ISAAC MILLS 1891-1964  
Isaac   Cougar   On a hunting trip? Ike (on the left) with George Noble

Isaac Mills was the son of John and Sarah Selina Mills, and was descended from John & Elizabeth Mills nee Darwin who were married in Fylingdales in 1742. Isaac was a mountain guide, dog musher, horseman and cougar hunter.

Isaac Mills was born in Robin Hood's Bay and went to sea as 3 previous generations of his family had done. On joining his first ship his sister kept him company on the train journey to the port. Ike played "Home Sweet Home" on his mouth organ all the way and kept his sister in tears the whole journey. In 1908 he jumped ship in Montreal. He first worked as a lumberjack in Ontario but, after accidentally cutting off his big toe, he gave up that job and made his way to Banff where he settled. There he worked driving a four horse team from Banff Springs Hotel to the depot and points of interest.

He served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WW1. On enlistment on May 16th 1916 he declared he had 3 years previous militia service in the 99th Alguguin Rifles

After the war he returned to Banff and became interested in the husky dogs taking part in the annual Calgary to Banff races of 90 miles. Racing in 1928 and 1929 he won with dogs that were part wolfhound and part greyhound and was presented with the Strong Heart trophy on both occasions. He also kept coon dogs that he got from Kentucky and used for hunting cougar. These dogs had been trained to hunt racoon, and racoon scent was similar to that of the cougar. The Calgary Herald of June 30th 1939 reported that Ike had received bounty for killing cougars weighing 200 lbs and around 8ft in length. The bounty was on offer because cougar could kill deer, mountain sheep, moose calves and elk. Nowadays it is believed to be a protected species.

He had several teams of sled dogs and was the first guide to use them between Banff and mountain lodges like those at Mount Assiniboine and Skoki transporting supplies and people. In 1927 he spent 3 months as a guide to Byron Harmon who was then photographing the mountains and Columbia Icefields for the National Geographic. He had his favourite dog, and his sister back in England was very saddened when she learnt that his favourite had been attacked and killed by the other dogs in what appeared to be a fit of jealous rage.

In the 1920s Ike worked as a guide to the Stronghart Movie Company of California, the leading group of the day making silent movies. They made three movies and the dogs hauled supplies and figured prominently as members of the cast. One such film was 'Canadian Pacific Railway'.

  Photographs of Ike Mills and his sled dogs taken by Byron Harmon in the 1920s and part of the collection in the Whyte Museum, Banff.

Top Left: Near Mount Assiniboine and Mount Magog.

Top Right: Near Mount Redoubt

Left: In Mount Shoki region near Lake Louise.


Ike also ran livery stables, the Mills Riding School, in Banff. It was family knowledge that he and his horses also appeared in films such as 'The Forty Ninth Parallel' when all the 'Mounties' rode his horses and he had a small part. Film stars also hired out his horses and one such star was Ginger Rogers.

  Ike's business card - front   -and back.  

Ike married twice and had two sons both of whom served in WW2. Obviously he led a life that was most unusual for a Bay man and it is pleasurable to learn and to write of one who has made his mark in the 'Rockies'. He visited Robin Hood's Bay in 1937 where he made a favourable impression on the younger family members wearing his stetson hat and being tall and handsome.


Contributors included Robert W.M.Storm, 'Fran' Storm and Peter Williams.


The name MILLS was well known in seafaring circles and ships owned by them may be found here

Mills family photographs may be found here.

More recent views of Western Canada