Wednesday, May 13, 2009

William Henry Mills, Vintner

Pictured below is the former home of William Henry Mills. The home was located on the south side of Melville Street, between Camp and Pearl Streets. An article in the December 21, 1922 Sandusky Register featured an article about the home. The house was built for William H. Mills in the 1820’s, when he was a college student. William H. Mills graduated from Yale University in 1825. William T. West and R. B. Hubbard attended parties in the two large parlors on the second floor. Later the home was owned by Mrs. Daniel Newton. (The home no longer stands.)

William Henry Mills was the son of Isaac L. Mills and Abigail Phelps Mills. Isaac L. Mills was one of the proprietors of Sandusky, and was one its earliest settlers. According to Helen Hansen’s At Home in Early Sandusky, the Mills family was closely associated with the development of the Firelands and Sandusky. Mills Street and Mills School are both named for the Mills family. Most of the land holdings of the Mills family were in the Western Liberties section of town. William Henry Mills married Caroline Hurd, the daughter of James C. Hurd, who died in a shipwreck in 1829. They had a large family, and lived in a house on Washington Row, where the Mahala Block later stood.

The June 1937 Firelands Pioneer reported that when ground was broken for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad in 1835, a procession was formed in from of the Verandah Hotel, with General William H. Mills as marshall, assisted by Major White and Captain Kenney. General William Henry Harrison came to Sandusky for the great occasion.

In 1861, William Henry Mills began raising grapes for wine. According to History of Erie County, Ohio, ed. by Lewis Cass Aldrich, the first wine from the Mills vineyard was pressed in 1865, and “since which time he has produced an average of 15,000 gallons per year.” Brands of champagne produced by William H. Mills were Sans Pareil and LeDiamont. The following entry appeared in the “Reports and Awards” listings for the United States Centennial Commission’s International Exhibition of 1876. Exhibits of Group IV, which included animal and vegetable products, were on display in the Agricultural Hall.
The wine cellars of William H. Mills were located on the north side of Monroe Street, adjacent to Sandusky Bay, as pictured below in the 1886 Sanborn Map.

William Henry Mills died on March 8, 1897. His obituary appeared in the March 9, 1897 issue of the Sandusky Register. He is buried in the Family Plot in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. You can read about the son of William H. Mills, Judge Grayson Mills, in Patty Pascoe’s book, Elected to Serve Erie County, found at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. A biography of Sallie Mills Johnson, the daughter of William H. Mills, is found in the book, American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies, which is accessible on Google Books.


Lori E said...

Since my family tree contains the surname Champagne I think I am allowed to comment on the fact that only the product made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. All the rest is to be referred to as Sparkling Wine.
Don't go messing with us Frenchmen(women). We take our beverages very seriously.
Mr. Mills sounds like an interesting man.

Gillett Public Library said...

Love your historical content, and thanks for your positive comments on our blog!
The Gillett Public Library

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic an member of Holy Angels Parish in Sandusky, I will always be in debt to William H Mills. He donated the land, stone and timber to build our precious, little Church.

Carol said...

As a Catholic and member of Holy Angels Parish in Sandusky, I will be forever grateful to William H Mills for donating the land, stone, and timber to build our beautiful little Church.