The first settler to arrive in the Milford area was the Rev. Francis McCormick, a Revolutionary War soldier with a thousand acre land grant, in 1796. He built his log cabin on the hill at the present 1000 Forest Ave. In 1797 he founded the first Methodist Class in the Northwest Territory. The Village of Milford was built on a 1788 survey belonging to John Nancarrow, a Revolutionary War veteran who owned 230 acres. Due to financial problems he sold his Milford holdings to Philip Gatch on December 20, 1802 for $920.00. Gatch had arrived in the future Milford in1799 and purchased property where he built his cabin at the site of the present Greenlawn Cemetery. In 1806 Gatch sold 125 acres to Ambrose Ransom who two days later sold 64 ½ acres to John Hageman. Hageman, among the first permanent settlers in the area and the first in the original plat of the village, named the area Hageman’s Mills.
Hageman laid out a village of 46 lots. There were three streets parallel to the river: Water St., Main St. and High St. The streets running to the river were: Mill, Cross (later renamed for President Garfield), Elm, Locust and the last merely known as County Road. County Road (later renamed Sycamore St.) ran to the river and connected with the ford of the Little Miami River. The choicest lot was #1 where the Millcroft Inn was located at Mill & Water Sts., with a price of $35.00 with most of the other lots selling for $25.00.
Though Milford’s beginnings were tied to the land grant it was the water power that would insure the growth of the community. The first improvement of the water power was made in 1803 when Hageman erected a small grist mill. It was crudely built being enclosed with slabs.
Ethan Stone of Cincinnati had an oil mill at Milford soon after 1805, on the mill-race above a small bridge, which operated until 1817. In the same building carding was done by Rust & Dimmitt and later John Eldridge distilled liquor.
The first postmaster and the first cooper was Aaron Matson, whose old stone house was built at the southwest corner of Main and Garfield in 1807. John Losh, who had a few vats in a yard above the first Catholic Church, operated the first tannery in Milford about 1808. It passed to the hands of Daniel McClelland, who increased its capacity and added a large shoe shop. Later John Kugler became the owner carrying on an extensive business for a few years before it was discontinued. The first frame house was built on Main St., opposite the brick row near the present location of the Odd Fellows Hall in 1809 by a Mr. McFeeney, who was John Hageman’s miller. About 1810 William Embly had a small distillery near the Water St. location where the Jackson Stables stood long after 1811. Stephen Medaris erected the second brick house in Milford on High St. opposite the entrance to Riverside Park, the first being located at 504 Beech St. both are still standing. The brick row on Main St. was built circa 1840 by John Kugler, who had arrived here in 1828. During the cholera epidemic in 1849, Mr. Kugler turned one of the row houses, number 211 Main, over for a hospital.
By 1811 John Hageman had departed for Indiana and the name “Milford” had come into wide use; attributed to the newspaper changing it in Feb.1806 as it was the first safe ford north of the Ohio River across the Little Miami River. The ford is still a shallow place recognizable today as it was when one had to ford the stream to get to the mill. In 1815 through an act of the Ohio General Assembly a wooden bridge was authorized and completed by 1818. This was a covered toll bridge, sometimes known as a “kissing” bridge. Tolls were collected beginning at $.05 for a person making a round trip. The date of discontinuation of the tolls is not known. The immediate effect of the bridge upon travel and commerce was so great that other towns made a stir for bridges.
About 1815 Hortshorn and Sanders built the frame of the mill that would survive the better portion of the century. In 1828 Mathias Kugler bought the mill, mill race and an unfinished frame structure, which was finished as a home, now known as the “Millcroft” for $12,000.00. His son, John, also his partner, took charge and greatly expanded the operation. All of the stone buildings on Mill St. and adjacent to it were built by John. The building located at 220 Mill St. was the distillery and the building east of it at 224 Mill St., built in 1840 was the corn warehouse. The stone building at 220 Mill St. replaced the frame distillery building that was destroyed by fire in 1848. The long stone building at 2–6 Main St. was built in 1862 and served as the whiskey warehouse and had a cooperage on the second floor. The stone Milford Library building was built by Kugler in 1860, the first floor being a warehouse and the second a public meeting room.
John Kugler raised pigs on his farm in south Milford and he operated a pork packing plant first on Water St. and then moved to his building where the Masonic Temple stands today. At Kugler’s death in 1868 all operations except the mill ceased.
