Birth and Early Life
John Walter Hill, MD (1834-1902), was born in Edgefield County to Theoliphus and Susannah Richardson Hill. Susannah Richardson was a Christian lady of renown in the County. The Edgefield Advertiser, 2 March 1859 issue, records her death. She died 2 February 1859 at her residence in Richardsonville, SC (the “town” is no longer extant, but was at a crossroads near Gassaway Methodist Church, now in Saluda County).
Modern Gassaway United Methodist Church on Historic Site
Her grave is not marked, but her passing is noted in the County newspaper. She was the wife of Theophilus Hill and the mother of 10 children.
Unpretending and retiring in her manners almost to a fault, her influence was not felt so much abroad as at home. Here in the domestic circle, among her children, servants, and friends, it was strong and abiding, and in the performance of the various and responsible duties of domestic life, she was truly a model of patient industry, prudence and economy. (EA, Obituary)
The household was listed as including the following persons—US Census, 1850 (all born in South Carolina)
Theophilus Hill M age 60
Susan Hill F age 48
Lodowick Hill M age 29
Rhydon Hill M age 27
Elizabeth Hill F age 19
William Hill M age 18
Walter Hill M age 16
Susan Hill F age 15
Thomas Hill M age 11
Benjamin Hill M age 7
Edgefield County Map 1850 showing Richardsonville above Fruit Hill.
John Walter Hill’s education included the M.D. degree from The University of the City of New York Medical Department, NYC. The Advertiser records several announcements in the late 1850s of his setting up medical practice in Edgefield Village—
Francis Hugh Wardlaw’s Residence in Edgefield, Holmewood
Dr. Hill Married the daughter of Francis Hugh Wardlaw and Ann Gresham Wardlaw (née Lamar) on 4 October 1860. The early part of their married life was shortened by the events at the Secession Convention. Tradition attributes the principal authorship of that text to Hill’s father-in-law, Francis Hugh Wardlaw, Chancellor in State Equity Courts.
“The Late Unpleasantness” and “Medical Practice” Out of State
Dr. Hill was mustered into Confederate Service, 7 December 1861, in Capt. J. Abney’s Co., “Edgefield Reserves,” subsequently Co. A, 22nd SC Infantry. He passed Confederate Army Board of Medical Examination, Charleston, SC, administered by Surgeon R. A. Kinloch (see “Kinloch” below).
Dr. Hill wrote a letter of resignation 6 June 1862 from 19th SC Infantry, stating: “having suffered for some time with chronic bronchitis, the state of my health will not permit me to discharge efficiently the duties of the office which I hold” (copy of letter on FindaGrave website for Dr. Hill).
The letter was accepted, but he was not sent home. He was reassigned to Camp Jackson, Jackson, MS, with medical service for the 6th Texas Cavalry. With this unit he remained as they retreated east to Alabama until the end of the war. (see “Hambrecht” below)
Return to Edgefield Practice
Dr. Hill picked up his practice in Edgefield after the War. One incident is remarkable in its relief of human suffering, and is no doubt but a sample of many he performed over the years. He authored an article in the 1871 issue of The American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children in which he recounts a surgery performed on woman in labor for 56 hours prior to summoning him. The woman was a 32 year old African American, 5 feet tall and in good health. He preformed a successful Caesarean section and delivered a boy, Julius Caesar Gray. Both were still living in 1871.
Although they had no children of their own, Dr. and Mrs. Hill took into their family two relatives of Dr. Hill’s. His nephew, Walter Pearce, and Niece, Sue Pearce, came to live with them. They appear on the 1880 census in Wise Township in the Hill’s household. Sue was adopted by Dr. and Mrs. Hill. She married Joseph H. Cantelou. On Sue’s death certificate her father is listed as Walter Hill and her mother is Mattie Sue Hill (see “Cantelou” below).
Dr. Hill was a person who was interested in the formation of a church, but did not immediately join. He signed the petition requesting South Carolina Presbytery to organize a Presbyterian Church at the County Seat in 1877. His wife, Martha Hill was the driving force behind the church and was enrolled as one of the four founding members. He later joined and was a supporter of the church. We know that he was a lay speaker. He made the report for the Village Church at the County Presbyterian Conference, July 30, 1893 (see EA).
There was a prayer meeting conducted by Dr. J. W. Hill, the subject assigned for the occasion being that of prayer. …The observations made were concise, comprehensive, and practical and given in such a manner that those present made an application of them to their own hearts.
Messrs. Jacobs, Tompkins, Lake, Cobb, and Hix made some very interesting responses. They hoped that the prayer meetings would in future would be better attended, and expressed themselves as having been greatly benefited and encouraged by the talk made by Dr. Hill. They were happy to see him, though a member and an honored one of another profession, glad to testify to the efficacy and necessity of prayer, and that often the encouragement of a layman was a greater aid to us than the eloquence of an ordained minister. (EA, 3 August 1893).
Dr. Hill also supported the YMCA in the county and spoke for Sunday School conventions in the area.
In 1879, Dr. Hill bought a farm south of Edgefield on Sweetwater Road. The house still stands but is not clearly visible through the trees. Many Edgefield County residents were born at this house since Dr. Hill took expectant nother’s into his house in their final stages of pregnancy. He had several farm hands who worked the plantation as he continued his medical practice in the Village.
Death of First Wife
Mrs. Martha Wardlaw Hill died 31 March 1895. Her loss was great to the church and to her family.
Edgefield Advertiser Obituary, 1 April 1895.
Second Marriage & Death
Dr. Hill married again 4 November 1896. She was Susan Margaret Brunson, Edgefield Co., SC. He was 35 years her senior.
Dr. Hill died 13 March 1902 at age 68 years. He was a much loved and appreciated Edgefieldian. His obituary sums up the community’s sentiment—
Dr. Hill, in his social, commercial, religious and professional relations, stood foremost as a citizen and as a Christian. For many years in the past, he had been the chief physician in Edgefield County and distinguished in the medical fraternity throughout the State. For nearly a half century he had ministered to the physical distresses of thousands of people and his name was a comfort and a benediction wherever it was sounded.
It is interesting that Mrs. Susan B. Hill boarded with the Presbyterian pastor after Dr. Hill’s death according to the 1910 Census.
Cantelou, Mattie Sue “Tweetie” née Hill (1873-1956). FindaGrave ID #89611045 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89611045/mattie-sue-cantelou
Cantelou, Joseph H. (1869-1932). FindaGrave ID # 89610993 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89610993/joseph-h.-cantelou
Both are interred at East View Cemetery, Edgefield, SC.
Hill, Dr. John Walter (1834-1902). FindaGrave ID #90115619 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90115619/john-walter-hill
Hill, Martha Eliza “Mattie” née Wardlaw (1842-1895). FindaGrave ID #90115706 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90115706/martha-eliza-hill
Both are interred Edgefield Village Cemetery, Edgefield, SC.
Hill, Susan Margaret née Brunson (1869-1943). FindaGrave ID #92412121 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/92412121/susan-margaret-hill Interred Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, Edgefield County, SC.
Hambrecht, F.T. & Koste, J.L. (2014) Biographical register of physicians who served the Confederacy in a medical capacity. Unpublished database. From FindaGrave website for R, J. W. Hill.
Kinloch, Dr. Robert Alexander (1826-1891). FindaGrave ID #27591680 accessed 7 September 2018 from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27591680/robert-alexander-kinloch N. B. An extensive biography of Kinloch is included on the FindaGrave website. It suffices to say, he was well-qualified as a graduate of University of Pennsylvania Medical Department, Philadelphia, PA and post-graduate work in Paris, London, and Edinburgh.
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