Family Stories

Lucky To Be Alive

Isaiah Hill and Lydia Ross

My great-grandfather, Isaiah Hill, could write a book about his life!  His were truly the adventures you read about in books – in the comfort of your arm chair, not risking life and limb in the process!

Isaiah was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, about 1835, the son of Isaiah and Lucy Murphy Hill.  His was the Hill family involved in the Hill-Evans Feud, a relatively minor scuffle, more concerned with taking each other to court, until Hezekiah Evans shot and killed Jesse Hill (Isaiah’s uncle) on the courthouse steps in March of 1849.

March 4, 1850, Isaiah’s mother died – during or shortly after the birth of her 13th child, Lucy.  The feud continued to escalate until March 13, 1852, when his father and two uncles were shot and killed by the Evans faction.  This left all those children to fend for themselves.  Mary, the oldest daughter, was only 16 when she became mother to her younger siblings.

Isaiah and many of his brothers moved to Anderson and Washington counties to get away from the fight that put so many of their family in their graves.

When the Civil War began Isaiah answered the call to duty and enrolled at Camp Robinson in Captain Downey’s Company E, 19th Regiment, Kentucky Volunteers, September 25, 1861, for a three year term.  My grandfather told me war stories that his father told him – having to hide in the rafters of covered bridges – not daring to breathe until the Confederate troops passed below.  Or being in the midst of battle and having first your fellow soldier to the right drop with a bullet wound through the heart, then the one on the left shortly afterwards.  He never knew if his turn would be next.

From enrollment to mustering out, Isaiah held the rank of private.  During that time there were several six-week periods when he was on detached service with the Chicago Mercantile Battery.  When the company’s term of enlistment had expired they returned to Louisville, Kentucky, to be mustered out.  The company remained in the barracks for some time, and it was at this point that Isaiah, along with several others in the company, contracted small pox.  He was ordered to the hospital by John A. Brady, US Surgeon, and taken by his captain, John Barnett, on January 22, 1865, and remained there until March 27, 1865, and was at that point mustered out.  George W. Hammack, one of his company who also had small pox, died while in the hospital.

As you can see by the picture, small pox caused great problems for Isaiah.  He was blind in his right eye, deaf in his left ear and badly scarred over his body.  The rigors of war left him with scurvy and piles – which was worsened by the addition of having small pox.

He applied for and received a pension from the Record and Pension Office of the War Department.  How do I know this?  I requested records of his military service from the National Archives and was sent an inch-thick pile of legal size copies.  Affidavits by Isaiah, his captain, his fellow soldiers; pension applications, letters, doctor’s statements, widow’s application, etc., etc., were included!  An absolute mountain of information!  One of the applications lists the names and birthdates of his children, another lists only those alive in 1898 – by that time two had died.  But the most important paper to me was the affidavit he made on February 18, 1908, concerning his age.  It is as follows:

Inability Affidavit, State of Kentucky, County of Marion

In the matter of Isaiah Hill, Pension Claim No. 266.175, of additional evidence wanted as to age, on this 18 day of February, A.D. 1908, personally appeared before me a notary public in and for the aforesaid county, duly authorized to administer oaths, Isaiah Hill, a resident of Lebanon, in the County of Marion, and State of Kentucky, whose post office address is Lebanon, Kentucky, well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declares in relation to aforesaid case, as follows:  That he is unable to comply with the requirement of the Pension Office as to his age.  There being no public record of his birth, no baptismal record to be found and the Family Bible is lost.  My parents died when it was said I was 17 years old.  For that reason I have always counted my age from date of my parents death, who I heard say just before their deaths I was 17 years old.  My mother died in the year 1850 and my father died two years later in 1852.  and it was from that date I claimed to be 17 years old; and being 17 years old in 1852 when my father died would make me 72 years old in 1907, this is the best record I can give.  Isaiah Hill, Attest Y. J. Bailey, J. G. Bard

This is a very important document since it is proof positive that this Isaiah Hill is the son of Isaiah and Lucy Murphy Hill, who died in Garrard County in 1852 and 1850 respectively.  I have known for years that he was – my genealogy intuition told me so from the first moment I looked at the 1850 census of Garrard County with Isaiah Hill listed, with son Isaiah ten years old.  And I was even more sure when my grandfather’s marriage certificate listed place of birth of both his parents as Garrard County.

There is always the possibility of finding just the proof you need in any corresponding record of your family member.  Leave no stone unturned – look through all the possibilities – it is amazing what you might find!

Oh, and just in case you had a question about his pension application, Isaiah did receive a pension from the United States government for $4.00 per month beginning on June 25, 1866 (which would be $58.83 a month in today’s money – try feeding your family on that!).  Each and every year he had to fill out applications.  This increased to $8.00 per month in 1884, $12.00 per month in 1891, $25.00 per month in 1912 and a grand total of $40.00 per month in 1918 until his death September 8, 1919.  His widow Lydia, then received his $40 pension until her death in 1931 (she was approximately 20 years younger than Isaiah).

1 reply »

  1. So interesting! I knew from the photo that she had to have been many years younger than him. Sounds like you hit the jackpot with all that information!

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