Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


W. J. Hill is the present Mayor of Salinas and the editor of the Salinas Index. He has had an exciting and actiTe life, full of perilous adventure on the frontier, conspicuous in journalism of the West, prominent as a legislator of California, and as an energetic citizen of Monterey County, laboring assiduously to develop the resources of the great Salinas Valley.

He was born near Prescott, Canada West, in 1840, and came to California in 1862, and, after visiting the gold fields of British Columbia, entering Alaska, and rambling over considerable territory, he located in Idaho, obtained a stock ranch, and established Hill's Ferry, on the Owyhee River, at the junction of the Chico road from California, and the Humboldt road from Nevada. He kept this ferry during the years of 1865, 1866, and 1867, and held the key to the travel on these roads. It was during this period that he was repeatedly attacked by the Indians, fired at more than one hundred times, and was seven times wounded, but always managed to "hold the fort." The record of his thrilling adventures, and numerous single-handed fights with the Indians, would make an interesting volume, in which facts would rival the fiction of a border novel. He seemed to bear a charmed life, and the Indians became superstitious over their inability to kill him. They thought "the pale-faced chief with the big canoe "was" bad medicine man." It was here that our hero obtained the sobriquet of "Old Hill," a title which still clings to him.

In the spring of 1867 he went to Silver City, Idaho, an engaged in the newspaper business, as publisher of the Avalanche. He introduced the first steam press and published the first daily paper in Idaho. His reputation as an Indian fighter and a brave man had spread throughout the Northwest, and, being a man of liberal education, extensive reading, and industrious habits, it is not surprising that his paper was the leading one of the Territory. Such was his personal popularity that, although a consistent and outspoken Republican, he was elected County Clerk, Sheriff, and Tax Collector by handsome majorities in a strong Democratic county. He was also the Centennial Commissioner from Idaho, and was tendered the Republican nomination for delegate to Congress.

He returned to California in 1876 and became the proprietor of the Salinas Index, and was soon recognized by the press as the publisher of one of the leading interior journals of the State. In 1880 he was elected joint Senator to represent the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito. As Senator he acquired the reputation of being an untiring worker, and a fearless, honest advocate of the right. While making no pretensions to fine oratory, he is vigorous and forcible in speech, and already and graceful writer.

Since he has been Mayor of Salinas the city has issued bonds to the extent of $25,000, by a practically unanimous vote, and its judicious expenditure has done much to improve and beautify the city. Through the Index he has helped to develop the resources of Monterey County, and has recently shown his faith in the Salinas Valley by purchasing a tract of the Buena Vista Ranch.

Mr. Hill is a leading member of several fraternal organizations. He is Past Master of Salinas Lodge, No. 204, F. & A. M.; was the first and is Past Patron of Reveille Chapter, No. 47, O. E. S.; is Past Master of Sausal Lodge, No. 47. A. O. U. W., and was the first Master of the lodge. He is a member of the Watsonville Commandery Knights Templar, of Salinas Chapter R. A. M., and is ninety.-fifth degree member of the Royal Masonic Rite. He is also Master of the Salinas Grange.

Through heredity and his training on the frontier, Mr. Hill possesses great strength of character, and a marked individuality. An untiring worker, relentless in his determinations when he feels he is right, he possesses withal those qualities of mind and heart which bring to him the warmest friends, as the following, published in an Idaho paper at the time he left the Territory, would indicate:—

"Mr. Hill has spent ten or twelve of the best years in his life in assisting to build up, and heroically battling for the best interes s of, Idaho Territory—first as frontiersman and next as a journalist. His name is a household word throughout the land. His life, his deeds, his very action, are so well known that to attempt to recount them at this time were unnecessary. In truth, so deeply do we feel the loss of a man like him that we have the heart to say but little about it. We regard it as a public calamity, and in saying this we only echo the expressed sentiment of the people of the whole Territory. He leaves an impress upon the country that will never be erased. * * * Good-bye, 'Old Hill!' May Heaven's choicest blessings shower your pathway through life, and California's brightest flowers bloom for you and yours in your new home."

Mr. Hill owns a handsome residence in Salinas, and his wife is an intellectual and accomplished woman. He has one son.

Source: Monterey County : its general features, resources, attractions, and inducements to investors and home seekers. Salinas, Calif.: E.S. Harrison, 1889, 89 pgs.