Milton is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States and part of the Greater Boston area. The population was 27,003 at the 2010 census. Milton is the birthplace of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush and architect Buckminster Fuller. Milton also has the highest percentage of residents per capita citing Irish heritage of any town in the United States; 38%. In 2007, 2009, and 2011, Money Magazine listed Milton 7th, 5th, and 2nd, respectively, on its annual list of the "Best Places to Live" in the United States.
Milton was settled in 1640 as part of Dorchester. Referred to as "Unquity", the term used by the Neponset Tribe of the Massachusetts Indians meaning "Lower Falls," which was translated into "Lower Mills" after the establishment of the Stoughton Grist Mill in 1634. In 1662, "that part of the Town of Dorchester which is situated on the south side of the Neponsett River commonly called 'Unquatiquisset' was established as an independent town and named Milton in honor of Milton Abbey, Dorset, England."
A powder mill established in 1674 may be the earliest in the colonies, taking advantage of the town's water power sites. Boston investors, seeing the potential of the town and its proximity to the city, provided the capital to develop 18th century Milton as an industrial site with an iron slitting mill, paper and sawmills, and the first chocolate factory in New England (the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory) in 1764, which was converted from the old Stoughton Grist Mill. Laying of streetcar lines fueled the rapid expansion of residential development. Between 1870 and 1915, Milton grew into the community it is now: a streetcar suburb with some chocolates, biscuits and market produce to remind residents of the past. By 1929, many of the big estates were broken into subdivisions as the town's residential growth continued.
Two royal governors of Massachusetts, Jonathan Belcher and Thomas Hutchinson, had houses in Milton. The Governor Belcher House dates from 1777, replacing the earlier home destroyed in fire in 1776, and it is privately owned on Governor Belcher Lane in East Milton. Although Hutchinson's house is gone, Governor Hutchinson's Field, owned by the Trustees of Reservations today is a wide expanse of greenery on Milton Hill, with a view of the Neponset River estuary and the skyscrapers of Boston six miles (10 km) away. Both Governor Belcher's house and Governor Hutchinson's field are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The town was home to America's first piano factory. Revolutionary Milton is the setting of the opening of the 1940 bestselling historical novel Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts. The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory is located in the town, home of the nation's oldest continuously kept meteorological records.
East Milton Square developed as a direct result of the Granite Railway. Four sheds there were used to dress the granite stone prior to it being brought by rail to the wharf for transfer to boats. East Milton Square was originally termed the "Railway Village" and a train station was located there after 1871 when the Granite Railway became a passenger line of the Old Colony Railroad. The Blue Bell Tavern, which was also a hotel, served as the headquarters of the Granite Railway and it was later named the Russell House. It was located on the site of the current United States Post Office in East Milton Square.
Robert Bennet Forbes was a noted China Trade merchant, sea captain, and philanthropist during the Irish Famine. He built a Greek Revival mansion in 1833 at 215 Adams Street on Milton Hill. The Captain Robert Bennet Forbes House is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours. In addition to artifacts from the China Trade period, the museum's grounds include a log cabin replica and a collection of Lincoln memorabilia.
George Herbert Walker Bush was born at 173 Adams Street on Milton Hill on June 12, 1924. He became the 41st President of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993, and his son would become the 43rd President. Coincidentally, Adams Street is named for the family of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who lived on the same street just a few miles southeast in Quincy, Massachusetts. The Bush Family moved from Milton to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1925. The Victorian house where President Bush was born is now privately owned and not open to the public.