Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Consider the Lilies of the Field ... Henry F. Berg

Henry F. Berg was born in 1834 in Maryland and grew up in Franklin County, Indiana.  He was the 5th son of Balthasar and Maria Christina (Krugg/Krong) Berg who came to America from Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany in the early 1830s.  Henry married Lucy Ripp on the 11th day of June, 1859 in Franklin County, Indiana.  Their first son, Arthur W. was born about 22 March 1861.  By the summer of 1862 the family was living in Bernadotte, Illinois.

When President Lincoln called upon the men of Illinois to serve in the Civil War, Illinois responded by organizing dozens of Infantries.  On October 2, 1862, Henry Berg mustered in to the 103rd Illinois Infantry, Company I.  On the 24th of October, the Regiment received orders to be ready to move at a moments warning. On the 30th orders were received to move by the Illinois Central Railroad to Cairo.  At Cairo they took a boat for Columbus, Kentucky where they were again placed on the railway to Bolivar, Tennessee.  They made the trip from Peoria in 52 hours.

We were now at the front, within 18 miles of a large and well appointed force of the enemy. We were here assigned to the First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Pugh, of the Forty-first Illinois, Fourth Division, Brigadier General Veach, Thirteenth Army Corps, General J. B. McPherson commanding.

November 3 we moved en route for LaGrange, where we arrived with the advance of the army, went into quarters near, and finally in town. Drill and frequent scouts filled up the time until  November 28 (Reconnaissance from LaGrange to Lamar, Miss., November 5. Wirsham Creek November 6. Garrison at Waterford, Miss., December 1-31), when the army designed by General Grant for the capture of Vicksburg we moved south, and on the 1st of December passed through Holly Springs and camped near Waterford, at which place we were left as garrison, with the additional duty of guarding the railroad to the Tallahatchie River. Companies B, H, I, G, E and K being placed on the railroad with orders to fortify and protect bridges.  
Taken from the Adjutant General’s Report

Henry would not accompany his Regiment to Waterford, Mississippi on December 1.  He fell ill sometime in November and died on December 8, 1862 of dysentery in what was then known as the General Hospital in La Grange, Tennessee.   Although several buildings in La Grange served as hospitals during the long three years that Union forces occupied the community, Henry’s early death during the occupation most surely put him in the Immanuel Episcopal Church building which served as a hospital during the early days of the war. 

I arrived at the village of La Grange, Tennessee late morning the day after Passover and a day before Easter.  Two sprays of white lilies graced the double doors of the church, the sanctuary held bouquets of the fragrant flowers and they lined all six of the cathedral windows.  The fragrance was exquisite and I shall always remember my visit to this peaceful place when I see an Easter lily.  A gracious lady of the church greeted me in the sanctuary and listened with great interest to my 2nd great grandfather’s story, she kept copies of Henry’s military photogragh and Muster Rolls and planned to use them as a historical moment they often include in their Sunday services.   Most of their historical journals date from after the Civil War, so Henry’s story might well be one of the earliest they now have in their Church history.  In the 1920s, a Church renovation revealed Bible verses and messages to home written by the wounded soldiers on the lower wall of this make shift hospital, to my knowledge no record was kept of these writings.

On Easter morning I arrived at Memphis National Cemetery, one of many American military cemeteries dating back to the Civil War.  It was established in 1867, and thousands of Civil War dead were reinterred there from cemeteries in the surrounding areas.  Henry Berg was first buried in No 7 Hospital Cemetery in La Grange, Tennessee and later reinterred to Section B site 41 of Memphis National Cemetery among some 2000 of his fellow comrades from Illinois.  During the move his name was misspelled and it appears on his stone as Henry Burg.  When I contacted the cemetery to correct his records, they treated the error with the highest regard and researched to see if the rules would allow Henry a new headstone with the correct spelling of his name, which being older than 50 years their regulations would not allow. However, they took copies of his Muster Rolls and corrected the date of death and spelling in their databases so anyone looking for Henry Berg can find his final resting place. 

