This short history was compiled by Dr. Ralph C. Monroe in 1997 from several other histories of Milo.
PREVIOUS to the dawn of the nineteenth century, few white men had ever visited any of the territory now incorporated within the county of Piscataquis, and of these it is not believed that any had begun a permanent settlement. According to Rev. Amasa Loring’s “History of Piscataquis County,” Abel Blood began the first clearing in June, 1799, in what is now the township of DoverFoxcroft. It is also stated by good authority that Moses and Stephen Snow had been in Milo this same year, while their father, Phillip Snow, a hunter from Belgrade, had roamed over this entire section.
The town of Milo was first surveyed and plotted as township number three, in the seventh range north of the Waldo patent. It contained 21,920 acres of generally rolling or level land, watered by three beautiful rivers, which served the early settlers as thoroughfares for travel. Along the banks of these rivers the first homes of the settlers were built. The township was early purchased by Jonathan Hastings, to whom a certain Mr. Wells of Boston later became his partner. These two men sold the greater part of the land to the settlers and finally sold the remainder of the lots to Russell Kittredge of Bangor. The township was first divided into lots of 320 acres each by Park Holland of Bangor; later, in 1820, some of these lots were divided into lots of 100 acres each by Andrew Strong of Corinth; still later the portion south of the Piscataquis river by P. P. Furber, who was incidentally a prominent citizen here at that time.
The first man to make a permanent settlement and to bring his family here was Benjamin Sargent. He came from Methuen, Mass., where he had left his family and had taken passage on a schooner, landing at what is now Exchange Street, Bangor. Mr. Sargent was accompanied by his son Theophilus, a lad of fourteen years. Together they proceeded up the Penobscot in a boat which Mr. Sargent had secured. At the mouth of the Piscataquis they turned their boat up that stream and landed a little above the present ferry, which is about a mile from Derby. Here, on May 2,1802, they began the first permanent settlement in the town of Milo. They began at once to fell trees to make a clearing sufficiently large to plant enough corn for a smell crop. Here they erected on a little knoll a log cabin of two rooms. This was to be the home of the settler and his family.
When these things had been accomplished, Mr. Sargent returned to Methuen, leaving his son here in the wilderness to tend the crop until he should return in the fall with the rest of the family. Theophilus managed very well until one day, as tradition says, he went out leaving the door of his cabin open. While doing some work, a bear walked in and stole his molasses and some flour. The lad undoubtedly would have been destitute had it not been for a friendly tribe of Indians. These Indians were up this way getting bark for canoe building and saw the conditions of the white boy. The chief took pity on him and left his son, Ateon Oseon, to stay with Theophilus until his father returned.
When Mr. Sargent reached Methuen, he found his family sick with typhus. Therefore he could not bring them to their new home at once. Later in the summer than he had expected, he set out from Methuen with his family and a few of their possessions, including a gray dog by the name of Hunter. They finally reached Milo as the water was commencing to freeze in the river. Here in the wilderness of Maine the settler and his family passed the winter. To this family, on Dec. 28, 1804, was born the first white child in Milo, Alice, the late Alice Fisher of Cooksville, Wisconsin.
Moses and Stephen Snow, who are said to have hunted this entire section much earlier, in all probability began their clearing before the arrival of Mr. Sargent. They had secured a square mile of land along the banks of Pleasant river and erected their cabin on the east side of the river, a little south of the present Pleasant river bridge. The Snow brothers were single men and remained so for several years. On June 6, 1809, Bangor, ME, Moses married Nancy Colcord of Belgrade. On April 4, 1813, Stephen married Fannie Page, of Brownville. A younger brother, Phillip, Jr. who had accompanied Moses and Stephen to Milo, married Fanny Page’s sister, Betsy, the same year. Phillip and Betsy Snow resided in Charleston. The towns people of Milo are indebted to these two brothers, Moses and Stephen Snow, who settled along the banks of this beautiful river, for the name it now bears.
Benjamin Boober probably was the next settler to bring his family to this town. Mr. Boober took up land near Mr. Sargent’s and it is known that he was here as early as March, 1805. The coming of the Boobars was of great value to the settlers, as Mrs. Boobar was a very skillful nurse. They also brought with them a hand mill, in which corn and the other grains of the settlers could be ground. This mill ground the grain much easier than the settlers could with their hand mortars. Later, this family moved to Medford to be nearer kin who had recently moved into this new territory.
The names of the next arrivals the author is unable to state, as data on this is lacking. The township increased slowly but surely. New settlers were coming in and taking up lots, clearing land where they must earn their living by the sweat of their brows. Here in the wilderness of Maine these hardy pioneers laid the cornerstone of this growing and prosperous town of Milo.
