Milan was established from part of the Town of North East on March 6 (sometimes shown as March 10) 1818. The session laws stated that the first town meeting would be held the first Tuesday of April and was at the home of Stephen Thorne who was elected Town Supervisor along with John F. Bartlett, Town Clerk.
Milan was largely a farming and mill town giving birth to its name today. Known by many as the "Mill Lands" for its rolling farmland and numerous gristmills. The main thoroughfare for the community ran from the Hudson River to Salisbury, CT. and travelers referred to the road as the "turnpike" it later became recognized as the Salisbury Turnpike and sections of the road still exist today and bear that name.
The early population peaked in 1840 at 1,745 residents and went into decline until 1930 with only 622 residents. It was the influence of the railroad and the move to river cities and the west that caused the decline. Also, Milan's soil was hilly and rocky and tough to farm. During the Great Depression, these poor farming conditions led to instances of starvation and disease in the town. The town was quarantined for six months in 1934 due to an outbreak of smallpox, which was exacerbated by the difficulty of a small community in obtaining the vaccine during this period. Then following the 1930s the population grew again, due in part to the construction of the Taconic Parkway which ended in Milan at the time, and then the post World War II boom. The 1840 population level was reached again in 1980, some 140 years later.
From the 1980's to the turn of the new century population has had moderate growth.
Sources: US Federal Census Records; "History of Dutchess County New York," James H. Smith, 1882, D. Mason & Co. publisher; "History of Little Nine Partners," Isaac Huntting, 1897.
The Taconic State Parkway passes along the eastern part of the town.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,559 people, 882 households, and 612 families residing in the town. The population density was 126.3 people per square mile (48.8/km²). There were 1,090 housing units at an average density of 30.2/sq mi (11.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 60.63% White, 27.22% African American, 0.66% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 9.87% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.68% of the population.
There were 882 households out of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.5% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.6% were non-families. 23.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the town the population was spread out with 14.2% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 49.8% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 299.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 364.2 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $54,491, and the median income for a family was $65,250. Males had a median income of $26,473 versus $27,500 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,002. About 2.8% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.