George Washington Hill
Pioneer of 1849
copyright © 2011


Submitted by Jennie Hill Cobb, great-grandniece of George Washington Hill:

 Biography of George Washington Hill
24 Dec 1820 McMinnCounty, Tennessee - 30 June 1898, Hot Springs, Elmore, Idaho 

by Mary Loualla Hill Stephen

 For the sake of the future generations it is a privilege and a pleasure to give a short history concerning the lives of the two men who originally owned and operate these [gold] scales, George and James Hill.  But to be able to give an accurate history of them, we must go back to their forefathers to see where they got many of their characteristics.  For three generations their ancestors were soldiers, thus, courage, loyalty and patriotism were precepts taught from childhood.  Pioneers, all of them, leaving the settled for the unsettled country, encountering and enduring hardships which as we read and ponder over, we wonder how they ever did it.  Besides physical courage they also had spiritual courage, for Joab Hill not only was a soldier, but was also a Baptist minister.  Joab Hill with his wife, Elizabeth Lane Hill, and their children moved from McMinn County, Tennessee in the 1830s to Clark County, Missouri, settling near Athens.  He owned over one thousand acres of land in this vicinity, but after his death when gold was discovered in California in 1849, Elizabeth Lane Hill with several of the Hill sons and daughter Louisa decided to go West.  As to the hardships of that trip it has been justly said that, “The cowards never started, the weak fell by the wayside and only the strong reached their journey’s end.”

  So in this little history of Uncle George, we can safely say that he was one of the Argonauts of California, withstanding the privations and perils of those early days.  He also helped to subdue the Range River and Pitt River Indians in the early 1850s.  Leaving California he went to Idaho about the year 1861 and settled at Fort Boise, later near the Rock Bar stage road.  This was called Hill’s Station, and was fifteen miles from Mountain Home, Idaho.  A few years after this he built a beautiful home in the valley between Hill’s Station and Mountain Home. 

 There was much trouble with the Indians in Idaho also, and Uncle George at one time was in command of thirty-four men at Boyd’s Creek.  He was entirely surrounded for five days and nights and cut off from water by Chief Winnemnce and his whole band of warriors, which out numbered the thirty-four men many times.  They fought for three days and nights before Uncle dared detail a man to cook them a thing to eat.  He sent two men to Boise for re-inforcements, with handkerchiefs tied over their heads.  The second man or the one which started twenty-four hours after the first, arrived in Boise first.  The men had to crawl for many miles, one of the men said he heard something fly by his head and, as he did not know what direction to go, he thought, “I will go the direction the bird flew.”  Later he learned it was the Indians shooting at him. 

  Some of the men at camp became discouraged and talked of leaving.  The one wounded man learned of this and as Uncle George was on guard, he heard him making such pitiful sounds.  Uncle went on his beat but the man continued moaning.  Uncle came back to him and demanded to know what was the matter.  The man replied, “Captain Hill, the men are planning to desert and as I am wounded and cannot go, the Indians will scalp me.”  Uncle George replied, “They are not going to leave.”  He then told his men that the first man that started to leave camp would be shot.  They ran out of bullets when a miraculous thing occurred.  The Indian’s pony with their ammunition came to Uncle’s camp and was immediately captured.  The wounded man whittled the bullets down to fit their guns.  Uncle said it was harder to guard his own men that it was to fight the Indians, as he had to do both day and night duty.  Uncle thought the Indians knew when the re-inforcements were coming as they had many scouts out watching.  When they drew off and he could break camp, he had lost but one man and had one wounded.  He was re-inforced by 150 men, when he saw the man his nerves gave way and he fainted.  The skill he showed in handling his men and also his successful campaigns against the Indians gleaned for him an enviable reputation.

  In the fall of 1882 Uncle George and Aunt Ella accompanied by Aunt Louisa Kelly came to visit Aunt Elizabeth Duty in Missouri.  There was a man on the train smoking and some of the women asked Uncle George to speak to this man as the smoke was making them sick.  The man paid no attention to Uncle and continued smoking.  Uncle then took the man by the collar and started for the smoking car when the conductor came and asked what the trouble was.  When told, the conductor said to take him on.  Not only did they visit all the relatives in Clark County, but also went to Tennessee to visit the old home there, as they were all natives of that state. 

