During the year 1856, Willis Mills and Ansell Russell established Palo Pinto County's first store on the old Fort Worth and Belknap road, about one and one-half miles west of the present town of Graford. About 1858, Mr. Mills started over to the ranch of Marcus Dalton, to buy some wheat, and mysteriously disappeared. For a long time his fate was unknown, but many moons later, some employees of Capt. Jowell McKee, while cutting poles, found his skeleton where he had been hidden in the cedars. Mr. Mills was identified by remnants of his clothing. For several days prior to his death, a Cherokee Indian had been hanging around the store. This Indian, no doubt, knew that Mr. Mills was carrying considerable money when he went to the ranch of Mr. Dalton, so it has been supposed Mr. Mills was killed by this particular Cherokee; but this dastardly deed may have been planned and perpetrated by some renegade ruffian of our own race. This was one of the several occasions that settlers were unable to determine, whether the murder was committed by Indians or whites.
In a biography of C.C. Mills, a son, it has been reported that Willis Mills was murdered in 1856, but we are inclined to believe this crime was committed at a later date, for the county records of Palo Pinto seemed to indicate that Mr. Mills was living as late as 1858.
Ansell Russell later sold the store to a Mr. Whatley. Russell, himself, afterwards mysteriously disappeared. Relatives came into Palo Pinto County years later, trying to locate his whereabouts, but in so far as we have been able to ascertain, he was never found.
Ref.: 481 and 588, Cattle Industry of Texas; surviving old settlers whose names are several times mentioned herein; 30 Years of Army Life on the Border, by R.B. Marcy; Acts of the Legislature creating the reserves, and found in the Laws of Texas, compiled by H.P.N. Gammel; Report of R.B. Marcy, in U.S. Sen. Ex. Doc., Vol. 12, No. 60, 34th Cong., 1st and 2nd Ses. 1855-56; Reports of Com. of Ind. Affairs and Sec. of War, 1854-59; information obtained from old files in the office of Com. of Ind. Affairs, Washington, D.C.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.