Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. II., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.
No compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations will serve to offer fit memorial to the life and accomplishments of the subject of this review, --a man remarkable in the breadth, of his wisdom, in his indomitable perseverance, his strong individuality, and yet one whose entire life had not one esoteric phase, being as an open scroll, inviting the closest scrutiny. True his were "massive deeds and great" in one sense, and yet his entire accomplishment but represented the result of the fit utilization of the innate talent which was his, and of the directing of his efforts alone, those lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination led the way. There was in Mr. HILL a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all. He carved his name deeply on the records of the state and nation and in some of the most trying hours of his country's history he proved a safe and wise counselor, whose comprehensive understanding of the national situation led him to support measures which time has proven to be of great benefit to the Union.
John HILL was born in Catskill, New York, on the 10th of June, 1821, and was a son of Hiland and Mary (BUTLER) HILL. His father was for nearly half a century identified with the Catskill National Bank, of that place, and for many years held the position of cashier. Both he and his wife died at an advanced age. They had four sons and three daughters, and one of the sons, Henry HILL, succeeded his father as cashier in the Catskill Bank. Another son, Frederick, was for sixty-three years identified with, and served as cashier of, the Farmers' National Bank of Catskill. He is still living, 1898, at the venerable age of eighty-seven. He also served as county-treasurer of Greene county, New York, for over sixty years.
In the schools of his native town John HILL acquired his preliminary education, which was supplemented by study in private schools. At an early age he secured a clerkship in the bank in which his father was cashier, acting as bookkeeper for his father until twenty years of age, when he came to Boonton, Morris county, and entered the employ of the New Jersey Iron Company in the capacity of bookkeeper and paymaster. He soon became familiar with the business of the house and for some years was connected therewith in the capacity of manager. Subsequently he engaged in general merchandising in connection with Mr. VOORHEES, was afterward a partner of Mr. PENFIELD and still later of William G. LATHROP, under the firm name of John Hill & Company, continuing in that business until the Boonton Iron Works ceased operation in 1876.
In the meantime Mr. HILL had come prominently before the public notice in an official capacity. In 1852 he was elected one of the township committee, and again in 1856 and 1863 was chosen for that position. He was postmaster of Boonton from 1849 until 1853, and was elected justice of the peace in 1856, serving five years. At the outbreak of the Civil war he became a stanch advocate of the Union cause and his patriotic addresses had marked influence on the public and occasioned many young men to enlist in the northern army. He took a deep personal interest in these "boys in blue," frequently visited them at the front and ministered to their comfort in all possible ways. It was largely due to his efforts in securing enlistments that no draft was ever made in Pequannock. In 1861 and 1862 he was elected to the state legislature and was made a member of the committee that received Lincoln when he visited Trenton on his way to Washington to be inaugurated president of the United States. In 1865 he was again chosen to represent his district in the general assembly and in 1866 was chosen speaker of the house. In 1866 he was elected to congress from the fourth New Jersey district, serving from 1867 until 1869. His opponent was Jack Rogers, and he was the first Republican ever elected in the district, which was considered a Democratic stronghold. On the close of his first term he was re-elected, and for a third time was chosen for that office, in 1871 making the memorable canvass which resulted in the defeat of Philip REFFERTY. Accompanied by a brass band he went from place to place, and his stirring addresses on the issues of the day will long be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to hear him. In 1880 he was once more chosen to represent the fourth New Jersey district in the council chambers of the nation and served from 1881 until 1883. It was his ambition and desire to become governor of the state and few men of his party ever had a stronger support than he; but owing to his declining health he was dissuaded by his medical advisers from making the canvass. While in congress he served on the committee on post-offices and post roads and was the father of the popular postal card; also was instrumental in abolishing the then pernicious franking privilege. In 1874 he was elected state senator, being thought the only Republican who could carry the county at that time, when the Democratic sentiment was very strong. During his fourth term in congress he was mainly instrumental in securing the reduction of letter postage from three cents to two. He was an enthusiastic advocate of protection to American industries, and in support of his belief, as in all other matters, he was an, indefatigable worker. He was always zealous in support of the measures intended to better the condition of the working men and the poor in general, and in all things he put the national welfare before partisanship and the general good before self-aggrandizement. Firm in support of his conviction, no one was ever in doubt as to his position relating to any question; and the sobriquet of "Honest John Hill" was not misapplied. Perhaps he did not displace the brilliance of some who have served in congress, yet he possesses true statesmanlike abilities and was a forceful, logical and convincing speaker who held the attention of the house throughout an address.
Mr. HILL was married September 27, 1853, to Phobe J. CARMAN, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (MILLER) CARMAN, of New York city. She shared in the high regard so uniformly given her honored husband and throughout Morris county she has many warm friends. Mr. HILL was a prominent and consistent member of the Presbyterian church and a very zealous worker in the Sunday-school. The last public act of his life was the delivery of a very impressive address before the Presbyterian general assembly in Saratoga, New York. He was one of the delegates to the Raikes Centennial (Sunday-school) held in London a few years ago, and after his return delivered a number of very interesting addresses on subjects discussed in that convention; for thirty-nine years he served as elder in his home church; at the time of his death was president of the Morris County Bible Society; and was also prominent in the work of the Young Men's Christian Association, and usually attended its state and national conferences.
In summing up his life work we note several very strong points in his character. He was a student of, national issues and his strong mentality well fitted him for leadership, but, while others might have used their influence and power for selfish purposes, in his public acts he was at all times governed by a loyal and patriotic purpose that knew no wavering. He left the impress of his individuality upon the legislation of his time, the usefulness and wisdom of which the passing years have shown. Nor was he content with those labors which were of a general character merely; he was a man of keen sympathy and came into close touch with humanity through his labors in the church and different church organizations. He believed thoroughly in that practical religion which extends a helping hand to the needy, is sympathetic with the distressed and at all times inspires hope and confidence in better days to come. Such was the life of one of the most honored and prominent citizens that Morris county has produced, and his name is indelibly inscribed on the pages of its history.
This biography was scanned and contributed by Catherine Smith DeMayo.
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