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The MuralThe 360 Degree View

Anson Mills

Anson Mills came to El Paso in 1858 and was appointed District Surveyor. He built the Overland Building, which for three decades was the largest structure in El Paso. In 1859 he submitted a street map of a settlement he called “El Paso.” Downtown El Paso is still laid out almost exactly as he planned it.

During the Civil War, Mills accepted a commission in the Union Army. While in the military, Mills designed and patented the woven ammunition belt. In 1894 he was sworn in as American Boundary Commissioner. He reestablished the Mexican border on the island of San Elizario and straightened the Rio Grande by severing the Córdova banco. He advocated a major international dam at El Paso, which eventually went to Elephant Butte in New Mexico. He was also influential in the creation of a Mexican treaty which promised an annual 60,000 acre-feet of water to Mexico. He also wrote the 1905 treaty for the elimination of bancos. As Boundary Commissioner, he refused to accept the 1911 arbitration agreement that gave the El Paso Chamizal to Mexico. He also constructed the Mills Building, the largest concrete monolith in the world at the time it was built in 1911.

Mills retired from the Boundary Commission in 1914 and died in Washington, D. C. in 1924. He was buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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critical thinking
How did Anson Mills help El Paso become the city it is today? What contributions do you think today’s leaders are making that will be remembered in the future? Why?

Related Links:

From the Handbook of Texas Online

Chronicling of Mills’s life, from the Sugar Creek Historical Society in Indiana

From the Arlington National Cemetery Website

Read More, Learn More:

Metz, Leon C. 1985. Turning Points in El Paso. El Paso: Mangan.

Mills, Anson. 1921. My story. Edited by C.H. Claudy. Washington, D.C.: By the author.