Museum 75th Anniversary

Monday, January 29, 2018

Millerton is a Good Town

Millerton is a Good Town

The following was published in the Corydon Democrat under this heading on January 14, 1915 just two years after Millerton came into existence. The youngest town in Wayne County owes its existence to the Rock Island Railroad.  

 Late in the fall of 1910, the Rock Island Railroad company surveyed a road from Carlisle, near Des Moines, to Allerton to connect their two roads and make a direct route from Kansas City to the Twin Cities. This road materialized in September, 1913. It was known as the St. Paul and Kansas City Short Line. This opened up new territory for railroad service and gave farmers a closer trading point. It also gave Millerton its birth.

 In 1912, George Miller, of Corydon, purchased the farm on which Millerton is built. He laid out a town selling twenty acres to the Rock Island at a low sum on order that the station would be placed on this site. The following year, in June, the Corydon Lumber Company purchased some lots and began to build. In 1915 they had a 156 x 58 shed, an office 24 x 36, and a coal bin 12 x 32. According to the news article, "The yard is well equipped and the best of service is rendered. Morgan & Wright are in control of this year."

Building Frenzy

 Soon Millerton boasted several businesses.  In 1913, Grant Markley purchased the town site and  began erecting buildings.  Markley built a fireproof block, each room being 20x40.  William Winslow had a grocery store and novelty store in one room of the block. Dr Luthy had an office in another of the rooms. Yet another room in the block held O.M. Brown harness shop, which was well equipped to handle all kinds of repair work.  One of the remaining rooms was slated to become a restaurant.  Another was occupied by men wintering in Millerton to be on the job when the spring building rush began.

 Markley got busy selling lots, giving the people a chance to buy lots cheap. His policy was, "Not a big price, but a big Millerton."

 By fall of 1913, William Markley began to build a three-front cement block building. R.T. Thatcher soon purchased two of the rooms, putting in a general store that had a large inventory and purchased poultry and grain.  The other room was rented to B.J. Cizkovsky for a jewelry and musical store.  Mr. Cizkovsky was also the new postmaster.

The remaining room was purchase by the Bank of Millerton. George Miller, president; Lem Kimple, vice-president, and J.L. Murrow, cashier. In the rear room of the bank building John M. Closky had a barber shop.

Another building held a window and door frame factory operated by William E. Green.  The rock Island station and the stock yards were built around this time also.  Allen Crone built yet another building where G.E. Dawson had a blacksmith shop. Another building owned by the lumber company was occupied by N.W. Dunham's barbershop.

This building frenzy continued and by late 1914 there was an opera house, drugstore, hardware and furniture store just waiting to move in.  A two-story hotel built by H.J. Adams was to be constructed in spring of 1915.

C.E. Hatfield erected a cement block factory in summer of 1914 that was well fitted with modern machines for making cement blocks.  Mr Hatfield also ran the city dray lines.

Livestock buyer was L.L. Thatcher. L.J. Iverson was one of the first to come to Millerton and built a fine home. He was a section foreman on the railroad.

"Early in the year 1913 the present town of Millerton was nothing more than a corn field. In fact, those who built in this year had to clean away the stalks before starting. During this year three residence were completed, those of Louis Ryan, L. thatcher, and B. Thatcher. Up to present year (1915) thirty more houses have been competed and three are under construction and still houses are in demand, some of our business men not being able to move their families here."

~ In less than two yeas time the town of Millerton began and was seemingly filled with people, businesses, and homes.  It was a town with great expectations.

Millerton in the 1930's

The following story is taken from Along the Way written by Robert Stech in 1976. This was originally published on Prairie Trails Museum facebook page in 2017. 

In 1911 an Iowa road map showed a small town named Ovid in the approximate vicinity of what is now Millerton. In 1913 the Rock Island Railroad sliced through the countryside from Chariton to Corydon. With the coming of the railroad the sizable, thriving town of New York, three miles to the east of where Millerton is located, soon died, as the merchants and the general population moved to the rail line. 
Ellis & Zora Bull  Hardware Store and Post Office

In the early 1930’s Millerton had a population of one hundred eighty seven. It had three grocery stores: Buoy’s, Gilman’s, and the Mulenburn grocery. Millerton also had two gas stations: one owned by Reese Dotts, a Pure oil station and the other a Phillips 66 owned by Earl Krouse. As in many small towns the gas stations were the favorite rest and recreation centers, havens for the town pitch and cribbage players. The average farmer stopped for an hour or two when he bought gas and played a few hands. They were also the local source for communications on the recent happenings in the community. Ellis and Zora Bull operated a drug and hardware store as well as a livestock buying station, mostly hogs bound for Morrells at Ottumwa.

Glen Draper waiting for the mail 
John McClosky, the barber, cut hair for 25¢ per head. Dr. Corbin tended to the communities medical needs from his office upstairs above Bull’s store. Floyd Hook managed the lumberyard, and Charlie Ammenell was the small building carpenter at the yard. Bill Green was the village carpenter and repairman and a fellow named Yeigh set up and operated a blacksmith shop for a few years. The local restaurant was operated by Maud Bone and Merle Owens was the local auto mechanic.

In the 1930’s the local hotel had been abandoned as such and was used as a boarding house for teachers. Martha and Mary Stech also boarded teachers and custom quilted and hooked rugs.
The mail came to Millerton three times a day on the railroad. Harvey Double and Glen Draper (pictured at left) transported the mail to and from the depot and the post office in a red wheel barrow. The post office was in Buoy’s store. Myrtle Buoy was the post mistress. As in most small towns in the 30’s, Millerton’s bank failed, never to reopen its doors.

Center- Myrtle Buoy, Glen Draper, and Zora Bull hand out mail 

The town fire department consisted of a man-powered fire engine, a light buggy wheel conveyance. It held somewhere between 50 and 100 gallons of water and had a pressurized water tank. The town water supply was a couple of cisterns in close proximity to Reese Dotts gas station. The water supply came from the roof of the gas station that captured the rain water. After several years of non-use, it was discovered that the water would burn. The station’s underground gas tank had rusted out and the gasoline had polluted the cistern water. 

Millerton High School

Millerton School 

Millerton High had a new gym and six basketball players. These six fellows out-played the larger schools and won a consolation trophy in a county tournament. There was also a girl’s team at Millerton High.
Millerton even had a mini Fourth of July celebration. A fellow from Corydon tried to start an open air movie on a vacant lot between the restaurant and the bank building. A small flickery home movie type of projector showed movies to the people on Saturday evening. The admission was a quarter and there was a drawing for a basket of groceries. 

Today, most of the population has changed. Many of those who lived  in Millerton have gone to their just reward, and their descendants have spread to the four winds. (Editor’s note: The author Robert Stech was born in 1921 on a farm near Millerton. In 1974-75 he wrote a weekly column, “Along the Way” for the Town and Country Journal/Farmers Weekly of Humeston, IA).

In 2013 the population of Millerton was 46.