In 1820 the number of people had increased to 97. Five years later there were 119 children of school age, representing about 300 people in the town at that time.
The township was organized as a plantation in 1820. In 1823 it was incorporated, at which time there were 54 resident taxpayers.
The naming of the town was a very important event, for it seemed that the settlers were unable to agree. Some desired to name the town for Joseph Lee, who owned a large part of the township; others desired to name it for Mr. Wells, who owned considerable land here at that time; still others had different ideas. Finally the honor of naming the town was given to Theophilus Sargent. Mr. Sargent, having perhaps read the story of the noble Roman knight, Milo, or of the beautiful Venus de Milo, named the town for one of these, which we cannot say, but can all imagine.
(The original copy has been lost but a copy is preserved by the author.)
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Legislature assembled that the plantation number: three in the seventh range in the County of Penobscot, Bounder north by the plantation of Brownville and west by the town o Sebec, with the inhabitants thereof be and they hereby are incorporated into a town by the name of Milo, and the inhabitants of said town are hereby vested with all privileges and immunities which the inhabitants of towns within this State do or may by law enjoy.
SEC. 2. Be it further enacted that any Justice of the Peace Within said County is hereby empowered to issue his warrant to some inhabitant of said town to notify the inhabitants thereof to meet at such time and place as he shall appoint to choose such officers as other towns are empowered to choose at their annul town meetings.
Act of Incorporation
This act passed Jan. 27, 1823 a true copy.
The first town warrant was issued to Theophilus Sargent requiring him, “in the name of the State of Maine to notify and warn the free holders and other inhabitants,” of Milo, “qualified by law to vote in town meeting to meet and assemble at the dwelling house of Theophilus Sargent.” To act on the nine articles contained in the warrant.
The meeting was accordingly held at the given time and place, at which time Samuel Livermore was chosen to act as moderator; Theophilus Sargent, town clerk; Samuel Livermore, Moses Snow & John Whidden, selectmen and assessors; John W. Thompson, treasurer; Stephen Snow and James Whidden, surveyors of highways; Lemuel Shipley, Stephen Snow and Luke Perry, Tythingmen. To these men, therefore, befell the singular honor of being the pioneer rulers of the town.
At a later town meeting it was voted to have future town meetings at Swett’s Mills. It was also voted to raise $100 for the support of schools and $30O for the support of the Gospel. As ready cash was hard to get or find among the early settlers; it was voted to accept corn and wheat in payment of taxes. Corn at 67c per bushel and wheat at $1.00 per bushel.
It may be well said at this time that in 1832 there was an article in the town warrant as follows: Article 10, To see if the town will prohibit Retailing of Spirituous Liquors. As no action was taken on this article the town clerk kept issuing licenses like this, “License granted to Frank Quimby to retail Spirituous Liquors one year from eleventh day of September, 1827.”
Settlements in Milo had been maintained twenty years before any mills were erected. The towns of Brownville and Sebec had saw or grist mills long before this time and in fact both of these towns were busier towns at that time than Milo. It was in the year 1823, that Winborn A. Swett built a dam across Traftons Falls and erected the first saw mill in Milo. A general store had already been established by Mr. Estes, who was succeeded by Amos Davis a prominent citizen here at that time. As business in Milo increased other stores were opened and as the people at that time were eager for ardent spirits all the merchants carried a large stock of liquors. Allen Monroe commenced trade in Milo in 1829 and was probably the third merchant in town. At this time Thomas White put in a carding and fulling mill which furnished employment for several hands. A little later Daniel Dennett in partnership with Stephen Snow purchased a part of the Snow farm together with the saw and grist mill. It seems to the author that this enterprise was successful as Dennett and Stephen Snow were the richest men in Milo at that time.
The old saw mill built by Mr. Swett, in 1823, was bought by Lewis Mayo, who sold it a few years later to Samuel Bradeen, who built a wins’ on one side of the mill. The later owners were Adonilah Webber, Ward Scripture, James Gifford, and William Gifford, who sold it to the Boston Excelsior Co. and it was removed bu them about 1898.
The next mill was a grist mill which was built by William Owen and Mr. Dennett on the island side of the dam opposite the saw mill. In 1861, this was bought by Isaac Leonard, who increased its capacity from two bushels per hour to 35 bushels per hour. H. F. Daggett bought this mill in 1876 and sold it to the Boston Excelsior Co. in 1887. This mill was burned in the spring of 1900.
