Sunday, July 04, 2010

19th Century Milton, N.C., Revealed in Weekly Newspapers

Danville Register 22 August 1965 (Page 15)

Bustling Milton, N.C., of 19th Century Revealed by Weekly Newspapers of Era

Milton, N.C. - Milton, a tiny (population about 250) town on the Dan River, today is without a newspaper of its own. It has not always been so. This town, founded in 1720 and incorporated 76 years later, once had a bright future before it. The Dan that flowed by the town provided excellent transportation in an era when water was the principal means of transportation. Obviously, a town of such promise attracted the attention of budding newspaper publishers. By the time of the Civil War, four newspapers had operated in Milton.

Former Milton Mayor M. S. Angle, an inveterate collector of anything historical, over the years has accumulated a number of photostatic copies of these old papers, a handful of which now are preserved in university libraries. He also has a few originals of his own. Angle, a man who delights in telling of the blessings of living in Milton, has accumulated the papers primarily to help record the town's history. Unfortunately, weekly newspaper publishers of a century and a half ago were not what they are today. The papers contain little or news about Milton and its people. What passes for news are articles picked up from magazines and other, larger papers in other cities and states. The newspapers, however, are not without interest to the Milton historian. The advertisements frequently tell what today's reporter would tell.

The earliest of the Milton newspapers apparently was the Milton Intelligencer, published by John H. Perkins. Angle has several copies of 1819 editions. Among the advertisers were: Richard Ogilby, who announced the opening of a new tavern "opposite the Banks." M. P. Huntington & Co., jewelers with "en elegant assortment of gold watches and silver patent levers." Lewis Sherley, owner of "the celebrated imported horse Eagle," which was to "stand the ensueing [sic] season at the Red House, Caswell County, N.C. to be let to mares at fifty dollars the season . . . " Wilson & Dixon, who had just received a general assortment of dry goods and groceries from New York and Petersburg "which they will sell low for case, or on time for punctual customers." John Reeks, whose slave, Adams, was a runaway.

The May 6, 1819, issue also contained this interesting advertisement by Drury Burton: "Patrick N. Edgar has been traveling about the country for sometime with a few books and other articles, and professes to be a Surgeon and Farrier. Having the distemper among my horses, I applied to him, understanding he could cure any distemper incident to horses. he refused to undertake them, without my note for twenty dollars, which, I suppose since, was only a cloak for his deception, as he is nothing but a Quack; and has taken advantage of several in the neighborhood. I therefore forewarn all persons from accepting or trading for said note, as I have sustained considerable damage by him, and am determined not to pay it."

The Intelligencer also frequently carried notices of the Roanoke Navigation Company, which apparently took its name from the not-to-distant Roanoke River and did considerable business with Milton. The April 2, Intelligencer also contained a notice that the North Carolina General Assembly had authorized a toll canal to connect the Roanoke and Pamptien Rivers. Named as commissioners in Caswell to receive subscriptions for stock were Bartlett Yancey, Bedford Brown, Romulus Saunders and others.

By the late 1829's the Milton Gazette and Roanoke Advertiser was being published. It was edited by M. Kenyon and printed by J. Holderby. By that time, Milton had both a "Milton Female Academy" and a "Milton Male Academy," as well as a Milton Book Store. Among the advertisers was one Thomas Day, a cabinet maker who later was to establish a considerable reputation in this trade throughout the state. (Angle has several pieces of furniture made by Day and the pews in the Milton Presbyterian Church were constructed by this remarkable man.)

A Feb. 28, 1827, edition announced, "The citizens of Milton propose, as a testimony of their regard for Gen. R. M. Saunders, their fellow townsman, and representative in Congress, to give him on Saturday, the 10th March, a public dinner. It is expected that the Vice President of the U.S. will be in town about that time, who will be invited. It is hoped our fellow citizens will generally unite with us on this occasion."

On July 31, 1830, saddler Jesse Owen advertised, "I will take a youth of good family and character about fifteen years old, to learn the saddler's trade." The same issue also reported "A camp-meeting for Caswell Circuit, will commence at Harrison's Meeting-House, on Friday the 2oth of August, instead of the 13th, as heretofore published, under the superintendence of the Rev. Moses Brock, Presiding Elder for the Yadkin District, with the assistance of the Rev. John H. Watson and John J. Head. Others traveling and local preachers are particularly invited to attend."

The Gazette and Advertiser also was used frequently by persons who had issued personal bonds, such as James Walker: "I hereby forwarn [sic] all persons from trading for a bond, dated, as well as I can recollect, in the year 1826, and payable the 25th day of December, 1829, executed by myself to Thomas Bastin, Sen., for the sum of Fifty Dollars. Said bond has been once paid, and will not be paid again."

