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RG# 7160


RG 9015-028-000: Union St, Milton

In the early eighteenth century, a grist mill, a sawmill, and a cotton mill were established at the head of navigation of the Broadkill River. By the 1760s, a village had been laid out near the mills which in 1807 would change its name from Head of Broadkiln to Milton, after the English poet.1


1800 – 1849

A precursor to the first incorporating act was passed in 1819 and titled An Act to survey, layout and regulate the streets of the village of Milton. The law appointed three Commissioners who were to establish the bounds and limits of the village and to survey and plot all of the streets, lanes, and alleys which had been opened as well as to lay out any additional streets necessary and to compensate the owners of land.2

The first incorporation of Milton took place in 1865, in the corporate name of the “Commissioners of Milton.” Five Commissioners were appointed and they were to work with a surveyor to lay down of a plot of the Town of Milton and to record this with the Sussex County Recorder of Deeds. Elections were to be held annually and every white male or unmarried female taxable of the Town who was above the age of 21 were eligible to vote; however, unmarried females must vote by proxy. The elected Commissioners were to meet four times yearly to pass ordinances for the good government of the Town, the improvement of the Town, the paving and improvement of the sidewalks, the planting or protection of ornamental trees, the repair and making of the public pumps, and all other matters relating to the Town, its police, improvements, ornaments, and general welfare. The Commissioners were given the power to regulate the streets and sidewalks of the Town; to examine chimney and stove pipes or other matters dangerous to the Town; to prevent nuisances; to prohibit the firing of guns and making of bonfires or setting off of fireworks; to prevent any dangerous sports or practice; and to prevent or suppress any noisy or dangerous assemblages of negroes, boys or other persons. The Town officials appointed by the Commissioners were a Town Clerk, Assessor, Tax Collector, Treasurer, and Constable. A local Justice of the Peace was to serve as the Town’s Alderman. The Assessor was to assess real estate that had been improved, all assessable personal property, all males over the age of 21 and all dog owners. The maximum general tax that could be levied annually was $200, and in addition, all dog owners were to be assessed for each dog.3


1850 – 1899

In 1867, the first law to amend the 1865 Incorporating Act was passed. It stated that all provisions contained in the 1865 Act were revived and continued in force, and also that two Commissioners appointed at the time of the Town’s incorporation were replaced. The law suggests that an election may not have been held as required necessitating The General Assembly to take action to ensure the legal status of the municipal corporation.4 In 1871, a law revised the qualifications of electors to provide that they must be current in paying their taxes and a freeholder, and also increased the maximum amount of tax that could be levied annually to $500.5 An 1875 law required that the Levy Court of Sussex County provide $250 to the Commissioners of Milton to assist them in maintenance of the streets.6 In 1877, the number of Commissioners was increased from five to nine, each serving a three-year term; in addition, the Town Clerk was to keep a book of accounts making this available to the voters of the Town for their review.7

In 1881, the Town of Milton was re-incorporated under the name of the “Town of Milton.” The Town’s boundaries were indicated to be the same as was recorded in 1865; however, the Act reflected a change in the Town’s governance. Rather than Commissioners, Milton’s government was vested in a nine-member Town with a President. The Council members were elected to three-year terms with the President chosen from among them to serve a one-year term. Only free male citizens who are 21 and had paid their taxes were eligible to vote. The Council was to meet four times a year with the President presiding. Town officials appointed by the Council included an Alderman, Constables, Treasurer, Clerk, and Assessor. The Council was to oversee the streets and sidewalks, and if petitioned was to open new streets. The Levy County of Sussex County was to provide $400 to Milton to assist in repairing the streets. The Council’s powers were expanded. In addition to those powers vested in them in 1865, they were also to preserve the health of the Town, preventing the introduction of infectious diseases; to regulate and provide for the making of gutters and curbs and placing of gutter-stones and overseeing street drainage; to provide against casualties by fire; to prevent all gatherings and other obstructions which may prevent the free use of the streets, lanes or sidewalks; and to regulate the keeping and registration of dogs. The manner in which the Town’s citizens were assessed had not changed significantly from the 1865 Incorporating Act. Although an 1871 law the maximum tax had increased the maximum tax that could be levied annually to $500, the 1881 Incorporating Act indicated that the maximum was $200, clear of the dog tax.8