A woolen mill was built here, in 1842, by Joseph Cushing & Co., but this was destroyed by fire six years later and was not rebuilt. Later a carding and fulling mill was erected on the site of the pumping station of the Milo Water Co. This mill was sold to James Gifford, about 1862, when he commenced weaving. Gifford & Co. operated this mill until the fall of 1884 or 1885, at which time it was burned.
Theophilus Sargent, Jr., built a saw mill on the canal, in 1871, but this was razed by fire five years later and was not rebuilt. In the summer of 1878, J. Fenno & Co., built a mill for splitting out spool timber. This mill was bought by Bailey and Parker, who began the manufacture of excelsior and was operated by them for five years. It was then bought by T. J. Stuart who finally sold it to the Boston Excelsior Co. This mill has been remodeled by them and is used for splitting poplar.
The Boston Excelsior Co. has purchased nearly all the rights of the earlier mill owners and is the only company left of the companies which have been mentioned, but new and larger concerns have taken the places of the older ones. Excelsior has been manufactured for over 40 years and for the last 30 years by the present company. The mill, now occupied the Milo Textile Co., was erected by the Boston Excelsior Co., in 1879. The manufacture of excelsior was carried on here until it was sold to the Textile Company. Since then a new mill has been erected near the B. & A. station, which manufactures about 3,000 tons of excelsior per year. This mill furnishes employment for about 30 men and a weekly payroll of nearly $1,000.
The most important industry here at the present time are the mills of the American Thread Co. The spool manufactory was erected in 1901-2; the machinery for the mill being removed from Willimantic, where this company had been located for some time. A saw mill was erected by the same company, in 1901, where spool bars and box boards are produced in large quantities. This company employs about 220 hands . n I has a weekly payroll of $3,000. At the establishment of this industry in Milo, real estate prices in the village have doubled and even “”rippled in some cases.
Next in importance to the American Thread Co. is the Milo Textile Co., which commenced operations in June, 1922, in the old excelsior mill which had been purchased by this company. High grade machine yarns are manufactured, but very little knitting yarn is made by this concern. The Milo Textile Co. employs about 70 hands and has a weekly payroll of nearly $1,000. This company was financed largely by people in this locality and nearly all the workers are residents of Milo.
Some of the industries here which have been discontinued are: A little red mill built in 1885, by William Gifford, for finishing spruce knees. A shovel handle factory operated by a Mr. Hartwell. The manufacture of wooden bowls, etc., carried on by the father of Sir Hiram Maxine A clover mill, which was built over the dam between the early saw and grist mills. A hand rake factory by Mr. McGraw. A cheese factory built on West Main 3t., in 1872, and operated by Elisha McIntosh; finally sold to Fred Gould and was converted into a tenement house. B. J. Warren operated a woodworking mill here for some time; later sold to Barren & Blethen. A creamery was established in 1897, but was soon discontinued.
A charter was obtained for the Milo Electric Light and Power Co., in 1900, and the lighting plant was installed in the winter of 1903-4. This plant commenced operations in March, 1904.
The manufacture of log and board rules has been carried on by Valentine Fabien & Son, in Milo for about 20 years, this business was carried on in Bangor and Orneville prior to 1897.
In 1906 the B. & A. car shops were moved to Derby. These, without a doubt, have been a great aid in the development of Milo.
As the author reviews the industrial development of Milo he sees no periods of decline, but a continual and more or less steady advance. One of the greatest factors in the commercial development of Milo was the construction of the Bangor Piscataquis Railroad, in 18689, and the construction of the Katahdin Iron Works Railroad, in 1880. The development since has been rapid; in 1900 there was a population of 1,150 and now it is over 3,000. The above is an excerpt from: HISTORY OF MILO 1802 1923 By Rethel West.
An interesting point in the above narrative is that in the early 1980s the author Elizabeth George Speare read the history of Milo in the Town Library and wrote the story The Sign of the Beaver. (© 1983) The book was made into a 1997 TV movie called A Promise Kept.
In THE SURVIVAL STORY Elizabeth George Speare said: It is somewhat surprising for me to discover that in The Sign of the Beaver (Houghton) I have written a survival story. That was never my intention, and I was still naive enough when I reached the last page not to realize what had happened to my story, even though my publisher and the first reviewers recognized it at once.
What, then, was I trying to do? Let me go back to the very beginning. Where did I get the idea for this book? The answer is very simple. The idea was handed to me, a little gem, straight from the pages of history.
