DMI Plans Milford’s Birthday Celebration


By Terry Rogers

On Thursday, September 21, Downtown Milford, Inc. plans to celebrate Milford’s 230th birthday as part of the monthly Third Thursday event. DMI is asking people to come to Downtown Milford wearing the maroon and gold of Milford School District to show their Milford pride. Sara Pletcher, Vice President of DMI, said that she came up with the idea while reading the 2018 Comprehensive Plan as part of her Planning Commission duties.

“I realized all the significant dates in Milford history end in 7,” Ms. Pletcher said. “Joseph Oliver first subdivided his farm into town lots in 1787, the Kent County side of Milford was incorporated in 1807 and the Sussex County side in 1887. This makes 2017 the perfect year to celebrate a birthday. We want to continue the success of Third Thursday and coming off a great August, a party seems fitting. Also, since September is the start of the school year, the maroon and gold everywhere and entertainment from the Milford School District music departments will be a nice kickoff.”

During the Third Thursday event, attendees will be able to collect maroon and gold strips of paper from merchants that will be used to make a paper chain that will go around the Riverwalk railing. Shops in downtown will be open from 5 to 7 and, at 7:15, a town photo will be taken on the Riverwalk. Ms. Pletcher said they plan to have a candle lighting with a cake that will be cut by Mayor Bryan Shupe in the area of the Farmer’s Market and everyone in attendance will sing “Happy Birthday.”

In addition to the cake cutting, anyone who brings a receipt from a downtown merchant for a purchase on September 21 will be entered into a raffle. There will be party favors and live entertainment by Milford School District. Mispillion Art League plans to offer face painting and the Milford Buccaneer will make an appearance. There will also be a location for attendees to decorate a party hat to wear for the town photo.

“We are putting together a volunteer sign up for help setting up and hat crafts,” Ms. Pletcher said. “We are also looking for sponsors for the event.”

According to the book “Historical Etchings of Milford, Delaware and the Vicinity,” by George B. Hynson, before the Revolution, most of the land of what is now North Milford was the plantation owned by Joseph Oliver. At the time, it was known as Saw Mill Range and was warranted to the original owner, Henry  Bowman, in 1680. It was inherited by his son, John, who then sold it to Jacob Warrington. In 1773, Mr. Warrington sold it to his son-in-law, Joseph Oliver.

Mr. Oliver’s mansion stood on Front Street about half the distance between the river and the street. In 1791, he obtained permission from the General Assembly to build a drawbridge in what was then called “Oliver’s Landing,” but is now the town of Milford. However, because this was a private act, Mr. Oliver could have charged a toll and residents objected, causing the act to be repealed. Instead, Kent and Sussex Counties became owners of the drawbridge and Governor Daniel Rogers and Nathaniel Hayes along with Isaac Davis, Cashier of Smyrna Bank, and Dr. John Ralston were appointed to oversee the construction of the bridge which was built close to where the drawbridge stands today.

Not long after the war ended, Parson Sydenham Thorne arrived in Milford and soon purchased a 307-acre farm west of the stream known as Tanner’s Branch. Although Mr. Oliver began the process of laying out a town on his farm, it was Parson Thorne who brought the dream to reality. Parson Thorne saw that the area could be an active business center but that to make that happen, there needed to be bridges and dams across streams to open up the land for agriculture.

Parson Thorne approached Mr. Oliver with the idea to build a dam at his own expense. Mr. Oliver agreed and the two men set about creating what is now the town of Milford. Farmers from Sussex County on their way to a grist forded the stream, leading to the designation of the town as “Mill-ford.”

Ms. Pletcher says that DMI is hoping to designate the third Thursday of each September as Milford’s birthday celebration.

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