Lewis A. Hill

LEWIS A. HILL, who resides on a farm in Gilpin township, Armstrong county, about four miles from Leechburg, is a representative member of the family to which he belongs and has taken particular interest in its history, having made researches which have added considerably to the knowledge of their ancestors possessed by the Hills. The account of the family compiled by him appears herewith. Mr. Hill was born April 3, 1864 in Allegheny (now Gilpin) township, Armstrong county, son of Salem Hill. He is a great grandson of the John Hill who was captured and killed by the Indians.

John Hill, his grandfather, born Feb. 25, 1772, died Jan 8, 1848. His first wife, Elizabeth Waltz, a native of Westmoreland county, of German descent, died Oct. 13, 1817, aged thirty-eight years. She was the mother of ten children: Mary (or Polly); Elizabeth; John; Jacob, who died in Parks township, this county; Levi; Eli, born in 1807, who died in October, 1843, in Leechburg (he married Susan Ashbaugh, who died in

March, 1878, aged about sixty-two years, and they had four children, John, Eveline, Mrs. Margaret Barr and Mrs. Priscilla Lytle); Daniel, who died at Leechburg; Hiram, born Dec. 17,1812, who died in Gilpin township Jan. 16, 1891; and Deborah, who died young. For his second wife the father married Susan Ament or Ammon, who died Jan. 8, 1884, aged ninety-three years. The following children were born to this union: Hetty (or Esther), who married George Ehrenfeld, a Lutheran minister; Leah, who died unmarried; Noe, widow of James Weaver, residing in Gilpin township; John; Ammon, who died in Freeport, Pa.; Shiloh (father of John A. and James R. Hill); Philip, who died when fifteen years old; Seni, who died young; and Salem. The brothers Eli, Levi and Jacob engaged in the manufacture of salt, drilling the third well in this section for that purpose. They drilled altogether about eight wells, becoming extensive manufacturers in their line. Eli, Levi, Daniel and Hiram also engaged in the mercantile business at Leechburg, being extensively interested in that all line for about four years.

Salem Hill, son of John and Susan (Ammon) Hill, was born Jan. 17, 1829,on the homestead in what was then Allegheny township, now Gilpin, and became one of the well-known men of his day. He owned and cultivated a farm of 153 acres, making a specialty of fruit growing, and was intelligent and successful in the management of his own affairs to such a degree that he was honored and trusted by all his neighbors and fellow citizens for many miles around. He served many years as justice of the peace, holding this office at the time of his death, and was undoubtedly one of the prominent men in his township. He was well read, and was looked up to for his many sterling qualities of mind and character. In political connection he was in a Republican. He died March 22, 1897, and is buried in Evergreen cemetery in Gilpin township.

On June 28, 1855, Salem Hill married Hettie (Esther) Kuhns, daughter of David and Hettie (Steck) Kuhns, of Greensburg, Pa., and she survives him, residing with her son Lewis in Gilpin township. Mrs. Hill has always been known for her high character and admirable qualities, and she is a most respected resident of her community. To Mr. and Mrs. Hill were born children as follows: Ella; William K., who is a professor and dean of the college at Carthage, Ill.; Zelia, who married Rev. J.C.F. Rupp; Lewis A.; Maude; Florence, who is teaching in Allegheny county, Pa.; and Lillian, who died at the age of twenty-seven years.

Lewis A. Hill began his education in the public schools of the home locality, and later was a student in the academies at Leechburg and Blairsville. He still resides with his mother on the farm owned and occupied for so many years by his parents. Mr. Hill belongs to the Lutheran Church at Leechburg, and is serving as a member of the church council. He is a Republican on political questions.

HILL.--From a brief account of the early history of the Hill family, compiled by Lewis A. Hill, and read to the Hill heirs at the annual Hill reunion, 1907. 

