In Westchester county, New York, was born one bright September day, in 1825, Darius O. Mills. True, it is, that his parents were somewhat well-to-do people, but Darius O. Mills would have become a wealthy man had he been born in poverty.
If a man determines to succeed and has a perceptive mind to see opportunities, if he relies on no one but himself, and follows this up by hard, persistent work, he will succeed. If he does not he is lacking in some other vital point, but we have never yet read the life of any man who possessed these qualities but that he was a success. What one has done another can do under the same conditions and circumstances. For some time he was casting about to find his calling, and finally determined to become a banker. In this sphere he has proven himself a phenomenon. His talent for money-making was early apparent, and he was appointed cashier of a bank in Buffalo when only twenty-one. Now it must not be imagined that Darius O. Mills was picked up indiscriminately and placed in so responsible a position. Things do not come by chance. It is evident the case under consideration did not happen through ‘good luck.’ He was a young man of unusual ability, of which he has always made the most. The bank flourished and at twenty-three he resigned and, taking what money he had, he was soon on his way to California. He did not go there to dig gold. Darius O. Mills knew that gold was the object of nearly every one who went; he also knew that the people must live; he perceived the chance to make a fortune as a merchant. Like any man who will succeed, he acted at once. In 1849 he settled in San Francisco, opening trade with the miners.
In the course of a few years he became immensely rich through very successful trade and, as he was about to retire from active business, the Bank of California was projected. This he materially aided into existence, and as he was recognized as one of the ablest financiers in the city, he was chosen its first President. So well did he manage its affairs that it soon became the leading banking institution in the country, wielding an immense power in the financial world. He remained at its head for nine years when his private fortune had assumed such mammoth proportions that it demanded his immediate attention, he therefore resigned in 1873.
In 1875 his successor, William G. Ralston, was asked to resign and the bank suspended. Mr. Ralston was a splendid man, but had been somewhat unwise in placing the bank’s money, and thus the failure was brought about. At a meeting of the directors it was decided to ask for the resignation of the President. Mr. Mills was the person selected to convey the intelligence of the result of the meeting to Mr. Ralston and this he did. Mr. Mills, much against his personal desire, once more assumed the presidency of the bank, and after three years he once more resigned to attend to his private affairs; leaving the bank in a flourishing condition. Possibly no man in America is better capable of handling large sums of money, to bring not only large returns, but to handle the money safely.
In 1880 he turned his attention toward the East, moving his family to Fifth Avenue, New York city. His large business block, the Mills Building, ten stories high, fitted up for offices containing three hundred in all, is a magnificent structure. His wealth is very great, being estimated at from fifteen to twenty millions of dollars. He has established on the Pacific slope, at a cost of about two hundred thousand dollars, a seminary for young ladies.
He has also presented a beautiful piece of statuary to the State of California. It is a magnificent gift, representing Columbus at the court of Isabella. He has given numerous costly presents to institutions and relatives. Among the shrewd far-sighted men of the country few are more distinguished than is Darius Ogdon Mills.