It would be almost twenty-five years until the Town of Milton was once again re-incorporated during which time six laws were passed to amend the 1881 Act. In 1893, a law passed which indicated that the bridge over the Broadkill River would remain under the supervision of Sussex County which ensures that the Town had no responsibility for its maintenance. The same year another law provided that property being used for manufacturing was exempt from paying taxes of both the buildings and the fixtures for a period of ten years.9 In 1898, the maximum tax that could be levied on the Town annually increased to $1,000, and the Town was authorized to borrow up to $4,000 with which to improve and preserve the general health and sanitary condition of the Town. The Town was not able to levy a special tax to repay this debt but was required to make repayment from the $1,000 collected in general taxes.10


1900 – 1949

In 1901, the Levy Court of Sussex County increased the funds allocated annually towards the maintenance of streets to $600, and in another law that year, the voting location was changed.11

In 1905, Milton was incorporated for the third time. This Act showed no change in the Town’s boundaries, but another change did take place in the Town’s governance. The Town Council was now made up of six members in addition to a Mayor who served its President. Two Council members and the Mayor were to be elected annually. As in 1881, electors remained limited to male citizens only. It was the Mayor’s duty to preside over the meetings of the Council which continued to take place four times a year and to see that all laws which were enacted by the Council were carried into effect. No Alderman was to be appointed to keep the peace; this was the Mayor’s responsibility. Other appointed officials remained the same as in the 1881 Act. The various other provisions of the 1905 Act, as well as the powers vested in the Council, mirrored those contained in the 1881 Act. The maximum tax to be levied annually was $1,000, the amount to which it had been increased in 1898.12

There were a number of amendments to the 1905 Incorporating Act prior to its revision in 1923. The first amendment was in 1911 when the maximum amount of taxation was increased to $1,750 annually.13 In 1913, two laws were passed: the first gave voting privileges to females over 21 but required that they pay $1 to vote. The second authorized the Town to borrow $20,000 with which to construct a water works as well as purchase hose and hose carriages in order to provide water for domestic use and fire protection, and also to borrow $10,000 to construct a sewerage system authorizing the Town to lay mains and laterals in the streets and regulate tapping into the systems. Referendum approval was required prior to issuing the bonds. A special tax was to be levied which was not to exceed $1,200 annually for repayment of interest and $300 annually for repayment of principal.14 In 1917, the amount to be borrowed to construct the sewer plant was increased to $15,000, and the limitation on the amount to be included in the special tax for this activity was eliminated. In another law that year, the 1905 Incorporating Act was amended to allow for an Alderman to be appointed by the Council to fulfill the judicial powers which had been assigned to the Mayor. The Council was also to choose one of their members to act as President Pro Tempore.15 In 1918, technical corrections were made to the 1917 law.16 The last amendment to be made to the 1905 Incorporating Act was passed in 1921 when the requirement that female voters pay $1 in order to vote was repealed.17

The Town of Milton was re-incorporated in 1923. Boundaries specified in the Act matched those in the plot made in 1887. This Act provided for the annexation of contiguous territory upon written petition of three-fourths of the freeholders living there and approval of two-thirds of the Town Council. The Town was governed by a Mayor and six Councilmen who were elected to serve terms of one year and three years respectively. All Council members must be Milton residents and four Council members were required to be freeholders. The Council was to meet four times a year with the Mayor presiding at meetings. Town officials elected or appointed by the Council included a President Pro Tempore who presides over the Council in the Mayor’s absence, a Secretary, Treasurer, Assessor, and Constables. Appointment of an Alderman was optional; the Mayor was charged with assuming judicial responsibilities unless such an appointment was made. The Council also had the option to choose a Tax Collector, whose duties were to fall to the Treasurer if no Collector is chosen. A Water Commissioner was to be appointed by the Town Council to oversee the water system, and a Board of Health was to be appointed by the Mayor. The responsibilities and duties of the Council, as well as vested powers that were contained in prior Incorporating Acts, are renewed in this Act; however, some new powers were added. These included the power to regulate the storage of gunpowder and any other dangerous or combustible material and to provide against casualties from fires; to prescribe the height and thickness of walls, and the materials of all buildings, public and private and the mode of erecting and maintaining same; to fix the lines beyond which buildings may not be erected; to require the owners of public halls and other buildings to provide safe and sufficient means of exit and fire escapes; to regulate the manner in which party walls and partition fences are constructed and maintained; and to issue permits for the erection and repair of buildings. The Mayor, the Constables, and the Alderman, if one is appointed, continue to be charged with keeping the peace in the Town and abating all nuisances in whatever form. The maximum tax levied annually was not to exceed $4,000. This does not include the amount which may be levied as a special tax to pay the interest on bonded indebtedness or for a sinking fund to pay the principal on the bonds when they come due. Milton was authorized to borrow money but the total indebtedness could not exceed, in aggregate, 10% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate.18