At our first reunion, as president of our association, I was expected to give some history of grandfather and of his ancestry. I got together some facts that were of enough interest to a few that I have been asked to repeat them, which I will do in substance to-day. Such a paper is necessarily brief, for all the history I can find, either of record or tradition, is but a meager account of a long and busy life and an ancestry that was in this country for three quarters of a century before the Revolution, and which gave a number of sons to take part in that struggle.

The earliest history of our Hill ancestry of which we have any knowledge goes back to a time when they were Protestant refugees in Switzerland, having fled thither probably on account of religious persecutions elsewhere, but from what section we do not know. In Switzerland they were called Scotch, but we know they were certainly not Scotch, but more probably French Huguenots.

Later they had gone down the Rhine, making common cause with the French Huguenots. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 they were in the Palatinate in the Hunricher Mountain district and near Coblentz, where they were called Switzers.

Tiring of the unsettled condition of the country resulting from religious wars and persecutions, they came to America with the Palatine emigration in the earliest years of the eighteenth century. In America they are called Pennsylvania Dutch.

Among these emigrants were five Hills, said to be brothers; although two of them had the same name, Jacob, it was not an uncommon thing then, as we shall see later, for two or more of a family to be given the same name. Of these five Hills, Michael Hill settled in Montgomery county, Jacob, Senior, in Oley township, Berks county, Adam Hill in Frederick township, Montgomery county, Gottlieb in Lancaster county, and Jacob Hill, our ancestor, in Maxatawny township, Berks county. He was one of the founders of the Moselem Stone Lutheran Church in Berks county.

Another of our emigrant ancestors of equal or greater importance in the genealogy of at least some of us was John Crissman Merkling, or Markle, as it is now spelled, who was born in Alsace on the Rhine in 1678. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when John Crissman was about eight years old, his parents with their family fled down the Rhine to Amsterdam, Holland. He married Jemima Weurtzin, a sister of the admiral of that name. He came to America in 1703, settling in Berks county, where he purchased 1,500 acres of land from the Penns. He was by trade a coachmaker; he there established a wagon shop, blacksmith shop and gristmill. Of his nine children we have only to do with two, Maria Appolonia and his youngest child, Gaspard.

But to return to the Hills. The emigrant Jacob Hill had three sons, Daniel, Frederick and John Jacob. Daniel married Catharine Sieberl or Saberline. His son Jacob served in the Revolutionary war for over seven years. Jacob Hill of Oley township and John Frederick Hill of our lineage were also in that army. After his first wife's death Daniel Hill married again and some time after the Revolution came to Westmoreland county, where he died in 1813 or 1814. Frederick Hill married Maria Hottenstine, the seventh daughter of a French Huguenot family who brought with them their baptismal certificates from a French Huguenot Church in Alsace. He is the progenitor of the Hills on the north bank of the Susquehanna. John Jacob, the oldest son of our emigrant ancestor, was born about 1716, was married July 3, 1739, to Maria Appolonia Merkling, and settled in Windsor township, Berks county. He had ten children, Anna Maria, Anna Catarine, John Christian, John Jacob, Magdalena, John, John Peter, John Jacob, John Frederick, and John Casper. A remarkable feature of this family of John Jacob is that the sons all have John prefixed to a second name except the one born June 20, 1751, who was simply named John. A number of these Johns came West and probably some of them settled in Westmoreland county. One of them, which one I am unable to say, as among so many Johns one may lose his identity in a century, or more, was married to Magdalena Hower, and had three children, John, Jacob and Hannah. John, the eldest of these, the grandfather of some of us, and the great- and great-great-grandfather of a still larger number, was born Feb. 25, 1772.

In 1782, when grandfather was ten years old, his father was captured by the Indians. Of his fate we have only the traditional account of a Mrs. McVeigh, one of his neighbors, who was taken at the same time, and who by some means, either escape or exchange, was enabled to return to the settlement.

But to remind you of the condition of the country at this time I want to

call your attention to a few facts not just appertaining to this history.


