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.