The streams of emigration, pouring from Pennsylvania and Virginia in the pioneer period usually united in Ohio, the first of the western states to be reached. Marriages often resulted between the descendants of the northern and southern branches and the infusion of blood often produced fine types for future citizenship. We find this working out well in the Mills family which, on the father's side, came from the state of Pennsylvania, and on the mother's side boasted of origin in the Old Dominion state. It was far back in the nineteenth century that Thomas Mills, with his wife, Hannah, crossed the Alleghanies from one of the counties of Pennsylvania. To the same locality in Ohio where he settled came Hugh and Mary Downing from the western part of Virginia. Jonathan Mills, a son of the first mentioned couple, eventually found a wife in the person of Sarah Downing, both the contracting parties being natives of Ohio. The former, who was a farmer, passed away in the early seventies, but his wife survived until 1894, being eighty-two years old at the time of her death. This couple became the parents of twelve children, the six still living being as follows: Hugh, a resident of Clay City township; Thomas, a resident of Oklahoma; Israel, the subject of this sketch; James D., of Carroll county, Ohio; Josephine Fry, of Tuscarawas county, Ohio; and William, of Tobacco Plains, Washington.
Israel Mills, who was the sixth in this large family, was born in Tuscarawas county, Ohio, April 18, 1843. He assisted his father on the farm until June 1862, when he enlisted in Company K, Eighty-seventh Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and served until taken prisoner at Harper's Ferry in September of that year. Being speedily paroled and discharged on October 3rd, he took a rest until June 29, 1863, when he re-enlisted in Company B, One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with which he served until the expiration of his term, March 5, 1864. For the third time, he took up his musket as a private in Company H, One Hundred and Seventy-Eighth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with which he served until the close of the war and was honorably discharged June 29, 1865. In October of that year, he came to Clay City, where he has since resided for forty-three consecutive years. He settled at first one mile south of town and engaged in farming, paying particular attention to the breeding of stock, in which line he acquired a high reputation. With the exception of seven years spent in merchandising, Mr. Mills has devoted practically all his time to breeding, handling and dealing in stock, with a preference for the fine grades in all varieties. Though he has other and varied interests, his heart has been set upon and his attention always turned to the noble animals that have brought wealth and fame to Illinois. He is an extensive land owner, his possessions in this line lying in Clay City and Standford townships. At present he owns five hundred and seventy-five acres, though at one time he was proprietor of twice that amount. He is a thorough going, practical and scientific farmer, well informed in everything relating to advanced agriculture, and an enthusiast in all movements to educate and improve conditions in the farming industry. Appreciation of his qualifications was shown by Governors Tanner, Yates and Deneen, when they appointed him delegate during six years to the Farmers’ National Congress. He has held the position of director from his Congressional district for the State Farmers’ Institute. He is an able and forceful speaker in the debates at county, state and national farmers institutes. It may be said in short, that there is not a man in Clay county whose business judgment is more highly valued than that of Israel Mills. A man of the loftiest integrity and most benevolent impulses, he has been an honor and a treasure to his adopted county.
Mr. Mills is president of the Clay City Banking Company, and for twenty years has held the same position with the Clay City Loan and Homestead Association. He is also president of the Opera House Company and president of the Clay County Farmers’ Institute. He has been frequently honored with positions of trust in his township, serving as a member of the board of supervisors, school trustees and as collector. He has never desired office and never had a lawsuit during all the years of his active business life. He is a director of the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank at Louisville, Illinois. As president of the Clay City bank, he insisted during the panic of 1907, that all depositors should be paid on presentation of their checks. He is a Mason, and Eastern Star and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.
September 10, 1867, Mr. Mills married Elizabeth L., daughter of Thomas and Diniah E. (Whitman) Bogwell, very early settlers of Clay county. The children from this union were: Edna M., born July 2, 1870, died April 2, 1905. Edna married Jabez Edwin Coggan, April 29, 1891. One son survives her, Kenneth M., born June 23, 1896; James B., born October 22, 1881, married to Annettie Crackles December 28, 1904. One child, a daughter, Ethel, was born to them December 5, 1906. Mrs. Mills is a member of the Christian church and the entire family enjoy the highest social consideration and popularity.
Extracted 27 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay & Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 314-316.