William Gill Mills

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William Gill Mills

Birthplace: Hardglass, Down, Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Mills and Jane Gill
Husband of Louisa Avelina Mills
Ex-husband of Emily Woodmansee
Father of Avelina Mills and Mannie Pickett
Half brother of John Mills

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Gill Mills

FROM THE FOLLOWING WEBSITE: http://marialouisapickett.homestead.com/WilliamGillMills.html

Summary of the life history of William Gill Mills:

William Gill Mills and Louisa Avelina Sleater were converted in England to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and migrated to the United States in 1855, crossing the plains with the Milo Andrus Co. William is listed as age 32 and Louisa as age 22 on the company roster, and they lived in Salt Lake City. He and Louisa, and later, Emily, took in a stranded girl from the Andrus company, Alexandrina Sarah Bray (Md. John H. Woodbury), under instructions from Brigham Young (See cite from Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 8 p. 74 - http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/HANDCART/1998-10/0909441582).

The Woodbury family, descendants of Alexandrina (Alexina) Sarah Bray, credit Emily Hill as adopting and raising Sarah, and include Emily and William Mills as adoptive parents (http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=:2634020&id=I541785938). In 1857 William participated in the rescue of the Willie Handcart Company in the mountains of Wyoming. Shortly thereafter he married as a plural wife one of the girls he rescued, Emily Hill, who bore his child, Avelina Mills (b: 18 Oct. 1859; Md. John Harrie Saville).

In 1860 he asked for and received another mission to England where he served with his first wife, Louisa Avelina, leaving Emily, baby Avelina, and apparently, young "Alexina" to fend for themselves in Utah. While in England he was excommunicated for adultery and wrote back to Emily denouncing plural marriage and severing all ties with her and his child. Emily's sad response to this tragic desertion in her life is included in her history on this web site. Emily later married Joseph Woodmansee and raised a large family. She became well known as the "poet laureate" (Def.: A poet acclaimed as the most excellent or most representative of a locality or group.) of northern Utah and wrote many poems, today the most famous of which is, "As Sisters in Zion." (See a brief history of Emily Hill Mills Woodmansee on this site.)

William and Louisa Avelina spent some time in Illinois with her family, and then they went on to northern Nevada and California. He published poems while in Austin, Nevada, and Havilah, California (north of Bakersfield) in 1866: "The Havilah School District was formed on November 9, 1866. It was the first public school to operate in Kern county. At that time Havilah was a bustling mining community and the County seat. The first district clerk was William Gill Mills." (from http://wwwstatic.kernvilleusd.org/gems/kernvilleUSD/SchoolHistory.doc)

He settled probably late in 1868 in Gilroy, south of San Jose, where he served the community on the city council and as interim Mayor while the city became incorporated. Technically, he was the first mayor of Gilroy, CA, while the new Mayor was elected, and was so designated by the State Legislature.

He owned a Mercantile store and advertised weekly in the Gilroy Advocate, where he also published at least two poems. He took in two of Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford's children, including Maria Louisa Pickett, and sometime after Priscilla's murder in Carson City, migrated back to Utah, settling in Alta and in Salt Lake City, where he lived at 88 "O" Street. In 1876, 53 year old William became the father of Mannie Pickett (b: 4 Jan. 1876), whose unmarried mother, 19 year old Maria Louisa Pickett, he had raised in his home since her mother's murder. He had no posterity from his wife Louisa Avelina Sleater, and did not raise either of his known offspring, Avelina Mills or Mannie Pickett.

He apparently became a Methodist minister, and representing himself as such preached a sermon in Tucson in 1879, where he also wrote and published at least one poem: "In 1879 the Rev. William Gill Mills gathered a little group of Methodists who held services in the Court House. Tucson was a wide-open town in 1879." ( from Methodist History in the South West: http://www.desertsw.org/history.html)

He died in Salt Lake City 24 May 1895 at age 72 shortly after a final visit to England to visit relatives. His possessions passed down through the family of Louisa Avelina's sister, and today belong to the Barker family. He and Louisa Avelina are buried in Salt Lake City, directly across the street from the University of Utah Stadium, and a large grey obelysk marks their graves, just a few feet from the street.