At the time of grandfather's birth, Westmoreland county was still a part

of Bedford county. Westmoreland was not organized as a separate county

until the year following. Pittsburgh was at that time a village of such

minor importance that litigants there were accustomed to take their

disputes to Hannastown for adjudication. Hannastown was destroyed by

Indians later. In 1781 a company of one hundred men from Westmoreland

county, under the county lieutenant Archibald Loughry, going down the

Ohio river to join an expedition under George Rogers Clark against

Indians, while preparing a meal on a sand bar in the Ohio river, were

surprised by Indians under Brant, and all were either killed or captured

and afterward murdered.


During these closing years of the Revolutionary war frontier settlements

and garrisons had to care for themselves without much help from what

little there was of a central government, so about this time, 1781, the

garrison at Fort Pitt was reduced to very short rations and to replenish

their larder sent out hunting expeditions for considerable distances into

what was admittedly Indian country, and in reprisal the Indians ravaged

this section until the settlers were scarcely safe any distance from the

forts or stockaded houses to which they could flee in time of alarm. One

of these marauding parties captured our great-grandfather while he was

returning home from a distance with a load of fruit trees he had procured

for planting. He with other captives was taken to a point up the

Allegheny river locally known as Hickory Flats. Of the exact location we

are uncertain. Some reports say that it was near the mouth of Creek in

Venango county, others that it was nearer the New York State line in

Warren county. There they were required to run the gauntlet, which

great-grandfather did successfully, and while he was standing by watching

the fate of the others Mrs. McVeigh fell and was being clubbed; when our

great-grandfather ran through a second time, he picked her up and carried

her through, thereby doubtless saving her life. Mrs. McVeigh after her

return said that by such deeds of strength and daring great-grandfather

had gained some favor in the eyes of the Indians, had been allowed some

freedom, and had been able to perfect a means of escape, having secured

and concealed a canoe on the river bank, intending to leave on a certain

night. That day he confided his plans to a fellow prisoner, a German,

offering him the chance of escape, too. The German, to gain favor,

revealed the plan to the Indians, who securely tied great-grandfather to

a tree, and left him to whatever form of death the wilderness might



It was in such a frontier life that grandfather received his earliest

schooling, with such men around him, then considered worthy of emulation,

as Captain Brady, and John John or "Jackie of the Forest," as he called

himself, in honor of whom Johnstown was named, and with whom grandfather

spent days, camping and hunting. Grandfather was one of the company who

went in pursuit of the Indians who captured Massey Harbison. However,

they failed to overtake the Indians. Amid such surroundings, grandfather

grew up into a fine type of pioneer, strong, energetic and resourceful.


Grandfather was twice married, first to Elizabeth Waltz, of whose

ancestral history I have learned very little, but to us of the second

family it may be of interest to go back to the Gaspard Markle or Merklin

already mentioned.


He was born in Berks county in 1732, married Elizabeth Grim and came to

Westmoreland county in 1770. Soon after his wife died, and he returned to

Berks county, where he married Mary Roedermel, whom he brought to his

home in Westmoreland county. His residence was the post of refuge to

which the settler fled in time of lndian alarms and was known as Markle's

fort, at which Col. Loughry and his company spent their last night in

Westmoreland county before starting on the expedition referred to above.

Gaspard Markle entered large tracts of land along Sewickly creek and in

1772 built a gristmill. Here was made some of the first flour made west

of the Allegheny mountains. It was transported in flat boats as far as

New Orleans. For a while all the salt used in this section was

transported by the Markles, Gaspard's sons, from eastern cities on pack

horses, there being no wagon roads.


Several of his sons served in the Indian wars, and George gained

considerable distinction in the defense of Wheeling. His brother Jacob

was in the naval service, and was with Commodore Barney on board the

"Hyder Ally" at the capture of the "General Monk." His nephew George was

in the Revolutionary army. His son Joseph was the Whig candidate for

governor in this State in 1844. His daughter Esther married George Ament,

another soldier of the Revolution, who spent the winter with Washington's

army at Valley Forge. Among other things he is said to have told his

children, indicative of the hardship suffered by the soldiers that

winter, that often when they would awaken in the morning their long hair,

such as the men wore in those days, would be so frozen to the ground on

which they had slept that it would have to be cut off before they could

get up. His homestead was on the property now occupied by the town of

Export. His daughter Susannah was the second wife of grandfather.