Nationwide Veteran Grave Locator

I had to search Easter morning for flowers for his grave. It may well be the only time since his death 150 years ago passers by will see a white lily placed upon his grave.  

The 103rd Illinois Regiment went on to fight at Vicksburg and ultimately fought under General Sherman on his March to the Sea.  The Regiment participated in the Grand Review at Washington on the 25th of May 1865 and mustered out three weeks later on 14 June having been in service two years, eight months and twenty days.

In 1929, the State of Illinois placed a monument to their fallen Sons of the Civil War at Memphis National Cemetery. Its eloquent inscription reads -

When President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to defend the life of our imperiled nation, these valiant sons of Illinois, together with other heroes, offered their lives with patriotism unsurpassed. With unflinching bravery they fought the bloody battles of the great Civil War for union and liberty. Upon them, therefore, a grateful state bestows the crown of undying affection and the laurel of victory.

When Henry died in December of 1862, he never lived to see his 2nd son who came along on March 28, 1863.  Nelson Henry Berg grew up in Illinois and married Jessie Allpin on 18 September, 1884.  The couple moved to Wymore, Nebraska in 1885 and raised two children,  Lawrence and Pearl (my grandmother).  Pearl married Loren Allen Hillhouse in June of 1914. 

Lawrence Berg & Pearl (Berg) Hillhouse 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seeking proven Male descendants of the Hillhouse Family

We are seeking proven male descendants of the Hillhouse Family of Scotland and Northern Ireland and James Hilhouse of Bristol with the last name of Hillhouse/Hilhouse interested in DNA testing to link members of this Hillhouse family to descendants of William Hillhouse of Province South Carolina (died 1778) and Samuel Hillhouse of North Carolina (died 1782).

Resent DNA testing between proven male descendants of Rev. James Hillhouse and William & Samuel Hillhouse has proven these are two distinctive Hillhouse lines and not related as direct male descendants (more probably they may be connected through female descendants). 

Hillhouse/Hillis DNA Project

Jan Eloise Morris

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Connecting Fragments - the Hillhouse's in 18th Century Pennsylvania

In recent month's, I have been enjoying a collaboration with Hillhouse cousins, Joseph Moore and Billy Hillhouse. We are all proven descendants of William Hillhouse of the Province of South Carolina (d. 1778).  We have been trying to establish credible documentation behind the Helen T. Hillhouse & Laurens Petigru research concerning the possibility that William is a son of Samuel & Rachel Hillhouse, who some family tradition's believe married in Ireland in 1715 and immigrated to Boston in 1719 along with Samuel's brother Rev. James Hillhouse. It is our hope that by laying down the pieces of documentation we've found, we can trace William back to John and Rachel Hillhouse of Free Hall.  Please use the highlighted text links to access the documentation.   This page will be updated as more of the story comes to light.

If you have new credible documentation to share concerning the Hillhouse time frame between 1715 and 1782, you are invited to post comments at the end of the post. 

William of the Province of South Carolina (St. Mark's and Providence Parish), who established the South Carolina branch, was, it is believed, a son of Samuel (but possibly Charles), and a great-grandson of Abraham of Artikelly. He was born in County Derry, came to western Pennsylvania sometime before 1744, ultimately moved to the upper reaches of South Carolina Province, and obtained in 1772 a land grant in St. Mark's and Providence Parish for 300 acres. Two sons, both born in western Pennsylvania, were Captains in the Revolutionary War (John and William), and three grandsons became Presbyterian ministers: Reverend William Dickey of Kentucky and Ohio, Reverend James Hillhouse of South Carolina and Alabama, and the Reverend Joseph of South Carolina.

So far we have been able to establish very little concerning the sojourn of the Hillhouses in western Pennsylvania. The records of Christ Church in Philadelphia show that Mary Hillhouse was married on October 15, 1747 to John Reily.  She may have been William's sister.   

Marriage of a son and a daughter with the Dickeys, and a son to Margaret Chambers, suggests that William and his family probably lived in Paxtang, Donegal or Derry Township in Lasater (later Dauphin) County, or in Cumberland County. Descendants of Moses Dickey, and of the four Chambers brothers who settled originally about 1720-1730 in the Fort Hunter area north of Harrisburg, were in both counties.  

