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Capt. Harvey Mills Papers, 1826-1936
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Capt. Harvey Mills Papers, 1826-1936

By Anastasia S. Weigle and Catherine Hopkins

Collection Overview

Title: Capt. Harvey Mills Papers, 1826-1936

Predominant Dates:1841-1894

Creator: Mills, Harvey, Captain (1817-1894)

Extent: 11.0 Boxes

Arrangement: The collection is organized into four series: Series I: Shipping Business, Series II: Vessel Papers, Series III: Family Papers, and Series IV: Unrelated documents.

Date Acquired: 10/27/2008

Languages: English [eng]


Shipping business, vessel related and personal papers of Capt. Harvey Mills including bills of sale, accounts books, log books, invoices, receipts, freight books, protests, charter parties, dividends and earnings and crew wages. There is also a book of various illustrations for sails and ship interiors. Personal papers are for James Mills, Capt. Harvey Mills, Mary Rhoda Adams Mills, Capt. Warren F. Mills, and Eda Copeland. Personal papers are account books, receipts, correspondence, diaries, and various legal documents pertaining to the estate of Harvey Mills, Mary Mills and William Adams. Unrelated materials found in this collection are a land deed from Martha Shibles to James A. Creighton and an account book belonging to Capt. Robert Gay, shipmaster of the Oswego (Ship).

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Capt. Harvey Mills papers contain both vessel related materials and personal papers. In some cases, the two merge. Not only did Capt. Harvey Mills command vessels, he had a vested interest in them making a decent living off the dividends. He also owned real estate and stocks in various companies.

Starting with Series I. Shipping Business, there are a few pieces of correspondence pertaining to shipping matters including a number of letters from A. F. Spear, a stevedore in San Francisco.  For account related papers, there are two account-type summaries for the construction of three-mast schooner Cassia Jameson dated 1874 and a total of six account books pertaining to various vessels that Capt. Harvey Mills either commanded or had a vested interest in.

Account book (1841-1856) lists the following vessels: Catharine (Bark); James Nesmith (Ship); Piercy (Brig); Boston (Brig; Jefferson (Brig; Samuel Watts (Ship); Detroit (Brig); John H. Counce (Schooner); Thomas & Edward (Brig); Elizabeth Watts (Brig); Juventa (Ship); Willow (Schooner); Elliot (Bark); Lucy & Ann (Bark); Franklin (Bark); Lucy Watts (Brig)

Account book (1842-1851) follows the Ellis (Brig), Jefferson (Brig), and Thomas & Edward (Brig). Capt. Harvey Mills, shipmaster.

Account book (1842-1858) follows the Ellis (Brig), Franklin King (Ship), James Nesmith (Ship), Jefferson (Brig), Samuel Watts (Ship) and the Thomas & Edward (Brig), Capt. Harvey Mills, shipmaster.

Account book, (1843-1896) follows the: Boston (Brig); H. S. Gregory (Ship); Lucy Watts (Brig); Catherine (Bark); Harvey Mills (Ship); Lucy Ann (Bark Detroit (Brig); Helen L. Martin (Schooner); Mary B. Smith (Ship); Elliot (Bark); James B. Jordan (Schooner); Mary Sprague (Schooner); Ellis (Brig); James Nesmith (Ship); Mary A. Killen (Schooner); Eliza McNeil (Ship); Jane Fish (Ship); Mattie E. Eaton (Schooner); Elizabeth Watts (Brig); Jennie Lockwood (Schooner);  Martha T. Thomas (Schooner); Ella Pressy (Ship); John H. Counce (Schooner); Piercy (Brig); Emily J. Watts (Schooner); John T. Berry (Ship); Thomas & Edward (Brig); Franklin (Bark); Joseph S. Spinney (Ship); Willow (Schooner); Juventa (Ship); Levy S. Andrews (Bark).

Account book (1859-1872) follows the Samuel Watts (Ship), Col. Adams (Ship), H. L. Richardson (Ship) and Montpelier (Ship), Capt. Harvey Mills, shipmaster.

