Tracking History

Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald - January 19th, 2002

By Felicia Jordan
Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

While working on a genealogy for her children, Helen Stroh realized her and her husband's family histories paralleled the history of Milliken, a small town just east of Johnstown.

Her realization led her and her husband, Elmer, to publish a book, "A History of Milliken, Colorado," based on their research and family stories.

The Strohs both grew up in Milliken, raised their children and farmed there before moving to Johnstown in 1981.

Elmer's father, Conrad Stroh, first came to the Milliken area in 1907 to work in the sugarbeet fields. "They were here before Milliken was here," he said.

Helen's father, Ray, left his job in Kansas in August 1927 to come to work for the Great Western Sugar Co. near Milliken. His wife, Edna, along with her two young daughters, Helen and Donna, arrived by train two months later.

Helen's mother was chagrined to find Milliken had no taxi service when she asked for a cab at the train station.

Milliken, like many other Colorado towns, sprang into being because of the railroad.

According to the Strohs' book, railroad agents chose the site for the town of Milliken as a good place to locate a train station on a new line connecting Denver to Laramie, Wyo.

"There was already the little town of Hillsboro, but the railroad didn't come near there," Helen said. "It became part of Milliken."

Milliken was named after Judge John D. Milliken, general counsel for the Denver, Laramie and Northwestern Railway.

He may not have wanted the honor. He is rumored to have remarked, "Somebody named the town of Milliken behind my back."

Town founders named north-south streets in the town after the wives of officials of the Northwestern Land and Iron Co. - Alice, Beulah, Cora, Dorothy, Ethel and so on.

Railway officials promoted the town to prospective residents by promising water rights would be available for every lot.

The town's founders had high aspirations.

"Milliken is to be the only town of importance on the Denver, Laramie and Northwestern Railway in this state," boasted the Scrapbook, Milliken's first newspaper. "It is the intention to establish here several big industrial institutions, all of which will give employment to a vast number of men."

However, the town never grew large. The Strohs aren't quite sure why.

"It just pooped out," Elmer said.

The couple's book colorfully tells the story of the town up until the present day.

Helen used newspaper clippings, advertisements and relatives' recollections to paint a picture of day-to-day life as well as of major events in Milliken's history.

"We want your money," declares a 1910 Milliken Mail advertisement for a general store. "But in return propose to give you the best merchandise at a little lower price than you are used to paying."

Another ad for the Milliken Tin Shop announces, "We have opened a shop in the pool hall building and are prepared to do anything in the way of tin work."

"What's so interesting is the little things that were a big deal for them," Elmer said.

The book reprints an article from the Milliken Mail newspaper about a practical joke played on turn-of-the-century motorists by persons unknown. Where most towns had a posted speed limit of 8 mph, a sign in Milliken read, "Speed limit 50 miles an hour. A fine of $25 will be imposed upon anyone not able to make it."

"They had a sense of humor," Elmer said of the town's residents.

That sense of humor showed up in many articles in the town's newspaper that are reprinted in the Stroh book.

Residents of turn-of-the-century Greeley, which was dry, used to flock to Milliken bars. A newspaper account reported the mayor of Greeley had ordered the police force not to harass people returning from Milliken who could still walk straight.

The paper declared, "Over here, we maintain that so long as a man can lay on the ground without falling off he is not unduly inebriated."