He was a gifted poet, musician and advocate. Several of his hymns have appeared in the LDS Hymnals, one of which is in the current Hymnal: #40 - "Arise, O Glorious Zion." His written works on life and hopes for Zion are still powerful and moving. In his own words, " I came to America in 1855, and visited England twice since. Have edited several papers and one magazine, was a preacher and lecturer for years. Was the first mayor of Gilroy, California; Justice of the Peace several terms in Utah; was merchandising in Illinois, California and Utah; never conceited enough to publish a volume of my poems, of which I've written some hundreds, and translations from Greek and Latin poets (my versification).

Some of my writing have appeared in the Manx Sun; Manx Liberal; Millenial Star, Liverpool; Family Herald, London; Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Herald, Deseret News, Salt Lake; Godey's Lady's Book; Tullidges' Magazine. From the "Weekly Budget" London, I received two prizes for the best poems open to competitors in Great Britain and Ireland. My effusions have appeared in the Manx and English newspapers since my fourteenth year. Occupation: Attorney, Solicitor, and Literatus. My hair is grey (was brown), my eyes are dark grey, height, 5 ft. 8 in., and weight 170 pounds."

His daughter by Emily Hill, Avelina Mills, married John Harrie Saville (b. 1858, England) and died in Mexico. His grand-daughter Caroline Mills Saville married John Eli Telford (b. 1879, England), who also died in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. His adoptive daughter, Alexandrina Sarah Bray, was raised by Emily and married John H. Woodbury, leaving a large posterity.

His son by Maria Louisa Pickett, Mannie Pickett, married Dora Briggs and lived most of his life in Burley, Idaho where he raised a large family of 4 boys and 4 girls. Their descendants live in California, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and elsewhere with surnames, Blackhurst, Bjorkman, Pickett and Porter from the first generation, and other surnames by marriage in the second generation: Daugaard, Erickson, Kent, Needham, Payne, Price, Russell, and Stuart.

Historical Clips from the Life of William Gill Mills with his age and the year:

 0 1822- 18 December:  Wm. Gill Mills born, Ardglass Co. Down, Ireland, to Thomas and Jane Gill Mills

18 1841- 18 July: Baptism by half brother, John Mills, at Ramsey, Isle of Man

26 1849- 18 May: Ordained Baptist Elder at Whitehaven, Cumberland (copy of certificate Jean Sleater/Roger Porter)

27 1850- July: Called as branch secretary, Isle of Man Branch, Nov 22: Called by F.D.Richards on first mission, South Conference, under Pres. Geo. Halliday

28 1851- 1 October 1851: Married Louisa Sleater, 20 years old (Copy of Mg Cert. Jean Sleater/Roger Porter)

29 1852- 1 January: in Devonport, Isle of Man

          -  June: President of Lands End Conference, Samuel Frances as secretary
          -  11 December: Appointed President of the Reading Conference

31 1854- 2 December: Released with permission to emmigrate to America

32 1855- 17 April: Migrated on ship "Chimborazo" with wife, Louisa Avelina Sleater

          -  21 May:  Arrive in Philadelphia
          -  June:  St. Louis, wrote "A Hymn" for the saints on the ship Chimborazo
          -  24 July:  Arrive at Mormon Grove, Atchison Co., Kansas
          -  28 September: Wrote poem to Louisa Jane Stocks (Black) at her birth at Independence Rock
          -  24 October:  Arrive in Salt Lake City in Milo Andrus Wagon Co.