Account book (1874-1892) follows the Harvey Mills (Ship) and Joseph S. Spinney (Ship), Capt. Harvey Mills, shipmaster.

One logbook follows the ships Samuel Watts, Colonel Adams and the H. L. Richardson. Capt. Harvey Mills writes the accounts of three voyages for each of these ships.

Ship Samuel Watts from Liverpool for Callao June 1856; Ship Colonel Adams from New Orleans to Havre Nov. 1860; Ship H. L. Richardson from Liverpool to New York 1866.

There is one journal (unlined pages) with drawings of sails and interior views of vessels, which appear to be for the ships James Nesmith and Colonel Adams.

Series II relates only to vessels that Capt. Harvey Mills and/or Warren Mills commanded. Vessel papers include ownership papers, earnings and dividends, insurance, invoices, receipts, articles of agreements, crew lists, desertion papers, charter parties, letters, bills of lading, account books, incident reports and protests.

Although the American and Foreign Ship Register lists Capt. Harvey Mills as master of the ship Eliza McNeil from 1871-1877, his son, Capt. Warren Mills took over the command of the Eliza McNeil sometime around 1872-73. Letters from Capt. Warren Mills to Capt. Harvey Mills kept him informed of shipping business matters for the Eliza McNeil. Capt. Warren Mills left the Eliza McNeil to take command of the ship Harvey Mills in 1877 and stayed with her until he retired in 1883. A note of interest are protests and incidents with the ship Harvey Mills including the Port Royal Fire in 1876, the weather damaged in 1878, a collision with bark Eta in May of 1882, wreck at Queenstown in December of 1882, weather damage in December of 1887 including an extended protest with mate T. G. Cushman’s account of the incident (Box 6, Folder 11).

In the James Nesmith vessel papers there is an atlas (Box 11). On the reverse side of page 36 is a handwritten account (in pencil) by crewman, Henry Whyte, regarding a voyage from Antwerp to Akyab (December 1862-May 1863). Henry Whyte writes that on April 26, 1863, he fell down the main hatch into the lower hold and broke his thigh. Capt. Edwin Watts was shipmaster at that time. The account was transcribed with pen on a sheet of paper. It would appear the same person who left the research notes with the collection before it came to the museum transcribed this account. It is unclear if the atlas belonged to the crewman, but you do find the name Henry Whyte written throughout the book along with various drawings and what we would call “doodling.”  A number of pages have been stamped with Belgique France Convention Auot 22 1852.

The atlas itself, as an object, is unique as it is a rare 1852 edition of Maison Basset’s Atlas Illustre. Although in very poor condition due to staining, it is still of interest as is evident in its description found online at http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/maisonbasset:

“Maison Basset (fl. 1830 - 1860) was a French publishing concern active through the mid to late 19th century. From their offices at 33 Rue de Seine, Paris, France, Maison Basset published the works of such prominent French cartographers and engravers as Barbie du Bocage, A. Vuillemin, J. B. Charle, V. Levasseur, Tu. Duvotenay, H. Dofour, and F. E. George. 

Series III are family related papers sorted in a patriarchal fashion starting with James Mills, father of Capt. Harvey Mills and grandfather of Capt. Warren F. Mills. These are some of oldest documents in the collection dating between 1834 and 1851. Included are church related and town business papers for St. George, personal receipts, and one letter. Some items of interest are an 1834 document of the “Constitution of the South Parish Singing Society,” two documents identifying James Mills as Clerk of District No. 4 regarding the town matters (one in particular proposing dividing the district in two).

The personal papers belonging to Capt. Harvey Mills are mostly letters from Capt. Warren F. Mills during the verge of his retirement from the seafaring life. Warren’s letters share personal insights and activities while living in San Francisco. A number of letters pertain to Warren’s stevedore business (Box 9, Folder 8 and 9), which turned out to not be so profitable and his purchase of stock in the gold mining business. The company name was Grey Eagle Mining Company and Warren Mills was secretary/treasurer (Box 9, Folder 11). This, too, did not end up as profitable as he had anticipated.