Milford was incorporated by an act of the Ohio General Assembly passed January 23, 1836 and on the 28th of March the same year the first election of village officers was held at the public house of Emanuel Hawn, with the following result: Mayor, William Williams; recorder, Thomas M. Brown; Trustees: John Kugler, John Ray, Britton Loming, Emanuel Hawn and Simon Ramsety; Treasurer, Edward Hughes; Marshal, James Dennison; Street Commissioner, William Conklin.
The marshal was also appointed Nuisance master at a salary of $5.00 per year. A tax of 5 mils on the dollar for all purposes was levied and brought the village treasury $113.20; license fees of $5.00 were received and road taxes $82.00 making the total $200.20. From this amount $104.24 were paid out to defray current expenses leaving a neat balance. For fire protection the trustees provided eight ladders which were to be placed in pairs at John Kugler’s, William Conklin’s, Emanuel Hawn’s and William Riggs’.
The first and, for a time, only telephone in town was in 1884 in Adam’s Bakery at Main & Garfield. When general service was installed in town telephones were wall-mounted hand cranked party line type.
The covered bridge was replaced in 1894 by a steel bridge, known as the “iron bridge”.
The “iron bridge” was replaced and opened in 1925 by another steel bridge. This was an occasion for speeches, parades, a dance and fireworks.
In 1905 near the Water St. end of the bridge Dr. Conn Gatch donated a stone water fountain which featured a fountain and a trough for animals. In time the water was turned off and the fountain became a hazard and was removed.
In 1906 the C. M. & L. Traction Co. laid tracks up the middle of Main St. The company provided service from Cincinnati to Blanchester.
Also in 1906 the C&C Traction Co. opened a fifty – three mile line from Norwood to Hillsboro on April 22. Going east it began its run from Norwood to Madeira( Station #1 still stands on Miami Ave in Madeira). It stopped in Indian Hill, then in Terrace Park. Approaching Milford it crossed the CM&L tracks at the Pennsylvania overhead pass on Wooster Pike at the western edge of Milford and crossed the Little Miami River about a thousand feet below the Milford bridge. The line went east on High St. as far as Locust and then by private right of way to Spring St. It went through the alley south of Main St. to the eastern corporation line and then east on US50 to Hillsboro.
The village bought electricity from the traction company’s power house on Wooster Pike. An interesting fact about this is the electricity was turned off about midnight when the last car returned for the night and was resumed when the first car went into service the next day. With electricity available houses were wired right and left.
The following year street lights were installed and a large celebration was held with the town band marching from light to light while they played.
The first village owned fire fighting equipment, other than the ladders was a pumper that operated like a railroad handcar with handles pumped up and down. It was stored at the town hall. An alarm being sounded someone ran to the livery stable near the bridge, got a horse, ran back to town hall, hitched the horse to the pumper and took off for the fire; prior to this the town had required each business and household to have two leather buckets available for fire fighting purposes.
Until the early 1900s roads and streets in and about town were dust in the summer and mud in the winter. Until 1910 sidewalks were do-it-yourself propositions made up of cinders, gravel, planks or what-ever they had. The new sidewalks were made of a new material called artificial stone cement.
A devastating flood in 1913 struck Milford destroying the Motsinger-Eveland livery stable and funeral home at the bridge and washing out a pier of the C & C Traction line’s trestle in the river downstream of the bridge.
In 1915 Chris Ernst built the “Family Theatre” on Garfield between Main & Water Sts. Admission was 10¢ for adults and 5¢ for children.
In 1922 the inauguration of home mail delivery began in the village. A new steel bridge was the occasion for a large celebration in 1926.
In 1939 the building known locally as the “Millcroft Inn” was opened as the “Gilcroft”, a tea room, thus ending the buildings long history as a private home.
In 1956 the Gallenstein Brothers opened the Milford Shopping Center on Lila Ave.
In 1961 a new sanitary sewer system was finished and served the village. 1971 saw village government changed to the charter form of government with a city manager.
In 1980 a new concrete bridge was added on the down river side and adjacent to the steel bridge which permitted one way traffic on each structure. By 1985 the 1925 steel bridge was declared unsafe and closed. In 1992 the steel bridge was removed. In late 2000 the concrete bridge was expanded to four lanes and remains in service today.
