Among the former citizens of Brighton township, whose names deserve commemoration in these pages, is AMOS AVERY HILLIARD, who died February 28th, 1878. His ancestors were early residents of New England. His father, whose name was Amos A. Hilliard, was born in 1770, and died at Cornish, New Hampshire, in the year 1856. Mr. Hilliard was raised on a farm, and obtained a good education in the common schools of his native town. He left Cornish at the age of twenty and went to Boston, where for two years he was employed as clerk in a hotel. From Boston he went to New York, and for a couple of years had the care of one of the Astors, who was a confirmed invalid, helpless, and in constant need of assistance. He first came West in 1832. He had acquired some capital in New York and Boston, and in partnership with a gentleman from the latter city he embarked in the pork-packing business at Alton. The firm shipped large quantities of pork to New Orleans, and Mr. Hilliard on one occasion accompanied the cargo down the Mississippi. The navigation of the river was not entirely free from danger, and on this trip the boat struck a snag and in a few minutes went to the bottom. A number of passengers were on board, all of whom were drowned excepting Mr. Hilliard and two others, who clung to one end of the boat, which remained for a short time above the water, till they were rescued from their perilous position by a passing steamer. Within a few minutes after they were picked up the boat disappeared altogether beneath the current of the river. The business of packing pork was comparatively a new industry in the West at that time, and the experiment proved financially unsuccessful. The business was discontinued, and he returned to New Hampshire.
He came back again to Illinois in the year 1834, and purchased the farm in section seventeen, of the present Brighton township, on which he resided till his death. His first marriage took place on the 30th of November, 1837, to Charlotte Towne, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Towne. The Towne family were early residents of Hopkinton, near Concord, New Hampshire, and had lived in New England for many generations. In the old Towne mansion at Hopkinton, a massive and solid structure, the marks of bullets may yet be seen, which were made while a company of soldiers were quartered in the house during the Revolutionary war. Charlotte Towne was born August 4th, 1802. She came with her brother, Rodney Towne, to Woodburn, in this county, in 1833. The land which Mr. Hilliard purchased had been entered by Stephen Griggs, but was unimproved. On obtaining possession he built a house, and vigorously began the work of putting the land under cultivation. He gradually succeeded in developing it into a fine and valuable farm, and purchased additional land, so that at the time of his death, he was the owner of 425 acres. His first wife died August 8, 1845. In 1846 he married Mrs. Harriet Towne, widow of Joseph Boutwell Towne, brother to his first wife. She lived till October, 1872. His third wife, whom he married in 1873, was Mrs. A. S. Everett.
His natural powers of mind were of a superior order; and he was also gifted with unusual energy and excellent business capacity. His education at school was supplemented by careful reading, and his opinions on agricultural and other subjects were of more than ordinary value. He possessed, in addition, a large degree of enterprise, and beside carrying on general farming embarked at an early date in the business of growing fruit, in which he was a pioneer in Macoupin county. As early as 1845 he began sending peaches to St. Louis daily by the morning boat from Alton. At that time this was considered a bold and unusual undertaking, but it was carried out so as to be remunerative to Mr. Hilliard. In later years he quit the peach growing business, and directed his attention to the growing of early apples and the making of cider and vinegar. To the production of an excellent quality of vinegar and cider he gave special attention during the last twenty years of his life, and succeeded so well that for a number of consecutive years he was awarded premiums at the state and other fairs, where these products came in competition with those of other makers. These articles have not suffered in quality since his death, and are still made in large quantities by his son, George W. Hilliard. He took an active interest in every movement for the promotion of agriculture and horticulture. He was the first president of the Brighton township Farmers' Club, organized in January, 1872, and for many years was a leading member of the Alton Horticultural Society. About fifteen years previous his death he began contributing to different journals, and several articles from his pen appeared in the New York Tribune, the Prairie Farmer, and Colman's Rural World on "Fruit Growing, Hedging" and other similar subjects. His constitution was strong and vigorous, and he enjoyed good health through life till within five or six years of his death. His personal characteristics may well be judged from what has already been written in this sketch. He was public-spirited; always ready to assist every undertaking which in his opinion would benefit the community at large; charitable and benevolent; and his death was lamented by a large circle of friends and acquaintances. He was first a Whig in politics, and became a republican on the formation of that party. He had two children by his first marriage, both sons, one of whom died when four years old; the other is George W. Hilliard, now one of the large and enterprising farmers of Brighton township. He was born November 1st, 1840; was married April 13, 1864, to Celia Adelaide Chase, daughter of Taylor G. Chase, a sketch of whose history appears elsewhere. He lives on the old homestead farm; is the owner of 600 acres of land, and largely carries on the same specialties in agriculture and fruit growing in which his father was interested.