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William James Hill

Question: What was life like for William James Hill after immigrating to Utah in 1850 at the age of sixteen?

Answer: William James Hill was born on March 3, 1834 in Ames, Athens County, Ohio, the youngest son of Richard Hill and Sarah Strait. William James Hill’s grandfather, James Hill, fought in the Revolutionary War. When William James was very young, his parents moved to Dallas County, Missouri where he attended school and worked on his father’s farm.

His parents were of the Methodist Faith, his father being a class leader in the Methodist Church. When the circuit minister was not there, Richard, the father of William James, took charge of the meetings. His mother was a very fine tailor. His father was a stone and brick mason. William had three older brothers, but there was eleven years between him and his next oldest brother.

In the year 1849 William James’ brother, George Washington Hill, who had married a Mormon girl and moved to Utah with the pioneers, came back to Missouri to visit his parents and brothers and try to get them to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In January of 1850, his father decided to join and be baptized the following Sunday, but the day before he was to be baptized, he became seriously ill and passed away the following Saturday on January 25, 1850 in Dallas County, Missouri. George’s mother, Sarah, did join the Church along with her son, William James, who was sixteen years of age at the time.

In 1850, the family decided to leave for Utah in an independent company of their own with George Washington Hill as the guide. They made it to the Salt Lake Valley that summer. Because William James was a splendid horseman and huntsman, he was at once given the duty of a minuteman. This necessitated his always being ready so he could go on a moment’s notice to fight the Indians and protect the settlers. Many were his experiences in this work. He served in the Utah-Indian War for which he received a medal.

William was a bodyguard to President Brigham Young and helped protect the people at the time Johnston’s Army came to Utah, and helped perform many other duties as needed. William was also a member of the 60th Quorum of Seventies. He was a man of simple faith, trusting implicitly all through the years in God and in the leaders of the Church.

On the 25th of February 1855, William James Hill married Sally Cecelia Hadlock. To this union there were born twelve children, three sons and nine daughters. Earlier in the history of the church the principle of plural marriage had been given to be practiced with discretion and wisdom by the members of the church. In obedience to this principle, William James also married Henrietta Hadlock, the sister of Sally Cecelia, on the 21st September 1867. Eleven children were born of this union, two sons and nine daughters. With his two families he settled in Ogden, the town, which he helped to survey, and engaged in farming.

About the year of 1880 he moved with his families to Logan, Utah. Here he worked on the police force, but the climate was very cold, and he had a desire to move to a warmer climate. As there was a colony of Latter-Day Saints being founded in Mexico, he started in the fall of l882 to make his home there. About the 20th of October 1882, he arrived with his two wives and seventeen children at Fayette, Sanpete County, Utah. Here they remained all winter. In the early spring of 1883 they again started for Mexico. Upon arriving at the site, which is now Wellington, Carbon County, Utah, they stopped for the night. During the night a great flood came down the Price River. He had his horses hobbled to feed along the riverbed and some of them were drowned. The great loss of his horses and wagons was such that he was forced to remain at that place to recuperate.

At that time the grade was being made for the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad and so he put his two teams to work there. William James had no thought of remaining permanently until in the early part of 1889 when he went to Salt Lake City. He intended to say goodbye to his brother George prior to starting on to Mexico again, but George asked him not to go to Mexico, but to remain in Utah, so he went back to his home and gave up all plans of going on. Wellington became his home for the rest of his life.

William James Hill settled on the south side of the Price River. He built a house for one family and made a dugout for the other family. There was no church organization in town at that time. When the Sunday School was first organized, William James Hill served as the first superintendent.

      William 5th from left on top row, Henrietta is 3rd from the right on the front row Photo of old Wellington settlers.

William James Hill was a leader and an organizer. The town had decided to build a canal and set aside a day that all men were to work on it. So William James and his fourteen-year-old son William Strait went to the place designated. They waited and waited and nobody else came so they began to survey. William James selected a place, which he thought best for a dam in Willow Creek. Then they surveyed a ditch from there to carry the water into where the reservoir was to be. They surveyed the ditch and then began to build the dam. They had the ditch surveyed and staked and had started on the dam before anyone else came. When the others came they decided that William James had chosen the proper place so it remained as he had planned. When the Carbon County Farming District was organized the company followed the old Hill canal and thus thousands of acres of ground came under cultivation.

      Log Wellington School photo 1884 with 17 students - William Tidwell, teacher

As soon as he was able he built a two-story adobe house for his family who had been living in a dugout. He used forms ten inches apart and would fill them with adobe and straw and then when it was dry he would move the forms up. It took him about five years to build it.

William James was helping to haul alfalfa seed at one time. The load tipped over in the lane. He put out his arm to avoid a post and it broke his arm in two places. A neighbor and one of his sons were with him. He had them take his hand and pull it out straight. Then William James set his own arm. William James set a good many broken bones for different people in his lifetime.

      First Chapel in Wellington finished 1891

The hardship of the pioneers of Wellington was common to other communities in Utah. There was very little occupation to find employment. The bare necessities of life were obtained by the women and men doing what they could to make a living. In the Hill families the mothers with the help of their daughters gathered wool and carded bats and spun yarn. The girls sometimes worked for other families to obtain a little money. They had a regular workroom where they had weaving looms to make rag carpets for their own floors and they also sold them.

The life of William James Hill was an active one. He arose at daybreak. He worked all the daylight hours and often on into the night. He devoted much time, energy, and thought to worthy public enterprises. He believed in maintaining high standards in the home, schools and the community. He taught his children faith in God and the importance of prayer. There were 358 people listed on the 1910 Census for Wellington.

He died on December 26, 1910 in Wellington, and is buried in the Wellington City Cemetery.

Source: Story of William James Hill,;

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