In 1982 after a census count of 5, 232, Milford attained city status.
So, we have recalled a few of the many events and changes of the past and look to the future with optimism engendered by the past.
We’ve come a long way indeed from our beginning all those years ago.
The Little Miami Railroad
The Little Miami Railroad was chartered by the Ohio Legislature in 1835 to build a line between Cincinnati and Springfield. Subscriptions for stock in the venture were taken in the towns all along the proposed route. Mathias Kugler of New Germany (now Camp Dennison) agreed to purchase $10,000.00 worth of stock if the railroad would run within 80 rods (1,320 feet) of his mills. At the organizational meeting of the stockholders Kugler was elected director.
Because of a countrywide depression, it was 1841 before the railroad reached Milford. The first passenger train arrived on December 14, 1841 after a trip of one to one and a half hours from Cincinnati. The train consisted of the locomotive and two passenger cars. The wood burning locomotive was named “Governor Morrow” and cost $7,000.00. It was shipped by boat from New Orleans at a cost of $732.00. One passenger car, the “James Madison”, had a capacity of 30, 16 inside and 14 on top. The second, the “Little Miami” carried 20 passengers, ten on each side facing each other. The line also owned eight freight cars.
By 1842 the line was bankrupt. In 1842 John Kugler of Milford succeeded his father as a director and helped get the line back on its feet. The line reached Xenia in 1845 and Springfield on August 10, 1846.
1851 saw the beginning of through service to New York. A passenger could leave Cincinnati in the morning and arrive at Cleveland to catch the night boat to Buffalo. Arriving in Buffalo they then traveled by rail to Albany during the day reaching the city in the evening in time for the night boat to New York City.
When the railroad was completed to Xenia there were 54 flour mills, 26 saw mills and 3 paper mills served by the line.
The last eastbound Pennsylvania RR passenger train, No. 212 from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, to stop in Milford was at 10:06 AM on December 12, 1948. The last westbound train, No. 267 from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, stopped here at 4:54 PM that same day.
In 1969 the closing of the once busy Milford railroad station occurred as passenger trains had not stopped in many years and the freight business had dwindled. The last passenger trains to travel through Milford; No’s 77 and 78 went through in 1969.
Education above the grade school level was first available in Milford in 1848 at the Milford Seminary. D. W. Stevens, M.A., who was principal and professor ran the seminary. The first classes were held on the second floor of the Masonic Hall, then at the corner of Main and Cross Sts. (now Garfield Ave.). After a few years the school was moved to the second floor of the Kugler building on Water St. at the site of the present Masonic Temple.
The school ran for 4 eleven-week quarters. It was divided into six departments: Primary, Common English, Intermediate, Higher, Classical and Ornamental. The Primary department taught reading, writing and mental arithmetic; with the tuition being $2.50 for 11 weeks. Common English department tuition was $4.00 for 11 weeks and Intermediate department tuition was $5.00, with $1.00 extra if one took bookkeeping. Higher department taught algebra, geometry, trigonometry, surveying, chemistry, geology, botany, theology, rhetoric, logic, domestic economy, anatomy, physiology and legal rights of women. Tuition was $6.00 each quarter. The Classical department taught Latin & Greek equivalent to modern high schools; four years of each, with tuition $6.00 per quarter. Ornamental studies taught singing, piano, and art. Piano lessons were $10.00 for each quarter while crayoning was $3.00; painting in watercolors was $2.50 and beginning penciling was $2.00.
The records for 1855-56 show an enrollment of 35 boys and 25 girls for the first session and 36 boys and 28 girls for the second session.
The school was closed in 1870 with the opening of Milford’s new Union School in East Milford with D.W. Stevens as principal.
A second school headed by L.M. French, called the Milford Academy, opened in 1848 on the second floor of the first I.O.O.F. building at 200-204 Main St. All academic subjects of high school and college were offered to subscribers at a set cost for each subject taken. The school closed after the 1851-1852 school year.
In reviewing Milford’s past two appropriate titles came to mind; the little town and how it grew and you’ve come a long way baby!
For more information about these stories and many more interesting facts, visit the Greater Milford Area Historical Society museum – Promont – at 906 Main Street, Milford, OH 45150. Promont is open the 2nd Saturday and 2nd Sunday of each month, March through December, 1-4:00 PM. Or schedule an appointment by calling 513/248-0324.