As more and more folks began moving into Milton, the character of the town began to emerge, and there was a lot of growth and change along the Neponset River. Remember that first grist mill built in 1634? It soon was joined by other mills and businesses, and “Lower Mills” soon became a busy place.
Can you guess what the Gunpowder Mill produced? Bingo! You guessed right — gunpowder, of course! Using charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter, mill workers ground these all together and dried them into cakes (and I don’t mean lovely little cakes that you might eat with tea). The cakes were broken into powder and would then be packed up to supply the local militia! It could be treacherous working in this type of mill, and it certainly was the case back in 1744 when the Milton gunpowder mill BLEW UP!
Fulling is a step in woolen cloth making, which involves the cleaning of cloth to eliminate dirt and oil, which helps to thicken and strengthen it.
After they wove the woolen cloth, they would send it to the fulling mill to be cleaned and strengthened.
The sawmill was important as more and more people began settling and building homes here in Milton. The mill would cut logs that came from plentiful forests and turn them into boards. This cut down on the work that used to be done by hand. Imagine how hard it would be to make a house from trees with just hand tools like an axe and a hammer!
This mill ground tobacco into dust. A gentleman would sniff this tobacco dust, also know as snuff, and it would make him sneeze. How silly is that?!
As more mills appeared along the river, it must have gotten louder and very active down by the wharf. The mills changed owners often, some burned down, some were moved, and new ones were built. One of Milton’s most important industries was the making of CHOCOLATE!!
Yum, yum, yum!
Cocoa was a very popular drink in the 18th century , though the ingredients came from far away and the process of making it is complicated (but worth the effort)!
Cocoa beans are seeds inside the cocoa fruit!
These beans would be shipped north by traders who went down to South America to buy them. The beans would be unloaded at the Captain’s Landing in Milton village. From the landing, they were taken in wagons to the storage tanks near the chocolate mill. The beans were roasted, their shells cracked and removed, and their kernels were ground into paste. The fat, or cocoa butter, was removed and sugar was added. This mixture was dried into a cake, which was then broken up and pounded into a powder… and voila… COCOA!! And cocoa is the main ingredient in making yummy chocolate deserts and drinks.
Above is an old chocolate pot from the 1700’s. They would prepare their hot chocolate using this type of pot.
In 1765, a local businessman named James Baker met a recent immigrant named John Hannon on the banks of the Neponset River. John Hannon was looking for work and knew how to make chocolate. With the help of Mr. Baker, Hannon was able to set up a business, “Hannon’s Best Chocolate,” which lasted for 15 years.
Old wrapper for Hannon’s Best Chocolate!!
In 1780, James Baker bought the business and changed the name to Baker Chocolate Company. The smell of chocolate in Milton lasted for over 200 years!!!
Like many New England towns, Milton governed itself — and was proud of it. The townspeople elected or appointed their own officers, assigned their own taxes, and punished their own lawbreakers. At this time, remember, America was still a colony of England. There was a Royal Governor in Boston who was chosen by the King of England. Early on, the Royal Governor had little to do with daily life in the villages. As long as the towns did their job of taking care of themselves, no one interfered with them.
In Milton, as in many villages, town meeting was important. Any citizen could come to express his opinion. Three selectman were elected to run the town on behalf of the citizens — just like we do today — and other town officers were elected or appointed, such as the Constable, who collected the taxes. Town meeting is still alive and well in Milton!! You may have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who are Milton town meeting members!!
Can you guess what some of the early town officer positions were?
Here’s a hint… it had something to do with this…..
The official Fence Viewer! The person who had this position was very important, because he settled disputes about property lines. It was his job to make sure that someone didn’t put up a fence or wall on his neighbor’s land. That seems a little funny now when you think about how much land people had back then. The Fence Viewer also made sure that people took good care of their fences — you wouldn’t want Mr. Glover’s cow escaping and getting into his neighbor’s cornfield. That could spell trouble!
Who’s watching the fence?? These guys are making a break for it!!
Another position? Well, it involved these guys below…
The town Reeve was responsible for the animals of the town. One of his duties was to inspect all pigs to be sure each pig had a ring in his nose, so he could not root around in the crops. If an animal was spotted without a ring, the owner would be fined! If a stray animal was caught, it would be taken to the town pound, a kind of “lost and found” from which the owner would come and collect it.
There were many pounds throughout Milton’s history. The one above was the 4th pound and was located on Canton Avenue, across from Holmes Lane, not too far from today’s Milton High School.
Another town position was the Tithingman. The Tithingman had multiple duties.
A Change in the Air
For many years, New England towns had the freedom to govern themselves without any real interference from representatives from Britain. But that began to change. England had fought the French for many years over control of the land in North America. England got help from the colonists, and France got help from the Native Americans, who they met trading furs in Canada. The French and Indian War lasted from 1754-1763, and while England gained a lot of territory after the war was over, they spent a lot of money along the way! (They were also fighting the French in Europe.)
King George III of England reigned from 1760-1820
King George and Parliament decided that they should tax the colonists to raise money to pay for their very expensive war. After all, they had helped to protect the colonists from the French and Natives, hadn’t they? So they started taxing certain essential items like tea. (I bet you already knew that).
Drinking tea in the British Colonies (from the Newport RI Historical Society)
Yes, the colonists enjoyed their tea. And they resented these taxes. They were becoming restless as England continued to impose stricter laws on them. There was now a lot of talk about independence and overthrowing England’s rule.
One of the rules that England imposed upon the colonists was no more town meetings. Those resourceful colonists found a way around that and started holding countywide meetings. At these meetings, folks would gather to share their complaints about England and try to decide what to do.
At the same time, representative from all of the colonies were meeting in Philadelphia. This meeting was called…
The Continental Congress!!
Our town played a role in all of this! During the summer and fall of 1774, one of the county meeting was held in the home of Daniel Vose, right here in Milton. Delegates from 19 towns came to pay a visit to Daniel in September 1774, and they all agreed that England’s taxes and orders were illegal. They decided that they would NOT obey them. What to do???? They said that the people of Massachusetts should form their own government and their own army. They called their declaration the SUFFOLK RESOLVES.
Joseph Warren, the gentleman above, presented the Suffolk Resolves to his buddy Paul Revere, a name I’m sure you are all familiar with!
Interesting little side note … Paul Revere opened up the country’s very first copper mill, right next door in Canton, MA!!
Here’s a pic of Paul Revere’s house in Canton. It has since been demolished.
Paul Revere carried the Suffolk Resolves to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and that paper from Milton, MA was read to the delegates. The Continental Congress used the Suffolk Resolves as the basis for the Declaration of Independence. The rest, as they say, is history.
Click on the marker above to see if you can read what it says. Do you know what this is? Maybe we can find it together during your 5th grade tour! I wonder who will spot it first?
The monument below is something you may walk or drive by every day… do you recognize it? I can’t wait to see who will point it out during the tour. Maybe it will be YOU!!