by Susan Taylor Block
Our family is thankful to have many photos from the past. They represent various branches and are exhibited online as the Hill-Taylor Collection. The Hills, my mother’s father’s “people,” were good at leaving an interesting and varied trail of images. A fraction of their story is told in this article with photographs, documents, news clippings, paintings, and handwritten genealogical documents.
Owen Canady Hill, my great-grandfather, was born August 18, 1839. He died September 1, 1904, after years of suffering from Civil War wounds. Owen was born in Wilmington, at Monk Barns, an 18th-century house on Greenville Sound where the family worked as tenant farmers. Before that, they lived on “Topsail Sound,” where, in 1737, another Owen Hill received a land grant to 640 acres of land. Some of the Hills lived or moved to greener pastures in Duplin County, but Owen’s ancestors, for the most part, stayed in the same quiet little area where they farmed and enjoyed Stump Sound oysters and other famously good seafood. They marketed most of their seafood in Wilmington, and that required frequent trips to the seafood market that once sat in the intersection of 2nd and Market streets. Owen made this run many times during the economically challenging years that followed the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Owen Canady Hill served in Capt. James Metts’ Company G, Third North Carolina. He took part in the Seven Days’ Battle around Richmond, as well as battles at South Mountain, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Payne’s Farm and Gettysburg. He was taken prisoner at Sharpsburg for almost two months; wounded at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Payne’s Farm. He was imprisoned at Spottsylvania; then imprisoned again, at Elmira, New York. He was released June 23, 1865, and walked back to North Carolina. Shrapnel scattered throughout his body sometimes made him feel as if he was on fire.
Owen split his time between Onslow County, where he kept a home at Stump Sound, and Wilmington where he set up a grocery store and blacksmith shop in Dry Pond. His Wilmington house sat on the northeast corner of Sixth and Queen streets. From 1867 to 1886, Owen and wife Mary Elizabeth Taylor Hill, a fellow Onslow County native, had eight children: Rebecca Ann, John Thomas, James Richard, Mary Ida, Martha Ann, Marion Owen, Oscar Claude, and Grover William. This essay will follow only the line of James Richard Hill.
The Hills went to several different churches, including Fifth Avenue Methodist, the Primitive Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, and, most conveniently, Church of the Good Shepherd, at 6th and Queen streets. Good Shepherd might have won them all, if one senior member of the Hill family had not taken great exception to a line in the Nicene Creed. Firmly Protestant, and unaware that the word “Catholic,” in lower case, means universal and all-inclusive, the elderly woman nearly fainted when the congregation read in unison from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
Owen and Mary’s children were educated in public schools. Their youngest child, Grover (1886-1941), my grandfather, went to UNC. Most of the others worked as seamstresses or tradesmen, except for Oscar Claude (1881-1949), who was longtime Superintendent of Mails for the Wilmington Post office, and also supervised the Camp Davis, Fort Fisher, and the Bluethenthal postal centers. Oscar, James, and all four of their sisters lived in various Queen Street homes until their deaths. None of the sisters married, nor did Marion.
The gallery continues:
Pearl married Richard Boone:
Pearl took painting lessons in Wilmington, from teacher Emma Lossen. Pearl exhibited her paintings at the Cottage Lane Art Show, an Azalea Festival event, and at the Sorosis Building, various art shows at St. James Episcopal Church, and other events.
A portrait of Pearl’s only child, Martha, painted by Emma Lossen.
Jimmy Hill, Pearl’s unmarried brother, was a professional stand-up comedian and clown. He worked in theaters in various states, especially Ohio and North and South Carolina.
This illustrated essay ends with a rare photo of Wilmington from the Hill family albums. It dates to about 1907 and is rich in content, showing the old Cape Fear River ferry that was operated by the Joneses, an African-American family that still calls Brunswick County home. Also displayed are the many buildings that were razed before the U. S. Custom House was constructed, beginning in 1916.
Somehow, the leather binding of the 1831 Hill family Bible is still intact, even if the title page is a bit crumpled. Just in terms of hurricanes, it is quite a survivor.
Records that were saved within it follow: