YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS, Archibald L. Mills, Farmer, Civil War Veteran
by David K. Leff
Town Poet Laureate and Deputy Town Historian
The eldest of three children, Archibald L. Mills (1839-1921) attended the one-room schoolhouse in Canton Center, and Collinsville High School. In his youth, he witnessed the first steam engine to come to Collinsville, and was known to ramble local hills and streams as an avid hunter and fisherman.
In spring 1860, Mills took a train to Council Bluffs, Iowa and then went on foot 850 miles to Denver, Colorado. He then headed into the mountains to Central City and the “Gregory Diggings,” the state’s first goldfield. He arrived at the end of April in warm weather. The trip from Council Bluffs was made in the company of miners with five heavily loaded canvas wagons drawn by mules. Part of the trip followed a trail along the Platte River. Along the way he saw Native Americans.
Mills returned to Canton in November 1861, and on August 18, 1862 he enlisted in the 22 ndregiment of Connecticut volunteers. There were several other Canton men in his unit, and among other tasks they served picket duty along a river in northern Virginia while confederates were camped on the other side. In a letter, he writes that he keeps a sharp eye out for puffs of smoke. When he sees one, he has enough time to get down and hear the bullet whiz overhead.
After discharge from the military, Mills returned home and for four years made kegs for the Hazard Powder Company of Enfield. He bought a farm in Canton Center in 1867, and married Mary S. Loomis of Coventry, Connecticut in 1872. The couple had four children. Their eldest, Lewis S., would grow up to be a well-known historian, photographer, and author.
A member of the Canton Center Congregational Church since 1858, Mills was a deacon for over a quarter of a century and taught Sunday School for many years. In 1870, he was made a life member of the American Sunday School Union.
He spent more than half a century working long hours on his farm, clearing rocks and bushes, enlarging his barn, and rebuilding the house. His principal crops were hay, fruit and tobacco.
He was the last of Canton Center’s Civil War soldiers to die. The funeral was held at his home at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on February 8. Reverend E. L. Richards of the church officiated, and a quartet of Mrs. S. D. Richardson, Maida Brown, Sterling Bristol, and A.W. Bristol sang “Jesus Lover of my Soul” and “Father, Whate’er of Earthly Bliss.”
“He has been a substantial and loyal citizen and neighbor,” wrote the Farmington Valley Herald on February 10, 1921, “always to be depended on to the last to carry out his agreements with all.”
Archibald L. Mills is buried in Canton Center Cemetery, Canton Center.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today.
A special thank you to Selectman Warren Humphrey who generously shared information on Mr. Mills, his ancestor.