The History of Milan, Ohio

The Place Where It All Began...Abbott's Landing

The impressive early growth of Milan, Ohio started in this land with three families during the 1800's who started the Milan area settlement, begin the most prosperous time of this community, developed farms and found a way to prosper via the ships traffic on the Huron river.  Each of them, the Abbot family, the Page family and Valentine Fries, helped grow Milan into what it is today. Without each of them, the story would not be complete, so if you're interested in the history of Milan, the key part of the beginning of this area is right here in these three names and the ideas they developed. We'll start with the David Abbot family...

If there is a father of the Milan area, it's David Abbot. He was the first person to purchase land in  the Firelands in 1809,  over 1,800 acres in one of the most beautiful areas in Milan Township, land on both side of the Huron River (shown above), and the first person to rent and re-sell land to other pioneers moving into this county. David and his family moved to this land in 1810 and they lived in the woods and sleep under the stars while David built a cabin for his family.  He was, as were all the people that moved to this area in the early 1800’s, a true pioneer.

What made Abbot unique from other settlers, is that he was a lawyer who graduated from Yale law school. It would have been much easier and safer for him and his family to establish residence in New York and practice law and live a more comfortable life.  But David Abbot, like so many other pioneer settlers, had a vision to carve out a new land and develop a new settlement into a good place to raise his family. He farmed the land, leased land to others to farm, built a huge barn which was also used for community events, built a new home overlooking the river, discovered the river could be forged between his property and offered safe passage across the river in his land known as “the landing”. As more families moved into this area, he became Justice of the Peace which allowed him to marry couples and he even opened a tavern. He donated land for the county seat and help found the town of Huron as it was known at the time. Together with his wife Mary, they raised four children in this growing community beside the Huron River. David passed away in 1822 and Mary passed away in 1848. But the story of this land does not end with their passing.


If David Abbot was the father of Milan Township, his son Benjamin was likely the honorary captain of the greatest business boom in the Village of Milan. In 1829, nineteen years after his family came to this area and two years after his father passed away, he built a cargo schooner ship called the Mary Abbot and stocked it with produce and sailed it to New York City via the Erie Canal. He found a ready market for the produce on his boat and purchased needed supplies and sailed back to his home, which was now Rose Hall (shown above). This small ship, with an courageous caption, showed everyone it was possible to market produce on lake schooners via the Huron River and it opened up an incredible business boom. Warehouses were built to house the produce, a towpath was built from Huron to Abbotsford and the well known “Landing” became a thriving business place on the Huron River.

And while farmers in the north of Milan township were served nicely by Abbotsford, the farmers in the south part of the township, and in those counties south of Milan, still had no practical way of bringing their produce to market. The business leaders of Milan conceived a canal that would bring schooner ships from the deep waters of the Huron River to downtown Milan (about three miles) which would open up tremendous opportunities for the village and so the Milan Canal was built and for the next 25 years, Milan had incredible growth.  Benjamin passed away in 1854, but the story of the land continues with our next section - The Homer Page Farm.


The Abbott Family Timeline


1809 - Attorney David Abbott (either spelled - Abbot or Abbott) purchased 1,844 acres which was the first land purchased in this area and it was divided about equally on both sides of the river. He subsequently sold a parcel to Col. Jared Ward on the west side of the river, who then moved his family here that winter and lived in a abandoned Indian cabin in the north section of Abbott's Land. Ward was the first pioneer in the township.

1810 - David Barrett rented land from Abbott and on April 10th., he moved here with his wife and children to farm the land which was on the east side of the Huron River and about 10 rods ( about 165 feet) north from what would be known as Abbott's Bridge. Among the people who worked this land was Nathaniel Gilees, his wife and family and four unmarried men - Seth Hayes, Stephen Worthington, S. Durand and F. W. Fowler who was also the brother-in-law of Barrett.  They built a log cabin on the bottom land beside the river and it was large enough to house all the people in the group. It was the first improvement built by white settlers in the Huron/Avery area.

1810 - In the summer of 1810, David Abbot moved his wife Mary and their children to this area that was later called "the old county seat". They camped out at night during the summer until he was able to build a log cabin on the east side of Huron River (higher ground above the Barrett group cabin - note in green on the map below) and he cleared a patch of land and grew about 30 acres of wheat near the cabin which was in previous time - New Salem. The cabin, completed in the fall, was 20' square foot (about 400 sq. ft). At that time, only David, his wife and two of his children lived in the cabin  The other two children stayed in school in New York state. 

1811 - David Abbott was able to forge the river on his property and he operated a boat that carried people across the river and the land became known as Abbot's Landing or simply "The Landing". The Huron River deepens to about 30' from the Landing north to the lake. During the next few years, the Abbot property along with the community of Abbot's Settlement (noted in map with red dot), had a school teacher (with eight students including both Abbott younger daughters Lucy and Sally who were taught in a school that was an old Indian home), regularly held Sunday services. It should also be noted, that David Abbott became the first Justice of the Peace (along with Jabez Wright) and he married 14 couples and he was also postmaster at the county seat (all mail traveled by horseback).

1811 - Abbott built the townships first frame structure, a large barn measured 40' by 72' that is no longer in existence. This barn was often used for celebrations and meetings in the old county seat. It was also used by families that moved to this area as a temporary residence while they built their log cabins. In the late 1700's, Indians had lived along the Huron River north of Abbot's Settlement from which 20 to 30 Indian cabins were located.

