When staff and volunteers from the Milton Historical Society went to pick up an old wooden rowboat that a local resident had donated to them, they were surprised by just how sturdy and heavy it was. Paynter Morris built the boat in the 1950s for the Donovan family to use on Milton’s Wagamom Pond. It has weathered the intervening years quite well.
In the 1950s, Paynter Morris was only the most recent boatbuilder in Milton’s long history. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the town was an important shipbuilding center, producing small and large craft for Delaware mariners.
Miltonians exploited other opportunities as time passed. Some worked in local agricultural and canning industries. Many worked compact lathes cutting shell buttons, and locals still come across discarded shell fragments in their backyard gardens. Today, the popular Dogfish Head brewing company employees a large number of residents. And the town’s proximity to Delaware beaches ensures a regular stream of new arrivals and summer visitors.
The Milton Historical Society’s museum building shows the same history of creative reinvention. Built in 1897, it served as a Methodist church into the 1950s, just about the time that the Donovan family received their fine new boat. In the 1960s, it housed a military radio manufactory. And since the 1970s, the former church has been the home of the Historical Society. The Donovan rowboat, freshly restored, graces the main hall.
Visit the Milton Historical Society
Location: 210 Union Street, Milton, DE, 19968
Phone: (302) 684-1010
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11AM-4PM.