Mills, David Graham (ca. 1814–1885)

By: René Harris

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: February 25, 2016

David Graham Mills, early Brazoria County planter and merchant, was born around 1814 to Adam and Janet (Graham) Mills in Todd County, Kentucky. He moved to Brazoria, Texas, in 1832 to join his older brothers, Robert and Andrew, in running a merchandising business. He fought in the battle of Velasco. After Andrew's death in 1836, David and Robert Mills continued the firm as R. Mills and Company and later as R. and D. G. Mills. While Robert moved to Galveston and ran the commission, private banking, and mercantile businesses, David remained in Brazoria County and ran their plantations. He resided at Low Wood, a sugar and cotton plantation on the Brazos River, and also ran the Bynum, Palo Alto on Oyster Creek, Big Run Place, and Warren plantations. In 1850 the Mills brothers were the largest sugar producers in the state. In 1855 Low Wood alone produced 820 hogsheads or more than 900,000 pounds of sugar. By 1860 the Mills brothers owned over 200,000 acres of Texas land and had 3,300 in cultivation. David himself had more than $600,000 in real and personal property. He and Robert had 800 slaves and were thus the largest slaveholders in the state. The brothers were reputed to have been worth between $3 million and $5 million. David continued to run the plantations after the Civil War by "working hands for wages," but the value of his real and personal property had dropped to $50,000 by 1870, and three years later he and Robert were bankrupt. Low Wood Plantation became a part of Clemens State Prison Farm, and Palo Alto a part of Ramsey State Prison Farm. David Mills never married. He died in Galveston on February 27, 1885. His funeral was held at Trinity Episcopal Church.

James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Abigail Curlee, A Study of Texas Slave Plantations, 1822–1865 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1932). Dictionary of American Biography. Earl Wesley Fornell, The Galveston Era: The Texas Crescent on the Eve of Secession (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). William R. Hogan, The Texas Republic: A Social and Economic History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; rpt. 1969). Abner J. Strobel, The Old Plantations and Their Owners of Brazoria County (Houston, 1926; rev. ed., Houston: Bowman and Ross, 1930; rpt., Austin: Shelby, 1980).

  • Agriculture
  • Plantation Owners
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

René Harris, “Mills, David Graham,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

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April 1, 1995
February 25, 2016