Joseph Mills, Jr., Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

1790: In an article in the September 1983 issue of the newsletter of the Association of Ohio Longrifle Collectors (AOLRC), James B. Whisker wrote that the gunsmith Joseph Mills, Jr. was a son of Joseph Mills, Sr., was a brother of the gunsmith Issac Mills, and was born in Providence Township, Bedford County in 1790. In the same newsletter article, Mr. Whisker (mistakenly in my opinion) reports that Joseph Mills, Sr's wife Catherine was the mother of Joseph Mills, Jr.

I have not seen any evidence that Joseph Mills, Sr. was living in Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1790. No such individual appears in Bedford County in the records of the first census (1790) of the United States, and the property Joseph Mills, Sr. applied for in 1792 explicitly contained no improvements.

1790: James B. Whisker's 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that the parents of the gunsmith Joseph Mills, Jr. were Joseph Mills, Sr. and Margaret (Harkleroad) Mills of Providence Township in Bedford County, and indicates that Joseph Mills, Jr. was born on July 11, 1790.

1808: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1808 tax list of Woodbury Township as a single freeman.

1814: Joseph Mills appears in the 1814 tax list of Colerain Township, Bedford County as a gunsmith.

1814: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills obtained a patent for 100 acres of land in Southampton Township, Bedford County in 1814, and was still a single freeman.

1815: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1815 tax list of Colerain Township as a gunsmith owning two horses.

The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" identifies Joseph Mills as a resident of Colerain Township in Bedford County.

1817: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1817 tax list of Colerain Township as a gunsmith owning a horse and a cow.

1819: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1819 tax list of Colerain Township with a house.

1820: Joseph Mills was enumerated in Colerain Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania in the 1820 Federal Census. In his household were two males and one female less than 10 years old, 2 males and one female in the 16-25 age group, one male in the 26-44 age group, and three of the individuals were engaged in manufacturing.

1821: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Joseph Mills is identified as a gunsmith on the 1821 tax roll of Colerain Township, Bedford County and made quality guns, some with silver inlays and relief carving. In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1821 tax list of Colerain Township as a gunsmith with property valued at $28.00.

1821: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that In 1821, Joseph Mills was remunerated for five miles of travel by the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which means that he did not live very far from the town of Bedford.

1822: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1822 tax list of Colerain Township as a gunsmith with a house, and was remunerated for six miles of travel by the Court of Quarter Sessions.

1822: The obituary of Mrs. Sarah Cochran was published in the December 1, 1913 issue of the "Decatur Daily Democrat" and includes the statement, "Mrs. Cochran was born in Bedford County, Pa., February 2, 1822, and was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Mills, being one of a family of twelve boys and girls. Her early childhood was passed at her birthplace, where she also secured her education." If the obituary is accurate concerning her birthplace, it suggests that Joseph Mills was still in Bedford County in 1822. The statement about Sarah securing her education in Bedford County is in some tension with the obituary of Joseph Mills, which says he moved to Ohio in 1823.

1823: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills appears in the 1823 tax list of Colerain Township as a gunsmith with property valued at $100.00.

1823: The obituary of Joseph Mills (included below) states that he "came to Coshocton County with his wife and family in 1823".

1823: The following item is from the book "Historical collections of Coshocton County, Ohio:"

1824: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that in the 1824 tax list Joseph Mills' name is crossed out.

1826: The following excerpt from the 1881 book "History of Knox County, Ohio" identifies a daughter of Joseph Mills who was born in 1826.

1830: Joseph Mills was not enumerated in Colerain Township in the 1830 census. Joseph Mills was enumerated as a 43-year-old individual in Perry Township, Coshocton County, Ohio in the 1830 Federal Census. The age is incorrect, and may be a transcription error.

1830: The following excerpt is from the New Castle Township section of the 1881 book "History of Coshocton County, Ohio..." This may be a different Joseph Mills.

1840: Joseph Mills was enumerated in Perry Township, Coshocton County, Ohio in the 1840 Federal Census.

1844: The following excerpt from the 1881 book "History of Coshocton County, Ohio: its past and present, 1740-1881" indicates that Joseph Mills had a wife named Mary Exline, a son named Samuel, and a grandson named Joseph who was born in 1844:

1850: Joseph Mills was enumerated as a 59-year-old Pennsylvania farmer in Perry Township, Coshocton County, Ohio in the 1850 Federal Census. Also living in his household were his 53-year-old Pennsylvania-born wife Mary and six children including 30-year-old Ohio-born Joseph W. Mills.

