History of Milton, Iowa - 1969

The Van Buren County Historical Society

Compiled by Iowa Andrews and Preston S. Conant

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Mrs. Andrews is a native of Van Buren County, a long time resident of Milton. Her husband Jim has been a barber in Milton since 1924.

Mr. Conant lived in Milton from 1919 to 1921, when his father, Rev. Preston M. Conant, was pastor of the M. E. Church. Mr. Conant is, now, living in Washington, Iowa. Asked about his memories of Milton, Mr. Conant kindly agreed to reminisce in writing about Milton of fifty years ago.

Grateful appreciation is hereby expressed to those persons in the Milton area who have assisted in supplying and checking material used herein.

Printed by the Van Buren county Register, Keosauqua, Iowa, 1969.

The study of history is the vital link of the present generation with the heritage of the past. The Van Buren County Historical Society provides a unique opportunity to not only study the History of our county but to actively participate in the preservation of tangible items for the enjoyment of future generations.

The Van Buren County Historical Society was organized in 1960. The principal project of the Society, during 1969, has been the moving of a log cabin to Selma. The cabin was given to the society by George Kunzman. Interested persons in the Selma community have donated labor to move and re-erect the cabin, with work directed by Rex Ritz.

The Pearson House, in Keosauqua, has been open for tours each Sunday afternoon, and week days by appointment. Volunteer hosts and hostesses have helped the public enjoy their visits. Second floor renovation has been done this year, and additional furnishings have been added.

New carpeting has been procured for the museum building.

Officers are Clay M. Lanman, Keosauqua, President; Iowa Andrews, Milton, Secretary; Clem Topping, Stockport, Vice President and Alma Lindsay, Birmingham, Treasurer.

If you would like to help keep the past alive for our sons and daughters, your membership of $1.00 annual or $10.00 life is sincerely solicited.

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Early Happenings In Milton

Allen Casady and his father came to this vicinity in 1837 from Indiana and at that time there were only 3 families in the township. Their names apparently unknown. William W. Holland came in 1840 and bought land and in 1842 brought his family. Names of other early settlers were Jonathan Downs, Samuel P. Rowland, Wm. R. King, Asbury Conwell, William Craig, John Lank, John Russell, Robert Russell, Kendall B. Atkins, Notter Rogers, Peter Lank, William Gray, Newton McManis, John Hale, Sr., John Hale, Jr., William Hale, Joseph Hall, Elisha Price, Elisha Harmon, George McManis, Dr. Logan Wallace, Charles Wandel, William Webb, William Kennedy, John Knight, James Price, George Pennington, Timothy Alison, William Russell, Foster Collins, Thomas Hollingsworth, Catherine Hollingsworth, Vinson Stubbs, Joseph Beauchamp, William L. Hargrove, Daniels Collins, Bushrod Cravens.


The Methodist Churches Society was organized in the early 1840's and met in a log school house east of Milton until 1866 or thereabout, when they built a church in the town. (this is the empty house belonging to Arch Holsapple, which is included in today's tour.) In 1880 or 81, it was said "the growing society could use it no longer", and the site where the present Methodist Church stands was purchased and a church erected there. This was used until 1898, when a new church was built. This church burned in February. 1926, and the present church was built and dedicated March 1927. Many of the furnishings were saved from the old church, and many burned scars may be found on the pews.

Likewise the Christian Church had its beginning in the Egypt neighborhood. In 1881 this membership of 54 moved to Milton, and purchased the building where the Methodist had been holding church. (The Holsapple house). On July 1, 1895 work on the present building was started, and the corner stone laid in November, and the building completed in 1896. While the interior of the building has been remodeled, the exterior has had little or no change since then, showing the excellent planning, workmanship and materials, which went into the building of the church.

The Baptists organized their Society in 1841. They built a church in 1866.

The Methodist Protestants organized in 1870 by Rev. J. S. Johnson, and worshipped in the Baptist building. Later they had a building near the present site of the Fox Valley Co-op. "Irreverent" youth intrigued by the "M.P." Church always called it the Ma and Pa church. "Gadding young people" went to their own churches in the morning and then all went to the M.P. church in the afternoon.

