George E. Hilliard, a well-known gun manufacturer and a leading citizen of Cornish, is a native of Claremont, where he was born August 26, 1838. He is descended from the Rev. Avery Hilliard, a Unitarian clergyman, who, coming to this country from England with his brother, resided for a time in Sutton, Mass., and afterward settled in Cornish, being the first of the name in the town. The Rev. Mr. Hilliard was twice married, and had in all ten children. His son Benjamin was grandfather of George E. Hilliard. Benjamin, who was born in Sutton, came to Cornish with his parents, learned the carpenter’s trade, and worked at it throughout his life. Although never neglecting to take part in town affairs or to cast his vote, he was not an aspirant for political honors, and never held office. His wife, christened Roxana Hall, was a daughter of Dr. I. Hall. Their children were: David H., Frank, Gilbert, Catherine, Harriet, Esther, Eliza, and Caroline. Frank, now deceased, was a carriage-builder of Nicholville, N.Y. He was twice married, and had six children. Gilbert, who was a machinist, enlisted for service in the Civil War, and was killed in 1863 at New Orleans. Catherine, deceased, was the wife of Lyman Bartlett, and the mother of five children. Harriet, also deceased, married Job Williams, of Plainfield, Esther was Mrs. James Hudson, of Lynn, and the mother of four children. The mother and three of the children have since passed away. Eliza married John Hudson, of Lynn, and had two children: John P., now President of the Bell Telephone Company; and Elizabeth, the wife of Samuel J. Hollis, one of the largest shoe manufacturers of Lynn. Caroline Hilliard married Horace Demming, a well-known farmer of Cornish; and she has three children living.
David H. Hilliard, the eldest son of his father, was born in Cornish, December 3, 1806. After finishing his course of study in the town schools, he learned cabinet-making, and worked at that trade for five or six years. Then he went into the employ of Thomas Woolson, of Claremont, building stove patterns, the castings from which were made in Tyson, Vt. It is claimed that he got out the pattern for the first cook stove that was ever made in this country. He was the inventor of the Yankee Cook Stove, the first stove having an elevated oven. In 1848 he began the manufacture of guns; and subsequently he made the Hilliard gun, which is known all over the United States. He continued in this business up to the time of his death in 1877. During the war he was authorized by the town to pay the soldiers. He was Justice of the Peace for twenty-five years, and for many years he was a member of the State Democratic Committee. He was always very active in town affairs, and might always be counted upon to take a zealous part in the discussion of any measures that came up before the town meeting. Very determined and a man of intense energy, when once he had made up his mind to follow a certain course of action nothing could prevent his following it to the end. For the last fifteen years of his life he was engaged to some extent in civil engineering. In 1835 he married Sarah A. Smith, of Claremont; and she became the mother of Charles N. and George E. Hilliard. Charles N., who was born in Claremont, June 5, 1836, and was educated in the Cornish schools, began business life in his father’s shop, learning the gunsmith’s trade. He worked with his father for five or six years, and then went to Ilion, N.Y., to work for the Remington Arms Company, where he is still employed as foreman of one of the departments. He successively married Sarah Weld and Belle Sherborn, both of Cornish. There were three children by the first marriage and four by the second.
After leaving school George E. Hilliard went to work on the Vermont Central Railroad in the capacity of locomotive engineer, and continued in that business for seven years, during which he was employed at different times on all the branches of the road. Subsequently he went into the gun business with his father. Since the death of the latter he has carried on the business alone. Mr. Hilliard has been Constable for fifteen years, District Clerk for two years, and Justice of the Peace and Notary Public for fifteen years. He has also been clerk of the School Board for two years and the Postmaster for about twenty years. He is a Royal Arch Mason, and has been Master of the Blue Lodge. He is greatly interested in taxidermy, and has a very large and valuable collection of birds, stuffed and mounted by himself. He is an authority on the ornithology of this region. His whole-souled, genial manner, amiable hospitality, and ever-ready wit have made for him a host of friends. With quick sympathy, he is always ready to help a friend in a hard place or to lighten the burdens of the unfortunate in general.
Mr. Hilliard married Ella M., daughter of Hiram D. Bartlett, of Cornish. They have one child, Emma L., born July 18, 1866. She is now the wife of C. W. Diggins, of Cleveland, Ohio, foreman of the Tribune Bicycle Works of Erie, Pa., and she has a daughter, Ethel E., born February 24, 1897. Before her marriage Mrs. Diggins taught school for some time. Possessed of remarkable tact in dealing with children, she smoothly managed the most obdurate urchins, and was one of the most popular teachers in this section of the country. She is a fine musician, and for some time she also taught music.