Marguerite Mills (1903-1985)
In September of 1921, seventeen-year-old Marguerite Mills joined Windsor Historical Society as one of its 100 charter members. 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 collections.
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 Tobacco 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 350thAnniversary 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 of the 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 300thanniversary 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.