33 1856- 30 January: Ordained a High Priest by David Pettigrew and G. B. Wallace

          -  25 April:  William and Louisa Avelina sealed in the Endowment House, SLC
          -  4 December: G.S.L., "On the Death of Pres. Jedediah M. Grant"

34 1857- 14 June 1857: Married 21 yr. old Emily Hill in plural marriage (a Martin Handcart Co. English immigrant)

34 1857- 30 June 1857: Appointed by Brigham Young Captain of Topographical Engineers (copy of certificate Jean Sleater/Roger Porter)

35 1857- 31 December: G. S. L.(Great Salt Lake), "Song"

36-37 - 1859-60: Priscilla Clark Pickett, widowed, stayed 12 months with Wm. and Avelina Mills

36 1859- January: Sired Avelina Mills (b: 18 October 1859, SLC) with Emily Hill Mills

          -  April:  S.L.C, Poem, "There Is Nothing New"

37 1860- 12 January: Gr. Salt Lake City, "National Anthem"

          -  22 September:  Set apart by Pres. John Taylor for second mission, to England

38-40 - 1861, 1862, part of 1863: President of the Birmingham District (Shropshire, Stafford, Warwic)

38 1861- 23 March: Published three page article in Millenial Star, No. 12, Vol. XXIII on The Gathering

40 1863- 16 May: Notice in Millenial Star of his excommunication for adultery

          -  15 May: Left Liverpool with his wife for America

42-44 - 1865, 1866, 1867: Lived in Austin, Nevada and Havilah, CA, north of Bakersfield.

43 1866- Served as first District Clerk of the Havilah CA School District.

45-48 - 1868-1871: Lived in Gilroy California, south of San Jose. Mayor of Gilroy during transition to a City. Lost election.

46 1869- 16 Jan: poem "Lessons From the Storm Clouds" published in the Gilroy Advocate

  -  20 Feb: poem "Life's Enjoyment" published in the Gilroy Advocate
  -  June: Maria Louisa Pickett and Sarah Wilford in the care of William G. and Avelina Mills in Gilroy
          -  9 July: Testified in Carson City at inquest for Priscella Clark Pickett Wilford's murder 
          -  22 July:  Penned his last will and testament in Gilroy, CA.  Copy w/Roger Porter

48-52 - Moved to Alta Utah until the big fire, then lived in SLC

52 1875- April: Sired Mannie Pickett ( b: 4 Jan 1876) with 19 year old Maria Louisa Pickett

55 1878- 7 April: Store burned down in Utah after apparent theft (Journal entry in Women Voices)

56 1878 - 25 December: Salt Lake City, Poem, "The Glorious Birth"

57 1879- Traveled to Tucson and preached as a Methodist minister (see cite in text above, this page).

58 1880- December: Tucson, Arizona, Poem, "Speak Not Unkindly"

58 1880- 18 December (Birthday): Tucson, Ariz, Love Poem to Louisa Avelina Sleater Mills, no title.

67 1889- 25 December: "To Mrs. Charlson" poem

?? - Undated hymn, "8's and 7's" to tune "Mona's Isle" with Sleater packet.

70 1893- Traveled once more to England to visit loved ones

          -  10 October: "El Manx National Ode", Barrow-in-Furness

71 1894- Salt Lake City, wrote "True Prayer"

72 1895- 24 May: Passed away at the address: 88 "O" St., Salt Lake City, Utah.

26 May Buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, now across the street from the U. of Utah Stadium, SLC, UT. ____________________________________________________________________________________

September 9, 1998, New Information on W. G. Mills, including the Louisa Poem. I just found and corrected this copy of the three page history and proofread it with the original for accuracy: From Utah State Historical Society: Three page biography by Elwood I. Barker, March 31, 1977(All spelling and punctuation are the author's and have been faithfully reproduced in this rewriting by Roger Porter)

When I read the article in J. Spencer Cornwall's "Story of LDS Hymns" that nothing was known of William Gill Mills, the author of two beautiful L.D.S. Hymns, (WE'LL SING THE SONGS OF ZION and ARISE OH GLORIOUS ZION), I decided to prepare an article concerning him that a pioneer of l855 may not be entirely forgotten.

