The Mills Murder Mystery: Part 1

By the turn of the 19th century a great swath of land south of Darnestown Road was a farming district. Huge dairy farms dotted the landscape with just a few little hamlets every few miles. The name that was given to this land was Hunting Hill. It stretched from where Quince Orchard High School is today east to Travilah Road and then south to River Road. No one is sure how the land got its name, but the consensus is that the land was filled with wildlife and was popular with hunters.

Edward Mills had a large farm on Dufief Mill Road, about a mile from Darnestown Road; his land would later be subdivided and hold the communities of Westleigh and Dufief. Mills was well known in the rural community and there was nothing in his past to sully his name. The farm, which encompassed several hundred acres, was one of the finest in Montgomery County.

Raymond Mills, who was the nephew of Edward Mills, was in his 90s when he was interviewed. Raymond Mills said that his uncle’s farm encompassed at least 500 acres, and it contained two tenant houses in addition to the main farmhouse that still stands today. There was no electricity on Dufief Mill Road at that time, so his uncle had generators to produce electricity for the farm.

On the day in question, Raymond Mills said that he understood that as usual his uncle had risen early. He was preparing to do some threshing with his steam-powered equipment and had gone out to bring the cows in from the field. However, one horse remained in the field. Edward Mills had to go out into the field to corral the horse, and that is when he was accosted by his assailant.

This was the morning of July 7, 1927. By 4:45 a.m., Edward Mills was out in his pasture tending to his cows when a man  walked out of the nearby woods. The man, dressed in a black shirt with white buttons, seemed to engage Mills in conversation. Then shots were heard, and Mills fell dead. The stranger ran back into the woods and disappeared. A farmhand who had witnessed the incident ran to the farmhouse, roused the family and they all carried Mills into the house. Pinned to Mills’ shirt was a typewritten note of about 300 words that seemed to accuse Mills of having an illicit affair with a married woman.

Raymond Mills recalled that on the morning of his uncle’s murder he was at his house, which was located on a neighboring farm. His cousin, Dorothy Mills, came to the house and told him that his uncle had been shot. Raymond Mills then went to the field where the shooting had occurred, which was about a half-mile away, and found, “a field full of police.” Neighbors had also started to gather, and one man exclaimed, “Give me a loaded gun and I will go into those woods.” Someone then produced a stokes basket and some men carried his uncle into the house and laid him on the couch until an undertaker came. Raymond Mills said, “I will remember that day as long as I live. I’ll take that memory to my grave.”

A Washington police officer, who lived on a neighboring farm and was related to the Mills family through marriage, came to the scene and proclaimed himself in charge of the investigation. He led a posse of men to a nearby farm where a young married woman lived and her husband was known to own a typewriter, which was remarkable in those days. Nothing out of the ordinary was found there and in fact the farmer was out of town.

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