Natural beauty and three lakes make the Miltona area an attractive place to live. The largest lake is Lake Miltona (said to be named for a Sioux Chief, meaning “blue waters”). Lake Irene was originally “Reservoir Lake”, then renamed for Irene Roadruck); and Lake Vermont (or “Crooked Lake”).
Before 1858 there were no settlers in the area. Southern and western Douglas County was Dakota territory: Ojibway (or Chippewa) territory included the Miltona – Spruce Hill area. By 1851, the Dakota and Ojibway had ceded their lands in Douglas County to the U. S. Government. By 1858 the Red River Trail cut through the area, connecting trade between the Red River of the North and the Mississippi River.
A sizeable Sioux camp was located on the south shore of Lake Miltona. Some accounts tell of a “final battle”, but other accounts say that a settler who could speak the Sioux language, along with a group of pioneer men, met with the Sioux chief and convinced him that the Sioux should give up their weapons and leave. The Sioux moved on to the northwest.
The Homestead Act of 1862 promised land to people who were willing to clear land and live on it for 5 years. The end of the Sioux Uprising of 1862 opened more lands. The end of the Civil War, hard times in Europe, better roads and later the railroad, all encouraged settlement.
In 1870, Alden Hamlet, located on Boggy Creek, somewhere south of Lake Irene, was a stagecoach stop. Ten years later, Spruce Hill Village (now a County Park) was founded. It had three stores, a blacksmith shop, a mill and a post office. The old Military Road was near by. Further north, the Village of Spruce Center also had three stores, a blacksmith and a mill. Today, a cluster of homes and a few businesses make up Spruce Center. Three miles away, a creamery and general store were built in Rose City. The creamery was built on an old Indian campsite. The City of Miltona, the largest and youngest town in the area, was founded about thirty years later and incorporated in 1930.
Miltona Township was organized in 1872. Twenty men attended the meeting. Early issues were: animal control; road improvement; choosing people responsible for overseeing animal control and roads; and determining a township budget. Spruce Hill township was organized on March 9, 1875.
Miltona and Spruce Hill were among the last townships settled in Douglas County. As late as 1886, large portions of the two townships were still owned by the railroad companies.
The Soo Line Railroad came through Douglas County in 1902, and the towns of Forada, Carlos and Miltona were settled. In 1910 John Hintzen purchased land in what became the village of Miltona. He built a store, laid out the village, and served in many capacities of leadership in the town. A street just west of Main Street is named for him. A depot was built in Miltona, before that time there had been a place on the northeast side of Lake Irene called The Old Spur, where people caught the train.
Life revolved around the homestead, school and church. Building schools and establishing churches was a priority for settlers. Log cabins and a granary served as school buildings in the early days
The natural beauty of the area attracted visitors who came for recreation. The resort industry flourished in Miltona township. Summer residents built lakeshore cabins and enjoyed summers at the lake. The Minnesouri and Illinois Fishing Clubs dubbed Lake Miltona “the Bass Kingdom of the United States”.
Saturday, July 18,1970 changed the face of Miltona. About 7 p.m., a funnel cloud formed over Lake Miltona, moved across the Lake Miltona Golf Club and touched down in the City of Miltona, destroying businesses in the center of town. The tornado destroyed the lumberyard and café, the depot, gas station, elevator and some homes. Many other buildings were damaged.
The City of Miltona celebrates its survival and resurrection with “Tornado Days” in mid-July each year.
The City of Miltona has been a typical rural small town, surrounded by farms. Homes are now replacing fields around the City and many residents work in Alexandria or Parkers Prairie. In recent years, both the City of Miltona and Miltona Township have attracted many retirees who enjoy the community and the recreational opportunities in the area.
This brief history was compiled in 2006 as a project of Team Miltona
Sources of information: “Miltona Township History” compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert E. Harfiel, Luella Erickson.
More detailed information available at the Douglas County Historical Society in Alexandria.
“Looking Back: Miltona Village and Miltona and Spruce Hill Townships: 1870-1958”.