The Waterman and Hill-Traveller's Companion, a Natural Events Almanac
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B. Frank Hill

About the Name

An Outright Fabricaton by Jim Jung
First posted April 1, 2006
  • With an end note by Jim's widow posted April 1, '07.
  • Updates about the get-together/benefit planned on April 28, '07, on Farewell to Jim.

Reprinted from the 2004 Waterman and Hill-Traveller's Companion

John Waterman and B. Franklin "Frank" Hill arrived in the Illinois Territory sometime in late 1808 or early 1809. Both purchased land at the Shawneetown Land Office on March 25, 1809 in what was then St. Clair County - Waterman bought a section (a square mile) of land in what is now northern Union County and Hill a section in what is now southern Williamson County.

John Waterman was from North Carolina by way of Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky.

Frank Hill was born in Pennsylvania and moved westward - first to Ohio and then to Vincennes, Indiana - before settling in the Illinois territory. Both men's claims were paid off and full title granted to the two homesteaders in the late fall of 1811. Hill paid and was granted title by the land office in Shawneetown and Waterman paid and received his deed in Kaskaskia, the territorial capitol. There is no evidence that the two men knew one another at this time.

With the outbreak of the War of 1812 settlement was disrupted on the western frontier. Constant, harassing Indian raids forced settlers on remote farmsteads to temporarily abandon their property and congregate around blockhouses or "stations" as they were known then for mutual protection.

Sometime in 1813 Waterman sold his land in Union County and moved to the more populous Sand Ridge Settlement in Jackson County. In that same year Frank Hill did the same moving to the Big Hill Settlement only a few miles away. It was here, in what would soon be Jackson County (named after the hero of the War of 1812) that the two men met and began collaborating.

In 1814 Waterman and Hill became partners and began operating a sawmill that supplied shoring timbers to the coal mines then operating at New Hill, Fiddler's Ridge and Mt. Carbon along the Big Muddy River in the area of what is now Murphysboro, Illinois. By all appearances their business was successful since they had more than twelve employees by the spring of 1815.

In that same year Frank Hill married Luthia Crookes, apparently the daughter of Joshua Crookes, an inn keeper in Mt. Carbon, and began raising a family. John Waterman married a year later to a woman named Mary. There is no known surviving record of Waterman's wife's last name.

In 1816 Waterman and Hill sold their interests in the sawmill and moved a few miles downstream and settled near the mouth of Kinkaid Creek on the Big Muddy River. It is presumed that they were engaged in the water transport business - hauling coal and grain down the Mississippi to New Orleans - since it is known that they had business dealings with William Boon, then at Big Hill (Fountain Bluff), whose principal business was building and outfitting flatboats.

That same year Jackson County was created out of a portion of Randolph County and the town of Brownsville was founded as the county seat. The site of Brownsville was on the south bank of the Big Muddy where it is joined by Kinkaid Creek. It isn't clear whether either of the two men actually lived in Brownsville or not but they had numerous dealings at the courthouse there.

Both men stayed in the Brownsville area for the rest of their lives. John and Mary Waterman had six children, two of which survived to adulthood. Frank and Luthia Hill probably had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Mary Waterman died in 1824, probably of cholera. John died two years later in 1826 at the age of 51.

Frank Hill died in 1845 at the age of 69. We know he was a widower at the time since one of his daughters is mentioned as caring for him in his "final illness", but there is no record of when Luthia died.

So why name an outdoor almanac and guide for two successful, if obscure, pioneer businessmen? Well it wasn't for their business activities that they were most noted. Besides their business activities, these two men were noted for their contributions to many of the natural sciences of their day.

While he was living in Louisville John Waterman met and befriended a young painter and naturalist who was using Louisville as one of his bases of operation - John James Audubon. It is known that he was one of Audubon's companions on his many field trips in the Louisville area. And it is probably through Audubon that Waterman discovered the southern Illinois area as a place to settle since Audubon collected many specimens here. The-two men remained friends for the rest of their lives and Waterman contributed a number of specimens from the Jackson County area to Audubon's collection of bird and small mammal specimens.

In addition, it was through Audubon that Waterman was introduced to probably the greatest natural scientist of his day - Louis Agassiz. Agassiz credited many of his fish specimens from the western waters" to a "Waterman from Kentucky." And while none of the specimens have apparently survived to the present day, the notes he made and the surviving inventories in eastern museums attest to his zeal at collecting. His close association with boats and the river put him in an ideal position to monitor the aquatic life of the "western waters".

Frank Hill on the other hand arrived at his scientific passion early on. Named after a famous neighbor and close family friend Benjamin Franklin Hill grew up next door to one of the most famous botanists in the New World - William Bartram - who maintained a private botanical garden on his Philadelphia farm and shipped dried specimens and live plants and seeds to all the great botanists and botanical gardens of Europe. He is known to have accompanied the Bartrams on at least one collecting trip in the New Jersey area when he was fourteen, and being a close friend with the Bartram boys he probably went on many such trips.

Hill, many of whose plant specimens have survived in European collections, was an avid plant hunter. No doubt some of his income derived from the specimens and material he sent the Bartrams which were then forwarded to European collectors and botanical gardens. Hill is also reported to have made copious notes on the wildlife of the area. His observations, said to have been made over the course of his life and entered into over sixty notebooks have been unfortunately lost. One small notebook however covering portions of the years 1838-39 has survived and is in a private collection in Vandalia, Illinois.

And while overlooked by science historians these two pioneering naturalists did much to illuminate the wildlife and natural history of the frontier providing an invaluable record of the wildlife encountered by the first European settlers in our area.

I don't anticipate posting any new features on the site, as Jim is no longer around to write new ones.

By co-incidence, I'm revising the site for the first time after Jim's death on April Fool's Day, and my plan for the moment is to leave this entry up as the final feature. It's a sparkling example of Jim's unique personality.

The Almanac was a project that Jim had been turning over in his heart for many years before he wrote the first one. In a sense, he'd been working on it before I knew him very well, because since he was in high school he'd been keeping records of when he saw things happening in nature around him. It was always clear to him that the Natural Events pages were the core of the Almanac, but a name for the work was slow in coming to him, and when it presented itself, it was an unweildy name worthy of the previous century: The Waterman and Hill-Traveller's companion (yes, he spelled "Traveller" with 2 l's!)

For Jim, that summed the matter up. After all, if you're out in nature in Southern Illinois, you're generally on a waterway or going up and down hill. But as the popularity of the Almanac grew and he met more and more people who'd encountered it, he kept getting the same question over and over again - "Who were Waterman and Hill?"

So, as you've just read, he made them up. I flatly refused to let him print the article as fact, and we went around and around about his biographial sketch of his new namesakes for a year or two until he came up with a solution that satisfied us both, and he ran the sketch in the 2004 issue with the superscript "Outright Fabrication.".

If you knew Jim, you recognized his voice as you read the piece. If you're new to Jim and this site, check out Ancient Astronomy for a look at a completly different side of his multi-faceted interests.

And whoever you are, hold my Jim in your heart for a while as you enjoy the bountiful world around you. — Ruby J

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