He and his wife Louisa Avelina Sleater left no descendants to preserve memories and momentos of a lovely home of long duration. Nieces and nephews have left to their children many beautiful and interesting articles of pioneer vintage; such as a rocking chair, dining room chairs, hat and coat, lamps, a cornet and a violin which belonged to his father, and which William played and prized highly. But best of all is a box containing letters, pictures and many poems and articles which give an insight into the life and character of this delightful couple.

Out of church and civil records I have gleaned the following facts:

William Gill Mills, pioneer to Utah 1855, was born 18 December 1822 at Ardglas Co. Down, Ireland, to Thomas Mills and Jane Gill. There were several brothers and sisters born at Belfast, Ireland; Castletown, Isle of Man, and the brother Anthony said he was a native of Egremont, Co. Cumberland, England. (Civil Reg. IV Qtr 1839, Whitehaven)

These are William's words written on a request blank sent out by the AMERICAN PUBLISHER'S ASSOCIATION, 269 Dearborn St. Chicago, Ill. Dated 6 November 1894. "I came to America in 1855, and visited England twice since. Have edited several papers and one magazine, was a preacher and lecturer for years.

Was the first mayor of Gilroy, California; Justice of the Peace several terms in Utah; Merchandizing in Illinois, California and Utah; never conceited enough to publish a volume of my poems, of which I've written some hundreds, and translations from Greek and Latin Poets (my versification).

Some of my writing have appeared in the Manx Sun; Manx Liberal; Millenial Star, Liverpool; Family Herald, London; Salt Lake Tribune; Salt Lake Herald; Deseret News, Salt Lake; Godey's Lady's Book; Tullidges Magazine. From the "Weekley Budget" London I received two prizes for the best poems open to competitors in Great Britain and Ireland. My effusions have appeared in Manx and English newspapers since my fourteenth year.

Occupation: Attorney, Solicitor and Literatus. My hair is grey (was brown) my eyes are dark grey, Height 5 ft. 8 in. and weight 170 pounds".

W. G. Mills received some of his training at King William's College, Castletown I.O.M. He was a Custom House Officer, Ramsey; then Chief Clerk (p.2) for the Steam Packet Company at the time of his conversion to Mormonism.

He was baptized 18 July 1841 at Ramsey by John Mills (half brother). The 25 of December 1840 the Isle of Man branch was formally organized with John Barnes as presiding Elder and John Mills, a Teacher, as branch clerk. Two months later there were 70 members on the Isle of Man.

In July 1850 John Kelly was the President and William Gill Mills was secretary, and his brother-in-law Thomas B. Bourne was secretary June 1852. Between 1841 and 1853 William Gill Mills wrote many poems and songs which were published in the Millenial Star, "ARISE OH GLORIOUS ZION" in December 1849, and "WE'LL SING THE SONGS OF ZION" in June 1850; each has been continued to the present day in the L.D.S. Hymn books.

He served two missions. He was called to his first mission to the South Conference by Franklin D. Richards 22 November 1850 to labor under the Presidency of Elder George Halliday. He was in Devonport 1 January 1852 and president of the Lands End Conference in June 1852 with Samuel Frances as secretary. On the 11 December 1852, he was appointed as President of the Reading Conference 1 January 1853 from which he was released with permission to emigrate on the 2 December 1854.

Elder Mills and his wife, Louisa Avelina Sleater, left Liverpool 17 April 1855 on the ship "CHIMBORAZO", with 421 Saints, including 70 from the Channel Islands, under the direction of Edward Stevensen. They arrived at Philadelphia 21 May 1855; Mormon Grove for the 24 July Celebration, and Great Salt Lake City the 24 October 1855 in the Milo Andrus Co. (the Third Perpetual Emigration Company of the year). The passenger list said he was 32 and she was 23.

He was ordained a High Priest 30 January 1856 by David Pettigrew and G. B. Wallace. They were endowed and sealed in the Endowment House 25 April 1856. The second mission William G. Mills was called to serve a mission to England and was set apart by Pres. John Taylor the 22 September 1860. He was president of the Birmingham District, Comprising Birmingham conference, Co. Warwic, Stafford and Shropshire, during 1861, 1862, and part of 1863. The address was 86 Garbett St. Birmingham. His release came 16 May 1863 as follows: Notice: At a general conference of the priesthood of the Birmingham Conference at which were present several Elders from Zion, Elder William Gill Mills was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for adultery.

