The following information outlines the circumstances leading up to the founding of Milo. The source of this information is from the book, Milo Centennial; 1880 to 1980 including Belmont and Otter Townships. Additional articles regarding the history of Milo will be added on a regular basis so stop back frequently (future topics to include a history of the bandstand, the Clayton Hotel, etc.). Contributions from the public are welcomed and encouraged. Any reminisces or stories involving any part of Milo’s past including photos if available would be greatly appreciated. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute.
The Railroad and the Rise of Milo
The very first inhabitants in Warren County and the City of Milo were Native Americans known to archeologists as the Woodland Culture, who came to this area about 3,000 to 700 years ago. The land found by these first inhabitants was rich, untouched prairie land. Eventually, this grassland was transformed into fertile agricultural land used for farming, much as it is used today.
The founder of Milo, Smith Henderson Mallory, was born in 1835 in central New York. He was fifteen when he left for Illinois where he joined the railroad building business. By 1861, S.H. Mallory was a construction engineer for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad in Illinois. In 1867, he moved to Chariton, Iowa. By 1870, he was president of the First National Bank. Mallory’s financial power began to grow with his ownership of large amounts of property in Chariton and Lucas County, and banking interests in Creston. In 1877, he was elected to the state legislature where his association with the Chariton, Des Moines, and the Southern Branchline led to the routing of the railroad through what is now known as Milo, Iowa. This is where S.H. Mallory and his family built their 945 acre estate.
Location of a railroad through a small town helped its success. the railroad gave life to Milo while devastating the surrounding towns of Schonberg and Hammondsburg. Building railroads was a national business and Iowa was no exception. Except for a slight interruption during the Civil War, railroads had become a huge industry for Iowa. The central line across Iowa that became the Rock Island reached Des Moines in 1867. The southern railroad, the Burlington and Missouri (to become the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy), made its way across Iowa, from Ottumwa to Albia, in 1866, and on to Chariton in 1867.
In order to speed the process of spanning the state, construction began on another railway system which started at the Missouri River and extended eastward. This railway line was completed near Red Oak on November 26, 1869, with a ceremony involving J.S. Wolf and S.H. Mallory.
By 1870, all major east and west railroads across Iowa had been completed. Meanwhile, the construction of the north and south lines continued to move forward. In February 1876, S.H. Mallory was elected president of a newly formed Southern Railway Company, along with his financial partner, Joel Jacoby, who became the vice president. The railroads in Iowa grew rapidly, partly because they had the power of eminent domain. This power of eminent domain caused many problems between the surrounding railroad communities and Milo. For example, the surrounding towns of Liberty Center and Hammondsburg were blamed for being “cat paws” because the railroad lines were smoother in towns like Oakley or Lacona. The tracks leading to Lacona were rougher than the other surrounding tracks. Train service to Lacona from the south was completed by December 24, 1878 with the entire line completed by February 12 of the same year.
On May 6, 1879, John A. Notestine sold the west 100 acres of his northwest quarter of section 19, Belmont Township to the Chariton, Des Moines, and Southern Railroad for $3,600, as well as a 100 foot right of way for the location of a new town. Originally called Belmont, this new town came to be called Milo early in 1879. The trains rolled through the town of Milo from 1879 to 1961.