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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Robert Potter Hill

Although the ranch which Mr. Hill now owns and manages came into his possession upon the death of the father in 1897, he lives by no means in a reflected light, for he inherits in large measure his sireís business ability and thrift, as anyone visiting the ranch of one hundred and eighty acres near Eldridge would readily acknowledge. Mr. Hill is a native son of the state, born in Sonoma valley March 15, 1856, the son of William McPherson Hill, who was born at Hatboro, Montgomery county, Pa., October 22, 1822. His paternal grandfather was Dr. John Howard Hill, a native of Morris county, N. J., whose father, Humphrey Hill, was of Quaker extraction. Dr. Hill was a graduate of Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and served as a surgeon in a Doylestown company in the war of 1812. He practiced medicine in Pennsylvania until he came to California in 1854 and was elected to the state senate from his district in 1960. His demise occurred in Philadelphia.

The father of our subject was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1840. He served under President Polk as first clerk in the naval office in the custom house in Philadelphia for two years, when he resigned to come to California. January 16, 1849, he started on a sailing vessel via Cape Horn, arriving in San Francisco August 3, 1849. He was engaged in business there off and on and went through two fires. In 1851 he had purchased a ranch in Sonoma valley and in 1854 he located on the place and engaged in general farming and horticulture and was one of the first to engage in fruit culture in this section. He purchased adjoining land until he acquired about eighteen hundred acres. In 1890 he sold seventeen hundred and sixty acres to the state for the state home for feeble-minded children, which has now grown to large proportions and built up with magnificent buildings and is a grand institution. Aside from being county supervisor in 1860 he served one term in the state senate in 1875. His wife was Annie Potter, born in New Jersey, the daughter of Robert B. Potter, a merchant in Philadelphia. The mother died in San Francisco, and the father died November 17, 1897. Not only was the Sonoma county ranch the home of Mr. Hillís parents until their deaths, but his paternal grandfather also lived here and took an active part in the upbuilding of the community, and at one time represented his district in the state senate. The father was no less public-spirited and enterprising, and his election as supervisor in 1860 proved to his constituents that they had chosen the right man for the place.

Robert P. Hill was educated in the district school near the home ranch in Sonoma county, and received later advantages in the schools of Oakland. With the close of his school days he returned to the farm and thereafter was associated with his father in its management until 1890, when it was sold, the father then retiring from business. In the year just mentioned Mr. Hill was appointed manager of the farm of the state home and at once assumed charge of the large farm, which occupied his time for five years. He was then appointed steward, and served efficiently in this position for two years. In February, 1898, he began farming the place of fifty-six acres near Eldridge which he now occupies. Since then he has added to it until he now has one hundred and eighty acres, which he devotes to general farming and horticulture. The ranch is beautifully located on an elevation which commands a magnificent view of the surrounding country, and its proximity to two railroads obviates the necessity of hauling produce long distances to market. The ranch is devoted entirely to the raising of grapes and fruit, the former being disposed of to the winery.

Mr. Hill was married in 1897 to Miss Kate Donohue, a native of Mercer county, Pa., that also being the birthplace of her parents, Timothy J. and Rose A. (Conneely) Donohue. The father brought his family to California and located in San Rafael, where he was engaged in the lumber and planning mill business. He passed away there, but his widow still lives in that town. Mrs. Hillís education was obtained in San Rafael and she is a woman in every way fitted to be a companion and helpmeet to her husband. She is actively interested in social affairs in her community and in 1906=07 served as state president of the California federation of womenís clubs. In his choice of politics Mr. Hill has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him, being a stanch Democrat. Every measure of an upbuilding character receives the hearty support and co-operation of Mr. Hill, this being especially true of school matters. He is a present serving as trustee of the high school of Sonoma, and for the past six years has been clerk of the board. Fraternally and socially he is well and favorably known throughout this community, being an active member of Temple Lodge No. 14, F. & A. M. of Sonoma, is a charter member of the Glen Ellen Grange, a charter member of the Glen Ellen Parlor, N. S. G. W., and a member of the Woodmen of the World. It is to such citizens as Mr. and Mrs. Hill that the upbuilding of California is due. There is not a public measure started that is for the improvement of the county but receives their hearty support, using their time and means to enhance the different public enterprises and all societies for social improvement.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011