Bio- Pen Pictures

L. R. MILLS, capitalist. Among the capitalists of San Jose must not be omitted the subject of this sketch, one of the earliest pioneers of California, for many years actively identified with her mercantile interests, and a resident of San Jose since 1872. Born in Delaware County, New York, May 4, 1823, he received a grammar-school education, removing, at the termination of his school days, to New York City, where he engaged in the drug business. In this he continued until 1849, when, attracted by the wondrous tales of fortunes so readily gathered among the foot-hills of the Sierras, he, with a party of young men, formed a company, purchased the schooner Olivia, fifty-seven tons register, making with her the voyage by way of the Straits of Magellan to San Francisco. Their vessel, which was the second smallest ever arriving in San Francisco from such a trip, was laden with an assorted cargo such as they deemed would be best adapted to the needs of the new country. They arrived in San Francisco on July 3, 1849, spending a glorious Fourth under the shadows of the sand hills of Yerba Buena.

Selling out their schooner and cargo, Mr. Mills at once entered the wholesale grocery business, merging that into the wholesale liquor trade in 1852. In 1852, during one of the largest fires of those days, he was burned out, causing a loss of over $40,000. In 1849 he erected a large two-story building on Clark's Point, the lumber costing him $350 per thousand feet. This was the first building erected in San Francisco which had sash doors. In this business he continued, operating heavily and being one of the largest importers, until failing health required him to close up business in 1872, when he removed to San Jose, where he has since resided. Mr. Mills and partners in 1856 occupied, on Sacramento Street, San Francisco, two stores, each thirty feet by one hundred feet, having a basement and two stories above. The basement and two floors above were filled with goods to their utmost capacity.

In that year, when murder and crime seemed to have no restraint at the hands of the law, an outraged community arose and purged itself of its most aggressively vicious elements. The Vigilance Committee took possession of the upper floor of the building occupied by Mr. Mills and his associates in business, and virtually placed not only that building but the whole street fronting that block in a state of siege. The committee took possession of the keys of the stores, instituting search at regular intervals to see that no one secreted himself or any material by which the Vigilantes could have been blown up in their "fort" on the floor above. Neither Mr. Mills, his associate, nor employees were allowed ingress or egress without the proper countersign. This was called Fort Gunny. Gunny sacks filled with sand were piled up around the sides of the building, the street was barricaded, neither teams nor pedestrians being allowed to pass without authority. All this time Mr. Mills and his associates were more or less favorable to the intentions of the committee, but their business was brought to a stand-still. This continued for more than six months, resulting in a loss to the firm of fully $50,000, for which the firm was promised redress, but never received a dollar! They did not realize it at the time, but they could have made the city of San Francisco pay for these losses.

Mr. Mills was the former owner of the ranch on which are situated the present Azule Seltzer Springs. These were originally developed by him under the name of Mills Pacific Seltzer Springs, which were later sold to Mr. John W. Ryland. He is a stockholder in, and Director of, the First National Bank of San Jose. In the early days of San Francisco Mr. Mills was for about four years member of the State Militia in a company of Light Dragoons. He is an original and always a consistent Republican, having been a Whig before the organization of the latter party. His parents were natives of New York State, passing their lives in Delaware County.

SOURCE:  Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H.S.
Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.-   page 258-transcribed by Carol Lackey


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight