WILLIAM HILL (1773-1857)

Secretary of State

William Hill was born in Surry (now Stokes) county, N. C. on the 23rd of September 1773 and died in Raleigh on the 29th of October, 1857, being 84 years, 1 month and 6 days old.

In January 1908 he married to Miss Sarah Geddy, daughter of Col. John Geddy. They had a son and four daughters. She died on February 14th, 1833.

In 1834 or 1835 he married Mrs. Frances C. Blount, relict of Joseph Blount, Esq., of Chowan county. Her maiden name was Conner. She was a lineal descendant of John Archdale, a Quaker, who was Governor of Carolina in the year 1694. They had no children. She died after 1857.

A version of the biographical information reproduced below also appears in Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians by John H. Wheeler, Columbus OH: Columbus Printing Works, 1884, which also contains the following information about the Secretary's sons Dr. William Geddy Hill and Theophilus H. Hill.

"His son Dr. William G. Hill was long a resident in Raleigh, and much respected as a generous and kind friend and skillful physician. He died a few years since universally esteemed. His son, Theophilus H. Hill, is named among "The Living Writers of the South," by James Wood Davidson, A.M., 1869. He is also a native of Raleigh, born 1836. He is a lawyer by profession, and at one time edited the Spirit of the Age. He wrote verses early in life, always under impulse or inspiration, without system or object. A small volume of Mr Hill's production appeared in 1861, entitled "Hesper and other Poems," full of fire, irregular, hasty and crude. His later poems, Narcissus, A Gangese Dream, the Pit and the Pendulum and Sunset, give proof of the poetic genius he possesses, when regulated by study and system. Rev. Dr. Craven, the President of Trinity College, pronounces the Song of the Butterfly one of the finest of this kind of poetry in the English language. Much may be hoped in the future of Mr. Hill. The critic in "The Living Writers of the South", on Mr Hill's productions, says that he has been too careless of the gift he possesses, trusting too much to the inspiration of genius, rather than to reflection and study, that there is something of the moody style of Poe and not enough of cheerful romance in his poems."

 

Hill cousin Rich Fischer sent me this great article on William Hill from The Standard of Raleigh dated November 4, 1857.

The Late William Hill

In our last we briefly announced the death of William Hill, Secretary of State. His funeral took place at the Methodist Episcopal Church, in this City, on Friday last, and was attended by a large concourse of people. The public offices at the Capitol, and the principal places of business through the City, were closed as a mark of respect for the deceased. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. Mr. Wheeler, the minister in charge, who preached an impressive sermon from the following text: "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job, ch. 19: vs. 25, 26.

Partly from facts furnished us, and partly from our own knowledge, we are enabled to give the following brief biography of the deceased:

William Hill was born in Surry (now Stokes) county, N. C. on the 23rd of September 1773 and died in Raleigh on the 29th of October, 1857, being 84 years, 1 month and 6 days old.

Of his early life little is known beyond the few brief reminiscenses occasionally narrated by himself. His father, who removed from Caroline County, Va., was a Baptist minister, a sterling patriot and an honest man. During the war of the Revolution his stirring appeals stimulated the Whigs of his section. He was a chaplain in the American army at the battle of Guilford Court House. His son William was then about eight years old, and he well recollected hearing the roar of the artillery being only four miles distant from the field of battle. He has been heard to relate that a short time prior to this battle, a band of Tories called at this father's house, where he and his mother were, and enquired for his father. On being told that he was not at home they departed, avowing their intention to hang him if they found him. He had incurred their hate by his devotion to the patriot cause. He was a member of the Convention that met a Hillsborough in August 1775 to improvise a system of government for the State. --the maiden name of his wife, the mother of the subject of this memoir, was Eliza Halbert. She was a native of Caroline county, Va.

The late Secretary had in youth but limited educational facilities. He followed the plow for several months during the year to obtain money sufficient to pay his tuition at school the remainder of the year. At the early age of sixteen he taught school, thus improving his mind while he earned a liveihood.

