The Works Progress Administration

Biography of the Mills Brothers of El Monte California

California is rich in the possession of men of ability and enterprise who have given their best efforts toward the material growth and progress of the state.   Among these prominent mention may be made of two native sons, the Mills brothers, Francis E. and Edward T., who in 1875, located in the vicinity of El Monte, and actively engaged in farming and later developed a fine walnut grove.  Their father, E.T. Mills, was born in Buffalo, New York, of the same state and the descendant of English ancestry.  E.T. Mills engaged as an assistant in his father’s business, which was that of a miller, until he was seventeen years old, when he came to California; he outfitted with ox teams and in company with a large train set out across the plains for the Mecca of the fortune hunters dreams.  They had many exciting and fearful experiences during the journey, running out of provisions, which forced them to eat mule meat in preference to starvation.  They finally abandoned their wagons and made the remainder of the journey as best they could, arriving in Hangtown after several weary, trying months, where Mr. Mills found employment in the mines.  After several years in this occupation he came to Southern California, and in San Bernardino County engaged in lumbering.  Following his marriage there he removed to Los Angeles county and became a pioneer settler of El Monte, where he followed faring and stock raising, and also conducted a freighting business between Los Angeles and San Bernardino before the railroads.  He was a staunch Republican, and ardent advocate of all upbuilding enterprises, and foremost in whatever looked toward the betterment of the community.  His death occurred in 1887, while his wife, formerly Mary Margaret Cleminson, a native of Missouri and sister of James Cleminson, whose history appears elsewhere in this volume, passed away in 1879.  They were the parents of three children, Francis Eugene, Edward Theron, and Imogene, Mrs. Thomson of Azusa. Francis Eugene Mills was born on the Cleminson place in El Monte, February 5, 1860, while Edward Theron Mills was born on the present site of the high school building of this town, July 10, 1862.  They were classmates in the public schools of El Monte, studying together, playing together and as early as 1875, began working land together.  They leased land in the vicinity of El Monte and engaged in general farming and the raising of grain, which occupation proved successful and gave them means, with which, in 1884, they began the improvement of ten acres of land.  Slowly adding to this property with their accumulated means, they acquired forty acres, finely improved and capable of the highest cultivation, all devoted to apples and walnuts, later specializing in walnuts alone.  The property became one of the fine groves of this section.  They were successful in their efforts, accumulated a competence, and at the same time established themselves a place among the progressive and enterprising men of this section.  Francis E. Mills was married in 1881, to Miss Gertrude Hall, a native of Vermont.  She was reared in Kansas and came to this state with her parents in 1880, her marriage occurring in Compton.  They had five children:  namely, Ellsworth, who married Edith Harral, a native of England; Francis, who died in infancy; Gertrude, (Mrs. Ray McMichael); Mary Imogene (Mrs. Clyde McMichael) and Ruth Gladys (Mrs. Benjamin Harral), all of El Monte.  Both brothers were members of the Mountain View Walnut Growers’ Association, in which Francis E., for a time served as treasurer, and later, for several years as president.  Both were Republicans.  Edward T. Mills, who remained a bachelor, died December 18, 1909, while his brother Francis lived until June 29, 1929.  Mrs. Francis T. Mills lives near her daughters, on the home ranch, southeast of El Monte.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

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