Milford is a city in Kent and Sussex counties in the U.S. state of Delaware. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city is 9,559. The Kent County side of Milford was first settled in 1680 by Henry Bowan on what was known as the Saw Mill Range. A century later the Reverend Sydenham Thorne built a dam across the Mispillion River to generate power for his gristmill and sawmill. Around the same time, Joseph Oliver laid out the first city streets and plots nearby on a part of his plantation. Soon a number of homes and businesses appeared along Front Street and Milford was born. The city was incorporated February 5, 1807.
In the 1770s, a ship building industry was already flourishing on the Mispillion River. Shipbuilding continued to be the major industry of Milford through World War I, bringing considerable prosperity to the town. The high point came in 1917 when the 4-masted, 174-foot (53 m) long Albert F. Paul was launched from the William G. Abbott shipyard. At one point 6 shipyards were operating in the downtown area. When the last of the area’s giant white oaks was cut in the 1920s, the shipyards quickly went out of business, although the Mispillion ships sailed on for many years. (The Paul was sunk by a German torpedo in 1942 while sailing from the Bahamas.) The Vineyard shipyard was called into service in both World War I and II to build submarine chasers.
During much of the twentieth century Milford served primarily as the commercial center for much of southern Delaware’s large agricultural community. Today Milford’s historic downtown has become a renewed center of community life hosting upmarket boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and a community theatre. Celebrating the importance of the Mispillion River, downtown Milford is host to several regional events each year including the Riverwalk Freedom Festival and the Bug & Bud Festival. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy the natural resource as they walk, bike or run along the Mispillion Riverwalk, a series of pedestrian and bicycle paths that hug the banks of the Mispillion River.