Milan, Tennessee

Milan (/ˈm.lʌn/) is the second largest city after Humboldt in Gibson County, Tennessee. It is home to the Milan Army Ammunition Plant, the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum and several historical sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).[7] The city was the first in Tennessee to begin no-till farming and to fluoridate its drinking water.[8][9] The Milan Endowment for Growth in Academics (MEGA) was the first private community financial endowment for public schools in Tennessee.[10]

Milan, Tennessee
Looking southeast along Main Street, May 2013
Location of Milan in Gibson County, Tennessee.
Coordinates: 35°54′57″N 88°45′29″W
CountryUnited States
Named forMilan, Italy[3]
  MayorBilly Warren Beasley
  Vice MayorJames Fountain
  Total8.9 sq mi (23.05 km2)
  Land8.9 sq mi (23.05 km2)
  Water0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
424 ft (129 m)
  Density880/sq mi (340/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)731
FIPS code47-48660[5]
GNIS feature ID1326833[6]


The city was named after Milan, Italy and is a shibboleth.[3]

An alternative source for the name comes from an event in the 1850s. A Louisville & Nashville railroad surveyor asked Beverly A. Williamson who owned the land. Williamson replied, "It's my land."[11]

Residents of Milan are usually referred to as Milanites.

Geography and climate

Milan is approximately 100 miles (160 km) Northeast of Memphis and 140 miles (230 km) West of Nashville, at an elevation of 424 feet (129 m) above sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.9 square miles (23 km2), all land.

According to the Köppen climate classification, Milan has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated as "Cfa". This is characterized by precipitation that is evenly distributed throughout the year and temperatures that are relatively high.[12]


Historical population
Est. 20187,640[4]−2.7%

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 7,851 people, 3,183 households and 2,057 families residing in the city. The population density was 881.7 per square mile. There were 3,581 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 73.50% White, 22.80% African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 1.00% from other races, and 2.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.50% of the population.[5]

There were 3,183 households of which 34.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.3% were married couples living together, 18.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.00.[5]

Age distribution was 26.5% under the age of 18, 55.7% from 18 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.9 years. 45.6% of the population was male, while 54.4% was female.[5]


Milan is at the junction of U.S. Routes 45E and 79 (also known as U.S. Route 70A). State Route 104 also runs through the city. Unlike many cities in West Tennessee, there are no highway bypasses around the city.

Milan is connected to four Class I rail lines and is served by West Tennessee Railroad (formerly Illinois Central, then Norfolk Southern).[16] Milan's elevation of 424 feet (129 m) is the highest point between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico on the former Illinois Central Railroad.[11]


In 1858, the city of Milan was established on the lands of B. A. Williamson and John Sanford; a small house was erected and a grocery opened by John G. Shepherd. The following year, the U.S. Post Office in Shady Grove was transferred to Milan. The first physicians, W. R. Rooks and J. B. Hinson, arrived in 1860.[1]

In 1866, Milan was incorporated by an act of the Tennessee Legislature; John G. Shepherd was the first mayor. The Milan Times, Milan's first newspaper, was established in 1869; it was only continued for a few months.[1][2]

In 1873, the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad brought importance to the town as a commercial point. The following year, W. A. Wade established the Milan Exchange newspaper. The Grand Pacific Hotel was erected at the railway junction in 1878.[1]

In 1941, Clemmer Clinic became the city's first acute care facility. In the same year, construction began on the Wolf Creek Ordinance Plant and the Milan Ordinance Depot; these facilities merged in 1945 to become the Milan Arsenal.[17][18] In 1949, Milan organized the first little league team in the mid-south.[19]

In 1950, the Milan National Guard became one of the first two in the nation to be federalized into active duty.[19] In 1951, led by Dr. Robert P. Denney, Milan became the first city in Tennessee, second in the Southeast, to fluoridate its drinking water.[9]

In 1965, the Milan Mirror newspaper was founded. The paper merged with the Milan Exchange in 1977 to become the Milan Mirror-Exchange.[20]

In 1981, the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experimentation Station in Milan became the birthplace of no-till farming in Tennessee.[8]

Historical sites

The City of Milan is home to several historical sites listed on the NRHP.[7]

  • On 28 June 1974, the Browning House, located on the Milan Army Ammunition Plant, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • On 5 July 1985, Union Central School, located on Union Central Rd., was added to the NRHP.
  • On 9 July 1987, the Milan Post Office, located at 382 S. Main St., was added to the NRHP. The Post Office was built by Algernon Blair, inc.
  • On 12 March 2012, the Gibson County Training School, located at 1041 S. Harris St., was added to the NRHP.

Local government

Milan has a mayor-board of aldermen form of government. The mayor serves a four-year term. There are four wards, each of which elects two aldermen. The city's monthly meeting of mayor and board of aldermen is open to the public and held every second Tuesday in Milan's city hall, located downtown.

