James Jerome Hill has one credential, at least, to greatness—he was born in a log house. But let the painful fact be stated at once, without apology, that he could never be President of the United States, because this historic log house was situated in Canada. The exact spot is about three miles from the village of Rockwood, Wellington County, Ontario.
Rockwood is seven miles east of Guelph, forty from Toronto, and a hundred from Buffalo.
Mr. Hill well remembers his first visit to Toronto. He went with his father, with a load of farm produce. It took two days to go and two to return, and for their load they got the princely sum of seven dollars, with which they counted themselves rich.
James Hill, the father of James Jerome Hill, was a North of Ireland man; his wife was Anne Dunbar, good and Scotch. I saw a portrait of Anne Dunbar Hill in Mr. Hill’s residence at Saint Paul, and was also shown the daguerreotype from which it was painted. It shows a woman of decided personality, strong in feature, frank, fearless, honest, sane and poised. The dress reveals the columnar neck that goes only with superb bodily vigor—the nose is large, the chin firm, the mouth strong. She looks like a Spartan, save for the pensive eyes that gaze upon a world from which she has passed, hungry and wistful. The woman certainly had ambition and aspiration which were unsatisfied.
James J. Hill is the son of his mother. His form, features, mental characteristics and ambition are the endowment of mother to son.
It was a tough old farm, then as now. As I tramped across its undulating acres, a week ago, and saw the stone fences and the piles of glacial drift that Jim Hill’s hands helped pick up, I thought of the poverty of the situation when no railroad passed that way, and wheat was twenty cents a bushel, and pork one cent a pound—all for lack of a market!
Jim Hill as a boy fought the battle of life with ax, hoe, maul, adz, shovel, pick, mattock, drawshave, rake and pitchfork. Wool was carded and spun and woven by hand. The grist was carried to the mill on horseback, or if the roads were bad, on the farmer’s back. All this pioneer experience came to James J. Hill as a necessary part of his education.
The armed fleets of an enemy approaching our harbors would be no more alarming than the relentless advance of a day when we shall have neither sufficient food nor the means to purchase it for our population. The farmers of the nation must save it in the future, just as they built its greatness in the past.
—James J. Hill