History of Milford


Milford was originally a railroad and mining community settled in 1873

An exciting chapter in United States history was the 1875 discovery of the Horn Silver Mine in the San Francisco Mountains of western Beaver County. Mining districts had been opened as early as 1871 but it was the Horn Silver that gave impetus to one of the biggest “rushes” of history. There were numerous roaring mining camps in the San Francisco district, population 6,000. Mines in the county were heavy producers of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc and some tungsten. Because of the mining industry, the telegraph was brought south to Frisco, the railroad to southern Utah and then the town of Milford was established.

First settlers in what is now Milford took up homesteads in 1880. The town’s name is derived from the crossing of the Beaver River by freighters to and from the mines to the west. The term Mill Ford was shortened to the present name.

When founded, Milford was a rough town, but in time developed two elements: one with saloons and such places of entertainment near the mines and the other with businesses and churches near the town center. It is comprised of people from all walks of life and all religions. The Union Pacific Railroad came to Milford and it is one of the mainstays of life here. The Union Pacific Railroad, running north and south through the center of the county at Milford is an important mover of goods and natural resources to and from Utah. Of prime importance is the transportation of Utah’s coal to Los Angeles for exportation to the Pacific Rim Countries. Agriculture also plays an important part of the livelihood in Milford, especially with the recent growth of the Circle Four Hog Farms. A modern pellet feed manufacturing facility is also located here.

Milford has a population of approximately 1,500 people, an airport, hospital, library, outdoor swimming pool and a five-hole golf course.

The history of Milford has all the romance and glory of the early west, springing from a few shacks built as a matter of convenience by ore haulers and stockmen, the little city of Milford has struggled to a position of prominence in Beaver County.

The story of Milford is the story of hardy pioneers who overcame adversity to construct railroads, open and develop prosperous mines, stock the ranges with cattle and sheep and supply the wants, needs and luxuries of the men who roamed the wide open spaces and labored deep beneath the ground.

It was for years the jumping off place; the railhead and shipping point. It still maintains an important position in the continuing development of a vast area of wealth and greater potential wealth.

Milford became a small town in 1873. Some said it would become the “second Cheyenne” while others comments were: “a perfect mudhole” and the “perfection of desolation”, but to many citizens, the more enduring title of “home”.

In historic times, Father Escalante writes in his diary about his trip through this area in 1776, “Finally on October 8, they proceeded south a little over nine miles and camped about one mile from the river at a place which they named Santa Brigida”. This would put them very near the present site of Milford. Escalante may have been the first white man to see or write about this valley, but he was not the first man to look across the east to the Mineral Mountains, the Picachio range of mountains to the west and the San Francisco Mountains to the northwest. Escalante found some long bearded Indians living along the Sevier Lake region and recorded their territory extended to that of Hot Springs, (15 - 20 miles south of Milford).

When pioneers came on a more permanent basis in 1850, Paiutes were inhabitants of the Milford Valley. Actual settlement on the present site of Milford first came in the fall of 1870. To Arvin M. Stoddard goes the honor of being Milford‘s pioneer founder. He was born September 1, 1825 in Portland, Leeds County, Canada and came to Utah in October 1847 with Charles C. Rich’s Company of Mormon Pioneers. He built his house near the bottom of a small hill (where the Catholic Church St. Bridgets now stands) near the edge of a swamp. He took up 160 acres of land and planted the first trees.

 In 1880 John D. Williams came to Milford. He was an experienced smelter from Wales. He took up a section of land adjoining the Stoddard section on the north. On this ground he built a smelter. It stood below the present Milford High School. About the same time the hillside near the center of Arvin Stoddard’s property was chosen for a millsite by the mining company coming into the area. The company employed Daniel Williams son John at this 10 stamp mill, which was built in 1873. One day as he was sitting by the mill he watched the ore wagons rumble down the road from the Cave Mine east of Milford. Coming toward the mill, the wagons had to ford the Beaver River about one-third mile southeast of town and the crossing became known as the mill-ford. Daniel decided to name the town Milford. The name caught on and early court records often show it written as Mill-ford.

In January 1879 it was decided that the Utah Southern Railroad would make an extension to Frisco, home of the Horn Silver Mine, without doubt the richest single body of silver ore ever found anywhere.

At this time, the Union Pacific Railroad had ownership interest in the Utah Central Railroad so were involved in building the railroad into Milford. Saturday, May 15, 1880 was the big day for the first train to come to Milford. Local citizens and others who had come from surrounding communities and mining camps were filled with excitement as they waited and watched for a glimpse of smoke in the north, finally the belching, roaring engine and the hissing steam approached, frightening most of the spectators. This was the first passenger train to come to Milford.

The hotels in Milford were the finest in Southern Utah. Exquisite dining and accommodations welcomed many renowned people and weary travelers. The mines and the boomtown knew their glory, but dreams died as the rich veins of ore ran out. Now they are just recorded memories in books.

The valley site, which was named “San Rustico” by Father Escalante and South Milford to many early settlers and farmers, is a thriving agricultural area. Where at one time a posthole dug in the ground filled with water, now deep wells reach down into the earth to pump the water for the alfalfa and grain fields.

Where once Roosevelt Hot Springs supplied water for a swimming pool, it now supplies steam for the Blundell Plant. The plant is owned by Utah Power and Light. Power is supplied to Milford and the plant produces enough power to furnish a city the size of Cedar City.

Milford has a population of 1300, and the community is made up of citizens of many walks of life and religions. Our goal is to keep going forward and prospering. We are still confronted with obstacles and adversity as our pioneers were, but with unity and oneness, the city of Milford will continue to bloom in the desert.


 Authorship is attributed to: Barbara Walker Mayer