  In the summer of 1891, I remember a young man came to Uncle saying that he needed a team but had no money to pay for it.  Uncle thinking him worthy had some horses brought in from the range and gave him a team.  Later the young man repaid Uncle’s kindness by stealing one of his most valuable shepherd dogs. 

  Uncle told about capturing a man who had escaped from prison.  The sheriff with some men trailed the convict until they came to some thick brush near the Boise river.  They were afraid to go in after him as they did not care to risk their lives.  When Uncle heard of the failure to capture this man, he went after him, crawling through the brush.  The convict saw Uncle first and told him to stop or he would shoot.  Uncle replied, “You come out or I will shoot.”  He started back to Boise with him in the morning stopping at a ranch for breakfast.  He gave a hired man his gun to guard the prisoner.  However, the hired man laid the gun on the table and went to the barn.  The convict grabbed the gun saying to Uncle, “You are my prisoner now.”  Uncle replied, “Not much, Sir,” and ducked his head as the man fired.  Uncle was so close that the powder burned his face terribly.  The lady of the house saw the convict firing at Uncle George and ran to the barn saying that Mr. Hill had been shot.  She heard him fall and thought him dead.  The farmer and his Indian helper rushed to the house and found Uncle holding his man on the floor with one hand and the gun was in the other.  The Indian said, “I’ll shoot him for you, Mr. Hill.”  The prisoner said, “Mr. Hill is too brave a man to shoot a man when he is down.”  The hired man which left the gun on the table thought Uncle had been killed.  He left the place and was never heard of again.  Whether he left the gun lying there accidentally or whether he wished to help the convict was never known.  Further on the way to Fort Boise, the prisoner would run his horse up against Uncle’s horse and try to get his revolver.  Uncle covered him with his gun and told him to behave himself, but the man was very stubborn, so Uncle having no hand cuffs finally tied the man’s legs together under the horse and had no more trouble.  After reaching Boise, Uncle went to consult a doctor about having the powder removed from his face.  It was imbedded so deeply that the doctor thought he could not remove it.  Uncle told him to cut deep as he did not want to think of that fellow every time he saw the powder in his face. 

  Uncle became one of the leading, honored, and wealthiest stockmen of Idaho, having horses, cattle and sheep.  In 1893 he sheared over 6,000 head of sheep.  Uncle George was a man of sterling character and worth and his personality was such that he was beloved by all the little children in the neighborhood.  George W. Hill was a son of Joab and Elizabeth Lane Hill, was born December 24, 1820, McMinn County, Tennessee and died July 30, 1898, Hot Springs, Idaho.  He was laid to rest in the Mountain Home cemetery fifteen miles from his old home.  He married Miss Ella Calloway who survived him for several years.


 George W. HILL to Ella CALLAWAY 10/16/1871 by Robert Sneed, M. G.


from The Valley of Tall Grass by Adelaide Hawes, 1950, Bruneau, ID, p. 201
 Captain George W. Hill, a typical Southern gentleman, was born in Tennessee, December 24, 1820, and, after many adventures, the lure of gold and the excitement of the gold rush took him to California in the days of  '49.

   In the early sixties he came to Idaho Territory and followed the gold rush to Silver City.  Not finding this to his liking, and ever being a lover of stock, he finally decided to quit mining and engage in stock raising.  He too had heard of the beautiful Bruneau Valley, and decided to locate there, taking up a ranch on the south side of the river, just above the B.F. Hawes ranch.

  After he had his ranch established, with some buildings and stock, he returned to Tennessee in 1871 and married his former sweetheart, Mary Ella Callaway, a beautiful Southern belle.  They brought back two young darkies, a brother and sister, William and Ellen Hearst, to help with the work.  As this darky boy grew up he became a good rider and vaquero and, known as "Nigger Bill," was well liked by all the cowboys.  Ellen was a wonderful maid, but in years to come grew lonesome for her old home and returned.  These were the only darkies who ever lived in Bruneau Valley.

   In 1877, Mrs. Hill returned to Tennessee to visit her old home again.  It had been very lonesome for her, so she induced her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Epperson, and family, to come West.  They came by train to Elko, Nevada, in December, 1877, and were met by the Hills and taken on to Bruneau Valley in a wagon.  They resided on the Hills' ranch and also engaged in stock business.

   In 1883, Captain George Hill sold out his ranch and stock to Levi Harris and moved to the tollgate on the other side of Mountain Home and the Epperson family moved to Boise.  Captain George Hill was a true Southern gentleman and liked and respected by all.

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