In the month of July, 1795, having obtained a letter of introduction from Mark Hardin, Esq. of Chapel Hill, afterwards Major Hardin, to James Glasgow, then Secretary of State, he came to Raleigh and entered his (Glasgow's) office as a clerk. Associated with him in the like capacity was William White, Esq., who succeeded Glasgow in office in 1798. He continued in the same position under Secretary White until about January, 1908, when he was married to Miss Sarah, daughter of Col. John Geddy. Colonel G. was a staunch Whig. He was captured by the British and imprisoned for a long time in Charleston, S. C. He was a member of the first Convention of the people held in the State on the 25th of August, 1775; and he represented Halifax county in the State Legislature from 1774 to 1885.

A son and four daughters, all now living, were the fruits of this marriage. His wife died on the 14th of February, 1833. A short time after his marriage, he engaged in the mercantile business at Haywood, Chatham county, where he remained but a short time, returning to Raleigh during the year 1804. Here, for a while, he followed the same pursuit, at Richard Smith's old stand. Mr. Smith being then his clerk. At the session of the Legislature of 1804'5 he was appointed a magistrate for Wake county. At the February term of the court of pleas and quarter sessions in the year 1806, he was elected Register of the county; and a February term, 1807, he was elected County Court Clerk, which office he held until he was elected Secretary of State in November, 1811, succeeding William White, who died in October, 1811.

In the year 1834 or 1835 he again married. His second wife was Mrs. Frances C. Blount, relict of Joseph Blount, Esq, of Chowan county. her maiden name was Conner. She is a lineal descendant of John Archdale, a Quaker, who succeeded Philip ?udwell as Governor of Carolina in the year 1694. By this marriage there was no issue. She is still living.

At the burning of the old Capitol in 1881, Mrs Hill succeeded, by strenuous exertions, in preserving the records of his office, and had them removed to what is now the site of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. By laboring incessantly he succeeded in arranging all his papers before the meeting of the Legislature.

He held the office of Secretary of State, through all the mutations of party, to the day of his death. Mr. Hill joined the M.E. Church in 1811, when ....

Mr. Hill was a sincere Christian. His leading characteristics were fidelity, industry, simplicity, honesty, integrity, benevolence and charity. But for the two last named virtues he might haved amassed wealth. He was for many years a class leader and steward in the church of which he was a member. There was no gloom nor austerity in his religion. -- He was ever cheerful. He looked with leniency upon the failings of others, and never spake harshy of them. Regular as he was his attendance at the sanctuary, his strict observance of private duty was equally unremitting and methodical. Method, indeed, was one of his most prominent characteristics and one of the main causes of his success in life. It is related of him that often on Saturday evenings, when he supposed no eyes was on him except that of his God, he would kneel in his office at the Capitol to return thanks for mercies past, and to implore the Diving blessing upon the approaching Sabbath. He was distinguished in a remarkable degree for his uniform kindness and cordiality in his intercourse with his fellow-men. He was a man of naturally strong feelings, but he learned to control them. He was decided in his political principles --no trimmer or time server, but he always treated others as he was treated himself. It is believed that he never voted, either in county or State elections, to turn out an officer who had done his duty. It was owing to the fact that he was a good officer, an honest man, and a kind and courteous gentleman, and not that he courted favor by cringing to a party, that he held his office so long. All esteemed him --none doubted his capacity or his fidelity.

When a good man dies, any incident, however trivial, illustrative of his character, is eagerly sought and treasured up by those who loved or admired him; and the following anecdote, occasionally related by Mr. Hill himself, will not be without interest. By it he inculcated both as a pleasure and a duty a constant regard for the feelings of others and unvarying kindness and courtesy to all with whom he should chance to meet. He remarked that he who did this was often rewarded even in this world.

