Seth Phineas Mills
Texas State Senator Early Cattleman of Waco Civil War Veteran
Seth Mills was born February 11, 1841 in King’s Point, Missouri and graduated from college near there in Newtonia before enlisting in the Confederate Army. He fought in numerous battles and impressed his superiors enough that they promoted him based on gallantry in action. This was increasingly impressive for a man who was only nineteen years old at the start of the War. As a lieutenant, he continued to inspire the soldiers above and below him until the War came to a close in 1865. Mills’ unit was dissolved in Corsicana, Texas. This was far from home for Mills and he found himself in a strange new land needing a new cause.
By 1870, Mills had begun to build a respected reputation in central Texas as a rancher living in the new town of Speegleville, just west of Waco. He farmed and raised cattle until they were big enough to sell and then he’d take them up to Kansas City to sell them. When he was just getting started, he couldn’t afford a wagon so walked the whole way there and back until he built up some money. It was on his way back from one of these walks that Mills paused for a photograph. He couldn’t have known how iconic that photo would become. In it, he stands in front of the Suspension Bridge with small shops and wagons lining the dirt road on either side of him. His hands are in his pockets and according to the story told by his granddaughter many years later, each hand was likely touching a Colt revolver. You never knew who or what you’d meet on the trail to Kansas City and back.
Those long walks paid off and Mills built himself quite a fortune. His newfound wealth afforded him the time to focus on other things so he turned to politics where he quickly rose from the city to the county levels. Then, Mills was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1879 and re-elected several times until he was finally elected to the State Senate in 1902. He served on dozens of committees while a member of the State Legislature.
In 1916, thirty seven years after his first election to the Legislature, Mills was running for the Waco office of city finance commissioner. At a Katy railway station in Bellmead where he was meeting laborers and asking for their votes, he attempted to cross the track to avoid an oncoming train but failed. He died three hours later. The city went into mourning and people from all over the State came forth to recognize his impact on Texas society. In remembering him, his peers agreed on three attributes: integrity, work ethic, and kindness.