(Information on the History of Milan was taken from “Mary and I” by Stephen R. Riggs; “A Diary of Milan” 1870 to 1965, Margery Burns;  Milan, Big Bend, Kragero Centennial 1879-1979, Milan Minnesota, Lillian Lang.  Information compiled by Jane Link.  Taken from the 2002 Milan Comprehensive Plan)

The earliest tangible history of Milan is traced back to a 13th century iron hatchet left by the Vikings.  This iron hatchet was discovered in 1875 approximately six miles northeast of Milan.

In 1825, Fort Renville was built approximately six miles southeast of what would be the town of Milan and existed until 1846.  A mission was also built along with a mill and settlers cabins.  Stephen Riggs recorded missionary work with the Dakota (also known as Sioux).  The Dakota lived in this area long before the recorded missionary work of 1830.

In the mid 1800s, the future site of Milan consisted of prairie next to a marsh and was located west of the old wagon road to Big Stone Lake, also known as the Fort Abercrombie Trail. There was a lot of tall grass with wild flowers and vines intertwined in masses scattered with no set pattern of growth.  Any of the very few trees were located along the river and lake.  A few homes in the form of log cabins, caves or dugouts were dispersed throughout the area.  Lac qui Parle was the nearest trading post.

Most of the settlers, many of Scandinavian descent, moved to Milan after the Dakota Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad laid the long steel rails in 1879.  The railroad built a small tool shed to mark the spot of the future town of Milan.  Thorbjorn Anderson moved in the first general store in Milan.  Most of the supplies were hauled in from Benson.

There have been several different tales told for the origin of the name “Milan.”  One tale tells of two early settlers meeting from time to time to exchange friendly greetings.  One day their conversation drifted as to the ownership of the land.  One of the gentlemen remarked, “Why, you know this is my land.”  Rather shocked, the friend replied, “Why, I know you are mistaken, because this is my land, I came here first.”  Considerable arguments followed for quite some time and finally the two men decided to compromise by starting a village and naming it Milan.

Milan is located in Kragero Township, Chippewa County.  In 1880, the first post office was built. In 1882, Milan’s beginning consisted of two general stores, a warehouse, a blacksmith shop and an implement shop.  On March 15, 1893, Milan was incorporated as a village.  In 1895 the population of Milan was 298.

In 1900, the town of Milan was in the booming stage.  The population had grown to 396.  The T. Anderson store was now a large building which became known as the Big Store.  It was the largest and best stocked store this side of the Twin Cities.  By 1905, the population was 450. 

Milan changed a great deal during those early years.  From the five business in 1882, it had grown to three restaurants, two hardware stores, three general stores, one jewelry store, one barber shop, five elevators, one millinery shop, one drug store, one newspaper, one feed mill, two lumber companies, one creamery, one livery stable, one flour store, two blacksmith shops, one harness shop, one bank, two furniture stores, two machine sheds, one photography studio, one hotel, waterworks and a firebell.  There was hustle, exuberance and a feeling of being alive in the very air of the village.  Since most of the people in Milan and the community had started from scratch, they knew that the only place to go was up, and they were on their way.  The businessmen weren’t afraid to try anything new including new methods of business or even a new business itself.  If one way of making a living did not work out, they would do something else, and instead of feeling like failure, they felt like adventurers and pace-makers.

The churches in Milan have always been one of the strongest and most important parts of the guiding force for the people from the moment they came to this community.  The first services were held in 1872.  The Lutheran and Methodist congregations lasted throughout most of the history of Milan.  Today only the Kvitseid Lutheran church remains.

School was also of utmost importance to the community.  In 1884 a school was built and organized.  Through the years, country schools consolidated and the Milan school grew.  But as the population of the community declined, the Milan school enrollment declined.  In 1990, Milan's high school consolidated with Madison, Appleton and Marietta/Nassau, and classes are held in a new school built nine miles from Milan.  The elementary consolidated with Appleton and classes are held in both Milan and Appleton. 

Most of the pioneers who came here were interested in farming.  They homesteaded land, and some of them prospered and some failed.  Many success stories were written.  In 1926 farming was in trouble, and in 1936 it was terribly dry.  In the 1940s and 1950s farming was good again, and conservation of the soil was started.

In 1944, Milan was a village of 624 people, the highest recorded population.  Here urban and rural interests fuse with interdependency that makes Milan a typical small town. In the 1960s and 1970s, agriculture in the community kept Milan a town holding its own.  The 1980s and 1990s were difficult times for agriculture.  Milan started losing its population and businesses.  Today the population of Milan is 326.