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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



JESSE HILL, one of the honored pioneers of McLean County, settled in Dale Township as early as 1830, and during a residence of fifty-seven years has fully established himself in the respect and esteem of his associates and fellow-citizens. Since coming to this section of Illinois Mr. Hill has closely identified himself with the industrial and agricultural interests of his adopted county, and whenever an opportunity presented itself has been one of the foremost to contribute of his time and means to promote its development and prosperity. As the oldest settler of Dale Township he is held in peculiar veneration and respect, and accorded that tacit acknowledgement to the worth and enterprise which have been his chief characteristics.

The subject of our sketch is a native of the Blue Grass State, having been born five miles from Lexington, Fayette Co., Ky. His birth occurred on the 24th of March, 1809, and his father was James Hill, a native of Pennsylvania, who, when a young man removed to Kentucky, before his marriage, and settled in the county where his son was subsequently born. He was a carpenter and millwright by trade, a skilled workman, and followed his trade in Kentucky until 1820. In the meantime he had married, and now resolved to remove to the North. He accordingly started out with his wife and nine children for the State of Indiana. They proposed to make the trip overland, and their outfit consisted of eleven horses and three wagons. After crossing the Ohio River they settled in Jefferson County, Ind., where the elder Hill followed his trade and became prominent in the business affairs of that section. He built two or three gristmills, of which he superintended the operations for some years, and also carried on the business of cabinet-making. He passed the balance of his life in Jefferson County, and after a long and busy career departed from the scenes of his earthly labors in about 1860, at the ripe old age of eighty-four years.

The partner of his early manhood and the mother of our subject was Miss Mary C. Cope, to whom he was married about 1794. She was a native of Maryland, and after her marriage to James Hill accompanied him to Jefferson County, Ind., and died in that county two years after the death of her husband, in 1862. They became the parents of twelve children, whom they carefully trained to habits of industry and principles of honor and honesty, and of whom five are surviving, and are living worthy and honorable lives in accordance with the precepts handed down to them by their worthy and excellent parents.

Jesse Hill of our sketch was the fifth child of his parents' family. He received only a limited education, but being naturally fond of books has always kept himself well posted in regard to all matters worthy of attention. As soon as large enough to work he assisted his father in the mill and distillery, and remained with his parents until after he had attained his majority. He then determined to see something of the world beyond the bounds of his native State, and packing a knapsack started on foot for the prairies of Illinois. He walked from Madison to McLean County and upon his arrival here had $3.37½ in his pocket. This was in 1830. He first obtained work among farmers, digging wells, splitting rails, or whatever his hands could find to do. He made his home for the first twelve months with Col. Beeler, of Twin Grove, whose daughter, Miss Nancy, became his wife in August of the following year.

After spending one season in McLean County, Ill., Mr. Hill went to Indiana, procured a pair of horses, a wagon and some leather; he then traded one horse, the wagon and leather for forty acres of land in Twin Grove, McLean County, and also purchased a claim on section 2, of Dale Township. Upon this there was a log cabin partly finished, and into it he removed with his young wife and commenced housekeeping. He had no money with which to enter land, and it was entered for him, and he then traded his land in Twin Grove for the eighty acres which he now owns and occupies.

He erected a small, round log house, chinked and daubed it with mud, and built a chimney of sticks and dirt. He took possession of this place in 1833, which he has continuously owned and occupied since that time. The log cabin, however, has been replaced by a handsome and comfortable farm residence; and the diminutive pig-pen by a good barn and all necessary outbuildings. Mr. Hill has added to his first purchase as his means permitted, and is now the possessor of 220 acres, all in a good state of cultivation. He has also erected a good set of buildings on two other farms. His life has been one of energy and industry, and in his later days he feels richly rewarded for the toils and difficulties of his early manhood.

Miss Nancy Beeler, the first wife of our subject, became the mother of three children, and departed this life in Dale Township, in October, 1840. She was born in Butler County, Ohio, in April, 1808, and was the daughter of Samuel and Mary (Graves) Beeler, who removed from Ohio to Illinois in 1830. The children of Jesse Hill by his first marriage were: John W., who lives in Dale Township; Jane, wife of Samuel Morgan, also of this township; and Martha E., Mrs. Sackett, who lives in Bloomington.

For his second wife Mr. Hill, in 1843, married Miss Phoebe Munsell, who was born in Vermont and died in Dale Township, this county, in 1860. Of this marriage there were also three children: Nancy A., the wife of James Rogers, of Dale Township; Zerah Munsell, of Kansas, and James, also a resident of Dale.

The third marriage of Mr. Hill took place in 1862, his wife having been Miss Matilda Hancock, of Ohio, and of this marriage there are two sons living -- Charles F. and William A.

Politically Mr. Hill is a stanch adherent of the Democratic party. His life has included a rich experience, and he has witnessed with unabated interest the remarkable changes which have occurred along the Mississippi Valley since his removal from the Blue Grass State of his nativity to the prairies of Illinois. The stirring scenes he has witnessed during the course of a long and busy life would make an interesting volume, and we cannot by any means do justice to them within the brief details of a biographical sketch. Suffice it to say that Mr. Hill has acted well his part, and has his abundant reward in the position which he holds in the community.

Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 265. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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