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The Presbyterians built a church in 1900 with beautiful stained glass windows. Death and moving depleted their membership and they disbanded in the 1940's.

The Church of The Nazarene was organized in Milton on May 13, 1934. They purchased the Presbyterian's Church in 1950 and hold services each Sunday morning and evening.


The first school in the community was, a log building east of Milton, built in the early 1840's. The first school in Milton was held in 1849 in a log cabin owned by L. Wallace. Early teachers were John Ellis, Grant Toney, Miss Susie Chittenden. A school house was built in 1849 about the site of the Co-op building. A larger school was built in 1867. when Milton became an independent district. In 1882 a "large new" building was built on the site of the present school. In 1928 the present building was built. In 1959 Milton joined their sister town of Cantril to form the present Fox Valley school system.


Dr. Logan Wallace has the honor of founding the town in 1847. The town was laid out in 1851, incorporated in 1878. The first council was A. W. Carr—J. C. Hagler—H. M. Dysart—E. Campbell—Z. Cannon and H. D. Wallace. Freeman Bell was mayor; Recorder was R. M. McNeal. Present council is Carl Andrews. Harold Epperson, Boner Bell, Dale Snyder, Claude Fuller. Phillip Fuller is mayor; Glee Bullock is clerk; Mrs. W. C. Strait is treasurer.


Milton has had at least two brick kilns. Walking from the Post Office to the Methodist Church you will note a brick walk made of Milton brick. At one time a Milton man advertised (by word of mouth) that he had captured a red bat. When one sedate Milton mother took her children to see this oddity of nature, the man was most embarrassed when he had to explain it was a brick-bat.

Corn cracker and saw mill was built by C. Miller in 1852. Feath carriage factory was established in 1872 and its wagons were known all over the middle west. Another well known factory was the axe handle factory, which distributed products to a wide area. Other early business names included H. C. Hill and Sons, General Merchandise, (this building now houses the Bell Garage, but the flour and coffee ads can still be seen on the side of the building). Across the street west was the Russell and Boag store, General Merchandise. Carpenters were Volney Nagle, A. C. Jolley, W. K. Miller, E. E. Gaston. A note says that in 1896 W. K. Miller erected 23 new buildings. General Millinery, Miss Addie J. Casady, Mrs'. Emil Davis and others. Thomas Bell, general blacksmith, later Jack Head, McKibben and Duffield, pharmacists and jewelers, with a branch store at Mt. Sterling. Milton Hardware, owners Dr. L. F. Summers, J. B. Atkins, U. G. Rice, Milton Roller

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Mills, Moore and Hayden. Foglesong Bros. groceries and restaurant, with the finest ice cream parlor in town. S. D. Watts, racket store, J. J. Rhoades, grocery, B. F. Gabelman, photographer. W. Y. Howell and D. C. Atkins were poultry dealers. J. H. Hellwig boots and shoes. Horse Millinery Emporium, Moure and Harbin. Barlow and Cooper restaurant, making their own ice cream using fresh country cream, each morning. Jolley and Washburn Hardware. Rowland Brothers general merchandise, first located on Old Main Street, later moved to the location now occupied by the Smithburg business. Their first building burned and was r e p l aced with the present building. Businesses of more recent date, but a definite part of Milton's history are the Hoskins Brothers Corner Grocery-Norman's Drug Store-C. E. Epperly, Go-Gas dealer-Cooley's Livery stable-Pete Marshall, painter and variety store-W. D. Sherwood and C. F. Brady were both poultry and cream dealers. There are others we know, but lack of space and lack of memory on this writer's part is the excuse we offer for the incomplete listing.


Dr. George Snodgrass (grandfather of Dale Snodgrass), Dr. Summers, Dr. Atkins, Dr. Stepheson, Dr. George Gilfillan, Dr. Homer Gilfillan. A well loved dentist, still remembered by many, Dr. C. C. McClurg. Again we would say this is an uncomplete list we know.


