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The John Henley Hill Family - Part 2

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020322 history hill house 9.doc

Editor’s note: This is the second of three columns detailing the information surrounding the John Henley Hill House.

John Henley Hill, an Indiana Quaker, was born Nov. 30, 1839, in Richmond, Wayne County, Ind. He married Phoebe E. Branson on April 16, 1861, in Wayne County, Indiana. To this union brought two daughters, Olive, born in 1864, and Bertha, born in 1867. 

John H. Henley is enumerated in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Wayne Township, Richmond, Indiana, living with his parents, Harmon and Mary Hill, and his two young daughters, and his profession was listed as a farmer. 

Phoebe Branson Hill died in 1870, and John Hill then married Phoebe’s sister Susanna on March 12, 1871. 

The Hills apparently were prominent people with Harmon Hill showing a property value of $2,000 and a personal estate value of $2,000. This Hill family is also shown in the U.S. Hinkshaw Index to Selected Quaker Records 1860-1940 database online. 

Isaiah Branson, father of Phoebe and Susanna Branson, was born in 1799 in Stafford County, Virginia. He and his family had moved to Wayne County from Uniontown, Belmont County, Ohio, in 1852. It was in Uniontown that Mr. Branson, with strong convictions against slavery, helped a fugitive family to liberty, which caused him a four-year lawsuit. 

Their home in Belmont County was always a refuge for fugitive slaves. The Branson family were all well-educated; in 1876, John and Susanna Hill participated in demonstrating a knitting machine at the Centennial International Exposition of 1876, held in Philadelphia. It was the first official World’s Fair held in the United States. 

It was there that they met Col. George W. Grant, who was from Huntsville, Walker County, Texas, and was the benefactor of a freedman’s colony known as Grant’s Colony, sometimes also known as Harmony Settlement.

This colony was located two miles east of Huntsville in Walker County. It was planned model farming community on 8,000 acres belonging to Col. Grant. Grant provided the land for a school and two churches, and the colony was predominately a freedman’s village. 

Col. Grant described his project at the Colony and persuaded John and Susanna to come to the Colony to manage it. 

After one year, in about 1877 or 1878, the Hill’s left Grant Colony and moved to Trinity. It is not known where the Hill’s lived upon arriving in Trinity but in 1880 John H. Hill purchased 200 acres from S.T. Robb.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Trinity County shows John H. Hill, wife Susanna, and children living in Trinity County. There is another man named Wm. Faulk, born in Pennsylvania with the profession of “mechanic,” in the Hill household. 

In 1908, John H. Hill sold 100 acres, where the home was located, to R.M. Martin and Hill and his daughters moved into Martin’s home in Trinity. John Hill became Trinity’s postmaster in 1906 and served until 1913. 

Later, in 1908, R.H. Martin sells the Hill house and property to J.D. Autry. Autry sells the property to W.J. Dykes in 1919. In 1925, the property is sold to John C. Lott. The house and property remained in the Lott family until the present owner, Bill R. Thomas, bought the house and property in 2013. 

Susanna Hill died in 1892, John H. Hill died in 1916, and both are buried in Trinity Cedar Grove Cemetery in Trinity. 

Compiled by Susanne Waller of the Trinity County Historical Commission.

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