In the Old Paxtang and Derry church records, the names - Dickey, Stevenson, and Chambers - appear, all three being family names connected with either William or his son John. Moses Dickey was a Justice of the Peace. A Roland (or Rowland) Chambers was the first elder of the Donegal Church, 1720-1733.   
taken from the Hillhouse Family Book  

In November 1717, William Homes was in communication with the Reverend Cotton Mather, his son Robert, and land speculators who were anxious to develop the area along the Kennebec river. It has been suggested that this correspondence was followed by a meeting in Boston, at which Robert Homes, Cotton Mather and the Kennebec speculators agreed to transport colonists from Ulster. Robert sailed for Ireland in April 1718, and returned ‘full of passengers’ seven months later. 

The fact that Rev. James Hillhouse came to America in 1719-20 and his association with Rev. Cotton Mather is well documented.  We have clues that lead us to believe Rev. James sailed from Ireland with brother Samuel & his new wife Rachel and a group of his parishioners.  They arrived in Boston harbor on November 30, 1719 but their ship, Captained by a man named Dennis, was warned out to Spectacle Island because of illness on the ship. 

The ships coming out of Ireland in 1718 carried small pox, infections and other illnesses.  Boston's ports were forced to divert ships with diseased passengers to Spectacle Island to receive hospital treatment or wait out their quarantine before they were allowed on the mainland.  On November 3rd, the Elizabeth (the ship referred to in the first paragraph) arrived from Ireland carrying 150 passengers, many of whom were solicited by the 1718 Migration project that Cotton Mather participated in.   The ship was warned out to Spectacle Island and the large group overwhelmed the hospital, forcing the people of Boston to find other lodging for some of the passengers.  The ship that was warned out on November 30th would have added to the overcrowding.  It is thought that due to the confusion, many names of the passengers on both ships were lost.  No Hillhouse is listed on either of the ships.  However, we have found other passengers whose family tradition states they traveled with Rev. Hillhouse.  Alexander Gordon was one of these parishioners and his name is listed on the ship warned out on November 30th.

We are researching the idea that Samuel and Rachel stayed in the Boston area, as it seems certain they did not follow Rev. James when he was called to New London, CT in 1722.  

"Samuel Hillhouse warrant granted to Jacob Myer
dated the 15th of March 1745"

Descendants of John & Mary Hillhouse Reily, show Mary as the daughter of Samuel & Rachel Hillhouse (married in Londonderry in 1715).   Samuel is believed to be buried in  Cecil County Maryland.  Mary Hillhouse Reily is noted to have been born in 1720 in Pennsylvania and died in 1765 in Chesterfield, Virginia.  Her husband John died there in 1783.  

Mary was said to have a brother named William, who we have found evidence of purchasing 100 acres of land in Chester County, PA on 10 March 1747 and Wm Hilhouse is listed in the Maryland Militia under the command of Captain Robert Sollers October 1, 1748 at St. Leonard Town

Recent DNA testing has linked William with a brother: Samuel Hillhouse (d. 1782) of Rowan N.C.  We are very fortunate to have a copy of his Will.  Samuel is buried at Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Rowan, County, N.C.   Concerning the name change to Hillis:  Samuel Hillhouse's will is spelled out as Hillhouse. However, it appears his son Samuel Jr. changed the spelling of his name to Hillis.  His descendants found the broken stone and preserved it in its new memorial.

William first appears in what is now York County, S.C. in 1755 with a purchase of 450 acres of land.  His story is well documented forward in South Carolina.  Although, his stone is lost, he is believed to be buried at Bullock Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery, in York County. 

The following grant was recorded in Royal Grants, Vol. 12, Page 113 dated March 8, 1765. and gives William Hillhouse 200 acres in Craven County on the north side of Broad River on a branch of Turkey Creek, bounded on all sides by vacant land. According to "Colonial Plats, Vol. 6, page 530, the land was surveyed December 5, 1764.