Only two laws amended the 1923 Incorporating Act. In 1925, Milton was authorized to purchase lands and buildings for the purpose of establishing public parks, ornamental spaces or municipal buildings. A condemnation process to achieve these ends was also included in the Act.19 In 1937, there was an increase in the amount of indebtedness for which the Milton was authorized, to a maximum of 25% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate.20

The next re-incorporation of Milton and establishment of a Charter took place in 1945. Adoption of this Charter required referendum approval. The Town’s boundaries remained unchanged, and the government was still vested in a Mayor and Council. However, the Council members were now elected to serve two-year terms, while the Mayor continued to serve a one-year term. Council meetings were now to be held at least monthly with the Mayor presiding as Chairman and also serving as a voting member. The Council was to choose one of its members to serve as Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer. An Assistant Secretary and an Assistant Treasurer were optional appointments who were not required to be members of the Council. Other appointed Town officials included an Alderman, Town Collector, Town Auditor, Town Solicitor, Police Force, Board of Health, Board of Assessment and Election Board. Forty-two duties and powers of the Mayor and Council are enumerated in the Charter. Many of these are the same as, or further clarify, powers that were contained in earlier Incorporating Acts. New powers included providing an ample supply of water, a sewer system, electric current or gas, or franchising in order to supply these utility services; providing control jetties, bulkheads, embankments, or flood gates for the preservation of high land; granting franchises and licenses; acquiring lands, personal property, easements and right-of-way by condemnation and eminent domain for municipal purposes; purchasing and holding property sold for delinquent tax, assessment, water rent electric bill, gas bill, or other charge and selling same; selling, conveying, or leasing property. The powers also included a new provision to organize a fire department and to contribute or donate an amount not to exceed 7% of the total taxes levied on real estate. The Charter contained procedures for carrying out the referendum process required when issuing bonds and also the procedures for condemnation. The Town was authorized to levy taxes not to exceed eighty-five cents per one hundred dollars of assessed value on real estate plus a per capita tax of $3 per qualified voter, and also to levy taxes on telephone, telegraph and power poles, pipelines and rail lines and to tax needed to secure adequate monies to all sinking funds and yearly repay any interest on all bonds. The Town was authorized to borrow money for municipal purposes provided that the indebtedness did not exceed, in aggregate, more than 20% of the assessed value of all real estate and personal property. 21

1950 – 1999

Seven laws amended the 1945 Charter. In 1951, the description of the corporate boundary of the Town was revised as the Town’s boundaries had been enlarged.22 In 1958, there was an increase to 25% in the percentage of the assessed value of real estate that was allowed for bonded indebtedness.23 A year later, Milton was authorized to levy a tax annually to pay for the operation and maintenance of the Town’s sewage disposal plant which would be charged to the owners of all properties which were able to connect to the system.24 In 1960, a law was passed whose purpose was to legalize and validate actions previously taken by the Mayor and Council of Milton in reference to the Town’s sewage disposal system. A referendum had already been approved which authorized the Town to borrow $444,000 and issue bonds in order to finance the cost of improving and enlarging the system. The revenue derived from fees authorized by law in 1959 were pledged towards the repayment of this debt.25 In 1976, the Charter was amended to allow the Town to annex land following two procedures, one, if all property owners in the territory to be annexed, were in agreement with this action, and one if five or more property owners, but not all, were in agreement. Annexation had been part of the 1923 Incorporating Act but was not included in the 1945 Charter. The same law lowered the eligible voting age to 18; standardized voter qualifications with other municipalities; allowed for Town officials who were not Council to serve indefinite terms, and revised and simplified the procedures in the Charter for borrowing money and condemnation. In a separate law, the Town was authorized to borrow up to $25,000 in anticipation of revenue to be repaid out of the general tax revenue within ten years. No referendum was required for this category of borrowing.26 In the following year, a law amended the Charter in several addition areas: the qualifications for retaining Council office were simplified; the specific amount of the per capita tax was eliminated; the duties and powers of the Secretary and the Alderman were simplified, and a percentage of interest as penalty for delinquent tax payment was specified.27