1850: The following excerpt from the 1850 map of Coshocton County identifies the location of Joseph Mills' Perry Township farm, near the village of East Union. The center of this property is approximately 40.297772, -82.153089.

1859: According to the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties", Joseph Mills is identified as a gunsmith in an 1859 Gazetteer. The Gazetteer lists his location as East Union, in Coshocton County, Ohio.

1859: A box lock half stock rifle with 21 silver inlays that was auctioned for $12,100.00 on November 8, 1999 has a brass inlay on the top flat of the barrel that states, "Joseph Mills, Age 70 years, total number of rifled guns made by me, 350, July the 4th, 1859".

1860: In the 1860 federal census of Perry Township, Joseph Mills is enumerated as a 71-year-old Pennsylvania-born gunsmith. Also in his household were 55-year-old Pennsylvania-born Mary and 16-year-old Ohio-born Lavina.

1860: In the September 1983 issue of the newsletter of the Association of Ohio Longrifle Collectors, James Whisker describes an 1860 map of Perry Township, Coshocton County that shows a place known as East Union, and shows the farms of Joseph Mills and his nephew A. J. (Andrew Jackson) Mills adjoining one another. The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that Joseph Mills, Jr. became the guardian of his Bedford County nephew Andrew Jackson Mills after Andrew's father died, resulting in Andrew moving to Ohio and making guns in some capacity.

1866: The following excerpt is from the Perry Township section of the 1881 book "History of Coshocton County, Ohio..."

1866: The following item is from the book "The Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives, the First Session of the Fortieth Congress, 1867". It places Joseph Mills in Perry Township, Coshocton County, Ohio in 1866.

1876: In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills died on September 8, 1876, and the cause of death was "inflammation of the stomach".

1876: Joseph Mills is buried in the New Guilford Cemetery (40.2896996, -82.1699982) in Coshocton County, Ohio. His tombstone states that he died on September 8, 1876 at age 86.

1876: The obituary of Joseph Mills appears in the September 26, 1876 issue of the "Coshocton Democrat" newspaper, and states: "Died, September, 8, 1876, Joseph Mills of Perry township, Coshocton County, Ohio in the 87th year of his age. Father Mills was born on the 11th day of July, A.D. 1790 and came to Coshocton County with his wife and family in 1823, and settled in Perry township where he has lived for fifty-three years. He was a blacksmith by trade, at which he worked most of his time, although at one time owning a large body of land and farming extensively until he divided his land among his children, giving to each of his twelve children which he raised, 80 acres. All of his children are with him except one. Father Mills was strictly honest in all his dealings, always wanting that which justly belonged to him, and paying the last cent to those he had dealings with. His nature and disposition was plain, and was always cheerful and fond of company; free and sociable about his home, and he taught his children to be strictly honest and religious. He had been a faithful member of the Church for about forty-five years, and during the last ten years of his life a member of the Christian Union Church -- Although past his three-score years and ten, his seat was seldom vacant in the house of God; he stopped not for cold or rain; when the hour of service drew near you could see father Mills cane in hand, making his way to the church, and when at church he was always ready to bear testimony in behalf of Jesus. He left a companion and a large circle of friends and relatives to mourn their loss, who will miss him from the family circle. His seat is left vacant, but they need not mourn as those that have no hope. His funeral was preached on Sabbath the 10th by Rev. James Reed, from Revelations 3:75; He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment: and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but will confess his name before my Father, and before his Angels -- to a large attentive congregation of neighbors, friends an relatives of the deceased, who all feel the loss of a dear father and brother in the church -- one that has fought the good fight of faith -- who in the last hours of his life feared not death, and testified to those who stood by his side that he was ready and willing to go. His last hours were peace and full of triumph. Jesus had taken away the fear of death and given him the victory; died in peace without a struggle and as calm and peaceful as if he were going to sleep. Blessed are they that die in the Lord. Oh that our end may be as his."

The obituary statement that Joseph Mills "came to Coshocton County with his wife and family in 1823" is harmonious with Joseph Mills disappearing from the Colerain County tax rolls after 1823.

The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" states that the Court House for Coshocton County has the inventory of the Joseph Mills estate, and other (presumably estate) records.

In the September 1983 AOLRC newsletter, James Whisker wrote that Joseph Mills' gunsmithing tools were purchased at auction (presumably an estate auction) by his son, A. J. Mills.

Circa 1882: Joseph's wife Mary is also buried in the New Guilford Cemetery (40.2896996, -82.1699982) in Coshocton County, Ohio. To the best I can make out, her side of the tombstone states, Mary wife of Joseph Mills died Feb. 11, 1882 aged 85 y. 9 m." The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that Mary's maiden name was Exline.

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