The railroad came through Milton in 1871, with many of the townsmen and farmers assisting with the road bed. The depot was probably built about that time. The train ran on into Missouri, and young "blades" were sometimes able to get the trainmen to bring them some Fatimas from Missouri, because they were not able to purchase them in the state of Iowa. Fatimas ? ? To you younger readers they were among the first cigarettes. Another story told of a Fourth of July celebration when a freight car was used as the platform from which fireworks were to be lighted. As one man told it, "the first one lighted went backward, and ignited the whole bunch at once, and we had the most "gosh-awful" lot of fireworks, right now. Fireworks and people scattered in all directions". "But," he said, in a still slightly surprised voice, "you know nobody got hurt." Two carloads of eggs twice a week was the usual shipping. Snodgrass Brothers, west of Milton were shippers of a large lot of livestock, shipping around 130 cars a year. Because of this the Snodgrass, Iowa stockyard track was laid October 29th, 1924, to make it easier for Snodgrass Brothers, and for other shippers. The track was removed May 7th, 1941, but it was listed as a point at which freight could be handled until November 15, 1961. The large tank pond, at the west edge of Milton provided water for the steam engines, and a recreational area for the town — fishing, duck hunting, skating — swimming. (As a sightlight,

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Milton people were not excited over the topless bathing suits, because many swimmers in that old tank pond wore a topless, bottomless suit, and no one got very excited about that). The pond was drained and the pumphouse torn down, when the railroad was converted to Diesel in 1951. In 1969 train service of all kinds was discontinued here.

"They say" a saloon was opened in 1875, but the women of the town quietly set fire to it, and it was not reopened.

Milton's District Agricultural Society held their first fair in 1881 and the fair was an annual event until 1923. Clark Stookesberry owns the farm where the old fairgrounds are located, and the race track can still be seen.

In the 1880's Milton had a rat killing. More than 5000 rats were said to have been killed and there was more excitement and commotion on that day than Milton has known before or since. "And that my children is why Milton has no rats."

A disagreement over a rate increase between the town council and the Middle States telephone system resulted in Milton being with-out telephone service during the summer of 1946. One long distance emergency line was installed at the Zue Lynch Cafe.

Sometime in the mid 1800's the Meeks Ranch at Bonaparte purchased 1000 acres of land south of Milton for a ranch to raise cattle, but mainly sheep to provide wool for their woolen mills at Bonaparte. Although long since divided through heirship and sale, the parent farm is still called the Meek's Ranch.

In 1969, 7 Amish families moved into the community, beginning a new phase of Milton history.

Towns In The Milton Area


The Cantril News in its July 10, 1887 issue told something of the history of Cantril. The town was laid out at the building of the Southwestern or C.B. & K.C. in 1871 on land belonging to L. W. Cantril. W. H. Barry was the first depot agent and operator. The first store building was erected by L. W. Cantril, and he sold the first bill of goods sold in Cantril January 31, 1872. A child of William Drew was the first birth and the first death in the new town. Iola Nagle and Andrew Reed were the first couple married. C. L. Crooks was the first physician. J. W. Rice the first constable and Joseph Boyer the first blacksmith. The town was incorporated on April 16, 1874. The first mayor was E. E. Cantril. The first schoolhouse was erected in 1873 with Oscar Cooley as teacher. The Independent school district of Cantril was organized in 1881. Churches in that early day included the M.E., with a building dedicated in 1886; the Christian church built

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in 1881; the M.P. church was organized in 1886. The Cantril Opera house was built in 1886 by William Tully. It was a two story building 30 by 90 feet.


Lebanon, whose fame is known far and wide because of the excellency of the homemade icecream served several times during the summer at the United Methodist Church, was called Indian Prairie, from about 1843 to 1853. A few homes and the store are today's Lebanon.


Mechanicsburg in southwest Chequest township saw its hope of improvement fade away, when a planned board plank road between Keosauqua and Bloomfield failed to become a reality. These plans were being laid in 1841 and on, and in the early 1850's a post office was maintained there.


Niles was a small village, east of the present site of Cantril. It was laid out in 1855, and was a postoffice from 1860 to 1874. Niles had visions of becoming a much larger town as landowners had offered to donate land for a station in the south part of the village, as the railroad was being planned. If Niles had secured the station, Cantril would have never been, but L. C. Cantril, a land owner 3 miles west and north of Niles, offered right of way and some additional land through 80 acres if they would locate a station at Cantril, and they did and Cantril was born.


