Marguerite Mills (1903-1985)
In September of 1921, seventeen-year-old
Marguerite Mills joined Windsor Historical Society as one of its 100
Descended from several of Windsor’s oldest families, she lived in the
same antiques-filled house on Deerfield Road all of her life.
Marguerite Mills was part of the Society as it rescued the Fyler House
from being demolished to make way for a gasoline station in 1925, and
each year, she read the reports of Society presidents calling for funds
to construct a fireproof building to safely house our growing
Marguerite Mills ran a private nursery
school in town and was also a charter member of the Garden Club of
Windsor and the Women’s Club of the First Church. From 1972 to 1976,
she was an active member of the Windsor Bicentennial Commission. She
loved history, surrounded herself with antiques, and was an active
volunteer at Windsor Historical Society.
Mills never married; when she died in 1985,
she bequeathed the contents of her home to Windsor Historical Society
and left a substantial bequest in memory of her parents, Oliver William
Mills and Catherine Phelps Mills, for “a fireproof building
of colonial design for the preservation and display of articles of
historical interest and for the furtherance of the general purposes of
said Society.” The handicapped- accessible Mills building housing
collections storage, exhibition space, a research library, and offices
opened to the public in October of 1990. It adjoins the 1960 Wilson
wing, which in its turn is connected to the Strong-Howard House (once known as
the Fyler House) by a breezeway.
Robert T. Silliman (1920-2003)
Bob Silliman, lifelong resident of Windsor,
became the Society’s first director in December of 1982. His seventeen
year directorship of the Windsor Historical Society was a retirement
project; Bob previously served as personnel director at American
Corporation and as owner/operator of Winding Brook Farm. His interest
in history and in Windsor Historical Society started with a family
history project in 1954. He quickly became a Society member, was
elected to our Board of Directors, and served as Board president for
eight years before becoming director.
All agree that the Society blossomed under
Bob Silliman’s leadership. His passion and ability to breathe life into
stories and facts from the past attracted 700 new Society members. Bob shared his love for history
by inviting school children in and
becoming famous for local history lectures and cemetery walks. As chair
of the town’s 350th Anniversary Committee in 1983, he helped
plan a stellar array of town events including a week-long walk from
Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Windsor along the original route traveled by
the Dorchester party in 1635.
Bob’s newsletter brought Windsor history to
Society members across the country. He oversaw the
construction of the one million dollar Mills building, secured a lease
from the Town of Windsor to operate the Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee House as a
museum and supervised its restoration, and worked to strengthen the
resources of the Society’s research library. Bob’s warmth and
seriousness convinced many donors to entrust beloved family artifacts to
the Society. In 2002, Bob Silliman was recognized as Windsor’s Citizen
of the Year.
Bob Silliman retired in 1999 but continued
to volunteer in the Society’s library. He was a guiding spirit during a
tremendous period of growth for the Society in terms of public respect,
growing membership, and physical size.
Leland P. Wilson (1871-1959)
Leland P. Wilson was a man who truly loved
his community of Windsor and served it well. His grandfather Henry
Wilson started the Wilson Brick Company in 1812, and his father carried
on in the business. Windsor Historical Society displays a detailed map
Wilson Station area of Windsor with houses, fences, and natural
landscape features drawn by L.P. Wilson as a boy of fifteen. Planning,
zoning, and civic improvements in Windsor would become his life’s work.
L.P. Wilson was a charter member of Windsor
Historical Society and became its treasurer in 1922, serving
continuously until 1956. As part of the town’s 300th
anniversary celebrations, he researched the ages of Windsor’s old homes
and had signs made for them. As the Society’s treasurer, he understood
both the need for and the cost of adequate and safe storage space for
the Society’s growing collections. The Society’s leadership dreamed of
a fireproof brick building to house collections, and appeals to the
membership went out each year.
Leland P. Wilson died in 1959 after a long
life of service. Among his accomplishments were getting water mains
extended from Hartford to Windsor in 1915 and lobbying successfully to
have Windsor included in the new Metropolitan Water District,
established in 1929. He served for over 20 years on Windsor’s Board of
Finance, was the first person to suggest zoning regulations and a
building code for the town, and was instrumental in the formation of the
Church of Christ in Wilson.
When he died, sizeable
bequests from his estate underwrote the Wilson Memorial Library
building; the Church of Christ building in Wilson; and finally a new brick fireproof building for
Windsor Historical Society adjoining the Strong-Howard House.