James B. Hill (1856-1945)


James B. Hill (1856-1945)

First wife: Ella McDonald or MacDonald (b. 1860)

Ten children:

Ernest Hill (b. 1881)
Ivan Harold Hill (1883-1968)
Mabel Hill (b. 1886)
Grover A. "Dick" Hill (1888-1970)
Glenn Hill (b. 1890)
Iola James "Jim" Hill (1892-1963)
Cloyce Hill (b. 1895)
Zona Hill (b. 1902), married Mr. Thompson
Goldie Hill
Nina Hill

Second wife: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Christian Jurgens

James B. Hill was born on November 29, 1856, near Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio, U.S.A. He was the son of Abraham Adam Hill (1833-1871) and Caroline Stiger (1837-1914). Abraham died felling trees near Traverse City, Michigan, leaving James to help provide for his family. In later years, James would invent a device to prevent the sort of accident that led to his father's death. James had four brothers: Amos Hill (husband to Clarinda Shaffer); Clarence Hill (husband to Edith Frankhouser?); Francis Hill (husband to Anne Duce?); and David "Dave" Hill, who died young.

James B. Hill invented and improved many things, from the tree felling safety device, to an early amphibious craft, to new breeds of corn. What he is most remembered for, however, is the famous caterpillar wheel (which he called "apron traction") that was first used on the Buckeye Traction Ditcher.

In the nineteenth century, a large portion of northwest Ohio was covered by the Great Black Swamp. Finding work draining this swamp, James found the process unnecessarily labor-intensive. Envisioning the ideal machine to do the work, he fabricated a prototype in a machine shop in Bowling Green, Ohio. This first ditcher ran on steam power. James imagined that, were he to name his invention after himself, people might mistakenly believe that it was designed for use solely on hills. Instead, he named his invention in honor of his home state, Ohio. The Buckeye Traction Ditcher Company operated out of Findlay, Ohio.

Its ditching machines were used all over the world. Within the United States, large parts of Florida and Louisiana were drained using Buckeye Traction ditch-digging machines. When ditching brought James to Louisiana, he was offered land as part of a business transaction. He settled in Raceland, Louisiana, where he died in 1945.

Traction ditching machine, U.S. Patent US 523790 A (1894)

Traction-apron, U.S. Patent US 866647 A (1907)

James B. Hill on Wikipedia - James B. Hill at the ASME - James B. Hill on Farm Collector

You can download a scanned copy of James B. Hill's autobiography here (PDF file). I hope to have an edited copy up soon.
Daniel Hill (1793-1880)
Abraham A. Hill (1833-1871)
Catherina Kummerer (1789-1859)
James B. Hill (1856-1945)
Joseph Peter Stiger (1812-1888)
Caroline Stiger (1837-1914)
Sarah Faust (1815-1867)
James B. Hill surrounded by his six sons. From left to right: Ivan Hill, Iola James "Jim" Hill, Grover "Dick" Hill, Glenn Hill, Cloyce Hill, and Ernest Hill.
James B. Hill with his second wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Christian Jurgens.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the Buckeye Steam Traction Ditcher an historical landmark on August 5, 1988.
This is a patent drawing for the Buckeye Steam Traction Ditcher, U.S. Patent US 523790 A (1894).
This is a patent drawing for the traction-apron, U.S. Patent US 866647 A (1907).