Bob Mills’s quest to learn more about his family lineage

As I was going through some papers  yesterday, I came across letters between my grandfather, Bob Mills and his uncle Theodore “Tom” Packard in 1970. Unfortunately, the letters I have are incomplete so I cannot tell the full story, but I’ll do the best I can.

On September 6th, 1970, Tom Packard, living on Summit Street in Plainfield, MA wrote Bob  Mills with familiarity, glad that Bob had written him as he had misplaced Bob’s letter. He said he remembered Bob’s father, Robert “Bert” Byron Mills II, whom had come to visit Tom’s father, Cyrus W. Packard at the farm. He even recalled that Bert and another one of his friends drove the first “Interstate” car he had ever seen and remembered that Bert had “lost some fingers  in an ensilage cutter.” Tom even mentioned Bert’s foster father, Robert “Uncle Rob” Byron Mills I, whom was in Heath with Charles Packard before he died, even coming to Plainfield to stay with Tom and his family. It was here that Bob would get a photo of Charles, Bob, Hattie, and others together, along with photos of John and Margaret Bibby, although the latter two were not within future family history Bob would write, The Packard-Mills Family History.

Likely the photo of John, Charles, and RBM II that Bob referred to.

Colorized photo of Margaret Bibby, the wife of John Mills, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

Photograph of John Mills, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

Photograph of RBM I and Stanley, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

There are varied other pictures of RBM and Hattie, so I’m not sure exactly to which ones Tom is referring to, but he clearly was more than willing to share information.

As his letter goes on, he says that his father, Cyrus, married three times, first to Nellie Mason who “died in childbirth in 1789 [sic, should be 1889] of german measles,” noting that with Dora Mills he had various children, which included: John Henry (born Oct 15, 1882, died Oct 28, 1950), Margaret Alice (born Jan. 27, 1884) whom was still living by Sept 1970 and had married Kenneth Brown of Melrose, Massachusetts on September 2, 1913, having 1 daughter and 2 sons, with Kenneth  dying on April 7, 1947, and Joseph Winfield (born June 17, 1885) whom was said to be “killed on railroad in Nebraska Mar. 9 1910” and was buried in Sioux City, Nebraska (a place that does not exist!). Other children of Dora and  Cyrus were, he recounted, Charles Edward (born May 6, 1887 and died on Nov 4, 1960) whom married Bertha Churchill in 1919 and lived at a farm in Heath, where he and her were buried, and Marian Estelle (born Feb. 13, 1889, died June 13, 1965) whom married Edward Dean on March 23, 1908 with both living in Bridgeport, Connecticut until his death in 1954, after which she married John Nocker and was buried in West Hill cemetery. He goes onto name a number of other children of Dora and Cyrus: Robert Byron (born Jan. 9, 1891) whom was “adopted by Uncle Robert Mills” and married Miriam Hirst on June 5, 1921, correctly noting he had Bob as his son but incorrectly said Stanley was his son (he was actually the son of Rob and Hattie), and Mable Hattie (born July 19, 1892) who married Giles Whitley (whom died in 1920) and had 2 sons and 2 daughters, later marrying Joseph Landstrom (whom died in May 1962)  with whom she had five daughters, dying on December 1, 1961. He also notes that Charles married a second time after Bertha’s death to Pearl Gleason in Heath, a woman whom died on  Feb 1, 1956, and they had one  son named Douglas E. whom lived in Shelburne Falls and they  had 2 daughters, one of whom was married. For Margaret, he noted that she, at the time of the letter’s writing, living with her son at 2113 Pepper Street in Burbank, California. Apart from noting that  Mable Hattie, John, and Marian are buried in West Hill Cemetery, he notes there  is a “stone for Joseph who was buried in Nebraska.”

In the last part of his letter, he  talks about the  five children Cyrus, his father, had with Clementina Cheney. These are: Olive Martha (Oct. 23, 1896-Jan. 20, 1969), Herbert Miles (Oct 6, 1898-Aug. 30,  1966), Rachel May (Apr 13, 1900-Sept.22,1933), himself on May 2, 1902, and Harold Cyrus (Aug 24, 1907).  The letter  ends with him noting that his father died  on April 2, 1924, his brother on June 27, 1923, saying he would be willing to provide  further information, giving a quick sketch of the line of descent which can be visualized as: Cyrus-William Henry-Barnabas  III-Barnabas II-Barnabas I-John-Zaccheus-Samuel, then saying that the Packards are “supposed to be from the Norman Family in France of Picard” and came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. After hoping Bob would visit and write in the meantime, he ends,after his signature, by saying “I can supply adresses [sic] of other branches of the  Packard Family if you wish.”

