11/1/02, 2/28/11, 7/23/11, 11/15/16
The Western Pennsylvania frontier was truly wilderness a quarter century after the American Revolution when our Scots-Irish and English forebears settled there. According to his obituary, John Dixon Hill was born in Slippery Rock, Butler County, in 1824, to William (1799-1875) and Sarah Barber Hill (1797-1873). Little is known about them at this time, except that the descendants of older William Hill family (c.1740) moved from Adams County to Slippery Rock and founded the community of Centerville, Butler County. The younger William Hills then moved to Leesburg, Mercer County, PA, about 10 miles northeast, when John was “but a boy” (obit). They probably farmed near the Neshannock River along the Pittsburgh-Erie road, once an Indian path, now U.S. Rt. 19. John Dixon Hill probably joined the Army in 1862, and by age 38 he was off to fight for the Union cause. He was promoted to Captain with Company A, the 169th Regiment, PA Volunteers. Read the story of their accomplishments in that awful conflict in Samuel P. Bates chronicles. Today, his name is on the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg. He may have been a surgeon’s assistant, and if so, he probably saw the very worst side of the war. He was honorably discharged just after the retreat of the Confederates at Gettysburg, and as an officer was entitled to unclaimed government land in Adams Township, southern Butler County, Pennsylvania. Tradition holds that he was able to obtain enough to give each of his four sons a farm. His obituary says that he taught school and clerked in stores until he started a business. We’re not certain what that was.
John D., as he preferred to be called, had married twice, both women named Margaret, before going off to war. The first spouse was Margaret Stewart Thorn (1832-1855) in 1850. Two children came of that union, William Walter Hill (1851 – ) and Mary Anne (1853-1902). After the death of that Margaret, he married Margaret Sarah Marshall (1831-1915) in 1857, and they produced my Great-grandfather Joseph Marshall Hill (1858-1939). His brothers were Francis Leroy, John Wallace, and Quincy Adams, who lived only six years. Margaret Sarah’s parents were Joseph Marshall and his wife Elizabeth. Click on “Our Marshall Family Tree” for more information. We believe there is no connection to Marshall Township near Pine Township and North Park, where my Grandmother Bessie, their great-granddaughter, settled with her husband Bessie [see “The Settlement at Pine Creek”]. When Allegheny County took over that part of the world to create North Park in 1927, engineers formed Marshall Island, now a waterfowl sanctuary in a beautiful lake between the Ice Skating Arena and what was the old Pearce gristmill [see “Pearce Milling Company”]. According to Pine Township’s bicentennial booklet, early residents were Samuel Marshall, his wife, and six sons. A portion of their farm became the first Cross Roads Presbyterian Church and Cemetery founded in 1826. My family, the Pearces, have five generations buried there. Another private place of rest in that area known as the Marshall Cemetery, now abandoned, has yet to be located.
So, Captain John D. Hill, returned from war to Butler County, PA, his second wife, and large family to farm, to teach, and to run a small business before his death in 1915. He was 91 years old. He and Margaret Sarah are buried in the first row of the Mars Cemetery. For more information, see their Vitals.
The Captain’s first child to his second wife was my Great-grandfather Joseph Marshall Hill (1858-1939) also married twice: in 1880 to Mollie Dunlap and in 1886 to my Great-grandmother Alice Virginia Moon [see stories in “Our Moon Family Tree”]. According to his obituary, Great-grandfather Joseph was a farmer and member of the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church. He belonged to the McCandless Township Volunteer Fire Department for 50 years. Their children included my Grandmother Bessie Reed, the oldest, and her sisters Myra, Hazel, and Mayme and brothers Charles, Carl, and Harry. Myra married Thomas Clarence Miller, who worked in the aluminum mill. Hazel married Alex Nicely, a plumber. She died giving birth to twins, Jane and Jean. Mayme married Hugh Russell Crummy, a minister. Charles and wife Martha Bonin farmed. Carl and wife Debbie were in the real estate business in Delaware. Harry also farmed, but married Hulda Fisher, a schoolteacher [see reference in “Faith of our Fathers (and Mothers): Part II”]. Joseph Marshall Hill and Wife Alice are buried not far from my father, their grandson, in the Allegheny County Memorial Park north of Pittsburgh. The land that was once the Hill farms now hosts thousands of new homes and condominiums, providing an ample tax base for the ever expanding Mars School District.
We revisit some memories of Joseph and Alice’s daughter, my Grandmother Bessie Reed Hill Pearce in “Meet my Grandma Bessie.”