Many years ago my husband and I spent a number of vacations at a small fishing camp in Maine. One afternoon, rather bored with dangling a line in the water, I drove into the nearest town of Milo and poked about in the small library. In a slim volume, the History of Milo, I came upon a short anecdote. The story was new to me, but I have since discovered that it has been retold in a number of histories of the State of Maine.
This was the story of Theophilus Sargent being left alone in the Maine wilderness while his father returned to Massachusetts to get the rest of the family.
Following are excerpts from The Milo Story by Lloyd Treworgy, © 1987
So we begin, in a sort of literary shortland:
1823: First town officials of Milo are elected and are sworn in. A first sweeping look at highways, schools, obstructing rivers, and taxes.
Voters approve report to locate cemetery near Sargent hilltop. Plan, however, didn’t materialize. Wooden (hemlock) bridge at Trafton Falls completed.
1825: County counts out $200 from its kitty of fines, and builds bridge on county road through Hobbstown, across Sebec River, two miles upriver from Trafton Falls.
1826: Town officials grant to Amos Davis a license “To retail spiritous liquors, for three months.” Davis was a “cordwainer” (shoemaker).
1827: Town votes $300 “to support the preaching of the Gospel.”
These two evenhanded tokens of encouragement one to the Lord, the other to the Devil continued for some years, the town keeping is hedges up-to-date against contingencies fair or foul!
1829: Voters ask the court to locate the public lots four tracts of 320 acres each. These were stipulated when Massachusetts sold the township, in 1802, for disposing to settlers.
1832: Town establishes School District No. 5, in the central section. The schoolhouse, built a year later, stood near the corner of Park and Clinton streets.
1833: Voters give officers of the “Board of Trust,” administrator of the public lots, the right “to loan funds as they think proper.” The town itself, as it came about, was the principal, and final, borrower.
1834: Town votes “to establish two burying grounds – one on each side of Pleasant River. Like earlier location at Sargent hilltop, this second decision wasn’t implemented.
1835: Selectmen are authorized “to receive proposals for the support of the poor.” Being poor was a grim status, in those years!
1836: Proposal “to lay a fine on the road from William Brown’s store to Milton (Orneville), for the purpose of building a bridge across the Piscataquis, at Sargent’s Ferry,” is defeated unanimously!
1837: Vote to procure a ferryboat for the Piscataquis River. “Ferryboat” indicates a facility large enough to carry wheeled traffic.
1837: One of those rare years when the national government has “surplus funds” to return to the states. Milo voters “chew it over” in several town meetings, finally deciding to use Milo’s share (amount unstated) to pay town debts.
1839: “Wheat bounty certificates” are accepted for taxes. State had put a bounty of 10 a bushel on wheat to encourage its production. Paying bounties drained state treasury, and bounty law was repealed, the next year.
1839: Voted to allow “cattle and other meat beasts to run at large.”
1839: Chose Alexander Alden, Daniel Dennett, and Aaron L. Hill as “pawn” (pound) keepers. Their barns and barnyards to serve as “pawns.” Unidentified, roaming “meat beasts” getting out-of-hand?
1840: Voted to procure ferryboat as soon as possible, to be used near Thomas Webb’s. Webb lived in vicinity of present day Ferry Road. TWO ferries, for a few years?
1840: Voters authorize selectmen to fence burying ground, today’s cemetery. Year of purchase not mentioned, but must have been 1839.
1840: Committee reports on Milo’s first reported traffic accident. Mrs. Luther Keen thrown from gig (twowheeled carriage) and injured at bridge, at the Mills . Voters deny responsibility of town, but Keen sues town for neglect.
1840: Vote to open road from near Elias Drake’s to county road through Hobbstown. This is Milo’s local “Hobbstown Road, ” starting at outer Park St., near Swett Hill. Its point of takeoff from Brownville Road can still be seen, in 1980’s.
1841: Voters choose Cal. Joseph Lee “to conduct affairs of town” in suit brought by Luther Keen. Suits very common in those days; mostly over horses or oxen injured in working for town. Lawyers’ fees and court costs were low in those days. Suits seemed to be as much for the excitement they afforded, as for what could be gotten out of them.
Keen was back as moderator the very next year after the court action. Apparently there were no hard feelings .
1841: First attempt to designate shire town. Milo’s vote: Dover, 52; Foxcroft, 13; Milo, 67.
1842: Designate second Monday in March for regular, annual townmeeting. Date still in use today.
1842: Second, and conclusive, vote to designate shire town: Dover, 126; Foxcroft, 1; Guilford, 4; Milo, 1. No explanation of Milo voters’ change of heart!
1842: Recommend building new bridge over west branch of Sebec River , at village. Second time “village,” instead of “Mills,” used to designate center of town.
