1847

Chapter One:
Lovinia (Gardner) Hill and Lyman A. Hill – The Earliest Years (1847)

The story of this family begins not in Wisconsin, but in upstate New York.

Caleb Gardner (born March 21, 1785) married Betsy Merritt (born August 26, 1787) on November 21, 1805, in Oneida County, NY.
They had six children: three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, James, became a doctor in New York City. Another son, Job,
was a lifelong farmer and rug weaver, remaining in Oneida County. The youngest Gardner child, Emery, would eventually settle in Hingham, WI in 1868.

Caleb and Betsy’s youngest daughter, Lovinia Gardner, was married to Lyman Alonzo Hill. The Hills were to become the first members of the family to take up residence in Sheboygan County.

Lovinia’s older sister, Mary, was married to Hiram Gridley, a realtor in nearby Kirkland, NY. The Gridleys would later follow the Hills to Wisconsin and purchase the family home in Hingham.

Another sister, Eliza, was married to Nelson B. Lloyd about 1830 and had two children, Gardner and Charles. The Lloyd family settled in Chicago about 1860.

Lovinia Gardner’s husband, Lyman Alonzo Hill, was born on a farm in Chenango County, NY, on January 11, 1810. The Hill family struggled to make a living, and Alonzo's formal education was minimal. He and Lovina married in 1837 and their only child, Lyman D. Hill, was born on July 28, 1838.

By 1845 the Hills had decided they could make a better life in Wisconsin, so in the spring of 1846 they booked passage on a sailing vessel for Milwaukee, a three-week trip across the Great Lakes.

The family stayed in Milwaukee until the spring of 1847, fitting out a Conestoga wagon with the necessities of life and assembling a herd of 12 cattle. They set out for Sheboygan County, the 9-year-old Lyman walking the entire distance barefoot, driving the cattle. Wisconsin was still very much a frontier territory in 1847 and Lovinia Gardner Hill was reputed to be the first white woman ever to spend the night in the outpost of Adell.

The Hills bought an 80 acre tract in Section 36 of Lyndon (then spelled Lindon) Township from the U. S. Government agent for the price of $1.25 an acre, and built a log cabin for their home. The roof of the cabin was made from hollow logs with moss filling the gaps between them. The next few years were spent developing the tract into a good working farm.

Lovinia Gardner Hill (1809-1872)
Lyman Alonzo Hill (1810 - 1888)

"Indian Solomon" photographed by
H. Goodridge, Hingham WI (1887)

The elder Mr. Hill was an Abolitionist, and a member of the Whig Party. He joined the Republican Party at its inception and was interested in politics all his life.

According to the Portrait and Biographical Record of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, published in 1894, “Indians were a common sight in Wisconsin at that time, and they were proverbial beggars. An old Indian by the name of Solomon often visited their home, and Mr. (Lyman D.) Hill has a photograph of the old chief.” That photo is still in the family, framed in metal and encased with what appears to be a lock of the old chief’s white hair. A note on the back says "Indian Solomon taken at Goodridge's, 1887 Aunt May's friend"

During a trip to New York State in 1868 to sell the excess wool and flour produced on the farms, he made a detour by stagecoach to hear Gerrit Smith, a prominent New York Abolitionist. In a letter home he described it as "the best speach (sic) I ever heard".

Lovina accompanied her husband on this trip (her brother Job bought some of the wool) but her health was failing, and in one of his letters to his son, Lyman wrote "Your mother is no better than when we left holme that I know of. I some times think we had better staed at holme. If she was well we should have a pleasant visit but as it is neither of us enjoy it mutch." The spelling is Lyman's, and the visit was with various relatives.

Lovina's health apparently did not improve, although she lived until August 11, 1872. The Sheboygan Times reported on August 16, 1872: DIED- In the village of Hingham, on the 11th, Mrs. Lovina Hill, wife of L. A. Hill, aged 63 years. Later excerpts from "Hingham Items" tell of Mr. Hill's removal to Clark County and of his return, indicating that he had remarried, however no confirmation of this has ever been found.

The Sheboygan County tax assessment rolls for 1880 through 1887 show Lyman A. Hill assessed $600 for a property described as "house and barn" on the northeast corner of what is today the intersection of Main Street and South Street in Hingham. The elder Mr. Hill died April 15, 1888 and is buried beside his wife in the Hingham Cemetery. The white sandstone grave markers are still in good condition.
On December 4, 1858, Lyman D. Hill married Elizabeth Johnson who had come from the State of Maine. She was a sister-in-law to DeHave Norton who, after a very active tour of duty in the Union Army served Lima Township, WI for many years as Notary Public, Justice of the Peace and Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

The younger Hills bought a 65-acre tract along what is today County Highway I just outside Hingham, adjacent to and south of Lyman's father's farm. They built a comfortable brick home on the brow of the hill that is still known locally as "Lyman Hill", although few now know why. Some say it is the highest point in Sheboygan County.

By 1860 both families were living in the new house and operating both farms. Known as Oxford Hill Farm, it was one of the best kept and most productive farms in Sheboygan County for the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th. The new barn was built near a flowing spring so running water was available for cooling milk. There was, however, no running water to the house.
The younger Lyman became interested in breeding sheep and served the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Association in various capacities. In later years he had several Grand Champion Oxfords to his credit. He made many of his own household articles, including barrels for sugar and flour. At least one of these barrels is still in good condition.

The Hills prospered in their farming and business ventures. They sometimes combined business with pleasure; in 1876 they visited the U. S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and ordered goods from J. B. Myers, "Wholesale Commission Merchant" of Philadelphia, for various items to be shipped home.

About 1890 Elizabeth became ill and Lyman's cousin, 22-year-old May Gardner of Hingham, moved into their house to care for her. After Elizabeth died in October, 1911, May stayed on as Lyman's housekeeper until his death just over two years later.

Both Hills were buried in the Hingham Cemetery, and since they had no children, the farm was sold.

Lyman D. Hill is remembered as having the careful, thrifty nature that makes a good farmer. Hingham veterinarian Jonathan “Doc” Harmeling (1897-1987) told of Mrs. Hill complaining about running out of sugar because the hired man used it in his coffee. She asked Lyman to make the spring trip to Sheboygan for staples earlier than usual. He returned from the trip with no sugar, explaining, "What we haven't got we can't complain about." He ate his favorite dessert, rhubarb pie, all summer without sugar, without complaining.
Emery B. Gardner and Julia (Hurley) Gardner – After the Civil War (1868)

 

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