M. Stillman Hills, one of the most successful farmers and stock raisers of Mariposa township, is a veteran of
the Civil war and is entitled to the honor that is given those who offered their lives if need be in the defense
of the Union. A native of Illinois, he was born near Marengo in 1840, and his parents were. Calvin and Aniesteen
(Mead) Hills, the former a native of Vermont and the latter of New York. They were the parents of nine children:
F. M., M. Stillman, E. J., Ann Amelia, L. J., Helen E., John F., Walter and Phebe.
M. Stillman Hills was reared on the home farm and in the acquirement of his education attended the district schools.
In August, 1862, when not yet twenty two years of age, he enlisted in the Ninety fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry
for service in the Civil war and was for three years at the front with the western army. Part of the time he served
in the Seventeenth Army Corps under General McPherson, and the remainder in the Sixteenth Army Corps under General
A. J. Smith. He participated in most of the battles fought along the Mississippi river, including engagements around
Vicksburg, and was at the front until the close of the war in 1865.
On his return home Mr. Hills learned the harness maker's trade, which he followed for five years, but in June,
1870, he removed to Saunders county, Nebraska, and filed on a claim, where he remained for a year. He then homesteaded
the south one half of the north one half of section 2, township 15, range 6, thus taking advantage of his soldier's
right. His partner, E. P. Grover, took up a claim on the north one half of the north half of that section and they
built a house on the adjoining corners of their four eighty acre tracts. For a year they lived together, but at
the end of that time Mr. Hills sold his interest in the house and built another, fourteen by twenty feet, on the
site of his present residence. The boards of his pioneer home ran up and down and were banked with sod.
When Mr. Hills began farming in this county he had only a team of horses, an old wagon and one hundred and twenty
five dollars in money, and during the second year of his residence here his best horse was killed by lightning.
During the first fall he worked in a grist mill, making fifty dollars in that way, which he utilized in purchasing
lumber at Fremont for building his home, which his wife papered with newspapers. The first stable on the place
was built of sod and the conditions of life in general were those of the frontier. Later, when his resources had
increased, he bought three forty acre tracts, which constituted part of the Grover claim, and he cultivated that
land in addition to his home farm. In the spring of 1871 Mr. Hills set out his first trees and now has a splendid
grove and also a fine row of trees along the west front of his farm. About 1872 he planted fifty or seventy five
fruit trees which he bought at Greenwood, and thus started his orchard, which more than supplies the family with
fruit. In 1889 he erected his present commodious residence and in 1890 he built a large barn. His farm, which is
known as the Hill Crest farm, is one of the best improved places in the county and he takes justifiable pride in
it, for its development has been due entirely to his labors and foresight. In addition to growing the usual crops
he raises good stock, the sale of which yields him a good income.
Mr. Hills was married in 1867 to Miss Hattie De Groat, a native of Illinois and a daughter of Patrick and Lucy
(Smith) De Groat. A sketch of their only son, Frank J. Hills, appears alsewhere in this work. Mr. Hills is a stanch
republican and has taken an active part in public affairs, serving as county commissioner from 1880 until 1888
and as township assessor for one year. His interest in the public schools is evidenced by the fact that he has
been a member of the school board almost continuously since the organization of his district. He gives the same
careful attention to the discharge of his official duties that he gives to the management of his private affairs,
and this record is a very creditable one. During the many years that he has resided in this county he has seen
it change from a region of wild prairie to a highly developed agricultural district, and at all times he has cooperated
heartily in all efforts to bring about its advancement.
Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Saunders County, NE
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