In July, 1830, tobacco was selling in Milton for $5.50 to $8 per hundred. The price of other commonly used commodities: wheat, 40 cents a bushel; salt, $3.57 a sack; bee wax, 22 cents a pound; whisky [sic], 25 cents a gallon.

In 1832, another weekly newspaper, the Milton Spectator, was being published, this one by Nathaniel J. Palmer. A Feb. 22, 1832, issue reported the extreme prices of "passed tobacco" ranged from $2.10 to $6. It also listed the boating costs for shipping tobacco down the river to Weldon at 25 cents per hundredweight and up the river at 37½ cents. By 1832, Jarvis Friou had "commenced the boot and shoe making business on the main street opposite the Milton Hotel," while saddler Jesse Owen was still advertising for an apprentice.

Publisher Palmer announced he was in the practice of law and, simultaneously, offered to accept "corn, wheat, flour and pork at the market price" in payment of subscriptions to his newspaper. Newman Durham, meanwhile, was offering for sale "two likely Negro girls 12 or 14 years old. The girl 14 years old is uncommonly likely and well acquainted with the management of a house/ seldom such a girl is offered in market; these Negroes are sold without fault."

By 1845, the Milton Chronicle had appeared on the scene and the town of Milton obviously was bustling. The Chronicle was filled with advertisements. Among the advertisers was Nathaniel J. Palmer, the lawyer-publisher of the old Spectator who now was announcing a new grocery store in Milton and an insurance office. Biggest of the advertisers, however, was the Milton Apothecary Emporium which offered "to the ladies . . . the most elegant assortment of perfumery," including Hedyosmia and Verbena extracts, Cape Jasmin and Cedrat, Patchouly and Magnolia, Highland and Venella. The apothecary also recommended "the most superior assortment of dyestuffs ever offered to the public in this section of the world!" it also advertised "the best French brandy and port wine," best lamp & linseed oil, spirits turpentine & castor oil." Thomas L. Gatewood meanwhile was selling carriages "made in the most fashionable manner, with a special eye to the comfort of Movers and Negrotraders." The Milton Warehouse having been thoroughly repaired wanted it known it was open for the reception of tobacco and other produce while cabinet maker John Aleen offered "coffins of any and every style made at the shortest time and at prices greatly below the usual charge in Milton."

The Chronicle printed more local news than its predecessors but obviously at some expense. On Feb. 6, 1846, the publisher felt compelled to advise his correspondents: "When you drop letters to our address in the Milton Post Office, always remember that such letters incur the expense of 2 cents (each) postage. And remembering it, pay the postage -- if you please." From Yanceyville came the news, "We have the pleasure to announce that the health of this town never was better. There is now but one case of sickness in the village and that is of several years standing."

Milton was still thriving in 1855 and so was the Chronicle. Among its advertisers were: G. A. Smith, dry goods; H. M. Huntington, general collector; Jas. M. Jones, coach making; Dr. S. Angle of Brooklyn, Va., dentist; Benjamin Hines, men's clothes; M. Kellog, marble monuments; Holden & Lewis, blacksmiths; E. B. Holder, jewelry. Despite this variety of business, not all was plentiful in Milton, as the editor noted on Oct. 10: "Bacon and lard, these articles are in great demand in Milton. Not a pound of the one or the other can be had for love, money, liquor (how surprising) or affection. Meat! Meat! More Meat!!! and less Tobacco."

In 1857, business may still have been lively i Milton but the Chronicle was carrying increasingly more advertising from out of town. For instance, A. A. Mitchell announced the opening of a hotel in front of the court house at Yanceyville. Merchants from Danville also used the Chronicle, including J. G. Potter's Ambrotype Gallery; Tunstall Hose (hotel); George W. Reade and S. H. Lesler [possibly Lesier], attorneys at law. State lines running from Danville to Greensboro and from Danville to Yanceyville also advertised in the Chronicle while less was heard from the Roanoke Navigation Co.

In April 1861, there was proposed the Milton and Yanceyville Junction Rail Road Company. The proposal came, unfortunately, at a time when, the Chronicle noted, "All hope of reconstruction being lost, we now mark time to the music of the Resolutions" adopted at a Southern Rights meeting held earlier at Yanceyville. The war soon was on and Milton sent off its "Blues" and Grays."

Today, there is no Chronicle, nor an Intelligencer nor a Gazette and Roanoke Advertiser nor a Spectator. But there is still a Milton and it still is, says M. S. Angle, as good a place to live as there is.


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