HILL COUNTY PIONEERS

 

J. H. DYER was first County Judge of Hill County, and his friend, C. N. Brooks, served as first county clerk, district clerk, and justice of the peace.  Both men were from Walker County, Georgia, and came to Texas in 1847.  In 1849 they moved to what is now Hill County and brought over 100 head of cattle and a herd of horses. (Bailey, History of Hill County).  Dyer lived four miles north of Hillsboro, then eight years in Steiner Valley, and later in Bosque County. Dyer was described as an extraordinary man…… generous, philanthropic, positive in attitude, warmly loving to his friends and equally cold to his enemies (History of Johnson and Hill Counties.)  J. H. Dyer and S. C. Dyer built a dam across the Brazos about 1858, and erected a water mill at Towash.  They ground grain and had machinery to card wool. (Bailey).

CINCINNATUS N. BROOKS has left his indelible mark on the early records of Hill County through his fluent penmanship.  As Justice of the Peace Brooks presided over the examining trial of Dr. Steiner for killing Major Arnold at Fort Graham.  The trial was held northeast of Hillsboro at Judge Brooks’ home. (Bailey)  Brooks later lived on a farm four miles west of Hillsboro, and is buried at Hickey Cemetery (Johnson and Hill Counties).  Brooks was county clerk for six terms, and he also is remembered as helping to lay out the City of Hillsboro and to construct the first log courthouse in Hillsboro (Hillsboro Mirror).  Brooks was also vice-president of the Sturgis National Bank when it received its national charter in 1887.  He was the father of Roxie Brooks who married George L. Porter, an officer in Sturgis and Citizens National Banks.

J. RANS DAVIS was born in Hickman County, Tennessee, and came to Hill County in 1849.  In 1853 he assisted in the organization of Hill County and was elected one of the original county commissioners in the 1853 election (75 votes were cast).  He received a 320  acre head right from the state, and added to this until he owned 2,000 acres.  In the early days he helped survey much of the county.  He was married to Miss Margaret Wood, who was born in Scotland.

REV. JOHN S. PATTON was born in 1825 and was a pioneer Cumberland Presbyterian minister.  After organizing the church in Corsicana, he moved to Hill County and operated a mill on Aquilla Creek known as Patton’s Mill.  He helped organize the first church in the county at Peoria in 1854, and also was instrumental organizing the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Woodbury.  Patton died in 1895.

JO ABBOTT was born in 1840 near Decatur, Alabama, and moved to Freestone County as a young man.  Moved to Hill County in 1867 and in 1868 married Rowena Sturgis.  Served in the Texas House in 1869 (11th Legislative Session) and served as district judge from 1879-1884.  Served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1887-1897.  With his brother-in-law George F. Sturgis, established the first bank in Hill County in 1875, Abbott & Sturgis. In 1877 Sturgis bought out Abbott’s largest interest in the bank.

GEORGE F. STURGIS was born in Maryland in 1848, and moved with his family first to Arkansas and then to Memphis, Tennessee.  George Sturgis received his education in the public and select schools of Waco, and began his business career in Waco.  In 1875 he came to Hillsboro, and opened a private bank in partnership with Jo Abbott.  Mr. Sturgis was absorbed in Hillsboro business pursuits, and gave little attention to political matters, but did serve as treasurer for the City of Hillsboro.  He accumulated a considerable fortune, and built a spacious home in the 400 block of Corsicana Street.  He was married to Julia Vineyard of Louisana, whose family came to Hill County in 1873.

WILLIAM SIDNEY MILLS was born in North Carolina in 1823 and moved to Panola County, Mississippi in 1860.  Mills was married first to Elizabeth McNeely of North Carolina, and after his wife’s death, married Mariah Randolph Middleton, widow of Confederate Capt. W. G. Middleton.  Mills came to Hillsboro in 1878 and built the Mills House of South Waco Street (southeast corner of Gould and Waco) and a livery stable on the northeast corner of the street.  In conjunction with the livery stable, Mills operated a delivery service, and was employed to carry building materials for the construction of the 1890 Hill County courthouse.  Mills daughter, Alice, married T. G. Hawkins, who was president/ chairman of the board of the Sturgis Band and Citizens National Bank.

CAPT. SAMUEL CROCKETT UPSHAW was born in Little Rock in 1840, graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1861.  He saw action in 17th Mississippi Regiment and in Waul’s Legion.  Upshaw was on General Waul’s staff to the siege of Vicksburg, where he was captured July 4, 1863.  He was admitted to the bar in 1866, and moved to Hillsboro in 1874.  He represented Hill County in the Senate in the 21st Legislative Session.  He was a man of strong conviction and beliefs.  He did not take “politically correct” positions, and was opposed the creation of the Railroad Commission.  He was known as a fighter, and was not easily disturbed or caught off guard.  Outspoken in his opinions, his friendships were ardent, and his enemies equally convinced.