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 William Gill Mills

William Gill Mills

Death 24 May 1895 (aged 72)
Burial Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Plot B_19_7
Memorial ID 158982 · View Source
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By Roger Sarel Porter, great grandson of Wm. 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 Hill, 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). 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. 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."

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." 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)

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. (See photo, on this site.)

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. Many of his poems and works are and will be published on his site at Photos of his artifacts and gravesite are also published here. 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.

More information is available on my website:

Bio by: Roger Sarel Porter

Family Members




  • Maintained by: Roger Sarel Porter
  • Originally Created by: Utah State Historical Society
  • Added: 2 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 158982
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Gill Mills (18 Dec 1822–24 May 1895), Find A Grave Memorial no. 158982, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by Roger Sarel Porter (contributor 47563209) .