Frank B. Mills Rose Hill Seed Company
Fairview Farms Syracuse, New York
Frank B. Mills, was born in the town of Marcellus, Onondaga county, August
3, 1866, and is a son of George C. and
Eliza Mills, who reside on a fine farm at Rose Hill, in the southern part
of the town.
His early life was passed on the family's homestead at Rose Hill, where he
developed a decided inclination for producing and classifying the seeds of
various plants and vegetables, at which he became an expert while yet a
mere lad. His spare time from work and school was spent in the garden,
where he thoroughly familiarized himself with every plant that chanced to
meet his notice.
By the time he had finished his education he had acquired
a wide and practical knowledge of almost every seed grown, not only in
this country, but in the world, and he at once determined to apply that
knowledge to production and distribution. This proved to be the beginning
of a business scarcely equaled elsewhere in the State, a business, in
fact, that ranks high among the largest concerns of the kind in the
He had become the possessor of a small hand printing press
capable of printing an ordinary page at each impression, and with this, at
the age of less than twenty-one, he began, in 1887, to print his first
catalogue. He did all the work alone, from setting the type to mailing the
modest book, of which about 3,000 copies were issued and sent out. During
that year he secured 118 customers.
From this small commencement the
business has steadily and rapidly increased in volume and extent until it
now forms one of the largest and most complete establishments of its
character in the United States. He has now (1896) over 400,000 customers, whose
orders come from every habitable part of the globe - from Canada, South
America, and Europe, from Asia, Africa, New Zealand, and
Australia - requiring about half a million catalogues annually for
Mr. Mills has a number of large and convenient buildings and
several greenhouses devoted exclusively to the business, and all have been
erected within the last four or five years. To these and especially to the
greenhouses he is constantly adding; each year is increasing the extent
and magnitude of an already mammoth concern.
He has a large seed farm, of
which several acres are devoted entirely to testing every variety of seed
he sells, and nothing is shipped away until it is thoroughly tried and
fully equals every requirement. In this way Mr. Mills has established a
name and business which ranks him among the few great seedsmen of the
United States. It is doubtful if a concern of equal magnitude has ever
sprung into existence in the short time in which his has been prosecuted,
and all this is due to the indomitable energy, the systematic methods, and
the close personal supervision of the proprietor.
He is the founder of a
business of which not only Onondaga county but the State of New York may
be well proud. As an auxiliary to his adopted calling, and as a means of
disseminating valuable and practical knowledge among the thousands of
gardeners and horticulturists throughout the country, Mr. Mills
established in December, 1894, and illustrated monthly entitled "Success
with the Garden," which has begun what promises to be an auspicious
His is strictly mail-order business, and its requirements were
such that the government, on November 5, 1890, established Rose Hill
post-office with F. B. Mills as postmaster. He resigned this position in
1892, and was succeeded by his brother William E. Mills.
the finest in the town and one of the handsomest in the county, was
completed in 1893, and with all his other buildings is pleasantly located
on Fairview Farm at Rose Hill in the south part of Marcellus.
was married, June 16, 1892, to Miss Grace Ackles, daughter of Samuel
Ackles, of Spafford.
In August of
1901, the company was incorporated. In 1907, construction was
completed on a new 12,000 square foot brick warehouse / office
building on a railroad spur in Washington, Iowa.
 By the time his company peaked in 1908, the F. B. Mills
Company was printing and mailing more than 1.5
million catalogs and employing 200 people.
Frank passed away on Christmas Day in 1945 at the age of 79 years.
His obituary noted that, "At 79 Mr. Mills
has finished his job. He didn't retire as other men would have done, and
as he easily could have done. It wasn't so long ago that this editor met
him in his office, at the top of the winding stairs in the seedhouse, busy
at work. We liked his quiet dignity, his few words, the atmosphere of
Mr. Mills will be
remembered for what he has done. He has brought business to the community
of his birth. He has made many friends and he has departed with the fame
dignity in which he lived. One of our leading men has died."
He is interned at Lake View Cemetery, Skaneateles, New York, in Section 8,
Lot 214. 
Even though it had been a leader in the home garden seed industry, like
many other companies of the period, World War I, the Depression and
finally World War II all took their toll on the business, and in 1953 it
shuttered the doors.
Over the course of a week (Feb. 22-27, 2010) the 40' x
100' foot, three story, F. B. Mills Seed Company Building was moved
six blocks from a commercial are into downtown Washington, Iowa.
In an effort to save the historic structure, it is being renovated
into residential and retail space.
This tribute to great pioneers in
horticulture was created and is sponsored by:
Victory Seed Company
the past, one seed at a time"
support this resource by supporting our primary sponsor.
Some of this information or images are
republished, for educational purposes, under the fair use clause of the
1976 copyright act. Text and images carry the copyright
of their respective authors, photographers, and publishers. This page may
be freely linked but not duplicated in any fashion without prior written
permission of the respective copyright holders.