Mills, John Ainsworth, 1930-

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John Ainsworth (Jack) Mills, Portland banker and civic leader, was born in Portland, Oregon, on September 25, 1930, the son of Abbot Low Mills, Jr. (1898-1986) and Katherine Ainsworth Mills (1903-1993). He is descended from the Low family of Brooklyn, New York, which achieved great prominence in shipping and overseas trade. Family members included: Seth Low (1782-1853) and his wife Mary Porter Low (1786-1872), and their children. A grandson, Seth Low (1850-1916), was a well-regarded political figure in New York City. John Ainsworth Mills is also descended from the Mills family, which came to America from England in 1630, when they settled in Long Island. One son of Ethelbert Smith Mills and Ellen Porter Low Mills was Abbot Low Mills (1858-1927), who came to Oregon around 1883 and eventually settled in Portland, becoming involved in banking and civic life. His son, banker Abbot Low Mills, Jr., married the granddaughter of Portland pioneer John Commingers Ainsworth (1822-1893), and was appointed a governor of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1952.

From the description of John Ainsworth Mills family papers, 1799-2002 (bulk 1844-1965). (Oregon Historical Society Research Library). WorldCat record id: 54353410

John Ainsworth (Jack) Mills, Portland banker and civic leader, was born in Portland, Or., on September 25, 1930, the son of Abbot Low Mills, Jr. (1898-1986) and Katherine Ainsworth Mills (1903-1993). He is the descendent of many prominent families in Portland and in the New York City area, including the Mills, Low, Smith, Couch, Lewis, and Ainsworth families.

The Low family first gained prominence as merchant seamen and ship owners in 18th century New England. Many family members settled in Salem, Mass. Around 1830, as the Salem harbor became difficult to navigate, Seth Low (1782-1853) moved with his wife Mary Porter Low (1786-1872) and their children to Brooklyn, N.Y. There the family achieved great success in shipping and overseas trade. Their activities extended as far as China, and they became leaders in the silk and tea trade, among other commodities. Their ships included the well-known clippers, Houqua and N.B. Palmer . Seth Low's children included Abiel Abbot Low (1811-1893), who served as the head of the firm of A. A. Low & Brothers; the ship captain Charles Porter Low (1824-1913), who later became a prominent land developer in Santa Barbara, Calif., after 1873; Edward Allen Low (1817-1898); and Josiah Orne Low (1821-1895). A daughter, Ellen Porter Low (1827-1898), married Ethelbert Smith Mills, scion of a wealthy land-owning Long Island family. A son of Abiel Abbot Low, Seth Low (1850-1916) was a well-regarded political figure who served as mayor of Brooklyn, president of Columbia University, and reform mayor of the consolidated New York City.

The Mills Family was connected to the Lows, as noted above, through the marriage of Ellen Porter Low to Ethelbert Smith Mills (1815-1873), but also through the marriage of Josiah Orne Low to Martha Elizabeth Mills (1819-1884). The Mills family came to America from England in 1630, when they settled in Jamaica, Long Island. In 1683 Timothy Mills purchased extensive properties near Smithtown, Long Island, including what is now Mills Pond. The family later intermarried with the Smith, Helme, and Low families. One son of Ethelbert Smith Mills and Ellen Porter Low Mills was Abbot Low Mills (1858-1927), who came to Oregon around 1883 and eventually settled in Portland.

In the east, Abbot Low Mills pursued a somewhat independent career, starting a tea business as a teenager in Richmond, Va. He later graduated from Harvard University (1881) and entered the family business in New York City. After moving to Oregon around 1882 with a Harvard classmate, William Addison Howe, he tried chicken farming in Yamhill County, then opened a bank in Colfax, Wash., with Charles F. Adams in 1885. Mills helped to found the town of Pullman, Wash., and may have served in the Washington territorial legislature. In 1889 he and Adams organized the Security Savings and Trust Company in Portland. In 1899 Mills became vice preisdent of Portland's First National Bank and in 1903 was elected its president. He was active in numerous political and civic organizations throughout the state. Elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1903, he became Speaker of the House in 1904.

