Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Jedediah Hills

From The Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, August 29, 1861, "Sketches of the Pioneers No. 16," and reprinted in the April 1986 "LakeLines," the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

The subject for the present dissertation, Jedediah Hills, Esq., was born in Enfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, Jan. 21st, 1777. Like most of our subjects his boyhood years are enveloped in the mists of past time. His educational privileges were of that scanty nature peculiar to the age; and what of intellectual training he received above this common school discipline was of the practical kind, and self-acquired by reading and observation. With Esquire hills, habitation, (or as the Phrenologist would say, inhabitiveness) was strongly marked in his mental constitution. He never moved but twice so as to change materially his neighborhood. He resided in Enfield until he came to Ohio. He did, however, we may state, as a slight variance of the above statement, go (at what time we are unable to determine, but we believe before he was married) into the State of New York, and did such work as is necessary in opening up a new farm. Hills worked so hard during his stay in the State, that he injured his health and never fully recovered from the injury. He named the town where he thus literally martyrized himself to "free labor," Sherborne, which is its name today.

In Enfield he first, after arriving at majority, learned and followed for a livelihood the avocation of a wheelwright. But seeking a change, he purchased some land, mostly, we think, on a credit; and in obtaining the means to pay for it, there was displayed one of those personal favors which Forturne, at intervals, showers down upon whomsoever she will. He raised an excellent crop of corn, just in time to catch the high prices brought about by the French war. He received for his corn $1.00 per bus. What year this was our authorities are unable to state. We know that this war embraced a period between 1792 and 1814.

In the year 1811, Hills, Solomon Kingsbury, and Galus Pease, came West, and Hills located 200 acres of land. It embraced all lying between the N.E. corner of State and Main sts., in Painesville, and the river, and then North, including the ground now occupied by the Geauga Furnace. We rather think that the farm now is better known among old settlers as the "Hills Farm," than by any other name - although it has been the property, the most of it, for some years, of Dr. Parmly of New York.

During this stay in Ohio of Mr. Hills, Capt. Pepoon died. After making the purchase of land, he sold it to Kingsbury, and returned to Enfield. Whatever may have been the inducements, Hills made up his mind to become a resident of Painesville. Kingsbury became involved, and his coming may have had connection with that fact. Certain it is Hills came on in 1814 with his family, and bought back the farm, save the corner above referred to, including the American House. His means of transportation were a large youke of oxen and double wagon, and a horse and double wagon, and a hose and single wagon. The oxen soon became foot-sore and Hills exchanged them for a span of horses. His family then consisted of himself, wife, and three children, his sister, a nephew, and two hired men - nine in all. He began his journey June the 1st, and arrived in Painesville just one month after, July 1st.

When Hills came to Painesville, S. W. Phelps, Esq. was Postmaster. Mr. Phelps having business of more importance to him than the P. O., put Hills in as an Assistant soon after he came here, and he took the entire business control of it, and kept the management of it until Mr. Phelps relinquished it to Hills and he was appointed Postmaster, which position he held for twenty years, and was succeeded by Captain Adams.

Although the precise date cannot be arrived at, but it is supposed that at the time of his becoming Postmaster, or thereabouts, and probably in 1817, Hills, by the persuasion of Dr. _____, a personal friend, opened a Drug establishment, - and this was the first in Painesville. His stock when he opened was brought from Erie in a one-horse wagon.

As showing the comparative value of a letter and a bushel of wheat, we mention a circumstance told by some of our old citizens. When Postmaster, it is said that Grandison Newell, at one time in the stress of circumstances besetting him, offered Hills a bushel of wheat for a letter. Wheat not being lawful tender, it followed of course that unless Hills could strike the bargain on his own account, he must refuse it, which was done. Newell went to the mill, and succeeded in disposing of the wheat for 25 cents cash, which paid the postage on the letter.

From 1817 to 1825, a period of eight years, Hills was Justice of Peace. In this office he was succeeded by Wm. Holbrook, Esq. Thus it will be seen that his avocations in life have been quite varied. In a letter to a friend of his youth, from whom he had not heard for many a revolving year, written when he was 75 years old, he says in reference to the matter: "I have been a wheelwright, a farmer, a school teacher, a musician, a druggist, a postmaster, a justice of the peace, and a beggar." The last remark we suppose refers to the reverses which he sustained in 1836 or 1837, in consequence of his having been bail to a large amount. In the same letter he says that when he came through Buffalo in 1811, "Painesville appeared to have a little the start of Buffalo."

Like his fellow men, Mr. Hills had his peculiar characteristics. In his political notions he was a Democrat. He says his "first vote was given for the elder Adams - Jefferson was elected. On reading and reflection I made up my mind that the system of measures recommended by Mr. Jefferson was better," &c., &c., than those "by the Federal party." From that time on, Hills was always a Jefferson man. As showing the peculiarity of his opinions touching the dominant sentiment here, we quote from the letter again: "The anti-Slavery party make quite a figure here on the Western Reserve. The party are outside of the Constitution, authorizing their importation for 20 years for the purpose of putting an end to the traffic at the end of that period. The legal property of individuals at the South cannot be sacrificed to satisfy Northern consciences." Of course Mr. Hlls was no prophet, or else he might have foreseen the triumph of 1860.

He was a very extensive reader, embracing within his attention almost every work extant in his time, and he possessed a very retentive memory, but which his reading was doubly profitable.

His intercourse with his fellow men was marked by a high sense of honor, honor of a sensitive character. When Postmaster, lost money was traced to his office, and although as innocent of the crime or any complicity with it, or knowledge of it, or even any suspicion of the author of it, as a man in Russia could be, still he was so affected by the fact that he became seriously ill. "But Time, the test of Truth," wroght out the solution of the matter, and it proved that a young man, who had been a clerk in the office, was the rascal.

The latter years of his life Hills busied himself in growning the necessary edibles for sustaining life, on a little farm a few miles from town. He died Jan. 12th, 1859. His estimable consort still lives with the youngest of his children, a daughter, near this village.

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