Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hill Farms

Threshing at the Walter Hill Farm in Northcote (1900);  this was
the year my grandmother began working in the farm's dairy.

[Click on photo to see large version]

J.J. Hill was a busy man with a wide variety of interests.  His business savvy was renowned, which brought him notoriety and admiration from a wide variety of people.  My grandmother and mother talked about him with tones of reverence when recounting his heavy influence on the region in which we lived.

Settlers in our little corner of northwestern Minnesota often found  stepping stones of employment thanks to Mr. Hill.  Elizabeth Fitzgerald, my grandmother, was one of them.  She wasn't able to have any schooling past third grade.  With 10 siblings at that time (eventually there would be 13), she was needed at home after that; eventually, in 1900, she found work on the Hill's Humboldt farm working in the dairy, among other responsibilities.  Such young women who did a variety of tasks were commonly called 'hired girls'.

Hill's interest in farming was tied directly to his building of the railroads.  Development of the surrounding land was their key to success.  Settlement was encouraged, but it was also necessary to supply motivation for settlers to come.  The land itself was rich with potential, but Hill was smart enough to know that he had to lead by example.  He started farms that were practical demonstrations of how it "could be done".  One of them was the Humboldt farm, its genesis in 1881, that became a bonanza farm, eventually splitting off 3,000 acres to create the Northcote division in 1910 (although it was part of the Humboldt farm prior to then...)

The Northcote division was created for his son, Walter, in hopes that it would give him focus.  The article below announces the completion of the mansion, as my grandmother called it.

October 10, 1913 - Walter J. Hill, son of James J. Hill, has just completed a $50,000 residence on the 45,000-acre Hill farm in Hampden township, about seven miles west of Lancaster, between Hallock and Humboldt, in the extreme northwestern part of Minnesota.

Mr. Hill is now erecting a cow-barn 204 feet long and about 140 feet wide to hold 1,000 head of stock. The toundation pillars and floors are of reinforced concrete. The walls are of brick facing and double tile lining. The roof will be metal, supported on steel girders. The building will be equipped with a good ventilating system and with the most up-to-date devices in caring for stock. Adjoining this building will be two large silos and a feed house. In addition to these buildings, Mr. Hill has under construction at the present time an up-to-date blacksmith shop, cattle corral, and a complete hot and cold water system to all the buildings.

He is not putting in a vast sum of money in building for the fun of it. With him it is a business proposition. He is no idle guesser, but has spent some time in keen observation and cold-blooded figuring. He would not be a member of the Hill family if he didn't do this. He has it figured out that the big money for Kittson county farmers in the present as well as for the future lies in raising stock, making this a leading feature of the farming business.

It would do our Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska farmers and renters of high-priced land considerable good to see Mr. Hill's alfalfa, clover, timothy and fodder corn crop this year. It is absolutely necessary to raise these fodder crops to make stock raising a paying industry. This cannot be done in the dry, arid countries, and if the farmers of highpriced land can make money raising these crops to feed stock the farmers of Kittson county will get rich in a few years.

From Commercial West, Volume 24