01 July 2010

Obituary--William Steven Hillman

One of our older obituaries, it is from 1900. From an area not as often covered by the local Fremont paper, this obituary again amazes me with the mobility of people and the way they moved around. Reading about it in history books doesn't bring it to life the way these obituaries do. Even if I never knew the individual, reading about the live of one individual in the history of our land makes it more real.

From the 27 December 1900 Newaygo County Republican:

William Steven Hillman.

At one o'clock a.m., December 22, William S. Hillman of Ensley, one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Newaygo county, passed to the beyond. Mr. Hillman was born in Vermont, Feb. 27, 1825. In 21827 his parents moved to Canada, where they resided until he was 17 years old, when they moved to Jackson county in this State, residing there about eight years, when they came to Kent county. Mr. Hillman was married when about 24 years of age and for a time lived near Greenville, where two of his sons were born. In May, 1855 he came to Newaygo county and bought of the Government the tract of land which he afterward transformed into a fruitful and beautiful farm and upon which he lived until the day of his death. For some years past, he has been the oldest living settler of Ensley. He was married three times during his life, the fruit of the first two being four sons and two daughters, two of the sons, Charles M of Arkansas and Frank S. of Ensley being the only ones living at the present time. His wife survives him. His health has been very poor for more than a year past, his son Charles having come from Arkansas three times to see him. The last time was about ten days before his death. A sister and her daughter, of Jackson county, were at his bedside when the end came, and another sister from Gratiot county arrived the day after the funeral. In all his long life, Mr. Hillman was known as an upright, honest citizen and his death is almost a personal bereavement to the citizens of Ensley, among whom he had lived so long.

Whew. This writer loved commas much more than periods!. What long sentences. But what a rich life is condensed into those sentences. But the details left out--Who were his wives? Did the first ones die? What about the poor widow? You would think they could at least come up with her name. And after that sister from Jackson county made it here to the other side of the state, they could have mentioned her name. And did you notice that his land was bought directly from the government? I would like to know if this still had the tall white pines standing, or if when he bought it, it was lumbered off.
A story so rich, but still so empty.

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