Mecklenburg County grant filed; Page 72. Hillhouse, William File no. 1361 (634) Grant no. 34. Book 18, page 256 (17,282) Plat surveyed for William Hillhouse, 200 acres on west side Turkey Creek between John Brandson, Surv. John Hillhouse, John Riggs, C.B. Iss. 25 September 1766.

Deed Abstracts of Tyron, Lincoln and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina, 1769-1786, Page 179-180; "January 22, 1770, William Hillhouse of Craven County, SC, planter, to Archibald Robinson of Tyron County, for 26 pounds Proc. money, 450 acreas granted to Mathew Floyd, deeded by him to said Hillhouse, adjoining Fannings line. William Hillhouse (Seal), Witness Steward Brown, John Hillhouse, Recorded April Term, 1770."  Note: Tryon County was cut off from Anson and the later counties of Lincoln, Rutherford, Cleveland and Gaston were divided from Tryon, all lying out west of Charlotte

William Hillhouse and John Dickey in York County, S.C.

The following are Churches listed in the Hillhouse Family Book in PA -

Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church  
Parkesburg, Chester County,PA    

Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church (UOPC) was established in 1720 by a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants. The name Octorara came from an Indian word meaning “Rushing Waters.” There was an Indian settlement located along the Octorara Creek and a smaller campsite was situated nearby in the present cemetery.

The first regular minister, Reverend Adam Boyd, mentored and recommended by New England’s celebrated Cotton Mather, was ordained in the log meeting house in 1724. He traveled by foot or on horseback going from settlement to settlement to reach his parishioners. During his 44 years as pastor, 17 daughter and granddaughter Presbyterian churches were established. The log meeting house accidentally burned and a stone church building within adjacent session house was erected in 1738. Today, this original session house is used as a museum for church artifacts. In 1840, stones and all usable building materials from the stone church were carried across the road and used to construct the sanctuary worshipped in today.   

History of the Church 1720-1870 burials start on page 159

Names of interest -
Martha Dickey 1762
Alexander Luckey 1747

The parents of Mary Dickey Hillhouse (married William Sr. son James) :
JOHN DICKEY, born 1703 in Belfast, Antrim, North Ireland,
and died February 13, 1789 in York, York, South Carolina.
MARTHA MCNEELY married John, 1736 in Albedarle, Virginia,
daughter of GEORGE MCNEELY.
Burial: Bullock Creek, York District, South Carolina

Moses Dickey was born in Fallowfield Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, he moved to Lancaster County which became Dauphin County. At some time lived near the Octoraro creek. Moses was captain in the Associated Regiments of Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1747-48. The mark of his grave in lost; it was presumably near the east wall of the graveyard, but his name is on the tablet of the memorial gateway erected in memory of Provincial and Revolutionary soldiers buried here. 
Moses & Mary Dickey are buried at Paxton Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Dauphin County, PA.

Paxton Presbyterian Church 

It is not known how Moses Dickey and John Dickey were related.

How Colonial and State borders changed since creation at n2genealogy

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Haunting of Hillhouse

In the fall of 2005, I found myself on a plane to Hartford, Connecticut.  Senator James Hillhouse (1754-1832) was the first ancestor whose name popped up in my genealogy research and upon his insistence ... his very FIRM insistence, I began one of the most scenic and enlightening journeys of this lifetime.

My journey had begun a month before, where most genealogist's end ... at the beginning ... in Londonderry, Northern Ireland the birthplace of Reverend James Hillhouse (1687-1740).  In 1719, Reverend James, along with (it is now believed) his brother Samuel & new wife Rachel and a group of his parishioners boarded a ship in Ireland to Boston. 

Still in Boston in 1721, Rev. James printed his eulogy to his mother: Sermon concerning the Life, Death, and Future State of Saints, on the Death of Mrs. Rachel Hillhouse, Jan. 7, 1716.  The preface to the Sermon was penned by famous Puritans, Increase & Cotton Mather: father & son and successive ministers to Boston's Old North Meeting House.  (not to be confused with the Old North Church nearby where a lantern signaled Paul Revere's famous ride).  Cotton Mather had a long list of honorable accomplishments but his enduring mark upon history became his influence behind the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s. 