Upton was located south of Niles and had as their leading merchant Ellis Searight. David Kittle was their blacksmith. John Guy was the shoe repairman and their doctor's name was McCance.

Robert B. Saylor was the first settler at Oak Point, and many of his descendants are still in the community. A post office was maintained there from 1849 to 1880.

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Milton 50 Years Ago

Recollections of a preacher's son
Written by Preston S. Conant

It is quite probable that the first radio receiving and transmitting station in Milton was established by a young boy while he was still a school student. It is thought that he started with a simple telegraph line to the home of another boy two or three blocks away, but he soon acquired what was then called a "wireless set" or simply a "wireless." Like many boys he may have begun with a simple crystal set, but he soon acquired a fine outfit with a number of vacuum tubes, or "audions" as they were called at that time. He passed the government's examination and was licensed to transmit messages in code. His signals were heard throughout several states and his station was equipped with the effective but noisy rotary spark gap.

The station was located in the bedroom of the owner, Jay Edmondson, upstairs, at the east side of the residency now used as a funeral home. The large outdoor aerial extended north onto the property where the Rowland home was then located. This house has now been moved to the southeast corner of Milton where it serves as an antique shop and also as the home of the proprietors.

This station was used to quickly summon medical aid from Ottumwa, at the time of the tragic accident on the railroad between Milton and Cantril in October, 1921. Four young men lost their lives on this sad occasion.

Mr. Edmondson also supervised the installation and operation of a radio station at Parsons College at Fairfield where he was a student. He later became an educator, teaching science to university students.

A Talented and Industrious Musician,
Also Some Musical Activities

Mr. Aaron Conner, a middle-aged but vigorous man in 1919, had been a versatile musician and music teacher for years, and was a familiar figure on the streets, as he walked to the homes of his pupils to give their weekly lessons. He preferred to live and work in Milton, rather than to take part in city life or to travel. He could teach practically all orchestra and band instruments, and could play a number of them. His preference was the violin and especially the flute, which he took with him most of the time, carrying it ready to play and not in a case. This flute was not a Boehm or Meyer system instrument, as were most of the flutes in use at that time, but it was designed and built according to his own specifications. I do not know just how much he took part in the actual construction of the flute. He claimed his system of arranging the fingering of the flute to be the best. Undoubtedly it did have some merit, and

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it is to be hoped that the details of this flute or the flute itself is still in existence somewhere.

Mr. Conner lived with his wife in a house at the corner of two streets, about three blocks west of the town hall. I believe the house is not still existing.

Mr. Conner also directed a community orchestra for the young people, which appeared in public on numerous occasions, and the high school orchestra and for a time a theatre orchestra, in the theatre managed by his sons. I think he also may have directed an orchestra at the Christian Church. At that time many Sunday Schools had their own orchestras. About 1920 an orchestra at the Methodist Church was organized and directed by the pastor's wife, and was later directed by Mr. George Holland, who also directed a town band, which played weekly concerts in the summer, in the business district.

Two of the compositions which Mr. Conner's orchestra frequently played were Root's "Grand March" and "Listen to the Mocking Bird." I have not heard the former for many years, and probably never will again. It, like hundreds of similar compositions, had some merit, but for some unknown reasons does not appeal to those who now preside over the world of music. "Listen to the Mocking Bird" is still to be heard once in a while. Whenever I hear it, I think of Mr. Conner and the enthusiastic young musicians in Milton long ago.

Schoolhouses, Churches, and Other Organizations

As the Milton school building is now a little more than forty years old, it is interesting to think of the building that once was on the same location on the spacious grounds. It was a brick structure, quite old and not equipped with modern conveniences, however it did have a central heating plant, one or two furnaces in the basement which was used for no other purpose, except storage. On the first floor were four good-sized rooms for the lower grades. Upstairs there was one room for the use of the eighth grade, a large high school assembly room, two small recitation rooms, a fair-sized room containing some interesting laboratory and science equipment, and a superintendent's office room. It is recalled that one of the things noticed about this office was a large highly polished brass microscope, prominently displayed. It is not known whether or not this was the only microscope possessed by the school at this time.