As the oldest of the family grandfather came into possession of his

father's house, where he lived until he was probably about twenty-eight

years old. At an early age he engaged in other business enterprises

which, while they do not seem of much importance to us now, were

nevertheless of considerable value to the community as well as

remunerative to grandfather at that time.


One of his ventures was the manufacture of gunpowder. He had a sawmill

and gristmill near Salem on Beaver Run, to which patrons came from such

distances that it seems incredible to us at this time; and customers

would wait days (doubtless visiting old friends) to get their grists home

with them, and the mill would be run night and day in a busy time.


In the autumn of 1800, or near that date, grandfather built a crib in the

Kiskiminetas river at what is now Bagdad station on the West Penn

Railroad, but which was formerly known as Hill's Mill, where grandfather

and his sons owned and operated a mill for many years. Returning in the

spring and finding that the crib had withstood the high water and ice of

the spring freshets, he at once commenced the erection of a mill, first

getting a water wheel and grinding machinery in operation, and then

covering them with a building. At first the flour was bolted through a

common sieve, then a bolting cloth was procured and each customer was

required to take hold of the crank and turn it to bolt his own flour.


In 1812 grandfather bought and moved onto the farm that has since been

known as the Old Hill Farm. This farm was taken up by P. Berrickman, who

received his title from the State April 20, 1793, and was called in this

and subsequent transfers the "Hustings Mill Seat." Berrickman sold it to

George Crawford, Crawford to Nicholas Klingensmith, and Klingensmith to

grandfather by deed dated April 18, 1812; signed in German, and witnessed

by Henry A. Weaver and Philip Bolen. I have heard that Mr. Klingensmith

said if a certain very large tree on the farm should fall he would sell,

as he would never take the time necessary to clear it up. A storm having

uprooted the tree, the farm was sold to grandfather, and with the

exception of two or three years the farm has been in the possession of

the Hills ever since, and is now the property of Edward Hill.


Soon after coming onto the farm grandfather planted an apple orchard of

one thousand trees and a large cherry orchard. This cherry orchard seemed

to be as much the property of the public as if it had been growing on the

commons. There never was any question as to the proprietorship, however,

as grandfather was allowed always the privilege of boarding the pickers

who were so freely helping themselves to his cherries. Of all this

planting I do not think there is one tree standing to-day.


Grandfather was an expert with the axe, and for some time engaged in the

building of houses and barns and was considered an adept in the erection

of the log structures of those days. He had also considerable reputation

as a manufacturer of wooden mold-board plows. Grandfather was always

interested in education, having a small building fitted up for a

schoolroom. He employed teachers at his own expense for the instruction

of his family and allowed his neighbors to send their children to the



The first of the teachers so employed it seems would become weary in

well-doing, or possibly having imbibed too freely of the "good cheer" of

those days would sleep the greater part of the day in school. Then upon

awakening, to stimulate the lagging interest of the children, and

possibly to thoroughly arouse himself, he would whip all the children in



After four or five teachers had been thus employed, a house of Mr. Riggle

was used as being more centrally located. Then grandfather made a frolic

to build a schoolhouse; he furnished all the extras, everything except

the logs, and boarded the men while they were working at the building.

Afterward the building was used for the free schools.


Grandfather was a lifelong Democrat. He was a justice of the peace for a

number of years. In that capacity, together with dispensing justice, he

was more frequently called upon to perform the marriage ceremony than

usually falls to the lot of a justice in our day. In this connection

there are a couple of anecdotes I would like to relate, if I am not

trespassing too far on my time; but then you will please remember that

our committee selected the very longest day in the year for our meeting

so that I could have time for all of this.


