Originally a part of Rochester variously called the “Northeast Parish”, “Three Ponds” or “Milton Mills”, the town was settled in 1760. It would be set off and incorporated in 1802 as “Milton”, the name either a contraction of “mill town”, or else derived from a relative of the Wentworth colonial governors — William Fitzwilliam, Earl Fitzwilliam and Viscount Milton. The town of Fitzwilliam also bears his name.
Located along the Maine border, Milton was the location of early industry which used water power from the Salmon Falls River. Six miles north of Milton, the village of Milton Mills was once called “Shapleigh Mills” and during the 19th century had 4 shoe factories, 2 woolen mills, 1 felt mill, 1 carriage shop and many sawmills. In 1872, Henry H. Townsend established The Miltonia Mills, which manufactured fine wool blankets used by Admiral Robert E. Peary on his expedition to the North Pole, and Admiral Richard E. Byrd at the Antarctic. The company went bankrupt in 1950. The building then became Greene Tanning, a leather tannery where the employees of the mill made raw leather into leather known throughout the world as being some of the highest in quality.
In 1893 Jonas Spaulding opened a leatherboard mill in Milton, organizing the business as J. Spaulding and Sons. His sons were Leon C., Huntley N. and Rolland H., of whom Huntley and Rolland would serve as governors of New Hampshire. Jonas and his sons would undertake the construction of another leatherboard mill in North Rochester, NH around 1900. Jonas died before the North Rochester mill became operational. The brothers continued to run the business successfully and brought the Spaulding Brothers leatherboard mill in Townsend Harbor, Massachusetts, under the J. Spaulding and Sons banner in 1902. They were successful with a machine to manufacture shoe counters and with experiments to make vulcanized fibre. In 1912 they opened a purpose-built facility to make vulcanized fibre in Tonawanda, New York. In 1913 J. Spaulding and Sons opened a second leatherboard mill in Milton. They also acquired the Kennebunk Manufacturing Company (KEMACO), which made lunch boxes and violin cases using leatherboard and vulcanized fibre and at one time had facilities in Milton as well.
The town contains some distinctive architecture, particularly the Milton Town House, built in 1808, and the Milton Free Public Library, a Second Empire former schoolhouse built at Milton Mills in 1875.
- Free Public Library c. 1910
- Lake View House c. 1915
- Street scene c. 1910
- Nute High School in 1907
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