In 1722, Reverend James accepted his calling to minister the First Church of the North Parish of New London, in the Colony of Connecticut.  At the time of his installation, there were 7 members of the Church and meetings were held in the west rooms of Samuel Allen's Tavern.  A year later a small meeting house was erected in an area known as Raymond Hill.   In the summer of 1723, he sailed to Ireland to visit his family at Free Hall.  New London was changed to the name of Montville (perhaps a nod to the Hillhouse name, Montville translates to hill and village). 

undated map of Montville shows W. Hillhouse land, cemetery
& Mount Hillhouse near Montville Hill (
click to enlarge). 

Rev. James married Mary Fitch in January of 1726.  In the years ahead, he became embroiled in a dispute with his parishioners over payment of his salary. By 1737, he and his parishioners had separated ways.  James was left heart-broken by the ordeal and died a short time later on 15 December 1740.  His death came at the young age of 53, leaving Mary a widow at the age of 35 with three young children,  William (12), James Abraham (10) & Rachel, named after his mother (5).  Had he lived to see his children and grandchildren mature, he would have seen men who fought fearlessly for our independence from Great Britain and whose leadership & wisdom laid the very foundation for their beloved Connecticut and this great Nation.   

Raymond Hill Cemetery
The Hillhouse's are buried together, Rev. Hillhouse's grave is the alter stone shown
in the photograph with a plaque laid on the surface,
Judge William Hillhouse's Revolutionary War stone is shown separately.
Click to see details for family members in this cemetery

My week in Connecticut was spent walking through curtains of rain with brief hours of cloudy gloom and one last reprieve of two sunny days for leaf peeping.  I stayed at a lovely Federal style Bed & Breakfast in New Haven. The Farnam Guest House is situated on Prospect Hill, which is on the site of the old Hillhouse estate known as Sachem's Wood.   Once on the outskirts of New Haven, the old estate has long since been absorbed into Yale University and the Prospect Hill subdivision.  The lovely Georgian mansion that graced Sachem's Wood was torn down at the family's request in 1942.  Klein Tower now stands over its footprint beside a few ancient Oaks that the Hillhouse's arranged to have saved and cared for by the university.     

Sachem's Wood
click to see a floor plan of the house which is part of the
Hillhouse Collection at the New Haven Museum

In the early 1800s, Senator James Hillhouse (1754-1832) began the development of one of the most beloved streets in America and he along with his son, James A. Hillhouse (1789 - 1841) built Sachem's Wood at the end of the street high on the hill above Hillhouse Avenue.  They lined the street with American Elms which matured to form a temple canopy high above the street.  They played a large part in the fine architecture of the houses that filled the avenue in the 19th Century.  Although the Elm's are long lost, many of the house's remain and a leisurely walk on a quiet afternoon still can suggest what it might have been like to live on what Charles Dickens once called the most beautiful street in America.  

When New Haven's original Burying Ground on the Green became overwhelmed with graves by a yellow fever epidemic in the late 1790s, Senator Hillhouse donated a portion of his farm and laid out plans for Grove Street Cemetery, it became the first chartered burial ground in the United States and it's design was the first of its kind using the idea of family plots. 

The Hillhouse Family plot at Grove Street Cemetery
note H insignia on the cross, the center stone is James Abraham Hillhouse &
the last photo is one of the plot

click for detailed information on some of the family graves

On my last day in New Haven, I visited the Churches on the New Haven Green.  The only trace left today of the old Burying Ground lies beneath Center Church on the Green.  In 1812, the church was literally built over a small section of graves and today the Crypt shelters 137 grave stones of New Haven's founders and earliest citizens dating from 1687.  Members of the Hillhouse family are among them.  When I arrived in the narthex (foyer) of the church, a docent escorted me down to the crypt for a lecture and tour of the graves.  The crypt was well lite and the docent explained at length how fragile the graves are and the efforts made to keep them from sinking into the soft ground beneath. 