City services

Water, sewer, and electricity are provided by the city through Milan Public Utilities. Drinking water is extracted from a well field. Electricity is obtained from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Natural gas is provided by the Gibson County Utility District.

Milan provides its own Fire Department, Police Department, and Municipal Court.

Milan has a large, modern city park located on State Route 104. The park has a 10 station fitness course, several sports fields & courts, playgrounds, reservable pavilions and swimming pool, and a saddle club arena. The park is home to the Bobby Ross Amphitheater.[21]

The Mildred G. Fields Library contains 35,000 volumes and is housed in a building on Van Hook Street.[22]

The city cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery, is located on South First Street near Highland Avenue and Ellington Drive.

The U.S. Post Office building is located on Main Street near city hall.

Privately owned services

The city is served by Milan General Hospital, a 70-bed acute care facility located on Highland Avenue. Milan General Hospital became a wholly owned affiliate of West Tennessee Healthcare in 1998.[17]

Milan has a weekly newspaper, the Milan Mirror-Exchange.[20]

The B.D. Bryant Memorial Library, located on First Street, houses a collection of over 2000 historical religious books. This privately owned library is open to the public.[23]

Two radio stations are licensed in Milan. WHHG (92.3 FM) is a classic rock station. W256AD (99.1 FM) is an American Family Radio station.[24]

A YMCA is located adjacent to the city park.[25]

The Milan Golf and Country Club, a private club, has an 18-hole course.[26]

Milan has no television station, but is within the reach of Jackson and Memphis stations. A cable television service is provided by Charter Communications.


Public education in Milan is provided by the Milan Special School District, which was formed in the 1980s and includes territory immediately adjacent to the Milan city limits.[27] The district is the successor to the Milan City Schools, formed in the 1960s when the Milan schools left the Gibson County Board of Education and became independent. The system is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Presently, the position of Director of Schools is held by Mr. Jonathan Criswell.[28]

There are three schools: Milan High School (which contains the Milan Vo-Tech center) serving grades 9–12, Milan Middle, serving grades 5–8, and Milan Elementary, serving grades K-4. Historically, there were four schools - K.D. McKellar, grades 1–8, Park Avenue, also grades 1-8, Milan High School, 9-12, and Polk-Clark, which served black students in all twelve grades. The McKellar and Park Avenue buildings were demolished; Polk-Clark is now a community center.

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is one of the active CTE student organizations which is composed of students in Family and Consumer Science courses. There have been 4 state officers from Milan High and many state and national competitive event winners.

The Milan High School Alumni Association (MHSAA) holds Alumni Day on the third Saturday in June each year.[29] In 2012 the MHSAA presented 19 scholarships totalling over $18,000, and hosted 14 scholarships totalling over $16,500 to graduating seniors that were the natural, adopted, or stepchildren of alumni.[30]

Established in 1989, the Milan Endowment for Growth in Academics (MEGA), is Tennessee's first private community financial endowment for public education. Proceeds provide public school students with opportunities not covered by the school budget. Only the income of the fund is spent. The principal is kept intact to yield proceeds for future years. During the period of 19902012, MEGA has disbursed 663 grants totalling $455,439. In 2012, the total amount of the endowment reached $580,000.[10]

West Tennessee Agricultural Museum

Milan is the site of the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum which is a part of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station located in Milan. The museum contains more than 2,600 artifacts and farm tools from the local agrarian culture.[31]

The University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station conducts crop research, crop management and erosion control experiments.[32] The no-till method of farming in Tennessee originated at the Milan facility.[8]

The station is host of the Milan No Till-Field Day, an agricultural demonstration event held on the fourth Thursday of July in even-numbered years. This event draws visitors from around the world.[8]

The Buford Ellington 4-H Club Training Center was located at the station until the center was closed in 2009.[33]

Milan Army Ammunition Plant

In 1945, the Wolf Creek Ordinance Plant and the Milan Ordance Depot combined to become the Milan Arsenal, renamed the Milan Army Ammunition Plant in the 1960s. The combined facility included 88 miles of railroad track and 231 miles of roadway across a 36 square miles (93 km2) tract of land.[18]

In 2008, American Ordnance, the private contractor operating the plant, began the process of moving operations to Iowa and commercializing the Milan Army Ammunition Plant. By March 2013, employment had fallen to 110.[34]

The Milan Army Ammunition Plant is nicknamed "Bullet Town" by locals.[35]

Attributed population growth

The Milan Army Ammunition Plant employed over 10,000 during World War II, dropping to 1,500 in 1947. Employment rose again to over 8,000 during the Korean War before falling to less than 500 in 1959. By 1968, employment had risen again to 7,000. During the period 19401971 the population of Milan had increased from 3,000 to 7,000. The growth was largely attributed to the Milan Army Ammunition Plant.[18]

In a 1944 article, the Saturday Evening Post, in discussing the boom created by the Milan Arsenal during World War II, predicted Milan would become a "ghost town" when the war was over.

