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Smith and Harriet Mills house 98 Highlan

98 Highland Avenue
The Smith Mills House, 1852

Oysterman Smith Mills and his wife Harriet Byxbee Mills raised twelve children in Rowayton. Smith built or assisted in the building of homes for most of his grown children who stayed on in Rowayton, many clustered around his own house at 98 Highland Avenue. The neighborhood was subsequently nicknamed “Mills Hill.” Both Harriet and Smith were from old Fairfield County families, Smith from Darien and Harriet from Norwalk. In fact, Harriet's brother and sister-in-law lived just down the street at 154 Highland Avenue.

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Smith Mills 97.18_edited.jpg
Harriet Byxbee and Smith Mills 1895 -190

Harriet Byxbee Mills and Smith Mills

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The Charles F., Mary E. and
Edna Mills House, 1911

43 Highland Avenue

This stately home, built about twenty years later than the rest, was significantly larger and boasted many more amenities than earlier Mills’ houses. There was a maid's room on the third floor that has been restored. The dining room has a hole in the floor where there was a buzzer for the lady of the house to ring the kitchen for the

next course.

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The Oliver Stanley Mills House, 1888


86 Highland Avenue

Oliver Stanley Mills was the sixth and next to last child of the Mills'. Oliver was involved in the oyster business with his father and brothers, and along with his brother Oscar, he painted houses in the off-season (i.e.,

the summer.) Five years after marrying

Addie Sowarby, he purchased this property and moved in, right next door to his childhood home. Oliver and Addie Mills had four children. 

Smith and Harriet Mills house 98 Highlan

The Oscar and Henrietta Mills House, 1891

91 Highland Avenue

The Smith Mills House, 1852

98 Highland Avenue

Married in 1877, oysterman Oscar Mills and his wife Henrietta owned this house until 1945. The Mills had four children. Oscar was well known for being what we would call an environmentalist today. He gave talks and wrote newspaper articles focusing on the conservation of our natural resources and was one of the few who foresaw the possible demise of the oyster and fishing industries as a result of overproduction and pollution.[1]

 

[1] Nancy Lauder Eckfield

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The Theodore and Caroline Mills House,
c. 1870

100 Highland Avenue

Smith Mills bought this land from Lewis Wilson on the same day in February 1852 that he bought the site of his own home. He con-structed this house for his son Theodore on the occasion of his marriage in 1869. But Theodore and his new wife Caroline were only able to live in the house briefly, because just two years later, on July 15, 1871, the 26-year-old Theodore was struck by lightning and killed while on his oyster boat in Wilson Cove. At the time, their first child, Mimi, was just one year old. Sometime in the next few years, Caroline remarried and moved to New Canaan. The house stayed in the family, though, passing to one of Smith’s other sons, Charles, and his wife, Mary.

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Smith Mills was one of the earliest and most prominent oystermen in Rowayton. He went into business with Cannon Sammis in the mid-1800s, with Mills harvesting the oysters and Sammis selling and shipping them. Born in Darien in 1815, Smith built this house, where he lived until his death nearly fifty years later. Harriet Byxbee Mills was the granddaughter of Robert Sheffield of Sheffield Island. After Smith Mills' death, his widow Harriet lived here with her son Clarence, daughter Annie, and Annie’s husband until her own death.

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The Capt. Heavlon Rowland House, 1890

104 Highland Avenue

In 1889, Heavlon Rowland bought this property from his soon-to-be brother-in-law Jared Scofield and built this house. He was one of the pioneers of the oyster industry, owning several different boats, including the sloop Nena A. Rowland, named for his wife and called “the queen of the oyster fleet from Cape Cod to the Delaware breakwater.” He also owned and operated the oyster steamer Medea.

Around 1912, he and his wife Cornelia (Mills) and their daughter Jane and her husband moved to Willapa Bay bringing train-car loads of seed oysters there and establishing a new and very successful oyster business. 

In later years, the Kaplan Musical String Company, renowned manufacturers of violins and strings, ran their business out of a building at the back of the property.   

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The John H. and Ida Mills Sherer House,
c. 1901

110 Highland Avenue

This house was owned by Ida Mills Sherer, one of Smith and Harriet Mills’ daughters, and her husband, John. Historic Rowayton has in its archives a diary kept by Ida about her life around the turn of the 20th century. 

 

Ida observed that women worked from sunup to sundown, and all the housework had to be done by hand. Highland Avenue was unpaved, making housekeeping even more difficult.

 

The family went everywhere by trolley. John, a publisher and stationer, was one of the early Rowayton commuters traveling into New York City, being driven to the train station in the family wagon. 

 

The Sherers were sitting out in the yard on July 4, 1899, when their house caught fire and burned to the ground. They went to live first in the empty (and unheated) Craw house across the street (#103 Highland Avenue) until it got too cold, and then to a rental apartment on Washington Street in South Norwalk. 

Jared Reynolds Scofield and his cow by h

Jared Scofield and his bull
behind 111 Highland

The Jared Scofield House, 1866


111 Highland Avenue

 

Jared was a house painter, married to Harriet Louisa "Weese" Mills with two daughters and a son. All of the Scofield children grew up in this house and, in the case of the girls, lived here as adults as well. Ada, the oldest, was married in 1891, but a few years later both her husband, Frank, and their only child died, and she moved back home. At the time, the younger daughter, Hattie, was living there with her parents and her husband, Reverend Solomon Woods, an Illinois schoolteacher waiting for a residency in a parish in Connecticut.

 

Upon the deaths of her parents, the property passed into Ada’s hands. She made her living as a bookkeeper at the Radal Oyster Company in South Norwalk. When Ada purchased 67 Highland Avenue in the 1900s, this house was rented and eventually sold for $6,400 to George Muendel, an American Impressionist painter, and his wife Ida in 1920.

Nina Rowland Hayes Ada Thomas Capt Heavl

L to R: Nina Rowland Hayes, Ada Thomas Rowland, Heavlon Rowland, Jane Rowland, and
Nena Rowland at 104 Highland.

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