Milton: 'Where living is a pleasure'
The sign as you enter Milton from I-64 proclaims the city as a place "where living is a pleasure." Spend a day in the city talking to its residents and you'll understand why that statement is indeed true.
"You'll never find a more friendly, people-oriented town," said Tom Canterbury, Milton's mayor. "Neighbors watch out for neighbors. It's a nice, friendly town," he said.
Gary Lilly, who has been Milton's police chief for 18 years, agrees. "It's one of the warmest towns I've ever worked in."
Chris Preston, assistant vice president at Ohio Valley Bank in Milton, said he was concerned when he moved to the area from a smaller town, but Milton has made him feel at home. "It has a hometown feel," Preston said. "It's a very warm place to come to," he said.
Milton's history dates back to the 1870s. A historical marker along U.S. 60 marks Harshbarger Corner, the site where the survey of Milton began in 1872. According to the marker, the Milton post office was established in 1873. Thner Milton Reece, for whom the city is named.
After the town prospered with the opening of the railroad, Milton was officially incorporated on Sept. 16, 1876.
The most visible example of Milton's history is the Mud River Covered Bridge. Built in 1875, the bridge is now located at West Virginia Pumpkin Park. Lifelong resident Bill Kelley helped bring the bridge to the park after it was stored by the state for about 15 years. He said there have been weddings on the bridge and it is a very popular picture spot for high school students attending prom.
One of the most historic properties in Milton still in its original location is the former Morris Memorial Nursing Home. Kelley said the building dates back to the 1930s and was constructed through the Works Progress Administration. "It's a beautiful facility," he said. "The stone was hand cut right on the property."
Canterbury said the city is in the process of putting Morris Memorial, which was originally a polio hospital, on the National Historic Register. But the mayor is also working to find a new tenant for the property. "You don't ever want to sit idle," Canterbury said. "You've got to keep growing."
That's also the philosophy when it comes to Pumpkin Park, one of Milton's most famous locations. The park hosts two major events each year -- the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival and the Cabell County Fair. But Kelley, the president of the board of West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, Inc., the park's owners, is hoping to expand the park's use beyond those two activities.
"We're just looking for more things to get involved in and provide for the community," Kelley said. Improvements have been made to the park's entertainment building and now the board is hoping to start booking shows.
The 27th annual West Virginia Pumpkin Festival is scheduled for October 6-9. Kelley has been a part of the festival every year, and every year he says it's going to be his last. "But then I see what joy it brings," he said. "Just seeing the smiles on faces keeps you going."
The Cabell County Fair is scheduled for July 23-30. Preston, the vice president of the Cabell County Fair Board, said what sets the fair apart is the children who get involved. "The soul of the fair is the 4-H and FFA kids," he said. "They are very hardworking kids."
Preston also credits the fair's family friendly environment for the event's success. "You can come as a teenager and enjoy it or you can come as a family and enjoy it," he said.
Another attraction that pulls in visitors and residents alike is the Milton Flea Market. Open weekends, the market is home to a variety of vendors selling everything from rare pocket knives to home décor items to hand tools. The nearby Halfway Market sells fresh produce and popular Amish food items.
But probably the best known spot in Milton is Blenko Glass. "It's the first thing you think," Canterbury said. "It's a great tourist attraction."
Located in Milton since 1921, Blenko is known worldwide for its unique handmade glass. The Blenko Visitors Center allows guests to purchase a variety of glass items as well as learn the history of the company in its museum. And visitors can also watch glass being made during tours of the facility.
And when those visitors come, Milton's residents will make them feel welcome. "It's a good residential community. People know and care for each other," Kelley said. "We just love where we live and work. Or rather, we love where we live and play."
Canterbury sums it up another way. "It doesn't get any better than Milton."