POPULATION, 1,453. — SQUARE ACRES, 23,420.
MILAM was formed from Northeast, March 10th, 1818. If Comprises the western portion of that tract of land origionally
owned by the Little or Upper Nine Partners. Why it bears the name of an ancient city we cannot tell. Its surface
is a hilly upland, broken by the deep valleys of the streams, Roeliff Jansens Kill crosses the northeast corner.
Jacksons Corners is a post village situated on this stream. Rock City — so named from the rocks which crop out
in the adjacent hills and along the streams — lies near the Rhinebeck line. Here are two saw mills, and a grist
mill. Milanville and Lafayetteville are post villages near the center of the town. There are two small bodies of
water in the southwest part of the town, each of which is called Mud Pond.
In 1760, Johannes Rowe bought of Robert Livingston, nine hundred acres north of Lafayetteville, and located upon
it. Much of it is still in possession of the Rowe family. Maltiah and Macey Bowman settled at Lafayetteville. One
of the first substantial houses put up here is still standing, and was occupied by the firm of Bullock and Bowman
as a store.
When the Bowmans came, the country was all woods in which wild beasts and wild Indians roamed. John White and Jeptha
Wilbur located near by; the latter built a grist mill about a mile northeast of Lafayetteville. Timothy Briggs
entered upon a section north of Wilbur. John Pells settled a short distance below Jackson's Corners. Near the east
line of the town were John Hicks, Robert Martin and Joe Mott, old settlers, who braved the dangers of the wilderness
in their efforts to provide themselves a home. John Link, Garrett Holsopple, Jacob Rhyfenburgh, Jacob Kiliman,
John Fulton, John Stalls, John Feller, John Hopeman, Zachariah Phillips, Alexander Teats and Andrew Frazier were
old settlers in the north part of the town. They were mostly Germans. The last two named lived to be one hundred
Near Jacksons Corners was once a cluster of log huts, known as "Straw Hudson." The huts were thatched
with straw, which gave rise to the name. The interstices between the logs composing the houses were plastered with
clay. Apertures were left to let in the light, and for want of glass, a little oiled cloth was substituted. The
fireplaces were large enough to hold a load of wood of moderate size. The lower part of the chimneys were built
of stone, laid in clay; the upper portions were generally made of wood. The coals were drawn out upon the hearth,
in which their potatoes were roasted, and before which their johnny cake — that staple of the early culinary department
— was baked, on a board. At that time it was no uncommon thing to see the children at play barefoot on the ice.
The old couple from whom the writer obtained these particulars were firm believers in witches and ghosts. Near
this place, in former times, was a haunted house. In one of the chambers a couple of lads went to bed one cold
December night, and just as they had comfortably settled themselves for a good nap, they were disturbed by the
presence of something hovering over them in the darkness Pretty soon the apparition grasped the blankets covering
them, hauling them upon the floor. The act was accompanied by a noise resembling that of a brass kettle rolling
upon a hard surface. As soon as the boys could muster courage they recovered their blankets, and again betook themselves
to sleep. But again the apparition returned, with the same result as before. This was repeated at intervals during
the whole night, which so bothered the boys that not a wink of sleep did they get before morning.
They also mentioned a witch, who flourished in the "good old times of yore." A friend went on a visit
to her house one evening, taking with her a little child. The witch asked leave to take the child in her lap, to
which the mother consented. Presently the babe began to cry. Nothing would avail to induce it to stop, and the
mother was forced to return home. The child continued to cry during the whole night, at times violently; but the
next morning it fell into a gentle slumber. It was thought that the witch had wrought a spell over the child which
caused its fit of crying. This witch afterward fell into a quarrel at the dinner table with her spouse; his ire
was aroused to such a pitch that he threw a knife which, entering a vital part, put a period to her existence.
He then threw her upon the fire, where she was burned to a crisp. Her end was a source of much rejoicing to the
good people of the vicinity.
But if the old settlers were troubled with witches, a means was provided whereby their evil machinations might
be effectually avoided. This was by employing what were then denominated "witch doctors," who were reputed
tc have great skill in such matters. Their remedies did not consist of useless drugs, or in prescribing unwholesome
courses of diet which constitute the practice of other classes of physicians, but in the more reasonable and efficacious
observance of certain rules, which the witch doctor would prescribe. Sometimes under his direction the witch's
designs might be circumvented by strictly refusing to lend anything out of the house for a certain number of days.
Sometimes the same desirable results could be brought about by repeating certain talismanic words, or by nailing
a horseshoe to a specified part of the house. Some of these doctors are said to have acquired great wealth and
notoriety in the practice of their profession.
A society of Methodists was formed in this town about the year 1790. Their house of worship was situated near the
present M. E. Church, not far from Milanville. It was a large square building, two stories high, and was never
painted. A Quaker meeting house, built about the same time or previous, stood near it. This was said to have had
high posts and a short roof in front, with a long roof in the rear, extending nearly to the ground. It is asserted
that Robert Thorn, a staunch old Quaker, used to go to this old church, with no companion but his dog, and sit
during the stated hours of worship. This was after the congregation had been almost depleted by deaths and removals.
A second church was built near the site of this, but both structures have been removed. There are two M. E. Churches
and a Christian Church in the town, in addition to those already mentioned.
Robert Thorn built a mill about two miles west of Lafayetteville, which is perhaps the oldest in town. Buck's mill,
in the southeast part, is an old established concern.
The Lafayette House, situated in Lafayetteville, was built about the time of the visit of the Marquis Lafayette
to this country, after whom it was named. This was an important place of business before the railroads were constructed
in this vicinity, it being on the thoroughfare leading from Millerton, Antrim, and other points to the river.
Jacob Stall was at one time an extensive real estate owner in the vicinity of Jacksons Corners, to whom the place
owes much of its growth and prosperity. A considerable portion of this and the adjoining town of Pine Plains is
held by leasehold tenure, which has exerted an influence detrimental to the growth and prosperity of the towns.
Previous to the Revolution, Lieutenant-Governor Clark acquired title to large tracts of land in this vicinity.
At the breaking out of the war he espoused the cause of the Crown, and soon afterward embarked for England. His
son came over and assumed control of the property, and professed to be a Whig. At the close of that struggle, the
Colonists having been victorious, this son claimed the land, and was allowed to retain possession, On making his
will he saw fit to dispose of much of the land in such a way that his heirs have not yet been able to give a clear
title. It has therefore been mainly occupied by persons holding leases, sometimes for life, but more generally
for periods of but one year. Of course a tenant has not the same incentive to improve the land as he would have
if owner of the soil; as a result the farms are greatly impoverished, and many places are nearly worthless. Many
of the houses are badly out of repair, and hardly tenable, and the vicinity wears an aspect of neglect and desolation.
The barns and outbuildings are not unfrequently thatched with straw, with doors broken from their hinges, all bearing
the impress of age. In a few cases the tenant makes a good livelihood; but in the majority of instances he can
barely provide subsistence for his family, to say nothing of rent. Sometimes, rather than leave the place, the
tenant will mortgage his stock, in the hope that something will turn up in his favor; but he not unfrequently finds
himself at the end of the year stripped of his goods and turned into the street. On the other hand, some unprincipled
tenants will not scruple to raise something on the farm, turn it into cash, and move into other parts before the
landlord comes around after the rent. This system is greatly prejudicial to all parties concerned.