At one time the father of the bride accompanied the bridal party and in

the service where those having objections are to speak, or "forever after

hold their peace," the father objected. Then, when grandfather would not

proceed with the ceremony, the father of the bride said he did not object

to the ceremony, but that they were poor, and he had thought in that way

to make a little to start the young people in life. I remember hearing an

old woman, long since dead, tell of when she and some other girls were at

grandfather's of two of them disguising themselves and impersonating

bride and groom. They came across a field where some of the boys were at

work and inquired the way to Squire Hill's. The boys, supposing this to

be a bridal party, skipped to the house to be present at the marriage,

which to their chagrin did not take place.


We should not measure grandfather's influence as a citizen in a pioneer

country by his active business life. He was a good neighbor, always

willing and more than willing to help where help was needed. He was a man

of sound judgment, whose advice was much sought after, and usually

followed to advantage.


In those days doctors were not as numerous as nowadays, consequently the

people enjoyed much better health. But even then it was not always what

would be desired, and in minor ailments and accidents grandfather's

prescriptions were considered very beneficial, and in more serious

accidents, resulting in broken bones, etc., he was frequently called upon

to reduce the fracture, at which, if we accept the tradition, he

possessed no small amount of skill.


Grandfather was a man of religious tendencies, and a member of the

Lutheran Church. Before there were any churches in this locality his

large barn was frequently used for church services and was free to all

denominations. When one of our pioneer ministers in the course of his

circuit would come, there would usually be services for several days. To

these people would come quite a distance, remaining for all the services,

finding the most hospitable entertainment at grandfather's, and among his



About 1846 Justice Charles Shultz of Leechburg, a German doctor, who had

frequently been a guest at grandfather's house and partaken of his

hospitality, got an idea that he had been offended by some members of

grandfather's family, and made threats that he would burn grandfather's

barn, and kill all the family then at home. In March, 1847, he made the

attempt, but only succeeded in burning the barn and in blowing up

grandfather's office, a small building in which the boys, my father and

one of his brothers, slept. That night a neighbor boy was with them. The

boys were awakened by the light of the burning barn, so they were up at

the time of the explosion of the powder Shultz had placed in the

building, through a broken window, for the purpose of killing them. The

force of the explosion was such that the boys were thrown in different

directions. The one end of the building and the door were blown out, but

the boys were not seriously injured. Shultz, however, did not fare so

well. He had been about to break into the dwelling house where the other

members of the family were sleeping, but heard the boys getting up, and

fearing the powder would not do its work until the boys had left the

building he had gone back to the door, with a rifle, and a butcher knife,

to meet the boys when they would open the door, but he just got there in

time to receive the full force of the door as it was blown outward by the

explosion, and was so badly injured that he was disabled for the time.

His face, too, was very much lacerated by the butcher knife, which he was

holding between his teeth at the time. By this time the inmates of the

house were aroused, and it was necessary for all to give their attention

to saving the house, as the roof was already ignited by sparks from the

barn. The house was saved without being very much damaged.


The next day Shultz was taken to Kittanning, and lodged in jail. He had

his trial at the June term of court, and was found guilty of arson, and

sent to the penitentiary, where he died.

Grandfather's barn was the largest in Allegheny township, which then comprised what is now three townships, Gilpin, Parks and Bethel. At the time it was burned it contained one thousand bushels of wheat, besides other grain, but the loss that grandfather felt most was the fate of his fine horses, burned in the barn, especially of his favorite riding horse, on which, when increasing age had made walking tiresome, he would take short hunting trips, frequently using its head as a gun rest when desiring a steady shot.

Such a calamity was a heavy burden for a man already worn by many years of toil in a frontier life, and may have hastened grandfather's death. After a short illness he died, Jan. 8th, 1848, and is buried in a spot of his own choosing on the old farm.

Source: Page 468-496, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed May 1999 by Michael S. Caldwell for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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