“History in Progress”
This was the first time we ever explored Milton, we passed through a couple times before but not looked around. Milton is a community of 5,600 in Rock County. Milton may be one community now, but before 1967 it was two. It was Milton and Milton Junction, where the train came through a few miles from Milton. Both communities voted to become one in 1967. As a result, this unique community actually boasts having TWO downtowns. We enjoyed visiting them both. Milton was founded in 1838 by settlers from New York, Joseph Goodrich the first and he invested in much of the infrastructure of the former two towns. It was thought to be named after poet John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost.
Our first stop was at the Chamber of Commerce to learn more about this unique community.
We got a map and headed a mile away to explore their main downtown’s center of commerce, Merchant Row (street).
Also nearby is the former feed mill from the 1850’s called the Old Junction Mill, now housing several shops.
Buckaroo’s BBQ was formerly Liberty Station depot. There was a fire there a couple years ago and does not appear to be open yet for business.
By this time it was lunch and we went to the Milton Family Restaurant just left of the former depot. The food is great there, you get a lot of food for your money. Service was friendly and outstanding too. We highly recommend eating there.
After lunch we headed back to explore the other downtown on the east side.
This downtown area has a different character than the west side. Just behind me from this view is a Splash Pad in Goodrich Park for the kids.
Milton even has a golf facility called Caddyshack just outside of downtown. It includes mini-golf and a restaurant.
We continued walking up the street to the Milton College Historic District. The college closed in 1982 but the the beautiful buildings still are being used by local businesses.
And now for the biggest attraction in Milton, The Milton House! This is the famous home that Joseph Goodrich built and lived in with his family. It is also the first poured grout building in the country, as well as the oldest one still surviving (and thriving) today. That is not the only distinction of the Milton house, John Goodrich’s log cabin house was also one of designated 14 stops on the Underground Railroad, providing a safe stop for slaves escaping from the South. One tunnel survives, we went through it on our tour. We looked forward to our tour, they are given year-round. Photos were prohibited inside the house, but you can in the lobby and the other buildings outside. The right side of the building as you can see is new, it was rebuilt thanks to some generous donations.
This painting by artist Nellie Daland hanging near the tunnel entrance depicts slaves in hiding, but our tour guide told us this depiction is inaccurate. She said the tunnel would really only be about 3 feet high, and there would not be any small children or infants among the escaped. They had to keep perfectly silent in the tunnel or they would be heard.
Our guide took us through the tunnel, we thought about all the slaves that may have passed through this very tunnel, much lower and unlit. We came out on the other side, a stairway leading up to the inside of this small cabin, and this is the actual cabin! What a great tour!
The grounds also had a few other buildings. The Stable, and it also had a marker.
Behind the stable is a little smokehouse and behind the Milton House is a small barn with carriages and other artifacts.
Here is a recent interview with more information about this fascinating part of Milton’s history.
Milton also has a great retreat and restaurant by Lake Koshkonong called the Lake House Inn.
We had a great time and learned a lot in Milton. Well worth the time to visit!
* Milton House in Need of Repairs – WKOW Madison, WI – Channel 27
* Milton Matters blog