National Priorities List inclusion

In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the Milan Army Ammunition Plant on the National Priorities List. Contamination of the city's groundwater in the Memphis Sand Aquifer of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and RDX was of particular concern.[36]

In 1989, the EPA, United States Army and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) signed a Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) for the site. The FFA ensures that the parties would fully investigate environmental impacts associated with past and present activities at the installation and complete appropriate cleanup actions through established schedules and enforceable milestones.[36]

In the early 1990s, the United States Army financed the relocation of the city's drinking water well field. The United States Army implemented institutional controls to prohibit groundwater use in contaminated areas.[36][37]

In 2010, the third Five-Year Review found that the cleanup activities were protecting people and the environment.[36]

In 2013, the United States Army submitted its Site-wide Feasibility Study to the EPA for approval.[38] The cleanup of affected soil was completed leaving the cleanup and long term care of the groundwater contamination plume. The velocities of the plume vary, but the direction is primarily North towards the Rutherford Fork of the Obion River and from the Northwest boundary towards the city.[36][37][38]

The long term care of the groundwater contamination plume is expected to last through 2075 when contamination is expected to be below the EPA required two parts per billion.[38]

Notable people

Politics andacademia



See also


  1. "Goodspeed's History of Gibson County". 1886. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  2. Hargett, Tre (2010). Tennessee Blue Book 2009-2010. Tennessee Secretary of State. p. 664.
  3. Capace, Nancy (2000). Encyclopedia of Tennessee. North American Book Distributors. p. 202.
  4. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  5. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
  6. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  7. "National Register of Historic Places - Weekly List". Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  8. "Research & Education Center at Milan - Milan NoTill". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  9. "Tennessee Department of Health - Pioneering Accomplishments". Archived from the original on 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  10. "What is MEGA?". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  11. Coleman, Najanna (1973). Gibson County Sesquicentennial Commemorative Booklet. Gibson County Sesquicentennial Celebration, Inc. p. 123.
  12. "Milan, Tennessee Köppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  13. "Milan, Tennessee Travel Weather Averages (Weatherbase)". Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  14. "Census of Population and Housing: Decennial Censuses". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2006-02-08. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  15. "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  16. "City of Milan TN - Transportation". Archived from the original on 2010-11-20. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  17. "West Tennessee Healthcare - Milan General Hospital". Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  18. "Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture - Milan Arsenal". 2009-12-25. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  19. Coleman, Najanna (1973). Gibson County Sesquicentennial Commemorative Booklet. Gibson County Sesquicentennial Celebration, Inc. p. 126.
  20. "Milan Mirror-Exchange - About Us". Archived from the original on 2013-02-18. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  21. "City of Milan TN - Parks & Recreation". Archived from the original on 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  22. "City of Milan TN - Library". Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  23. "B. D. Bryant Memorial Library". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  24. "Federal Communications Commission - FM Query Results". Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  25. "City of Milan TN - Events & Attractions". Archived from the original on 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  26. "Milan Golf and Country Club". Archived from the original on 2014-12-29. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  27. "Milan Special School District". Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  28. "Milan Special School District - Central Office Personnel". Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  29. "Milan High School Alumni Association - Alumni Day". Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  30. "Milan High School Alumni Association - Scholarship Information". Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  31. "Research & Education Center at Milan - Museum". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  32. "Research & Education Center at Milan - Research". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  33. "UT Institute of Agriculture Announces Intent to Close Milan 4-H Center". 2009-02-12. Archived from the original on 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  34. Parkins, Victor (2013-03-12). "Final arsenal layoff...". Milan Mirror Exchange. pp. 1, 2.
  35. "Milan Would Be Devastated". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  36. "Milan Army Ammunition Plant". Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  37. "Army Defense Environmental Restoration Program - Installation Action Plan FY2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  38. Short, Steve (2013-06-14). "Milestones reached in arsenal groundwater restoration". Milan Mirror Exchange. p. 5.
  39. "Encyclopedia of Alabama: Mary Lee Cagle". Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  40. "Kelsie B. Harder, Name Expert, Dies at 84". The New York Times. 2007-04-22. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  41. "In Memory of Dr. Kelsie Brown Harder". Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  42. "Andrew D. Holt, UT's Sixteenth President (1959-1970)". Archived from the original on 2013-08-11. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  43. "Ben Cantwell". Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  44. "Wild Bill Wright". Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  45. "Turner Barber". Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  46. "Joe Staton, Man of Energy! - The prolific cartoonist on E-Man, Mauser & Charlton Comics". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  47. Associated Press (1986-09-14). "Miss America grandniece of Johnny Cash". Houston Chronicle. p. 3.
  48. "Cash to perform at Picnic with the Pops". Herald-Dispatch. 2009-08-09.
  49. "Celebrities born and raised in Gibson County". The Jackson Sun. 2009-05-17.
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