Millenial Star 16 May 1863.(P. 3) William Gill Mills and his wife Louisa Avelina left Liverpool on the ship Great Eastern the 15 May 1863. They spent some time in Carthage, Illinois with her parents Robert and Mary Marchant Sleater and family. According to dates on published poems they lived in Austin and Havilah Nevada 1865, 1866, and 1867; Gilroy California 1868 to 1871; Then they returned to Utah and were at Alta till the big fire and the rest of the time in Salt Lake City.

In 1893 he went to England to visit his loved ones who received him very kindly as attested by the letters received following his decease the 24 May 1895 at 88 "O" Street. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery on the 26 of May. Elwood I. Barker

March 31, 1977 Louisa Jane Stocks Black: Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 10, p.320[p.320] The family arrived in Utah October 24, 1855, and in 1856 they were sent to Sanpete County; then in 1861 they moved to Southern Utah and located on the banks of the Rio Virgin River in Washington County. At the age of fifteen years she returned to Salt Lake City to attend school, where she studied a number of years and ultimately graduated from the Deseret University.

She followed school teaching as a profession, and during this time was married to James F. Wilkin. Two children were born to them, David Henry and Mary Halley. Because of misunderstandings and the stress of the times, they separated and were divorced. Louise then moved to Millard County where she taught school from 1869 to 1885. During this time she met Bishop Joseph Black. Mr. Black records in his history:Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 10, p.320I first became acquainted with her in 1869.

She followed school teaching and removed to Millard County and engaged in school teaching in the year 1883. From our acquaintance, I had the impression that she would become my wife. Her mother read her Patriarchal blessing to me one day. It said that she would go through the house of the Lord with a man of her own choice. The Spirit whispered to me, "You are that man." She is small in stature, dark hair, blue eyes, light complexioned with a gentle disposition and a loving heart. She has been an affectionate and dutiful wife.

We were married in 1885, on the 13th day of February. We have had born to us six children. Sarah Eliza, Joseph Valentine, Louise Valeria, Wallace S., Roland M. and Flossie B. Written by W. G. Mills on the birth of Louisa, born on the plains, blessed on top of Independence Rock, Sept. 28, 1855, by Milo Andrus, W. G. Mills and Henry Stocks. Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 10, p.320:

Hail thou tiny emigrant Welcome heavenly visitant Sent to soothe thy parents care While to Zion they repair. Not where are mansions to the eye. Not where commerce hand employs Thousands to increase our joys. Not with tapestry around, Not with richest trappings bound Did thy mother give thee birth On thy visit here on earth. But upon the desert plain Traveling in a wagon train. Mid the mountain scenery wild Thou wast born a desert child. Thou hast shunned thy parent's isle To be born on Joseph's soil. On the everlasting mountains Near the Platte's meandering fountains. At the voice of Utah Lion Thy dear parents flee to Zion And to show the prophet's worth Zion's labors to bring forth. With thy father and thy mother Many a sister, many a brother Thou in glorious state have lived Till this priesthood earth received. Innocent and noble spirit Now a body to inherit. Born in subjected condition Free from Gentile's dark tradition Ere the angels led the road When thou left thine blest abode Parting blessings then were said By the Priesthood on thy head.We the "spirit" too possessing Greet thee with a holy blessing. And would fain reiterate What the holy ones did state May thou grow in strength and form Decked with beauty, grace and charm And thine intellectual power Prove thyself superior. May thy gift of mind and beauty Be consigned with Love and Duty.

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William Gill Mills's Timeline

December 18, 1822
Hardglass, Down, Ireland
October 18, 1859
Age 36
18 OCT 1859
January 4, 1876
Age 53
Granite, Salt Lake, Utah, USA