The building did not have all the space desired, so two smaller frame buildings were on the grounds, at the east side. One was used for the first grade and the other for the manual training shop.

The present building is a credit to the community and a number of residents recall the foresight and vision of the men who served on the school board when this building was established. This building has a good gymnasium which provides a good place to play basketball. This is quite an improvement over the room used for basketball just after the first world war, when a first floor room on the south side of the Masonic building was used for a basketball

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Milton Methodist Church Milton Christian Church photos

court. This was not an ideal situation but was better than no gym at all. Many Milton boys and girls have done well in the professions and business, which proved that the Milton school provided an adequate foundation for their future careers.

Churches and Other Organizations

A half-century ago a number of fraternal organizations were to be found in Milton, although several of them are not now active. The Masonic Lodge was in its present location at that time, and in a building on the next corner south, the Woodmen were located, and a block north, in two corner buildings facing each other across the Main street, were the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. There was also a Chapter of the P.E.O., and an American Legion Post.

Fifty years ago there were a number of active churches in Milton. It is believed that the Christian Church is the only one of these that is still active in the same building, at the same location. There is a new Methodist church building, in the same location, replacing an older frame building which was a good one but was unfortunately lost in a fire. This congregation has always had a large, active membership.

The Presbyterian Church at that time had an interesting group of members, meeting in the brick building on the west side of the main business street. This congregation later became inactive and the building is now occupied by the Nazarene Church.

There was also a Baptist congregation which met in a building on the south side of the east and west highway, where it joins the main business street This group became inactive many years ago but the building is still in the same location.

These churches, before the increase in the number of automobiles and the coming of the radio and television, received more of the time and attention of their members, and it was a common practice for the services to be held on Sunday evenings as well as in the mornings. These services provided a good way for the people to spend a Sunday evening, also they learned some good songs, which are seldom heard at the present time. Sunday Schools flourished, and in the winter months revival meetings would be held, often with interesting speakers from out of town doing the preaching. These meetings would be well attended. At times an objection would be heard, that too much of an emotional appeal was connected with the revival meetings. However, there was little doubt that the meetings were effective in promoting interest in the churches and in obtaining new converts, most of whom became church members. Some of the new members were more active than others, some eventually drifted away from the churches, however this was always true of some church members whatever way they had originally joined the churches.

At this time Milton was the site of a five-day tent Chautauqua,

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held on the school grounds every summer. Before the days of radio and easy travel to larger towns this was an important event in the cultural life. During the winters an annual lecture course, as it was called, would be held in the old theatre just south of the railroad tracks. The programs were not always lectures, as musical groups and plays would also be presented.

It is not recalled at present just what groups promoted these annual events. As in other communities there was probably a business men's group, or a woman's club which supplied the enthusiasm necessary to get enough signatures for the required "guarantees" as they were called.

Possibly Milton had a woman's club known as a "Twentieth Century" Club, in those days, or possibly such an organization might still exist. Many communities did have such clubs at that time.

About 1919 there was an active Boy Scout troop in Milton. It was sponsored by the Presbyterian pastor, and membership was open to all boys of the community.

"Electric and Telephone Systems"

A half-century ago — and also for a time after that - telephones and automobiles had one thing in common: some needed to be cranked by hand and some didn't — and the telephones in Milton were cranked by hand. However, good service was provided at reasonable rates. The system was owned by local people and was well-managed by Mr. Lloyd Summers. At that time, many persons, even those living in the large cities, had never seen a dial telephone. Mitchell, S. Dak., was one of the few towns in the middle west that had dial service.

It is thought by many that the local switchboard with an operator in charge at all times gave the small towns a personalized telephone service that has not been equalled by the dial systems. However, long distance service has greatly improved over the years.

Fifty years ago the telephone exchange was on the second floor of the two-story brick building which is still standing on the corner at the south end of the business district. About the time the first World War ended the telephone company vacated the first floor of this structure, which was then occupied by the Moon Garage next door to provide more room for their expanding business.

