill Pond.

The manufacturers of automobiles came to realize that it was necessary to test their vehicles for safety and performance.  The General Motors Corporation came to Milford Township in 1924 and selected 1125 acres of land located west of Milford Village near the border which separates Livingston and Oakland Counties for a testing area.  The effect on Milford Village was considerable, as the many employes at the General Motors Proving Ground found homes in the Village, and made use of the Village's facilities for services and goods.  

Another event of great magnitude for Milford Village was the building, in 1938, of one of Henry Ford I's "little factories" on the west side of the Upper Mill Pond, the site of the former Auto Dash Factory.   Frank "Trader" Hubbell, one of Milford's most active entrepreneurs, was also an old friend of Mr. Ford, and was instrumental in bringing Ford to Milford.  The new Ford plant made use of the old waterpowers which had been created in the 1830's and 1840's on Pettibone Creek and the Huron River.  Ford built two hydroelectric plants to power his new facility, which manufactured carburetors.  In this case, too, the Village profited by the need for housing, services and goods for the employes of the new factory.

 During this period of growth and development appeared the Bungalows, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Tudor style houses and a few Art Deco commercial buildings.

Early Churches of Milford

As in all early settlements, religion held an important position and churches were established almost immediately.  The first recorded religious organization in Milford was

called a Methodist Class.  It was formed in 1836 with Truman Fox as leader.  In the same year a second class of Methodists was formed under the name of the English Class and was led by Robert Pearson, preacher.  These religious groups first met in homes or schools in the Township.  Between 1840 and 1844 the classes merged to form the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The members built, as their first house of worship, a small frame building located on the east side of Union Street near the intersection of Canal Street.  In 1875 a new and larger brick church was built just south of the frame church, which was moved over to North Main Street and became first a furniture shop and later the GAR Hall and was torn down in 1971.  The brick church is now the Masonic Temple (212 Union) and the Methodist congregation now meets at their third church on Atlantic Street.

 Six members, under the direction of the Rev. George Hornell of White Lake, organized the Presbyterian Church of Milford in 1838.  They invited the members of the Congregational Class to join them as they met in the little red schoolhouse on the south side of West Washington Street facing Clinton Street.  This union lasted only a short time, however, as the Congregationalists left the Presbyterian group and organized their own church.  The two groups remained apart until 1845, when the Rev. Mr. Hornell returned and organized the two congregations under the name of United Presbyterian and Congregational Church of Milford.  During the time between 1838 and 1844 Ansley Arms built a log building on lot 70 of Mead's Plat on Washington Street (401 W. Washington) which the congregation used as a church and Sunday school.  A new frame church building was constructed in 1846 on the north side of West Huron Street facing the Public Square (224 West Huron).  In 1899 a new brick church was built on the southeast corner of North Main and East Liberty.  The old church building was torn down in 1906 and the lumber was utilized in the construction of a barn on the Bourns farm, still standing.  The brick church is still in use by the congregation (238 N. Main).

The Baptist Church organized in 1838 and held revival meetings in a small building on the southwest corner of West Liberty and North Main.  In 1845 the organization split into two groups and one portion joined the Highland Baptist Church.  The Milford group disbanded temporarily until 1849 when the members reorganized

and probably met in William Webster's private school on Center Street (now gone).  The

Baptists built their first house of worship, a frame Greek Revival building, in 1853, on the west side of North Main, just north of where the railroad viaduct crosses Main Street.  This building was moved in 1870 to the northwest corner of Union and Detroit Streets to make way for the coming of the railroad.  It has since been torn down and replaced with a new building just west of where the earlier building stood.

Sometime in the late 1830's or early 1840's, ten families fleeing from the famine in Ireland settled in Milford. They brought with them the Roman Catholic faith.  For a while these families attended mass in Union Lake, but there were times when this trip was too difficult to make. The Pontiac church sent a mission priest to Milford and the little group met at the home of Daniel Morrison and his parents on West Commerce Street (320 W. Commerce). Daniel Morrison later outfitted the front half of the second story of his store on the northeast corner of North Main and East Commerce for a chapel.  In June of 1865 Father Wicart conducted the first service in this chapel and the Mission Church of Saint Mary's, Our Lady of the Snows, was born.

In 1867 the congregation began construction of a white frame, New England-style church on top of the hill on Summit Street, just east of where the water tower now stands and adjacent to the present Catholic cemetery. This old church was torn down in 1908 and the lumber was bought by Asa Prior to build a house on his farm in "the Bluffs," now the General Motors Proving Ground. From 1903 to 1907 the Catholic congregation worked on building a beautiful stone church on the northwest corner of East Commerce and Hickory Streets (219 E. Commerce). It was constructed of stones brought from the fields of neighboring farms in horse-drawn wagons and it is said that today there is no artisan living who has the stone-cutting skill to duplicate this structure. A stone rectory was added west of the church in 1929 (215 E. Commerce). The congregation has now moved to a modern church building east of Milford Village and the stone church is a fitness center and office building.

 Milford offers a glimpse of small-town America as its appearance developed from its settlement in the early nineteenth century and its first era of prosperity, through the coming of the railroad and into the early twentieth century.  What was happening to America socially and economically was expressed in the styles of her citizens' homes, churches, schools and commercial buildings; and the architectural tastes of America were replicated in microcosm in Milford.

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