Many years ago he journeyed to Tennessee, then an almost unbroken forest. At that time it was a perilous undertaking. Robberies were by no means uncommon, and Indian outrages were of frequent occurrence. The passage of the mountains, too, was fraught with danger, as there were but few roads, and they almost impassable. While there he met a widow lady with with an infant, left by her husband's death in a land of strangers, friendless and alone. She was endeavoring to make her way back to her relatives in Carolina. Obedient to the generous inmpulses of his nature he endeavored to secure her comfort and to shield her as far as he could, from the hardships incident to the journey, frequently carrying her infant for hours in his arms. In 1811, when a candidate for the office he so long and worthily filled, he was opposed by a gentleman of desrved popularity and powerful family influence. Twice they received each an equal number of votes. Several members of the Legislature were confined to their rooms by sickness, and a committee was appointed to visit them and obtain their votes. One of these gentlemen, a brother of the widow above mentioned, but an entire stranger to Mr. Hill, recollected hearing his sister speak of the kindness shown her by him, and cast his vote on that account, for William Hill. That one vote secured his election. Mr Hill had two brothers, one of whom is still living. The other was at the battle of the Horse Shoe under General Jackson and was called by the Indians "Captain Big John Hill." He has been dead several years.

In conclusion we append an article published several years ago in the Asheville Messenger and supposed to have been written by the late General John G. Bynum:

"William Hill --Secretary of State-- Perhaps there is not a gentleman in North Carolina who has held office as long, or given as general satisfaction to the whole State through its representatives and private business intercourse, as the one whose name stands at the head of this article. James Glasgow was the first Secretary of the Sate of North Carolina after the declaration of Independence. He held that office till 1798, and was succeeded by Wm. White, who held it till removed by death in 1811, when the present Secretary took possession of an office that he had held without interruption over forty years! ever faithful, ever at his post. Mr. Hill was born in Surry County, on Dan River in 1773, we believe, his father a Baptist, and was first recommended to consideration by a letter (now in the Secretary's office) from Mark Hardin to Glasgow. --Amid all the changes of political strife, the contention, ascendency and overthrow of parties in the State, and the consequent scrambling for office, the finger of proscription has never been applied to this now venerable citizen and faithful public servant. --In glancing at the order in which he has the books and papers pertaining to his office arranged, while paying him a visit in June last, we were struck with the order, precision and methodical arrangement of everything belonging ot this important public office. After years of labor, he has just completed the arrangement of every book and paper in his office in alphabetical order. He begins with the counties commencing at A and going through , then he takes up the names in the same order; then in the file of his papers, he takes up the years beginning with the first records at 1694. The counties are arranged from 1735, and State papers from 1776. A reference may be now had by him to anything pertaining to the history of the State and the Colony, that has been preserved, in a moment's time, for the last 157 years, now shrouded n the gloom of by gone days and many and singular and woeful are the musty records that are now imprisoned and speechless upon his shelves. The first grants given by the State of North Carolina were dated in 1777. Mr Hill is now in a green old age, and little to hope from the pleasures of this fleeting world, more than that consciousness which is of more value than gold, of having honestly and faithfully performed his part upon the stage of human action, with an eye single to truth, honesty, and the glory of his God. His probation upon the confines of this earth is fast approaching that point "where the good man meets his fate" and evinces to the world the excellence of religion and the blissful reward of a virtuous and consistent course of conduct. Such men are a blessing to the world in life, glorify their Creator in death, and leave the world the better for having lived in it, and their friends "not without hope". Mr Hill has long been a faithful attendant, a sincere worshiper and consistent member of the Methodist Church. Long may he live to adorn her communion, and spread abroad in society the sweet influences of virtue, honor, and religion, and when he dies, may his exit be calm, triumphant and peaceful, for "Death is the crown of life; Were death denied poor man would live in vain; Death wounds to cure; we fall, we rise, we reign, spring from our fetters, fasten to the skies, where blooming Eden withers from our sight. The King of Terrors is the Prince of Peace."