Letters from 1887 have references to the loss of the ship Harvey Mills and Captain Crawford. A letter dated Jan. 15, 1887 gives a description of what happened to the Harvey Mills, obtained from crew members aboard when she went down (Box 9, Folder 11).

In 1893, Warren tells his father of investing in the North American Navigation Company, shipping from San Francisco to Panama, although it does not seem that this has happened.

Also included in Capt. Harvey Mills personal papers are accounts and receipts, a diary, power of attorney for William Adams (father of Mary Rhoda Adams Mills) estate, property deeds, account books on rentals, shares and stocks in various companies, and estate papers for Harvey Mills.

The personal papers belonging to Mary Rhoda Adams Mills contain letters from a very young Warren F. Mills, when he was student as Eaton’s School for Boys in Kents Fall, Maine, a few personal pieces of correspondence from friends and family, papers regarding personal possessions, property deeds, papers regarding her estate and one ledger listing her personal property and estate.

There are also numerous bills for sale of vessels from Warren F. Mills to Mary R.  Mills: 1/64th Ella Pressey (Schooner); 3/256th Helen L. Martin (Three-mast schooner); 1/128th Martha T. Thomas (Three-mast schooner); 1/32nd Mary R. Smith (Schooner); 1/256th James B. Jordan (Three-mast schooner); 3/256th Jennie Lockwood (Three-mast schooner); 3/256th Levi S. Andrews (Bark); 7/256th Mary Sprague (Three-mast Schooner)

One item of interest is a small diary belonging to Mary’s younger brother, Lewis, who died at the age of 10 in September of 1858 from an unknown wound to his leg. The diary entries are written by Lewis and follow his initial treatment from a local doctor between May of 1858 until his death that same year in September. The last week’s entries were written by Mary.

The personal papers of Capt. Warren F. Mills includes one bill of sale from the Estate of Barnabas Fountain to Warren F. Mills for 1/16th for the schooner Algoma, estate papers, guardianship papers for his children Rhoda and Marjorie, Warren Mills patent for a device for loading ships dated 1890 and a few ephemeral items.

The personal papers of Eda Olive Mills, daughter of Harvey and Mary Mills, contains a letter from William H. Hatch, Collector of Customs in Thomaston certifying Eda O. Copland owning 1/64th of Joseph B. Thomas (Four-mast schooner), a bill of sale for 1/16th James B. Jordan (Three-mast schooner), one land deed and one power of attorney papers pertaining to property. Eda Olive Mills married Charles Copeland who handled the estates of Harvey and Mary Mills.

Series IV (Unrelated items) is difficult to determine how they fit into the collection. These include one Warranty Deed from Martha J. Shibles to James A. Creighton. Capt. James A. Creighton was born 1821 and was a master mariner and merchant. It is likely that Capt. Harvey Mills had shipping business dealing with Capt. Creighton, including the building of the ship Harvey Mills, but it is unclear what the relationship is with this particular document and the rest of Capt. Mills papers.  A list of names belonging of the Judson family was found in the collection which does not seem to fit anywhere, and a small packet of basil seeds which may have come from Mary or Eda Mills but that, too, seems unclear.

Papers related to the John Griffith windmill pump can be found in box 2, folder 9. This includes a handwritten document with a pencil illustration describing the function of the gear for the windmill pump, an advertisement offering repair work to a patent windmill pump and an 8 ½ x 11 print showing a bark with the Griffith’s Patent windmill.

