Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wilton vs. Milton


Names are very important. They establish a sense of pride, of who we are.

So when it was reported that on this day, in 1908, the Postmaster of the town of Wilton received a curious request—a petition, to be precise—from the town of Milton, via postal authorities at Washington, asking that Wilton might change its name, “The Wiltonites naturally (did) not take very kindly to the prospective change.”

It turned out that Milton had requested this change because “the similarity of names interfered with the proper delivery of freight express and mail.” Wilton admitted that these mail mix-ups happened to them, as well, but they did not find this a good reason to change their name.

Wilton took offense. The Wilton News stated, “If the citizens of Milton don’t like the similarity of names, why don’t they petition the department to change their own? Wilton is known far and wide…. The very fact that the citizens of Milton complain of their stuff going estray shows that Wilton is the best known town of the two by railroad interests.”

After receiving this letter, the people of Wilton held a town meeting, at which the Wilton News stated “a discussion of the question showed that public sentiment was unanimously against it.” So they rallied together. Some business men were appointed the task of showing the statistics of business of Wilton, as well as state the businesses that bore the name of the town, and businesses were urged to write to the congressional representatives of North Dakota to protest a forced change of name.

By the following week, the Wilton newspaper was able to report, “In accordance with the outlined plan, letters were written to our representatives in congress protesting against the change. A good many were sent, and they brought about results.”

From Washington, D.C., the Post office department granted assurance that no name change would be enforced. The representatives made sure.

So the story ended happily for Wilton. The Wilton Times had the last say: “… Wilton will continue to do business under the same old name, which is as it should be, as it would have made us much trouble and expense had a change been ordered.”

After all, a rose by any other name may still smell as sweet, but it would seem sort of strange to receive a bouquet of snarfblats.

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Walker


Bismarck Daily Tribune, Thursday morning, January 16, 1908, p.5

Bismarck Weekly Tribune, January 17, 1908, Friday, p.12

The Wilton News, January 17, 1908, Friday, p.3

The Wilton News, January 24, 1908, p.3