We climbed the stairs back to the foyer, and I spent a few moments looking through a table of church booklets.  A petite women was sitting across the room, quietly reading a book while she waited for the next visitor to escort on tour.  I said goodbye as I walked toward the door and she replied in a firm voice that seemed out of character for her tiny stature and something I can only explain as an echo across the ages: May God go with Thee.  Shaken to the core, I walked out into the sunshine of clearing skies.  And to this day, from time to time, I am reminded that I am in the perpetual care of my Puritan ancestors.

Leaf peeping in the Connecticut country side

Saturday, September 10, 2011

White Columns of Georgia - The Hillhouse's of Washington

It was Spring in Georgia and the dogwoods were in full bloom, a perfect day for a long drive in the country.  When I mentioned Washington to a lady in Savannah, she cautioned me to watch the road signs carefully The reason the White Columns were spared in Washington was because Sherman couldn't find it!  Its seems though that her statement was more for entertainment than historical fact ...

When the Revolutionary War tore through the southern Colonies, the Patriots of Wilkes County soundly defeated the Tory forces on Valentine's Day in 1779 at the Battle of Kettle Creek.  I've spent my share of  time walking Revolutionary War battlefields, there is a very distinct mist that lingers in those hills, very different from other hallowed grounds of the Civil War. Perhaps there are less tourists than on the Civil War battlefields to saturate the old energies. Kettle Creek was deserted the day I visited and the silence was deafening.  

A few miles down the road, Washington received its charter on January 23, 1780, becoming the first town in the United States to be chartered in the name of the commander-in-chief of American forces.  By 1783, the town had been laid out with a public square, town common and plans for a 'Latin and grammar school'.  However, the area was still rough and tumble as the frontier lifestyle was not one in which gentility could prosper. 


Sarah Hillhouse, a proper New Englander removed to this Georgia frontier village, remarked in the 1780s that many of Washington's inhabitants were 'the most profane and blasphemous sort'.   Images of of America : Washington GA

Sarah's husband, David, was the 4th son of the Honorable William and Sarah (Griswold) Hillhouse. He was born in Montville, CT on 11 May 1756. 

She was the daughter of General Elisha & Sarah (Jewitt) Porter of Hadley, MA, born on 29 April 1763.  David & Sarah were married on 7 October 1781.  As with many of their fellow New Englanders, they found their way south, preferring the milder climate of Georgia to the harsh New England winters. By 1787, David had established his family in Washington,  opening a general store and building a log cabin.  By 1800, David was operating a large plantation and using slave labor.

David & Sarah's children

Sarah - 16 Sept 1782
Mary - 12 Dec 1784
Daniel Kellog - 18 Aug 1788 died Oct 1788
David Porter - 8 May 1791
Thomas - 28 March 1794
William Elisha - 14 June 1799 died July 1799
Caroline Sophia Rebecca - 3 August 1801 died 1804

David died at the age of 47 on 24 March 1803, leaving Sarah with the plantation and three children under the age of 15.  David had also been editor of the local newspaper The Monitor.  A true pioneer, Sarah assumed management of the plantation, raised her children, became the first woman newspaper publisher in America by taking over management of The Monitor and printing the Journal of the Georgia House of Representatives in her print shop. 

Sarah began building the center section of this lovely Georgian style house in 1814.
Her home was enlarged to its present form in 1869, when Gabriel Toombs acquired the property, and moved the end rooms from the Toombs Plantation on log rollers and added them to the house.  I was warmly welcomed to the home by the present owner, Betty Slaton, who graciously shared her Sarah Hillhouse research with me on a rainy spring afternoon.

David was buried in Washington at a grave site on early family property, the graveyard was built over by the town many years ago. Sarah died in Washington on 26 March 1831 surrounded by her children and grand children.  She was buried in Major Shepherd's graveyard in a field SW of his house and not far  from the tan yard.  Today the location is unknown.  

More about Sarah -
The Printer Lady by Frances T. Greiff

Home of Sarah Hillhouse

David's sister, Mary, and her husband, William Prince were also residents in Washington.  Mary was the 2nd child of Hon. William and Sarah Hillhouse, born in Montville, CT on 10 April 1753.  William was the son of William and Mary (Holland) Prince of Montville born 6 March 1753.  They were married in Montville on 6 May 1775. 