Lastly, what appear to be an unrelated item is an account book belonging to Capt. Robert Gay  (b.1797-d.1897) of the Oswego (Ship). Date range for the account book is 1826 to 1867 with early entries indicating Robert Gay as master of the ship Oswego between 1826 and 1836. These entries can be found toward the back of the account book and are receipts for advance paid wages to the crewmen of the ship Oswego including mate and various cooks. To get a sense of the monthly business transactions for Robert Gay, I am listing some example of entries:

• 1836 Nov. 1,  a/c with John Lash. This a/c settled with the owners Robert Gay •  1836 Rigging and entry bills, a/c of settlement of owners brig Oswego [Capt. Harvey •  Mills may have had part ownership of the Oswego so there is a connection here] • 1838, May 15.  a/c of Nathaniel Knowls with Robert Gay by cash for water, by 3 months & 5 days wages on board Brig Oswego • 1840 – Aug. 25. a/c with brig Oswego to amount of disbursement paid by Capt. Grafton

It also seems Robert Gay handled the estate of others such as these entries. Other entries deal with the town of Cushing as well as short diary entries such as the entries listed below pertaining to a boarder:

• 1859 April 30. William Rice came from his store to my house to board & to have his leg    taken care of. • 1852 June 6. Was parallyzed [sic] & confined to his bed not able to stand. • 1860 June 24. William Rice came to board with me & sleep in the store. 14 weeks and 3    days • 1860 Oct. 4. Mr. Rice moved from the store up to the house to sleep was sick and lame. • 1860 Dec. 10. Mr. Rice fell down in the road took two men to get him home. • [1860 Dec.] 11. Completely helpless. • [1860 Dec.] 15. Remains the same took his room.

The entries in the account are not listed in chronological order.

Lastly, photographs found in the collection that have been removed and assigned to PC-294 Capt. Harvey Mills Photographs.  Research notes found in the collection were placed with the supporting documents. These include one notebook with notations taken from the Harvey Mills Papers, news clippings about the ship Harvey Mills, various transcriptions of articles about the ship Harvey Mills and a paper titled “A Vanishing Industry: The building of wooden ships,” and part of a letter (n.d.) from Capt. James E Creighton to “Dear Charles,” describing how the waterline was determine on a new (unlaunched) ship. Survey notes were placed with the supporting documents and they may prove to be useful to users as additional descriptive notes. Please note the survey list was created before the collection was organized.

Biographical Note

Capt. Harvey Mills was born August 1817 in St. George, Maine to parents James Mills and Mary Hathorn. Capt. Harvey Mills was married three times. He married his first wife, Olive Fountain, in 1841 when he was 24 and she, 30 (born 1821). Their union produced one son, Warren Fountain, born 1849. Sadly, Olive died in 1853 at the age of 32. Capt. Harvey Mills then married Sarah Frances Dizer on December 2, 1855 when he was 33 and Frances was 25 (born 1830). Unfortunately, there are no death records available for Sarah Frances Dizer. Capt. Harvey Mills married a third time to the very young Mary Rhoda Adams on April 3, 1860. She was 23 (b.1837) and Capt. Harvey Mills was 43. They had one daughter, Eda Olive, born in 1862.

Capt. Harvey Mills began his maritime career at the very young age of 12 and was master at the age of 25. He commanded numerous vessels including the ships Colonel Adams, Eliza McNeil, Henry L. Richardson, Harvey Mills, James Nesmith, Joseph S. Spinney and Samuel Watts.

Capt. Harvey Mills retired from sea at age 57 after an impressive 45 years as mariner. He passed the reins, so to speak, to his son, Harvey Fountain Mills in 1873 with the command of the ship Eliza McNeil.

In his retirement, Capt. Harvey Mills took up the hobby of building models of ships. He died in August 19, 1894 in Thomaston, Maine. He was 77 years old. His wife Mary died September of 1902.