In 1978, within a year after these significant amendments had been made to the 1945 Charter, the Town of Milton was re-incorporated. The territorial limits in the 1978 Charter included the metes and bounds of the enlarged boundary indicated in a 1951 law and the procedures for annexation which were part of the same law. The 1978 Charter changed the terms of office of both the Mayor and the Council; the Mayor was now to serve two years and the Council three years. The Mayor served as President of the Council rather than Chairman and continued to have voting rights. As in the 1945 Charter, a Vice-Mayor, a Secretary and a Treasurer were to be appointed from the members of the Council. The appointed Town officials which remained the same as in the 1945 Charter were the Alderman, the Town Solicitor, the Police Force, the Board of Health and the Election Board. New officials included a Town Clerk who, among other duties, was responsible to collect the Town’s taxes and an Assessor who replaced the Board of Assessment. The Town Auditor position was eliminated; the audit was to be carried out by an independent accountant. The enumerated list of powers vested in the Mayor and Council were much the same as in the 1945 Charter. The new category of short term borrowing to meet current needs in advance of revenue was added, although the cap was increased from $25,000 to $100,000, in aggregate. The maximum tax to be levied was not to exceed $500,000 annually for general purposes, but this did not include the amount which annually was required to pay the interest or principal on bonded indebtedness. The cap on bonded indebtedness of 25% of the assessed real estate remained unchanged. A provision was added to this Charter that allowed the annual valuation/assessment of Milton’s real estate to be based on the Sussex County’s rather than being carried out locally.28

Four laws amended the 1978 incorporating Act in the 1980s and one in the 1990s. The first law, in 1984, increased the amount which the Town could borrow in advance of revenue to a maximum of $250,000, in aggregate.29 This cap was increased again in 1986, to $500,000.30 An amendment in 1988 allowed for an insurance company to fund the Town’s health and welfare plan.31 In 1989, Milton was authorized to collect a real estate transfer tax and also to allow absentee voting.32 In 1991 the qualifications to serve as the Town’s Assessor no longer required residency in the Town.33

The Town of Milton was next re-incorporated in 1998. This Charter indicates no expansion of the Town’s territorial limits although annexation is still allowed. The provisions of the 1998 Charter make no major changes from the one that preceded it ten years earlier except to incorporate amendments made since that time. The maximum amount of funds to be levied for municipal purposes remained unchanged, as was the cap on bonded indebtedness. The cap on the amount of money which could be borrowed in anticipation of revenue was decreased to $250,000.34


 2000 – Current

Prior to the next re-incorporation of the Town in 2008, Milton’s Charter was amended by three laws. A 2002 law increased the amount of compensation to the Mayor and Council.35 In 2004, the introductory language of the Charter was amended to include a statement that Milton was named after John Milton, the English educator, poet, philosopher, and proponent of public education, democracy, and human rights. The law also authorized the Town to charge impact fees to recover the costs of installing, improving or expanding public or municipal improvements,36 but the following year, the provisions related to impact fees were amended to indicate that these fees were only applicable to an annexed property. The same 2005 law also provided for the Town to appoint a Town Manager, outlining their duties and responsibilities, and increased the cap on bonded indebtedness to not to exceed, in aggregate, 30% of the assessed value of real property.37

The Town of Milton was once again re-incorporated in 2008. There is no change in Milton’s territorial limits. The format of the Charter mirrors that of the 1998 Charter. The major changes include extending the Mayor’s term by a year so that it matches that of the Council, adding the Town Manager position, making election procedures conform to Delaware Code, and incorporating the changes made through amendments made since 1998.38

