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George B. Hill, of the extensive mercantile firm of Hill & Ballentine, of Bellevue, Idaho, is one of Idaho’s prominent businessmen and states-men. He came, through New England ancestry, of honorable English and German descent, and was born at Cherry Valley, New York, August 28, 1843. He is of fighting stock, too, his great-grandfather Hill having fought for independence in the Revolution, his grandfather Hill having risked his life for his country in the war of 18 1 2- 14, and his father and himself having done battle for the Union in the civil war of 1861-65, the latter yielding up his life on the field in defense of the starry flag, while his maternal grand-father Busch fought in the war of 1812-14. Charles Hill, father of George B. Hill, was a native of Barrington, Massachusetts. He became a lawyer of ability and while yet a young man re-moved to Cherry Valley, New York, where he married Margaret Busch, of German descent and a daughter of an old and honored resident of that town. He was a member of the One Hundred and Twenty-first New York Volunteer Infantry and was killed while upon a reconnaissance in 1864. His good wife, a devout member of the Christian church, survived until 1884, and died in her seventy-ninth year.
George B. Hill was the youngest but one of the eight children of Charles and Margaret (Busch) Hill. He was being educated in the Cherry Valley Academy for boys, when, in 1861, at the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Seventy-sixth New York Volunteer Infantry, with which he served in the Army of the Potomac, participating in twenty-two hard-fought battles. In the battle in “the Wilderness,” the boy soldier received a wound in the right thigh, and at Gettysburg he got a gunshot wound in his foot. After the Wilderness fight he was promoted as second lieutenant. Three months later he was made first lieutenant, and he was in command of his company at the close of the war. He was present at the surrender of General Lee and had the honor of commanding the color company of his regiment at the historic grand review of the victorious army at Washington, D. C. He was honorably discharged at Albany, N. Y., July 4, 1865.
He returned to his home at Cherry Valley, and in the spring of 1866 went by steamer by way of Graytown to California. After spending a few months in that state, he went to Virginia City, Nevada, where he was employed as a clerk and became deputy recorder of the city. Later he built the Reno water works, and in 1875 organized what was known as the Carson City Savings Bank, of which for seven years he was cashier and general manager. He subsequently returned to California, where he remained until the spring of 1887, when he came to Bellevue, Idaho, and, in partnership with Colonel Ballentine, opened the extensive general store of which he has since been at the head. Originally a stalwart Republican, he came at last to embrace the principles of the Populist Party as being most favorable to his ideas of Abraham Lincoln Republicanism; and since 1892 he has been one of the ablest advocates of them in Idaho. He has six times been elected mayor of Bellevue, and was, in 1898, chosen by his party as its candidate for governor of Idaho; but for business reasons he declined the nomination. He has done much effective campaign work, and when he addresses his fellow citizens on political subjects he speaks from deep conviction and with great energy and power. He has frequently been invited by his comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic to the honored post of orator of the day on Decoration Day. He is a Son of the Revolution and fought through the long civil war and shed his blood in defense of the Union; and his father gave up his life for the same cause, and, on such occasions, he is moved by the presence of survivors of the great struggle in which he participated and by memories of comrades who sleep in soldiers’ graves, and his oratorical spirit is aroused and he speaks with a dramatic intensity that swells into a flood of eloquence carrying all before it. It is doubtful whether in all the country any one can surpass him as a Decoration Day orator, for it has been said of him that his efforts reach the heights of inspired sublimity.”
Mr. Hill was married December 17, 1874, to Miss Elizabeth Wheeler, a daughter of M. W. Wheeler, a Mexican war veteran and a California miner of ’49, and she is a native of San Jose. California. Their only child, Miss Grace Hill, was educated at the Michigan State Normal School at Ypsilanti and is an enthusiastic young teacher who is destined to make her mark in her profession. Mr. and Mrs. Hill have a beautiful home at Bellevue, where they dispense a generous and far-reaching hospitality.