Capt. Warren F. Mills, son of Harvey Mills and Olive Fountain, was born in Thomaston, Maine in 1849. He attended Eaton’s Boarding School for Boys at Kents Hill, Maine during the mid 1860s as a young teenager. He commanded the ship Eliza McNeil from 1872 to 1877 before taking command of the ship Harvey Mills. The ship Harvey Mills was built in 1876 by Harvey Mills and [James] Creighton ranking as the fourth largest in size among American merchant ships at that time. Capt. Warren Mills commanded the Harvey Mills until 1884 at which time he decided he had enough of the seafaring business. In a letter written September 5, 1884 (Box 9, Folder 8) he tells his father that he decided not to sail. Instead, he feels he will do better on shore and asks for a cash loan to start a stevedore business together with Capt. A. H. Herriman. In 1887, Capt. Herriman, J. F. Chapman and Harvey Mills invested in the Grey Eagle Mining Company hoping to make a profitable sum on gold. In the early 1893, Warren Mills considered the idea of purchasing the North American Navigation Company.

U.S. 1900 Federal Census records identifies Warren Mills’ wife as Sarah. However, in a letter to his father dated October 4, 1881, Capt. Warren Mills identifies his wife as Sadie.  Capt. Warren Mills married on October 14, 1880 while in command of the ship Eliza McNeil.  He and his wife had two daughters, Rhoda (b.1884) and Marjorie (b.1885). Capt. Warren Mills died in March 1926 in San Francisco.

Eda Olive, daughter of Capt. Harvey Mills and Mary Rhoda Adams Mills, married Charles Copeland October 27, 1886. Charles Copeland (b. 1858-d. 1945) is a well-known twentieth century American artist. He was active in the New England area and held memberships at both the Boston Society of Watercolor Painters and the Boston Art Club. Charles Copeland assisted Mary Rhoda Mills in handling Capt. Harvey Mills’ estate and later, managed the estate of Mary Mills. He died in 1945. Eda Olive Mills Copeland died in 1958 at the age of 96.

* U.S. Federal Census records

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on the use of these materials for study or research.

Use Restrictions: The material described herein is the physical property of the Maine Maritime Museum Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or the various items, or to their legal representatives, or to Maine Maritime Museum.  For further information, consult the library staff.

Physical Access Note: The majority of the papers are in fairly good condition with some having surface dirt, creases, folds, tears and other signs of distress common among papers of this age. The account books have fairly tight binds. Some of the pages in a few of the account books have been cut out to be used as personal receipts. A rare 1852 Maison Basset map book “Atlas Illustre” with marble boards and partially missing leather spine is heavily stained. This atlas was placed in an acid-free enclosure before being rehoused in an archival box (see scope and content for description of atlas).

Acquisition Source: Donated by Charles E. Burden on Oct. 27, 2008, acc. #2008.053.5.

Acquisition Method: Charles E. Burden purchased the collection of papers from the Ten Pound Island Book Company in Gloucester, MA. The Museum purchased the additional two cartons from the same firm the following year. It is unknown where or how the merchant acquired the collection, but he got both groups from the same source. The 2008 gift included a metal ship’s paper box, a leather coin purse, and a gold knob. Related material in the MMM collections include ship models made by Capt. Harvey ills. The most recently related papers in MS-425 pertain to Eda Olive (Mills) Copeland, so the paper may well have come from her descendants. The drawing book by Capt. Warren F. Mills of drawing plans was part of a larger collection of Maine Maritime related materials. It is unknown at this time where the book came from.

Preferred Citation: Capt. Harvey Mills Papers, MS-425, Research Library, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, ME

Processing Information:

The Capt. Harvey Mills papers were initially surveyed (inventoried) before being organized to get a scope of the collection content and range. Some account books have both shipping and personal business combined. Determining where to place such items was based on the strength of the subject. In other words, the predominant subject would determine placement in the organization. For example, if 75% of the information in an account book is shipping business or vessel related and 25% is personal business, the account book would end up in Shipping Business or Vessel Papers. This would be true for the opposite with personal business being the predominate subject. Users of the collection are encouraged to study Series I and III to form a complete picture of Capt. Harvey Mills and Capt. Warren Mills’ careers as master mariners.

The collection was grouped into four Series: I. Shipping Business; II. Vessel Papers; III. Family Papers; and IV. Unrelated materials. Series I contains numerous vessels that Capt. Harvey Mills either commanded or had a vested interest in. Account books contain entries for multiple vessels, which is why they are placed in Series I.