Perhaps it is hard to realize, in the time of ever-present electric power, that fifty years ago the town of Milton had electricity available from about sundown to about midnight. It was thought that business did not justify longer hours of operation. For a time the plant was operated a half-day during daylight hours to permit home appliances to be used, then even this was discontinued with the claim that there was not sufficient use of this service. On one special occasion one of the local lodges was putting on a big meeting with the company being hired to run the plant all night, and one of the lodge members went home after the meeting and turned on

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the lights, and he said that his family was quite surprised to see electric light in the middle of the night.

Even with the short hours of service the power would fail at times, and due to the complaints there was some talk of starting another power plant to provide some competition. Naturally this alarmed the out-of-town owners of the existing system, and they sent a representative to Milton, who asked the townspeople to meet at a local cafe, where he talked to them, and promised better service in the near future. These promises were realized in the summer of 1921 when wires from Bloomfield were strung along the highway, and twenty-four hour service followed soon after that.

In the meantime the efficient local manager, Mr. Moon, who also served as the mayor of the town, did his best to see that the plant operated as efficiently as possible. He was a retired gentleman who lived a short distance north of the power plant, which was located just south of the railroad tracks, and about one block east of where the present water tower is. The equipment of the plant was not hard to operate, being simply a big gasoline engine connected by a belt to a generator.

Mr. Moon did not take part in the actual operation of the machinery, but supervised the operators and took care of the business management and collecting of bills, etc. The men who operated the machinery, as long as the engine was running, could sit down and play cards with their friends and there was no objection to this, however late one evening Mr. Moon noticed that the lights in his home were, as he later said "So bright I could hardly stay in the house." Mr. Moon quickly went to the plant to see what had gone wrong in the regulation of the voltage. The trouble was quickly corrected. The operator of the plant had fallen asleep in his chair!

"The Main Street and Business On and Near It"

The principal corner of the main business street of Milton, where the Post Office is now, looked somewhat different in 1919 than it does now. The building now housing the large antique store was occupied then by a fine department store. operated by several men of the Rowland family, and across the street west of it was Mr. Hill's insurance and real estate office. Across the street north was a large brick building, destroyed by fire about twenty-two years ago, which housed one of the two home-owned banks, also the large Jolley hardware store. Upstairs there was a lodge hall in the front and the Milton Herald office at the back. On the northeast corner of this intersection, the same two-story brick building that is now standing, was the location of one of the leading grocery stores, Brady & Hoskins. On the second floor was a large hall occupied by the I.O.O.F. lodge.

A short distance west of this corner, across the street south from the Methodist Church, was the location of the Atkins Produce Co. A great many cans of cream were shipped from this place on

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the railroad to the large creamery once located at Humeston, Iowa.

Several blocks west of the main street a family operated a small broom factory, in a building at the back of their home. The area west of the main street was also the location of two excellent carpenter shops, one was owned by the late Mr. Gaston and the other operated by Mr. Donahoe and his son. I believe the latter shop is still in existence. There was also a garage just west of the present lumber yard. This lumber yard has been in continuous existence for a great many years and was managed for many years by the late Mr. Dan Miller, who was very active in the 'Christian Church and also many community activities.

Just south of the railroad, on the west side of the street, was a good-sized and fairly new theatre building, of brick construction. It was fully equipped with a stage and a balcony, and had a Motiograph projector for showing films. This building was quite a community gathering place. Home-talent plays given by community organizations and school students, as well as lecture course entertainments would be seen here. Memorial Day programs and Armistice Day observances, appearances by political candidates and other events, as well as films shown several times a week, were among the events held here. This building has been gone for years, however the back part of it is still standing, I think.

On the east side of the street was located a fine furniture store, operated by the late Clarence Wagler, who also conducted an undertaking business. On the east side there was also a good clothing store, a very fine butcher shop with modern mechanical refrigeration, owned by Mr. Johnson, a good paint, wallpaper and school supply store operated by Mr. Marshall. On this side of the street was also a large and well-stocked drug store operated by Norman and Warner. This drug store - before the days of radio and television, did a good business in selling phonographs and records, and Mr. Wagler in the furniture store was also active in this line of business. The drug store also had a soda fountain and sold school books. There was a drug store across the street, operated more like a traditional drug store, not selling many lines aside from drugs. I believe the proprietor was a Mr. Rinabarger. This store had a showcase full of violin supplies. This was very useful to the number of Milton people who played the violin. In those days one could never be sure when a violin string was going to break and it was important to have a supply close at hand.

