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Milford is a city in Dickinson County, Iowa, United States. The population was 2,474 at the 2000 census. The town includes many businesses related to its location in the Iowa Great Lakes region.
The Iowa Great Lakes Area was settled in the 1850s. It attracted many pioneers because of the rich black soil, water from the lakes, and an abundance of wild game and fish. As the population increased at these times, a need for a good flouring mill was felt because the nearest mills were those in Mankato, Minnesota and Fort Dodge, Iowa. In 1861, there was an attempt to build one on Mill Creek, the outlet of the Great Lakes but the attempt was abandoned after the Indian raid of 1862 and the extremely low water level that year. In 1868 one was successfully built. A sawmill was built and put into operation in 1869. The mills began to attract many customers, and the small community began to grow. Old Town formed out of these customers and new businesses emerged. In 1870, the company that then operated the mill bought a section of land northwest of Old Town and laid out a plan for the town of Milford on land that the new railroad, which was built in 1882, was located on.
On March 14, 1892, the first Town Council meeting was held. Some buildings were moved from Old Town to New Town (Milford) and many more businesses and residences were constructed. In 1921, the U.S. flag was flown at the new city hall for the first time and that year a vote approved to pave Okoboji Avenue (Main Street of Milford). The Milwaukee rail line which ran through Milford supplied the town with mail, groceries, clothing, lumber, coal, and machinery before automobiles could get to the Great Lakes. Two passenger trains made daily trips from Des Moines to Spirit Lake, making 4 stops in Milford each day. Also another train from Spencer, a town south of Milford, made to runs every day. Until 1910, excursion trains came to the Lakes Area from Des Moines, Algona, and other towns on weekends and holidays. They usually carried 8-10 passenger coaches, and left on Sunday or at the end of the holidays. The last passenger train left Milford for Spencer in 1951. The last freight train left Milford for Spencer in 1976. By this time, the tracks were hardly ever used now that it was easier to get to the Lakes Area using the new highways. The tracks were dismantled in 1978 due to the fact that they were hardly ever used. The tourists that came every summer came by the new highways and stopped using the railroad for transportation. The Iowa Great Lakes is still a huge attraction that swells the summer population to about 100,000.