Milan, the youngest of our sisterhood of towns, was born into the family in 1857. Its parents were Malta and Shabbona, who each contributed three square miles to the endowment and fitting out of their newly-born sister.
Mr. Lewis McEwen was the first inhabitant of Milan, and although a bachelor then, and for many years after, he may properly be called the father of the town. He came here in 1852. At this time not a foot of the land in the township had been entered from government. He built a small house, broke up his land, and for two or three years spent most of the winters in hunting. In the winter of 1853-54, more than one hundred deer were seen from his cabin door, and wolves were extremely troublesome. The deer disappeared as soon as the railroad was built.
Benjamin Banfield moved into the town in 1852, and Reuben Dodd in the following winter.
Most of the land of the township was "entered" in 1853. Before that time it was considered of no value, being so far removed from timber that purchasers thought it doubtful if it ever would be settled. But during the last five years its settlement has been very rapid. Nearly every acre is now occupied as a farm, and land sells at as high a price as in any part of the County.
In 1853, Gordon Hewitt entered nine sections in one day, with warrants worth eighty cents per acre. This land was purchased by settlers at from eight to thirteen dollars per acre, and all of the land in the town has now passed into the hands of actual residents.
The School Section was sold in 1865, and produced a township school fund of over $8000. The first school house was built in the center of the town in 1855; but before that time schools had been kept in private houses.
In the summer of 1868, a handsome two-story building was erected at the center, the upper part of which belongs to the township, and is used as a town hall and place of worship, while the lower story is used as a district school.
A large colony from Norway own and occupy the south-west portion of the township, and constitute a very honest, industrious, frugal, and respectable population.
The monotony of the prairies, which occupy the entire surface of this town, has of late been broken by miles of hedges of the rapid growing willow, which tend to diversify and beautify the landscape.
Mr. Lewis McEwen, who stood godfather to the town at its first creation, has ever since been its Supervisor, except in 1861, when Mr. John Banfield was elected.
The population of Milan was 202 at the time its first census was taken, in 1800, and five years after had increased to 524. It now probably contains 800 souls. Its property is assessed at $158,206. It furnished 88 soldiers for the Union army in the late great war.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
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