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James J. Hill

Organizer, Railroad Builder, Financier,
Settler of the American Northwest

Among America's foremost entrepreneurs and developers of the nation's railroads, few can compare with James Jerome Hill. He had a genius for organization that gave him control of most of the railroads of the Northwest. ■ James J. Hill was born September 16, 1838, in Ontario, Canada. His father was an Ulster Scot and his mother, whose maiden name was Dunbar, was from Scotland. He planned to become a doctor but changed his mind when blinded in one eye in a boyhood accident. ■ He arrived in St. Paul in 1856 where he worked for railroad and steamboat companies. He ran his own steamboat line, and in 1878 with some associates bought the bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. ■ By 1890 he had formed the Great Northern Railway Company with its many subsidiary lines and construction companies. He acquired the Northern Pacific and bought the Burlington Railroad to get access to Chicago. ■ He battled with E. H. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific, for control of other railroads. Their fighting for control was rough and tough and not altogether appreciated by the public. ■ Some say their financial battles brought on the panic of 1901. Hill wielded tremendous power over the nation's Western railroads so that an historic suit was brought against him in 1904. The U.S. Supreme Court decided against Hill and his powerful holding company was dissolved. ■ Hill was also an organizer of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Besides transportation he was interested in agriculture and conservation. He died May 29, 1916, in St. Paul. ■ Hill contributed much to the development of a young nation. His railroads helped greatly in the settlement of the American Northwest.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546