William & Mary's children
Sarah (died in childhood)
William III born May 1776, Graduated Yale 1790, died unmarried in Savannah in 1817
Oliver Hillhouse Prince born in New London CT 1782
John Prince died in childhood

Oliver Hillhouse Prince was born in New London CT and attended schools in both Montville and Washington. 

He married Mary Ross Norman on 14 August 1817 and moved several times around Georgia before settling in Athens. He served as state Senator and penned several books.  He was also remembered for laying out the town streets of Macon, GA.

He and his wife perished in the wreck of the Steamship Home off the coast of Ocracoke, N.C. on 9 October 1837.  They are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.

Oliver started building this house in Washington in 1810 but he moved out of town before it was finished.  It stood nearly 100 years with a wrap around Victorian porch on two sides until 1905 when the front porch was removed and replaced with a stately Beaux-Arts Revival columned portico.

More about Oliver Hillhouse Prince -
With Kindly Voices by Virgina King Nirenstein

Oliver Hillhouse Prince Home

More about Washington, GA -
White Columns in Georgia by Medora Field Perkerson
Many thanks to Elaine Filipiak of Miss Fanny Tours for her time and knowledge of Washington
Quotes used from Images of America: Washington Georgia by Robert E. Willingham Jr.

Geneaological references from "Historical & Genealogical Collections Relating to the Descendants of Rev. James Hillhouse" by Margaret P. Hillhouse

Part II - Washington faces the Civil War (to be continued)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sarah Alexander Lawton - Georgia 1/26/1826 - 11/1/1897


The story of this lovely Georgia Belle could easily have been the inspiration for many a Civil War romance novel.  Sarah was the great granddaughter of Sarah Porter Hillhouse
(1763-1831), the first woman editor and printer in Georgia and reputed to be the first woman editor and businesswoman in the nation. 

Sarah spent her childhood at Fairfield, the Alexander plantation, on the edge of Washington, GA. The home still stands as do many of the lovely Antebellum homes in Washington that were spared destruction in Sherman's March to the Sea.  Her brother, Edward Porter Alexander (1835-1910), was a distinguished Confederate General of Artillery and survived to pen one of the most respected accounts of the Civil War, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander

Sarah married Alexander Robert Lawton in November of 1845 in Savannah. The Lawton's were a distinguished family of Welsh descent who settled in Charleston, S. C. at Mulberry Grove Plantation.  Both Alexander and Sarah's brother, Edward, were educated at West Point.  Alexander went on to serve as Brigadier General to Jefferson Davis and in the summer of 1862 his brigade joined forces with Stonewall Jackson's corps in battles around Richmond, Virginia. He was severely injured at Sharpsburg and after months of recovery, returned to duty and served as Quartermaster General for the remainder of the war.

After the war, the Lawton's returned to Savannah to Alexander's law practice and worked toward the rehabilitation of Georgia.  He served in both branches of the Georgia legislature and as vice-president of the Georgia Constitutional Convention in 1877.  President Cleveland appointed him Minister to Austria 1887-89.

Sarah was with her husband in Richmond during the war and in Austria.  It was noted that her worldly experiences enriched her conversation, making her a most interesting companion. 

Alexander and Sarah had four children -
Corinne Elliott Lawton - 9/23/1846
Louisa Frederika Lawton - 6/9/1849
Nora Lawton - 3/1/1855
Alexander Rudolph Lawton - 8/9/1858

The Lawton's final resting place is as large as the lives they lived.  Overlooking the Wilmington River in the famous Bonaventure Cemetery on the edge of Savannah, the story of these exquisite tombstones in the Lawton Family plot tell many tales .. some fact, some legend.


These Italian monuments were sculpted by Raffaello Romanelli in Florence in 1898.  As with many of the lovely monuments placed in Bonaventure Cemetery, their story is expressed with symbols and by placement, often leaving interpretation open to myth and mystery.