Series II (Vessel Papers) pertain only to those vessels which Capt. Harvey Mills and/or Capt. Warren Mills, his son, commanded. The vessels papers are organized alphabetically by vessel name and includes Colonel Adams (Ship), Eliza McNeil (Ship), Ellis (Brig), Henry L. Richardson (Ship), Harvey Mills (Ship), James Nesmith (Ship), Joseph S. Spinney (Ship), and Samuel Watts (Ship).

Series III (Family papers) were sorted into five subseries each representing a key family member. The subseries were then listed in patriarchal order:

A. James Mills (b.1783-abt.186[?]) --  Father of Capt. Harvey Mills B. Capt. Harvey Mills (b.1817-d.1894) -- Captain Harvey Mills C. Mary Rhoda Adams Mills (abt. 1837-d.1902) -- Wife of Capt. Harvey Mills D. Capt. Warren F. Mills (abt.1849-d.1926) -- Son of Harvey and Olive Mills E . Eda O. Copeland (b.1862-d.1958) -- Daughter of Harvey and Mary Mills

Series IV (Unrelated materials) are items that seem somewhat unclear as to how they are connected to Capt. Harvey Mills (see “Scope and Content” notes for item description).

Box and Folder Listing

Series I: Shipping Business, n.d., 1841-1892Add to your cart.
Letters pertaining to shipping matters, including A. F. Spear, a stevedore in San Francisco, CA.  Includes numerous papers for various vessels owned and/or managed by Capt. Harvey Mills.
Sub-Series A: Ownership papersAdd to your cart.
Dividends and earnings.
Sub-Series B: Vessel accounts.Add to your cart.
General correspondence, including letters from A. F. Spear, stevedore, San Francisco, CA.
Sub-Series C: Vessel accountsAdd to your cart.
Construction accounts for Cassia Jameson (Three-mast chooner), account books, and  investment accounts, vessel and non-vessel realted.
Sub-Series D: Log-bookAdd to your cart.
Log book for Samuel Watts (Ship), Colonel Adams (Ship) and H. L. Richardson (Ship).
Sub-Series E: Ship and Sail plansAdd to your cart.
James Nesmith (Ship) and Colonel Adams (Ship) and others.  Various illustrations of sails and ship interiors.
Sub-Series F: Other Maritime Related PapersAdd to your cart.
Freight book, slop accounts, measurements and lists of spares for sails, illustration and description on Windmill Patten and other miscellaneous papers.
Series II: Vessel PapersAdd to your cart.
Vessels that Capt. Harvey Mills and/or Warren commanded. Vessel papers include: ownership papers, earnings and dividends, insurance, invoices, receipts, articles of agreement, crew lists, desertion papers,  charter parties, letters, bills of lading, account books, incident reports and protests.
Sub-Series A: Colonel Adams (Ship), 1860-1868Add to your cart.
Sub-Series B: H. L. Richardson / Henry L. Richardson (Ship), 1865-1874Add to your cart.
Sub-Series C: Harvey Mills (Ship), 1857-1887Add to your cart.
Sub-Series D: Joseph S. Spinney (Ship), n.d., 1877-1892Add to your cart.
Sub-Series E: Montpellier (Ship), n.d., 1866-1885Add to your cart.
Sub-Series F: Samuel Watts (Ship), 1856-1870Add to your cart.
Series III: Family PapersAdd to your cart.
Family related papers for James Mills, father of  Capt. Harvey Mills, Capt. Harvey Mills, Mary Rhoda Adam Mills, Capt. Warren F. Mills, and Eda O. Copeland.  Papers include letters, personal assets, a diary, probate records, and miscellaneous personal ephemera.
Series IV: Unrelated papers.Add to your cart.
Unrelated papers belonging to Capt. Robert Gay, genealogy for the Judson Family, and a land deed.