Lewis S. Mills - The Man, The School

Lewis S. Mills - The Man, The School

Lewis Sprague Mills, Sr. was born the son of a frugal farmer, Deacon Archibald Mills, in Canton Center, Connecticut, on September 5, 1874. Due to an injury at age three, his left leg became impaired and he wore a heavy steel brace for the rest of his life. He attended a one-room school in Canton Center, and subsequently graduated from both Collinsville High School and the Willimantic Normal School. His first job was teaching at the one-room Quasset School in Woodstock, where he had 40 pupils, ages 3-18. Using his photography skills, he was later able to put himself through Columbia University in New York City, where he was awarded a bachelor‘s degree in education in 1908 and master‘s degree in school administration in 1912. Mr. Mills married May Edith Wilder from Canton on October 4, 1908. They had three children: Charles, Lewis Jr. , and Louise.

Lewis Mills served Rural Supervisor of Schools in Burlington From 1916-1928 and Rural Supervisor of Harwinton from 1927 until he retired in 1939. He was also a Justice of the Peace from 1914-1928 in Plainville and was a director of the Plainville Chamber of Commerce. From 1933-1935 he served as State Education Chairman of the George Washington Bicentennial Committee for which he received the George Washington Bicentennial Medal.

Mr. Mills exerted tremendous influence on school programs. In 1919, he asked the townspeople for free textbooks for the students, and urged that students be required to complete the 7th grade or reach the age of 16 before leaving school. He was opposed to having students drop out of school. In 1921, he asked for students to be examined by a school nurse. He also introduced art and music into the school programs. Dorothy Mills, his daughter in-law, said, "He loved children, especially younger ones, and they loved him. In the schools that he visited regularly, he always seemed to know them by name. He was soft spoken, and a gentleman who seemed to command respect. He was also a disciplinarian, but fair to all. He had a keen sense of humor, a dry wit and enjoyed a chuckle especially if he could outsmart a politician. "

Mr. Mills was an avid photographer throughout his life. He was especially known for capturing Connecticut rural scenes, railroad pictures, one-room school houses, and also pictures of historical interest. His files contain more than 16,000 negatives accumulated over some 60 years. The Mills Collection of one-room school houses contains over 500 pictures and is displayed in the Connecticut State Library in Hartford. It is nationally famous. Mr. Mills was also a lay preacher in country churches which were without a pastor in such towns as Burlington, Canton, and Barkhamsted. Following his retirement at age 65 from public services, he became an editor and publisher of a magazine called "The Lure of the Litchfield Hills. " He also authored many books, including, "The Story of Connecticut. "

On November 1, 1960, the District No. 10 School Board announced an intensive search to find a name for the new high school that was under construction. Several names had been considered involving syllable combinations such as "Burlwin", "Har-Bur", "Burwin", "Burlin", "Harburton" and "Barburl". All the students in grades seven through twelve were asked to submit name suggestions as well as their preference for school colors. Finally, on November 23, 1960, Lewis S. Mills Regional High School was selected as the name of the new school. A few weeks later on a Sunday afternoon, about 600 people attended the dedication ceremonies at the new school. Mr. Mills, although confined to a wheelchair, expressed his "great delight to be present. " He also said, "I feel that this honor which has been bestowed on me by the towns of Harwinton and Burlington should be shared with the thousands of people including pupils and parents, who have worked with me through the years. " Mr. Mills also commended the committee which provided incentive to students through the establishment of the Lewis S. Mills Scholarship Fund.

After leading a full and dedicated life in education and editorial works, Mr. Mills passed away at age 90, on March 7, 1965.