Long before any white man set foot in this territory it was the home of the Erie Indians who were also known as the “Cat Nation” because their fierce fighting skills resembled that of the many wild cats that roamed this area. The Erie Nation was a peaceful group of hunters and farmers who lived in quiet harmony until the year 1653 when the Iroquois Confederacy ,also known as the Six Nations, waged war against the Eries.
No one knows for sure the true reason for this war but many believe that the Six Nations, who lived in Northern Pennsylvania and New York, were being crowded out by the colonists and needed to secure new hunting grounds. The Iroquois, armed with guns supplied by the Dutch and English colonists, easily defeated the Eries whose only weapon was the bow and a few poison arrows.
The Eries were pushed west of the Mississippi River and for the next 100 years this area had no permanent residents. The names of the various Indian tribes who later wandered throughout the Mahoning Valley include the Miamis, Mingos, Chippewas, Shawnees, Wyandottes and the Mississaugas, who were of Delaware stock and not warriors but hunters which explains why no permanent villages were established.
In 1670, Cavalier LaSalle was the first white man known to have explored the Western Reserve. Ten years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, King Charles the 1st of England conveyed to the Earl of Warwick’s Corporation, known as the Council of Plymouth, the vast tract of land that included the Mahoning Valley. In 1755 the Middle British Colonies sent a map maker, Lewis Evans, to explore the area west of the Allegheny Mountains.
While traveling through the territory that would soon become the Western Reserve, he marked with a star the location of a salt lick. This salt lick was known to the Indians of the area since ancient days and gave the county its name. MA-HO-NIK the Indian word for “at the salt lick”. This salt lick is located very near Salt Springs Rd. and State Route 46 near Mineral Ridge, Ohio. When Lewis Evans took his survey information back to Philadelphia it was printed into the “1st Map of the Middle British Colonies in America” by then printer Benjamin Franklin.
Some historians believe that Lewis Evans never actually surveyed this area but instead got his information from a 1747 survey made by William Franklin, son of Benjamin, who was accompanied by George Croghan.
Armed with this first map, each of the colonies began to claim territories outside of their set boundaries, many of which overlapped. In 1777, Congress set up rules about territorial claims. By 1780 New York had surrendered her territorial claims to the federal government and one after another of the states followed New York’s example.
By 1786, only Connecticut remained outside the fold when she surrendered all claims northwest of the Ohio River except the Western Reserve. Connecticut’s Western Reserve stretches 120 miles westward from the Pennsylvania Line and southward from Lake Erie to the 41st parallel. This approximately 5000 square miles of land was established for war veterans and homesteaders. The exception being the “Fire Lands”, a section on the far west which was reserved for the people of Norwalk and Fairfield Connecticut whose homes had been burned by the British during the American Revolution.
In 1786 and again in 1793 Connecticut thought about surveying and selling these lands. Nothing came of this until after General Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians in Ohio and had signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Connecticut then decided to sell the Western Reserve and use the money for a perpetual fund of which the interest would be used to fund Connecticut schools. By September 2, 1795, 35 men calling themselves the Connecticut Land Company acquired the land for $1.2 million. They named Moses Cleveland their General Agent and put him in charge of surveying the tract into townships, each to be 5 miles square.
In April of 1796, Moses Cleaveland and 50 men left New York. They followed a northern route up and around the Allegheny Mountains and arrived at Conneaut on July 4, 1796. At nearly the same time John and Mary Young’s party left New York. They took a southern route to Philadelphia and crossed Forbes Road to Pittsburgh. They followed the Ohio River to the Beaver River, then along the Mahoning River. They settled on the banks of the Mahoning River on June 27, 1796 making Youngstown the first settlement of the Western Reserve.
The original settlements in Milton Township were made in 1803 when Nathaniel Stanley and Aaron Porter followed the Mahoning River as far as was navigable and settled along opposite banks just above Pricetown. Aaron Porter who would later become a famous hunter, located on the west side of the river. Shortly, John Van Netten and his family arrived from Delaware and built a cabin in the western part of the township.
It is thought that Mrs. Van Netten was the first working girl in the township, for in her travels from the east she acquired a spoon mold. Many folks would bring their broken pewter ware which she would melt down to form new spoons. Jesse Holliday arrived in 1804 and erected a grist mill, sawmill, and carding mill. The grist mill was a remarkable size for the times. It was a two story structure which measured 34 feet by 40 feet and contained an undershot wheel that measured 22 feet in diameter. Judge Robert Price became the owner of these mills about 1817 and gave his name to the settlement.
Later industries were a linseed oil plant, flax mill and woolen factory. Thomas L. Fenton was the first tavern keeper. Booth and Elliott were probably the first merchants. Dr. Tracy Bronson and Dr. George Ewing were the first practicing physicians, and Fenton, the tavern keeper, was also the first blacksmith. A post office was established there about 1808. There were also early tanneries and distilleries scattered throughout the township. Pricetown had reached its best days by 1840. Today there is little left of that part of the old village that lay in Milton Township. Even more tragic was the fate of Fredericksburg, once a flourishing village on the Mahoning River at present day Ellsworth Road. Once a stagecoach stop on the Cleveland-Pittsburgh route and a place of taverns, stores and mills, Fredericksburg is now buried beneath the waters of Lake Milton.
In the first thirty years or more after its settlement, Milton Township flourished. Fertile and well drained lands made it a desirable place in which to live. It is a township of much natural beauty in the winding Mahoning River Valley, and it is located but a short distance from the village of Deerfield, in Portage County, which was one of the most thriving settlements on the Western Reserve in the early days.