Two hundred years ago, the settlers of the west side of Seneca Lake and the east of Keuka Lake had grown beyond the simple needs of frontiersmen and women. Members of the Society of Universal Friends, their needs were now the needs of an organized community requiring its own government.
In 1818 the new Town of Milo was set off from Benton, comprising 36 square miles bordered by those two lakes and including all of the Keuka Lake Outlet at the time. The first town meeting was held Tuesday, April 7, 1818 at Nichols Corners, now called Milo Center, at the house of Isaac Nichols.
In honor of that history, the Milo Town Board has issued a proclamation designating April 7, 2018 as “a day of recognition and celebration.” In addition, rather than confining their recognition to that one day, Supervisor Leslie Church announced the board members will be researching and then presenting parts of Milo’s remarkable history at each of the remaining Town Board meetings throughout 2018 to keep such memories alive.
The Town of Milo has the largest population in Yates County at over 7,000 people and includes most of the village of Penn Yan in addition to smaller hamlets with their own identities.
Occupying 48 square miles, it borders Benton, Torrey, Jerusalem, Barrington and Starkey.
Followers of the Universal Friend, Jemima Wilkinson, played an important role in the history of Milo, where the Keuka Outlet powered the birth of industry in the area.
As land became available following the Revolutionary War, early settlers from Pennsylvania and New England migrated to Milo.
Richard Smith left his wife and children in Groton, Conn. to follow the spiritual callings of the Friend and her Society in the late 1780s. He and two partners built the first mill west of Seneca Lake at what is now called the Seneca Millsite.
According to Lewis Cass Aldrich’s history of Yates County, the first deed in the area that became the town of Milo was dated Jan. 16, 1789.
The first wood frame house in Penn Yan was built by Abraham Wagener in 1800.
Much of the development that followed occurred along the Keuka Outlet as water-powered mills processed locally grown raw materials: corn, wheat, timber, flaxseed and wool.
As advances in transportation, including the Crooked Lake Canal followed by Fall Brook Railway, took place in the 1800s, Penn Yan and the area continued to prosper.
Colorful characters and influential leaders grace the history of the town. Jimmy Cole, whose circus was based near Mays Mills and Daisy Marquis Jones, whose estate funds a foundation that supports medical and community projects, were both residents of Milo.
In 1851, the town of Torrey, Yates County’s youngest town, was formed from portions of Milo and Benton.
The first town officers elected at that first town meeting in 1818 were: Avery Smith, supervisor; Charles Roberts, town clerk; George I. Remer, collector; Benedict Robinson, George Nichols, and George Youns, assessors; Richard Henderson and Roger Sutherland, overseers of the poor, Isaac Hedges, David Briggs, and Solomon Finch, commissioners of highways; Isaac Nichols, Thomas Hathaway, and Allen Vorce, school commissioners; Samuel Henderson, Joel Gillette, John Randolph, James N. Edmondson, Peter Young, and Luther Sisson, school inspectors; George I. Remer, Stephen Youngs, David J. Bennett, and Walter Wolcott, constables.
Current Town officials are: Supervisor Leslie Church; Town Council members Dale Hallings (Deputy Supervisor), Arden Sorensen Jr., Gene Spanneut, and Jim Harris; Town Clerk/Tax Collector, Pat Christensen; Highway Superintendent, Lance Yonge; Code Enforcement Officer, Anthony Validzic; Assessor, Patrick Grimaldi; Justice, Michael Christensen; Historian, Frances Dumas.