Mr. Hills came to this country in 1857, from Durham, England, where he was born in the town of Gainford, Jan. 20, 1840. He came of Scotch ancestry, his grandfather, Robert Hills, having come from Scotland with his parents when a small boy. His grandfather spent the most of his life in Durham and Yorkshire as a farmer, and died at the age of eighty years, and was buried in Durham County. He married Sarah Gibson, a native of England, who lived and died there. It is a noteworthy fact that the family are very long-lived to be nearly seventy years or older, and some as old as eighty years. The father of the subject of this notice, Edmund Hills, was one of the younger of this remarkable family of thirteen children. They were all well known as temperance people of good habits, and high moral qualities. Edmund Hills grew up in the county where he was born, and began life as an English farmer usually does, and is still living in Durham County, over seventy years of age, and is stout and active. He was married to Mary Howe, of English birth and parentage, and born in Durham County, where she has since lived. Edmund Hills and wife are members of the Church of England, and are well thought of in their community. They were the parents of twelve children, of whom the subject of this sketch was the eldest. In the family of children there were five sons and seven daughters, and of these four sons and six daughters are still living. Robert, two brothers and a sister are residents of the United States, and all are married.
Robert Hills, of whom this biography is written, was reared in his native country, and on April 22, 1857, he started for America, taking passage at Liverpool on the Steamship "Kangaroo," of the Inman line, and after a voyage of thirteen days, landed at New York City, when he immediately set his face westward and came to Morgan County. At this time he was under age, and began life in his new home as a laborer. He continued in this occupation until his marriage, which occurred at the bride's home, in this township, April 27, 1862, Miss Sarah Allinson becoming his wife. She was born on the old Allinson homestead on section 2, township 15, range 11. She is the eldest child of Adam Allinson, who was born not many miles from Gould, in Yorkshire, England, in 1801. He came of English ancestry, and was the son of Adam Allinson, who had been a blacksmith and veterinary surgeon, and who was married to an English lady of his native shire, to whom was born two children - Thomas and Adam, Jr. Thomas Allinson learned the trade of his father, that of blacksmith, and when yet a young man left his home for America, being the first of his family to cross the sea, this being about the year 1819. For a time he lived in Southern Indiana, and later his father, mother and brother Adam came over, in 1820, and joined him. The father of Thomas and Adam died soon after landing in Indiana, being then an old man. In 1821, the younger brother, Adam, father of Mrs. Hills. Constructed a primitive flatboat, which he launched on the Wabash River, placed all his worldly possessions thereon, and started down the river. He floated down the Ohio to Cairo, and then poled his boat up the Mississippi River to Naples. On his way up the Illinois River to reach Naples, he passed through, what to him was a very lonely country. He, however, set out for Jacksonville, and in the same year began to look around for some of the rich Government land that was then to be had in this county. He found what he wanted, and preempted the land on which the County Poor Farm and the Illinois State College are located, but later, to procure just the home he wanted, he came on to township 15, range 11, and preempted several hundred acres of land. He here found the most eligible building spot in the county, on a knoll of considerable elevation, overlooking a large scope of country, and here he built his first house before he was yet married. He has built and re-built since, until his now beautiful homestead stands as a monument to his memory. His death occurred in 1880, he having reached the age of fourscore. It was soon after he had come to this county that the mother and an older brother, Thomas, came on and joined him. Thomas located the property where Mr. Robert Hills now lives, and made that his home until 1856, when he went to Macon County, Ill., and purchased 1300 acres of railroad land and improved it. He there died, in 1863, at a ripe old age. The mother of the two boys, Thomas and Adam, lived with the latter until her death, which occurred some years after she came to Morgan County, aged sixty-six years.
After Adam Allinson had come to this county he married Miss Mary Norwood, who was a native of Yorkshire, and whose parents, Robert and Sarah Norwood, came to the United States in 1827, and made a settlement in Morgan County. Here Mr. and Mrs. Norwood lived and died, the former dying in 1836, of cholera, the period when that disease was epidemic in Illinois; his wife dying some years later. Mr. Norwood was a miller, and ran the mill which his son-in-law, Mr. Allinson, had built, which is probably the first one erected in this county. Its motive power was supplied by oxen, eight or ten of these animals treading a wheel forty feet in diameter. The customers of this mill came from sixty miles around.
Mrs. Mary Allinson was a young woman when her parents came to America. She died in 1874, some years before her husband, at the age of sixty-six years. She attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was a good mother and neighbor. Three of her six children are now deceased: Thomas, Sr.,; Thomas, Jr.; and Ann, who was the wife of John Funk. She died in Morgan County, leaving two sons. The living children are: Mrs. Hills; Mary, wife of George Bramham, and the youngest of the family, Adam, whose biography appears in another part of this volume. Mrs. Hills, is the mother of four children, one of whom, Robert, is deceased; he died at the age of nineteen years, and was a bright young man. The living are as follows: Leonard married Sarah McFarlane; they are living on a farm in Morgan County. Mary, the wife of Thomas Packard, lives on a farm near Franklin; Adam E. is at home, and a bright boy. Mr. and Mrs. Hills attend the Methodist Episcopal Church, and politically Mr. Hills believes that the Republican party is right.