Biography of Rufus Joel Hill

Rufus Joel Hill. There are many points of historical interest pertinent to the personal career and ancestral record of this venerable pioneer citizen who is now living practically retired in his pleasant home at Independence, Montgomery County. On both the paternal and maternal sides he is a scion of fine old American colonial stock and individually he had precedence as being one of the pioneer members of the Kansas bar, as well as a broad-minded and public-spirited citizen who had played well his part in connection with the civic and material development and progress of the Sunflower State, within whose borders he had maintained his home for virtually half a century.

Rufus Joel Hill was born in St. Lawrence County, New York, on the 16th of February, 1838, and is a son of William and Anna (Meader) Hill, the former of whom was born in Vermont, in the year 1784, and the latter of whom was born in Rhode Island, in 1792, both having been representatives of families that were founded in New England in the early colonial period of our national history. William Hill was reared and educated in the old Green Mountain State and during the course of a long and active career he was known not only as a business man of marked ability but also as a loyal and liberal citizen of exceptional intellectuality. As a young man he went to the Province of Quebec, Canada, and about the year 1832 he established his residence in St. Lawrence County, New York, where he became a citizen of prominence and influence and where he passed the residue of his long and useful life, his death having there occurred in 1878.

William Hill took a deep interest in public affairs and was aligned with the old whig party until the campaign of 1848, when he espoused the cause of the free soil party, which nominated Martin Van Buren for the presidency of the United States. In the next national campaign, that of 1852, the free soil party virtually changed its title to the free democracy, and as a representative of the latter Mr. Hill was a delegate to the convention that nominated John P. Hale, of New Hampshire, for the presidency. He united with the republican party at the time of its organization and was a delegate to its first national convention, that of 1856, when Gen. John C. Fremont was made its standard-bearer as nominee for the presidency. He attended also, though not as a delegate, the republican national convention of 1860, in Chicago, where Abraham Lincoln was made the presidential nominee. It is worthy of note in this connection that his son, Rufus J., immediate subject of this review, accompanied him to this historic convention. William Hill had the further distinction of having served as a soldier in the war of 1812. As a young man he enlisted as a member of a Vermont volunteer regiment, and with the same he participated in the Battle of Plattsburg, one of the memorable engagements incidental to the second conflict with England. The wife of William Hill long survived and continued to maintain her home in St. Lawrence County, New York, until she too was summoned to the life eternal, in 1892, at the remarkable age of 100 years. Of the children of this union each lived to be over twenty-one years of age. The names of the children are here indicated in the respective order of birth: Betsey, Elmina, William O., Chester, Sarah, Sophronia and Jane are all deceased; Lafayette is a retired farmer and resided at Pine River, Minnesota; Rufus J., of this review, was the next in order of birth, and his twin sister, Rua R., is the wife of Angus McMillan, who is still actively engaged in the harness and saddlery business in St. Lawrence County, New York; Patience is deceased; Anna is the wife of George W. Burt, of St. Lawrence County, her husband being a merchant; Andrew is a representative farmer in St. Lawrence County; and Mary is deceased.

Rufus J. Hill acquired his early education in the schools of his native county and in 1856, when eighteen years of age, he went to Minnesota, where he gained a due quota of pioneer experience as a farm employe, in the meanwhile continuing to attend school during the winters. In consonance with his ambitious purpose he finally entered the law department of the celebrated University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, in which he was graduated as a member of the class of 1865 and from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Laws. For eighteen months thereafter he was engaged in the practice of his profession at Ripon, Wisconsin, and he then, in 1867, came to Kansas and numbered himself among the pioneers of Linn County. In the following year he removed to Fort Scott and became one of the early members of the bar of Bourbon County, where he was associated with W. C. Webb and Gen. Charles W. Blair in the general practice of law until 1871. In the winter of the year last mentioned Mr. Hill initiated the erection of the house that was to constitute his place of residence in Independence, and in the spring of 1872 he here took up his abode. He thus became one of the pioneers of Independence and one of the prominent and influential representatives of his profession in Montgomery County. He built up and long controlled a substantial and important general law practice and he is now one of the most venerable members of the bar of this section of the state. Though he continues to give more or less attention to the incidental activities of his profession he had been virtually retired from active practice since 1911. He had long been known as a strong trial lawyer and as one specially well fortified as a counselor, his being a broad and accurate knowledge of jurisprudence, as he continued a close student of the law during the many years of his active practice. In 1874 Mr. Hill was retained to look after the legal interests of the Osage Indians of this section, and in this capacity he continued his effective services for the government until the election of President Cleveland in 1884. In 1868 he had been present at the time when the Dunn Creek treaty was effected between the government and the Osage Indians, and this led to his being later engaged in looking after the tribal affairs of the Osage Indians, with a number of the leaders of which tribe he had become acquainted at the treaty mentioned. He continued to be associated with the legal affairs of the Indians until 1911, with secure place in the confidence and respect of the tribe, and since that time he had been practically retired from active professional work. He is well known throughout this section of Kansas and is familiarly designated as Judge Hill.

Mr. Hill had been a resourceful force in connection with political affairs in Kansas, is a stalwart advocate of the principles for which the republican party ever had stood sponsor in a basic way and his first presidential vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln. He formerly maintained active affiliation with Fortitude Lodge, No. 107, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Independence, and also with the local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is still in active affiliation with the local organizations of the Modern Woodmen of America and the Woodmen of the World, both he and his wife being zealous members of the Presbyterian Church and being numbered among the best known and most honored pioneer citizens of the vigorous and prosperous little city that had represented their home for more than forty years and in which their circle of friends is coincident with that of their acquaintances.

At Ripon, Wisconsin, on the 27th of June, 1867, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Hill to Miss Annie Hargrave, daughter of William and Emma (Redfern) Hargrave, who were sterling pioneers of that state. Mr. Hargrave was born in Scotland and was a lad of fourteen years at the time of the family removal to the Province of Quebec, Canada, where he was reared to maturity and where his marriage was solemnized. He was identified with mercantile business in the City of Quebec for a number of years and finally removed with his family to the City of Toronto, where his daughter, Annie, wife of the subject of this review, was born. In reference to the ancestry of Mr. Hill it may further be stated that his paternal grandfather, a native of the southern part of England, was sent to the West Indies in the employ of the British government, and at the time of the American Revolution he had started for his old home in England, but the vessel on which he had embarked was captured by the Americans and he was taken to Providence, Rhode Island. He remained loyal to his king but after the close of the Revolution he established his home in Vermont, his death having occurred at Rutland, that state. He was a man of superior education and became a successful teacher in the schools of the old Green Mountain commonwealth.

In conclusion is given a brief record concerning the children of Mr. and Mrs. Hill: Annie is the widow of William Whiteman, who was employed as a telegraph operator in the service of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and she now remains with her venerable parents in their pleasant home in Independence; William died at the age of ten months; Emma is the wife of Harry Brown and their attractive home at Independence was presented to them by Mr. Hill; and Ellen died at the age of seven years.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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