Friday, February 22, 2013
The History of Milan, Ohio, the Milan Canal, and Squier’s Inn
The mid to late 1830s was a period of great prosperity in Milan’s history. Construction on the Milan Canal began in 1832 and was completed in 1839. The Canal linked Milan to the Huron River and, subsequently, Lake Erie. Ships traveled along the three-mile canal, and then proceeded to the Huron River and eventually traveled another seven miles to Lake Erie through the town of Huron. Thus, farmers could bring their grain, hogs, and other goods to market in Milan and save a day’s travel time over less than ideal roads. Farmers from a 70-80 mile radius to the south, east, and west took advantage of Milan’s Canal. In its heyday, 600-700 wagons arrived in Milan per day, and as many as 20 sailing vessels were loaded with upwards of 35,000 bushels of grain. The population of Milan surged from around 280 residents in 1824 to 500 in 1840 to 1,500 in 1850. All of this activity in Milan allowed for a variety of businesses to flourish.
One of the businesses that was created due to the increased number of visitors to Milan was the Squier Inn and Tavern which was constructed east of Milan by Whitney Squier. Though no evidence in the form of newspaper ads or articles or other stories in written histories concerning the Squier’s Inn could be located, Milan historian, Wallace B. White, discussed the inn on several occasions during a 1976 interview that was transcribed by Ruth Vogt. In speaking of the dance floor at the Squier’s Inn, Wallace stated “The dance floor in there is said to have been built so it was springy, and sprang. Also on the dance floor, they had tracks so that the partitions could be pulled up to make the bedrooms, or pulled back again to make the dance floor.” The Squier’s Inn was apparently a popular stop for farmers hauling large loads and especially for those farmers who were driving herds of hogs. The Squier family owned a large property and likely had corrals for the hogs. According to Wallace “…hogs were quite a commodity. This old Inn (Squier’s), over there, the drovers used to stop there. The drovers would come in at night, feed the hogs salt and water them hard, so it would increase their weight when they sold them down here (in town).”
Whitney kept the Inn with the help of his unmarried daughters. With the sheer number of wagons arriving in Milan each day and the large number of hogs being driven to Milan, Whitney was able to prosper. As evidence of Whitney’s prosperity, on the 1850 census he stated that his real estate was valued at $11,000 which roughly corresponds to $323,000 today. However, the prosperity of Milan soon began to diminish, first due to an outbreak of cholera in 1851. The town tried to limit the number of visitors, especially to the taverns, because they feared the visitors were bringing cholera with them. But, the biggest blow to Milan’s economy came with the expansion of the railroad in 1854. The railroad made transportation of goods much easier and cheaper for farmers who lived in remote areas. Hence, the Milan Canal was no longer a necessary means of transport. Though only traces of the Milan Canal can be found, the Squier's Inn still stands as a testimony to the once prosperous period in Milan's history.