On September 17th, Bob wrote back Tom with delight, saying that “both I and everyone in the family were delighted to re-establish contact with the Packards,” with information Tom  provided  used  to construct a chart of family history and fills in a lot of gaps,  although he hoped any errors could be corrected.

This is the family chart Bob created

Bob’s biggest question was the early life of his father, Robert “Bert” Mills (originally Packard) with his birth father, Cyrus, and mother, Dora, saying he only had vague recollections. He said that his father was apparently named after Dora’s sister, Robert, and says he has “a picture of Dora and Cyrus Winfield Packard, as well as two pictures of the farm at Plainfield and these are in a family album.” I don’t think pictures of that farm in Plainfield and am not sure if the photos of Dora and Cyrus he references have fully survived to the present. After this he highlights how his father died on April 11, 1956 in his sleep as a victim of a stroke, had been a Fire Chief of Cheviot for almost 30 years (1926-1956?), with his mother as Miriam Esther Hirst (born on June 4, 1899), further noting that the “Hirst family were early settlers in the U.S. from England, and this family goes way back in English history.” He even says that his aunt, Marjorie Hirst (Frame) was inspired by his family chart on the Packards, then setting about “trying to  reconstruct a similar history of  the Hirst family.”

Bob continues in his letter by talking about his mother and other matters. On his mother, he notes that she died on June 18, 1961, dying from an illness of years which was “complicated by diabetes and  cancer,” noting that she, like RBM II, Hattie, and Stanley  were all buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery. Interestingly, he notes that Stanlet, the “only natural son of Uncle Rob and Hattie, did in 1934 at the age of 33 years from causes which have never been clear to anybody,” suspecting the death from drugs, and that he never married at all.  He goes onto note the three children of his parents, including himself, who was born on June 5, 1924, marrying Florence Louise “F.L.” Schaefer (born August 17, 1926), meeting at Antioch College, with F.L.’s family coming from Nutley, New Jersey. He also notes his own two children of his own, which he was proud of, but I will not name them at this time as both are currently living. After this, he outlines the two other children of his mother and father, his siblings. One  is Helen Eileen Mills (born August 5, 1929) who married Alex Efthim (born November 29 1916), the latter being a “large  Albanian family from St. Louis,” with Alex being a professor of Social Work  at Detroit’s Wayne State University, with them having one child. He then goes to list his sister, Carol Ruth Mills (born August 19, 1930), noting that she married Paul Edward Sieck in 1951, whom he describes as the “Vice-President of a local manufacturing concern,” and have four children, two of which were adopted.

He ends his letter by writing that he and his sister Carol had been discussing possibly visiting Plainfield within the next year, possibly while skiing at nearby Berkshires. He then asks to tell more about Douglas Packard and his respective family in Shelburne Falls, along with Tom’s brother, Harold Cyrus. The letter ends with “Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness.”

On September 27th, Tom Packard sent a response to Bob. He doesn’t have much to say about the death of Dora, saying she “did before my day” and only knows family lore, recommending that Bob write to Margaret Packard (Brown) in Burbank, California since sh was “about 11 years old when her mother died [and] she had a good memory of those matters.” He adds, about Dora, that she married his father,Cyrus, in Glens Falls, New York, and that she “did here of consumption on Feb. 5, 1895.” His letter goes onto note that there  are various areas in the Berkshires Hills for skiiing, and adds that he owns the old farm (which “burned out in 1946”) which was owned by his father, along with adjoining land. As he describes it, “the old plave [sic] still had many pleasant memories, and all the brothers and sisters always enjoyed getting  back for a visit.”

He concludes his letter by hoping to see Bob and his family the coming winter, and thinks they should write to Margaret. He also enclosed a photo of his father “taken a few months before he died,” which he notes was from a brain tumor, and that he “was  in much pain for a few weeks before he sank into a merciful comer [coma?]” while his mother “died of heart  trouble the year before.”

The image on the far right is from the one that Tom sent, with the others I found from other records. The full image is reprinted in The Packard Mills Family History.

Photograph of Cyrus Packard in the Packard-Mills Family History

There are many questions from this exchange of letters? Did Carol and Bob visit Plainfield and meet with Tom? That is never known,  as the next letters pick up in 1976. Further discussion of some of this topics will resume on my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland, while others will be on this blog. Until next time!

Sources of information for this post:

Typescript letter of Tom T. Packard to Bob Mills, Sept, 6, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Bob Mills to Tom T. Packard, Sept.  17, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Tom T. Packard to Bob Mills, Sept. 27, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

2 thoughts on “Bob Mills’s quest to learn more about his family lineage

  1. Pingback: The Nebraskan Man of Mystery: The Story of Joseph Winfield Packard | Packed with Packards!

  2. Pingback: The story Tom Packard told and the reality – Milling 'round Ireland: A Mills family story

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