Since 2008, there have been three laws which amended the Charter. The first, which was passed in 2015, revised the provisions related to charging a transfer tax so that they were aligned with the state law; revised the regulations related to jetties, bulkheads, embankments and piers; and revised the maximum general tax to be levied on the Town to be 0.5% of the assessed value of the Town’s taxable real estate.39 A year later, the cap on the general tax was revised again to a dollar figure of not to exceed $1,750,000.40 In 2017, the Charter was significantly revised, but many of the changes involved technical issues or clarifications. Among the significant changes in this law were: elimination of the specific territorial limits from the Charter; revisions to the qualifications to serve as Mayor or on the Council; revisions to the qualifications of electors in accordance with State law; elimination of the requirement to appoint a Board of Health; possible adoption of the Sussex County assessment; authorization for the Chief of Police to establish Standard Operation Procedures for the Police Department; and a decrease in the cap on Milton’s bonded indebtedness to 5% of the assessed value of taxable real estate.41

For the fully amended text of the current charter, see



View selected photographs of Milton



CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 4 Del. Laws, c. 38 (1807) [p. 87]

2 5 Del. Laws, c. 209 (1819) [pp. 377-79]

3 12 Del. Laws, c. 565 (1865) [pp. 647-50]

4 13 Del. Laws, c. 175 (1867) [p. 168]

5 14 Del. Laws, c. 129 (1871) [p. 162]

6 15 Del. Laws, c. 15 (1875) [pp. 34-35]

7 15 Del. Laws, c. 456 (1877) [pp. 569-70]

8 16 Del. Laws, c. 487 (1881) [pp. 631-48]

9 19 Del. Laws, c. 761 and c.762 (1883) [p. 1081 and p. 1082]

10 21 Del. Laws, c. 101 and c. 102 (1898) [p. 738 and pp. 739-40]

11 22 Del. Laws, c. 193 and c. 194 (1901) [p. 435 and p. 436]

12 23 Del. Laws, c. 193 (1905) [pp. 393-412]

13 26 Del. Laws, c. 239 (1911) [p. 631]

14 27 Del. Laws, c. 255 and c. 256 (1913) [p. 757 and pp. 758-65]

15 29 Del. Laws, c. 162 and c. 163 (1917) [p. 544 and p. 545]

16 30 Del. Laws, c. 6 (1918) [p. 19]

17 32 Del. Laws, c. 140 (1921) [p. 418]

18 33 Del. Laws, c. 154 (1923) [pp. 464-83]

19 34 Del. Laws, c. 143 (1925) [pp. 359-61]

20 41 Del. Laws, c. 156 (1937) [p. 456]

21 45 Del. Laws, c. 194 (1945) [pp. 784-55]

22 48 Del. Laws, c. 105 (1951) [pp. 214-15]

23 51 Del. Laws, c. 340 (1958) [p. 732]

24 52 Del. Laws, c. 85 (1959) [p. 248]

25 52 Del. Laws, c. 282 (1960) [pp. 600-02]

26 60 Del. Laws, c. 299 and c. 581 (1976) [pp. 918-29 and pp. 1912-13]

27 61 Del. Laws, c. 154 (1977) [pp. 486-87]

28 61 Del. Laws, c. 501 (1978) [pp. 1406-53]

29 64 Del. Laws, c. 265 (1984) [p. 626]

30 65 Del. Laws, c. 266 (1986) [p. 502]

31 66 Del. Laws, c. 229 (1988) [p. 468]

32 67 Del. Laws, c. 83 (1989) [pp. 269-70]

33 68 Del. Laws, c. 38 (1991) [p. 78]

34 71 Del. Laws, c. 326 (1998) [p. 821-52]

35 73 Del. Laws, c. 229 (2002) [p. 535]

36 74 Del. Laws, c. 371 (2004) [p. 889]

3876 Del. Laws, c. 201 (2008) [pp. 18-36]

39 80 Del. Laws, c. 186 (2016) []

40 80 Del. Laws, c. 350 (2016) []

41 81 Del. Laws, c. 70 (2017) []

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town of Milton records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Ordinances (1873, 1969-1986): 5090-000-000
  • Minutes of the Town Council (1931-1996): 5090-000-001


jnl / November 2, 2018, April 15, 2019

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