Milton at this time also had the Gibson Hardware Co., remembered by the young people as a place to buy bicycles. There was also a local bakery, two restaurants and a hotel. Two medical doctors practiced in Milton at this time. Dr. Stevenson and Dr. H. J. Gilfillan. There was also a dentist, Dr. McClurg.

There were undoubtedly a number of business men that we have neglected to mention. Many of them were hard-working and efficient

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but due to circumstances found themselves changing to other lines of work or moving to some other town.

We must not forget the people who were industrious and supplemented their incomes by part-time enterprises. I can recall three different families, all within walking distance of downtown Milton, who kept a cow and sold milk to a number of local families. There were probably more that I don't remember, in this line of business. The Bible tells us that a man who is diligent in his business shall stand before kings. I believe that people in big and little towns, in the country and all over the world, are ambitious and industrious, at heart. I also think that in time the present unrest and turmoil will be followed by a more calm and peaceful period.

A Splendid Weekly Newspaper.

The writer does not know when the first newspaper appeared in Milton. It is supposed that as Milton had a thriving growth from the start, that a little paper probably appeared, as in most other vigorous American communities of that period, not too many years after Milton's start as a town, which is thought to have been around 1847. Milton was fortunate on the day that Mr. N. E. Guernsey, who is no longer with us, took possession of the Milton Herald in 1891, and published it until about 1930 or so, when he sold it to a younger man. In 1895 Mr. Guernsey and Kate Linaberry were married and she assisted him in the work for many years.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey were capable both as editors and printers, and published a weekly paper that was quite a credit to the town. In the years when Cantril was without a newspaper, one page of the Herald was called "The Cantril Department" and was filled with news and advertising from the nearby town.

The Herald office was located upstairs for many years, at the rear of the two-story brick building which housed the bank on the principal main street corner and the Jolley Hardware store. The entrance was by a stairway from the sidewalk just east of the alley, across from the Methodist Church. During the depression it is thought that Mr. Guernsey was again called upon to supervise the paper, and in time it was moved to the first-floor room in a building a short distance south of the Rowland Store building. At this time the paper was printed in Bloomfield, probably due to the difficulty of securing capable printers at a reasonable price. In the meantime Mr. Guernsey had been kept busy at various things. His ability caused the people of Milton to requisition his services as their mayor, a school board member, and finally as a Representative in the Iowa State Legislature. It is believed that after the passing of Mrs. Guernsey that Mr. Guernsey occupied the former upstairs newspaper office as an apartment. This building was completely destroyed by fire in 1948.

In spite of the difficulty of moving heavy equipment upstairs, the Herald office was supplied with modern machinery for the produc-

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tion of the newspaper and job printing. The newspaper press was taken upstairs on the elevator in the adjoining hardware store, and moved into the Herald office through an opening in the wall. This was a very good Campbell two-revolution press, a four page press. At this time a number of communities, the same size or larger than Milton, had nothing but a two-page newspaper press in their offices, and these were not two-revolution presses either, but were what was known as "drum" cylinder, or one-revolution presses. The Herald office was also equipped with a Mentges folder, which folded the newspaper rapidly and neatly. At this period many weekly newspaper offices were using hand power to fold their papers. The folder, powered by the same gasoline as the big press, did the work of several people.

In due time Mr. Guernsey equipped the office with a typesetting machine. It was a Linograph, a machine which is now not seen anywhere, but at one time was widely used in smaller newspaper and job printing offices. It was made in Davenport, Iowa, was quite similar to a Linotype, and has not been manufactured in the U.S. for years and years, although years ago an unverified rumor reported that the Linograph business was still going in a far-off foreign country, across the seas. However, in the old days, daytime electric power was not available in Milton, so the typesetting machine was disposed of before 1920, and Linotype composition was done at Bloomfield, and sent to Milton each week for a number of years.