In 1891 Abbot Low Mills married Evelyn Scott Lewis (1865-1936), the daughter of prominent Portland merchant Cicero Hunt Lewis and granddaughter of pioneer John Heard Couch, who had developed the original city center. Among the couple's children were Abbot Low Mills, Jr. (1898-1986), who followed his father into a banking career. In 1924 the younger Mills married Katherine Ainsworth, daughter of banker John Churchill Ainsworth (1870-1943), himself the son of a leading Portland businessman John Commingers Ainsworth (1822-1893). Mills, Jr. worked first as vice president of the First National Bank, then moved in the late 1900s to the U.S. National Bank, which had been founded by the Ainsworths and was headed by Mills's father-in-law. In 1952 Abbot Low Mills, Jr., was appointed a governor of the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, D.C. by President Harry Truman. He was re-appointed under succeeding presidents and served until 1965. His wife, Katherine Ainsworth Mills, served as the head of volunteers for the American Red Cross.

The Ainsworth Family began in Oregon with John Commingers Ainsworth (1822-1893), who was one of the most important business and civic leaders in late 19th century Portland. Born into a poor family in Ohio, Ainsworth began working on river steamboats in his teens, eventually becoming a captain on the Mississippi River. He came to California during the 1849 gold rush, moved to Oregon the following year, and took command of the Willamette River steamboat Lot Whitcomb . He went on to build and operate a fleet of steamboats on the Columbia River and founded the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1860, and later the Oregon Portage Railroad. Ainsworth's dominance of transportation on the Columbia River was a boon to the development of Portland, which came to be a nexus of inland waterways and ocean-going shipping. Eventually he founded the Ainsworth National Bank, which became the United States National Bank in 1902.

Leadership of the bank passed to Ainsworth's son, John Churchill Ainsworth (1870-1943), whose daughter Katherine married Abbot Low Mills, Jr., in 1924. Their children included John (Jack) Ainsworth Mills (1930- ), who was educated at Cornell University and became vice president of the U. S. National Bank. In 1952 he married Katherine Leadbetter (1932- ), member of another prominent Portland family. It was Jack Mills who preserved the present collection of family papers and presented them to the Oregon Historical Society in 2002.

From the guide to the John Ainsworth Mills Family Papers, 1799-2002, 1844-1965, (Oregon Historical Society Research Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf John Ainsworth Mills Family Papers, 1799-2002, 1844-1965 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Mills, John Ainsworth, 1930-. John Ainsworth Mills family papers, 1799-2002 (bulk 1844-1965). Oregon Historical Society Research Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Ainsworth, Belle. person
associatedWith Ainsworth, Belle. person
associatedWith Ainsworth, J. C. (John Commingers), 1822-1893. person
associatedWith Ainsworth, John Churchill, 1870-1943. person
associatedWith Brady, Mathew B., ca. 1823-1896. person
associatedWith Couch, John Heard, 1811-1870. person
associatedWith Low, Abiel Abbot, 1811-1893 person
associatedWith Low, Charles Porter, 1824-1913 person
associatedWith Low, Mary Porter, 1786-1872 person
associatedWith Low, Seth, 1782-1853 person
associatedWith Low, Seth, 1850-1916 person
associatedWith McCall, Tom, 1913- person
associatedWith McCall, Tom, 1913-1983 person
associatedWith Mills, Abbot Low, 1858-1927. person
associatedWith Mills, Abbot Low, 1898-1986. person
associatedWith Mills, Ellen Porter Low, 1827-1898. person
associatedWith Mills, Katherine Ainsworth, 1903-1993. person
associatedWith Mills, William, 1757-1839. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)
Portland (Or.)
Portland (Or.)
Oregon--Portland
Smithtown (N.Y. : Town)
Smithtown (N.Y. : Town)
Subject
Bankers--Oregon--Portland
Slaves--New York
Oregon
Pacific Northwest History
City and Town Life
Bankers
Business, Industry, and Labor
Photographs
Portland
Home and Family
Slaves
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1930

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