Settlers arrived on horseback to claim land grants or to work in the numerous lumber mills along the many waterways. Abraham Thomas, moved here from Queens County with his wife Mary, and young son, Adelbert, also known as Del.Their first home was a small cabin which he had built around 1860 which would become the foundation for a successful inn-keeping business.
This main route became a scheduled stop for the stage coach and eventually workers traveling to and from the area. Drivers would stop here to change horses and have a meal before heading on their way. With more workers arriving to work in the mills, and limited places for them to stay, the Thomas home began to offer food and lodging. Abraham died in 1875, but his wife and 12 year old son Del continued to run the farm and this growing family business.
When Del married Annie Dukeshire,the reputation of Milford House as a prime destination for sportsmen and their families began to fully take shape. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with and soon they put their home and community on the map. In doing so, they made a major impact on the tourism industry in the southwestern region of Nova Scotia.
The beginning of Milford House as a popular retreat is believed to have its roots in the following story. A storm and blocked roads forced a group of travelers to seek shelter at the Thomas home for a few days. These travelers were avid American sportsmen. They convinced Del Thomas to build a log cabin on the lake behind the house so they might have a place to stay when they returned. Del responded to their request. By 1902, two log cabins were available for guests to use. However, until the 1920s, most stayed in the “Big House.”
This Victorian-style country farmhouse underwent at least four enlargements, eventually boasting eight bedrooms for the Thomas family and guests. It was often called the “Halfway House” or the Thomas Hotel before ultimately becoming known as the Milford House in the early 1900s. Most of the lakeside cabins were built from the mid 1920s until the thirties.
These lakeside cabins became the summer residences for the families of American sportsmen who headed out to the woods and lakes for ten days or more at a time.These early sportsmen and naturalists were Milford’s best promoters. They spread the word on their return to the States, often by submitting articles to various publications. An annual migration of Americans was well established by the 1920s and represented the bulk of guests to Milford House until the 1960s and early 1970s. At this time, more Maritimers were re-discovering what was right on their doorstep. The popularity of Milford House has only grown ten-fold to the present time.
The face of management has changed, but the friendliness, hospitality and attention to the simple comforts are still the primary focus. And although there are some modern touches, the spirit and simplicity of this wilderness retreat remains largely unchanged.
Early this summer season a few local artists and crafters were contacted about having a shop in a building not being used at Milford House. I was lucky enough to be one of those artists contacted.
We are doing our best to be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays most afternoons and into the evenings. You can find more details at The Artists and Crafters of Milford House.
Here are some photos!