1811/1812 - The county seat was established on Abbot property  (population 25 people) which was 100 rods south of Abbot's residence (a rod equals about 16 1/2 feet so a hundred rods would be about 1650 feet). Also Abbot filed a surveyor deed at the Recorder's office for the "The Town of Huron" which was beside his home. Some historians believe that the county seat was located at Camp Avery, however, as noted, Abbot's Settlement was located on Abbot land which is not the case with Camp AveryF. W. Fowler (who was constable of Huron) was married in this year and built a residence at the County Seat in which part of it was a tavern. And, at the request of David Abbot, Fowler also built a jail beside his home at the county seat. 

(It should be noted that in additional to native Indian settlers in this territory, there was also a town called "New Salem" which was located approximately 1/2 mile north of the Old County Seat). Many maps showed Huron as the name of the town or Avery Township - sometimes just called Avery which led to be called Avery rather than Huron. I haven't seen a document that changes from the town of Huron to the town of Avery.  But documents show the area was named Huron in 1811. It is often referred to as the "Old County Seat".

1812 - Because of the war of 1812, Camp Avery was built which consisted of blockhouse and a stockade that housed a small garrison of Ohio Militia. The camp was built on the east side of Huron River on land owned by Ebenezer Merry (refer to Camp Avery story). People gathered at the Camp Avery to celebrate July 4th. of that year and then went to David Abbot's barn for a dance which was the second dance held in the township. Forty couples attended the dance and many came by horseback from as far as 20 miles away. 

Milan Township in 1812 Upper Right Abbott Section

1814 - David Abbot built a larger frame house on the east side of the Huron River in an area known as "the little hog back" on a hill overlooking Huron River near Huron/Avery which is south of the current Mason Road which unfortunately, cut directly through the original Abbott property.

1815 - On January 25th., David Abbot opened a tavern at Huron/Avery which operated until 1818. 

1815 - Commissioners of Huron County meet at David Abbot's house on August 1st. and the first term of Common Pleas court meet at Huron in October. There was a problem with a sandbar at the entrance of Huron River which prevented travel sometimes on the river.

1817 - Construction started for a courthouse but was never completed in 1817, when the officials moved the Common Pleas court to Norwalk, Ohio.

1818 - The "old county seat" was abandoned when the county seat was moved to Norwalk.

1820 - David Abbott goes to Rome, NY (original home of his wife Mary) to visit their relatives and he discovers the Greek Revival (Federalist style) of architecture.

1822 - David Abbot died on July 12, 1822 at 57 years of age . We do not know exactly where he is buried but a quote from the Fireland's Pioneer journal makes specific reference to Abbot's grave "Not a stone or stump marks the spot. In the rear of the old county seat, now overgrown with bushes, David Abbott was one of the last who was laid there".

1824 - Abbot's bridge was built across the Huron River at the place that forded the river. We do not know the specific year of when the bridge was built, however we know that it was built before the warehouses were built at Abbottsford which was in 1829 and that it was used for stage coaches and mail by horseback to cross the river going into the settlement of Huron/Avery Twp.

1848 - Mary Abbot died on January 12, 1848 at 79 years old. We assume she is buried with her husband.

1823/4 - Benjamin Abbott (1787-1854) completed the main house called Rose Hall which is in Federalist style and the oldest structure in Erie or Huron Counties. He was thirty-six at the time of the completion of the home and it is the oldest registered existing home in Erie/Huron County.

1827 - The Milan Canal Company was chartered on January 24th.

1827/28 - Ben Abbott built the Lake schooner "Mary Abbott", named for his mother, at Abbottsford.

1829/30 - The Lockwood Brothers (Ralph & George) and Hamilton Colton built grain storage warehouses on the west bank of the Huron at Abbottsford and Lockwood Landing came into use as place for farmers to sell grain/wheat. Some documents give the building of warehouses as 1834. It's possible that Lockwood's warehouse was built in 1829/30 and the Colton's warehouse in 1834.

1828/30 H. N. Jenkins built the Lake schooner "Louise Jenkins" at Lockwood Landing just below Abbott's Bridge and with a ship loaded with wheat from the warehouses, sailed it across Lake Erie to Buffalo, NY.

1829 - Benjamin Abbott sailed the "Mary Abbott", named for his mother, to New York City (via the Huron River, Lake Erie To Buffalo, the New York & Erie Canal up the Hudson River) and that was the first schooner ship to go to NYC and return with supplies to the county seat.

1833 - The Milan Canal Company entered into a contract for the construction of the Milan Canal.

1834 - The Huron towpath was completed to Abbottsford.

1835 - On January 9th, Sheldon Colton was born to Hamilton & Melinda Colton. Sheldon was the first and only baby born at "The Landing". The Colton family became famous when they were featured in "The Colton Letters" which was published in 1993. Shelton went on to become a lieutenant for the north in the Civil War and was wounded in the battle at Kernstown which retired him from the service.

1836 - Benjamin Abbott and Hamilton Colton platted a proposed town of Abbottsford, laid out on the west side of the river, which was never built. Proposed Abbottsford shown in map at Firelands Historical Society Library.

1839 - July 4th., Milan Canal opened with the schooner Kewaunee to be the first into the basin.

1839 - Lockwood Landing two warehouses dismantled and sent to Milan Boat Basin.

1854 - Benjamin Abbott died at age 67 and was buried in the mysterious Abbott's Tomb in Milan Cemetery.


The Abbot Family 1809-1860

1810-1822 1823-1860
David & Mary Abbot Benjamin & Lorena Abbot
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Abbott Family - Homer Page Family - Valentine Fries - The Wheeler Farm

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