One interpretation of the arched stone is of a gate to heaven with Jesus standing at the gate, Sarah and Alexander were allowed to pass through since their names are placed beyond the opening.  Corrine's epitaph reads Allured to brighter worlds and led the way.  One can only assume that since her parents were deceased before their stone was sculpted and placed that they had no control over its placement or its legend. 

Lawton Home Savannah across from Forsyth Park
(now owned by the Savannah College of Art & Design)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hilhouse Family of Bristol

 A PAIR OF PAINTINGS By Thomas Hudson 

Mr. James Hilhouse is wearing a grey coat and breeches holding a letter in his left hand. Mrs. James Hilhouse is standing three-quarter length, wearing a yellow silk dress and holding a hat in her right hand. both oil on canvas each: 50 by 40 in. 127 by 101.6 cm. James Hilhouse, Son of James Hilhouse and Rebecca Lennox, was sheriff of Bristol in 1756. He built Cornwallis House, Clifton. He was the grandson of Abraham Hilhouse of Free Hall, Londonderry. He married Miss Martin and lived in Clifton House until his death in 1758.  Date of Painting is 'before 1758'

Auction Title: Mercer House, Savannah - The Collection of the Late James A. Williams
(this painting was auctioned in the year 2000)
PROVENANCE: J. de Courcy Hamilton, by descent Mrs. Seymour Obermer Mrs. George Sawyer Mrs. I. de Giorgio (Sale: Sotheby's, London, November 18th, 1970, lot 16).

Notes ~

James Hillhouse was building ships in the Bristol docks from the early part of the eighteen century. Ships were needed to export English goods mainly textiles, run slaves to the West Indies and bring back sugar and tobacco. James even invested in some slavers himself. He became a very wealthy man leaving his son George the equivalent of over a million pounds when he died in 1754. The company at different times ran both the Albion and the Limekin docks which are located on opposite sides of the river close to where the SS Great Britain now lies. With the advent of the Floating Harbour in 1806 trade greatly increased. George continued to run the company after his father's for a time with his partner Charles Hill.

A new study of James Martin Hilhouse, the foremost ship builder during Bristol's 'Golden Age', provides a fascinating insight into the life and achievements of this multi-talented man and his famous warships.

Suppliers to the trade (Slavery trade in Bristol)

Thomas Hudson    Painter

Clifton is a neighborhood in the city of Bristol -
Clifton is one of the oldest and most affluent areas of the city, much of it having been built with profits from tobacco and the slave trade. Situated to the west of Bristol city centre, it was at one time a separate settlement but became attached to Bristol by continuous development during the Georgian era and was formally incorporated into the city in the 1830s. Grand houses that required many servants were built in the area. Although some were detached or semi-detached properties, the bulk were built as terraces, many with three or more floors. One famous terrace is the majestic Royal York Crescent, visible from the Avon Gorge below and looking across the Bristol docks. Berkeley Square which was built around 1790 is an example of Georgian architecture. Secluded squares include the triangular Canynge Square. (from Wikipedia)

The Mercer House Museum  Savannah Georgia

THE MERCER HOUSE - Home to famed antique dealer Jim Williams, the central character of the book and movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Jim shot and killed his lover, Danny Hansford, in the house and was tried four times for the same charge of murder. Jim bought the house for $46,000 in 1969, restored it and ran his antique business from the house. Jim's sister inherited the house and its contents once he, then his mother, died. The sister put the house on the market for $10 million in 1998, then took it off after the highest bid of $4 million was rebuffed. She now lives in the house located on Monterey Square.

 Comment ~

Wondering if these portraits were hanging on the wall of the study in the Mercer House the night of Danny's murder ? Perhaps they are the only ones who know the true story of "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" ;) 

Forward - I've been informed these painting hung in the dining room (so William's secret seems safe).  Seems Williams enjoyed filling Mercer House with local luminaries and the Hilhouse's were tied in with a famous local family: the Lawtons (Spencer Lawton later served as prosecuting attorney against him in his murder case).  

Find out more about Alexander & Sarah Lawton and their burial plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in my next blog.

Many thanks to Hillhouse descendant, Joseph Moore of Georgia for the lead to this story.