1843: Vote to abate taxes of all owners of property destroyed by fire last year. Evidently a very destructive fire in 1842.
1843: Recommend Russell Kittredge as postmaster.
1843: The opening year of the book of the poor a collection of copies of many letters between Milo’s Overseers of the Poor and those of other towns, during the next forty years. Nearly all letters attempt to fix “places of legal settlement” of paupers in the town written to or to deny such “legal settlement” in the town written from.
1844: Vote to procure ferryboat at Snow’s Ferry, suitable for carrying teams across river.
1844: Vote, 33 to 12, against establishing a town court, as permitted by law. No good bringing justice in to spoil things.
1845: Vote to build a ferryboat, to be used at Chadbourne’s Ferry (same place as Webb’s Ferry) “about 50 feet long, and 12 feet wide.”
1845: (And nearly every year for more than a decade ), Vote “to let cattle and other particular description of meat beasts roam at large.”
1845: Approve “To allow one hour of labor for each three miles of travel from residence to place of labor.” A “First.”
1845: Voters choose a committee “to see about building a bridge at Snow’s Ferry, and build in workmanlike manner.” Mention only hemlock timber and planks as material. Nearly a decade would elapse before bridge built. Voted that “no ardent or spiritous liquors shall be kept for sale in this town under any circumstances.”
1847: Vote $2500 for labor and materials on highways.
1848: Vote that all delinquent taxpayers be allowed 8 an hour (presumably for working out taxes on the road).
1848: First meeting of Board of Trustees of Ministerial and School Funds to appear in record. Sale of public lands already underway. A noblyconceived but very foolish experiment.
1849: Vote against building schoolhouse in concert with District 5, to be used also as town house. Districts were supposed to pay own way. For town as a whole to help was a touchy subject!
1849: C.A. Everett, attorney, chosen Town Clerk in place of Noah Dow, deceased. Everett was unquestionably the worst penman of all Milo’s Town Clerks.
1850: Vote to buy District 5 schoolhouse for town hall, for $100. District has plans for building bigger and better schoolhouse. The one the district built is still standing, across from Chase’s Hall. It is the only one of Milo’s 9 district schoolhouses still standing.
1850: Vote “to license James H. Macomber to be the seller of wine, brandy, rum, and other strong liquors, for medical and mechanical (! ?) purposes only.” Mechanical meaning steadier walking, maybe?
1851: First meeting at new “town house.” Amiserable building, but the town had a right to feel a bit proud of it. First meeting place the town had owned!
1851: Town chooses Jesse Rollins as agent “to contract with someone to build a bridge across Pleasant River, at Snow’s Ferry.” Rollins authorized” to hire $500 for two years, at interest not to exceed 8 per cent, to build the bridge.” Bridge still had to wait a bit before actually built!
1851: Authorize school district to choose one or more agents for themselves. Once an important official, the school agent disappeared many years ago.
1852: Back again to matter of Pleasant River bridge. Town votes to hire not exceeding $2000 to build Pleasant River bridge. This was it!
1853: Vote that selectmen place signs at ends of Pleasant River bridge, requiring persons not to travel over said bridge with horses and carriages faster than a walk.
1853: Vote to build a bridge over the Piscataquis, near Samuel Moore’s dwelling, under charter from legislature to build a tollbridge.
1853: Vote to build a peer (pier) under Pleasant River bridge, to guard against “ice freshets.” So spring breakup of ice was troublesome, even then.
1854: For the first time, selectmen are listed as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd James H. Macomber, Nathaniel Day, and C. A. Everett. Everett third doing penance for his awful handwriting?
1854: Vote to build the bridge over the Piscataquis by “first day of October,1855.”
1854: Voters meet “to choose thirteen persons of good moral character, to revise the jurybox, and serve as jurors.”
1855: Notices of future townmeetings to be “posted up” at the Pleasant River bridge, instead of at the District 2 schoolhouse.
1855: Vote to hire $3000 to build bridge over the Piscataquis .
1856: Last of public lots sold. All this caretaking for $1320, plus a little interest!
1856: After controversy with Orrin Brown, builder of tollbridge, town votes to settle with him “according to law.” None of details of quarrel appear on the town record.
1857: Vote to sell the Piscataquis tollbridge for $2700, together with the charter, and bind the town, so far as possible, to stop all bridges, or thoroughfares across the Piscataquis.(The record hopelessly obscure).
1857: Pass over article “to make Piscataquis bridge free for general use. “Same article came up, year after year, until proponents won free passage over bridge. Tolls had been intended to pay cost of building.