The Milton Herald was one of many newspapers which used what was called "ready-prints" or what was sometimes called "patent in-sides" but of course there was nothing about the plan that could be patented, and it was one of the features of small town life that ended years ago. For the smaller papers in little towns two pages would be printed in Des Moines, Chicago or some other city and sent to the small papers once a week, where the local publisher would print his own two pages on the reverse side of the papers in his own office, thus being able to put out a paper double the size of what he would be able to publish without the ready-prints. For the larger weeklies four pages would be printed in the city each week and sent to the weeklies, where they would print four pages of their own. The Milton Herald used four pages of ready-print and printed four pages a week themselves. The content of the ready-prints did not consist of flashy, shallow "junk" as does much of the newspaper and magazine features at the present time. It fitted in well with the tastes of the hard-working, normal people that were the readers of the small-town weeklies. There was factual news and comment from all over the world, fiction, cartoons, household information and recipes, and the International Series of Sunday School lessons was published each week. There was some advertising but none of it was objectionable.

Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey were no doubt one of the most ener-

Page 15 - History of Milton

getic and popular couples that ever resided in Milton. It is remarkable that they were able to find so much time for activities other than the newspaper. Agriculture was one of their hobbies. They were also active in fraternal organizations, were active church members and attended Sunday School. The home in which they lived is still in use, at the northwest corner of the town.

It is very unfortunate that at present, economic conditions have made it impossible for the smaller communities to have their own weekly newspapers. It is to be hoped that changing conditions will bring about a change in this situation some time in the future.

The Water Supply and Fire Protection.

At one time, several years previous to 1919, an attempt had been made to provide a publicly-owned water system for the town and bonds for this purpose had been sold. However it was believed that the amount of money realized was not enough to build an adequate system, so the bonds were paid off, it is thought over a period of years and the debt liquidated about 1920. The public servants of that era made an effort to bring about this public improvement, but it was decades later that their hopes were finally realized.

Those were the days when water was carried into the residences by the bucket, but several residents of the town used windmills as a source of power to pump water for household use.

There were several wells located near the business district to supply water for the fire department, and a hand-powered pumper was used. The handles were operated by six or eight men, half on each side of the tank. A medium-sized chemical extinguisher on wheels was a new feature of the fire department at this time; it could be pulled by an automobile or by the firemen themselves. The chemical was effective in putting out a blaze but there were some drawbacks to its use. On one occasion when the tank on wheels was brought to the scene of a fire it was found to be empty, as someone had neglected to fill it. Another time a schoolboy got too close to the operation, and the acid used burned a number of holes in the lad's clothing.

One of the drug stores had a soda fountain which had a water tank, filled by a hand-operated pump, usually worked by a boy, who would then be rewarded by some refreshment at the fountain, and at times there was keen competition among the boys for the privilege of performing this task!

Page 16 - History of Milton

The Railroad.

A traveler arriving in Milton on the C. B. & Q. passenger train about 1919 would usually find a good-sized crowd of people waiting on the station platform. These people would be there sometimes to greet a friend or relative who was departing or arriving, but many of the people were there simply because other people were there, then too the fact that the station was so convenient to the center of the town accounted for the size of the crowd. It was a sort of twice-a-day community gathering place. Some people who were curious were anxious to see who was going to Ottumwa or elsewhere that day. It is recalled that on one occasion a school teacher, who hadn't been universally popular, was leaving on the morning train at the close of the school term, and some unfavorable remarks could be plainly heard from several of the students assembled on the platform.

One young couple who were married in Milton on a summer day, about that time, traveled to Cantril and boarded the train there. They just didn't want to face the crowd at the Milton station.

At this time there were twelve passenger trains a week, plus freight trains, and no Sunday trains. At that time, by the cooperation of the Wabash railroad with their connections at Bloomfield, it was possible for Milton residents to travel to Ottumwa in the morning and return in the afternoon. This was quite a good thing for the Ottumwa merchants. At this time the railroad had a water tank at the west edge of Milton. A steam engine was used to pump the water from a small pond, which was very useful — in addition to supplying water for the little steam locomotives, it served as a swimming pool, summers, and in winters — a skating rink!

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Reproduced with permission of the Van Buren County Historical Society

Transcribed by Rich Lowe for the Van Buren County IAGenWeb Project - copyright 2007