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History of Belle Rive and Dahlgren, Illinois And Surrounding Territory

Prepared by Continental Historical Bureau of Mt. Vernon, Illinois
December, 1960

Page RH-1

L. C. Wood Reporting…..

Richardson Hill Cemetery is rich with local history.  It has been reported that veterans representing every way from the Revolutionary War through World War Two are buried at this place.  This “silent city of the dead” is located on a high hill approximately two and a fourth miles south of Dahlgren near the Hamilton-Jefferson County line.  Aaron Richardson, grandfather of Vol Richardson of Mt. Vernon, hence, formerly owned the land the name Richardson Hill.

The first burials at this place are said to have been in the 1850’s.  A chapel is located near the center of the cemetery and is used for special events, such as funerals, Memorial Day programs, revivals and Easter sunrise services.  In former years Christmas parties have been presented at this place.

Thomas Hillman.

The earliest person (though not the earliest burial) at this place is Thomas Hillman who served in the War for Independence.  Hillman was born in Salem County, New Jersey on August 22, 1757.  We do not have the names of his parents nor the country from which his ancestors migrated.

When the American colonies revolted against the British crown, Hillman enlisted in the armed forces for the American cause.  His initial enlistment was that of a private in a New Jersey company that was commanded by a Captain Smith.  This unit was a part of a regiment that was under the command of a Colonel Holmes.  When the troops with whom Hillman was serving were in New Jersey they were called the New Jersey Militia.  When on military duty in other colonies or states they were recognized as a unit of the Continental Army of the New Jersey Line.

There were times when the troops were depressed and they would temporarily disband and hide in timber and thickets as best they could.  During periods of despair, they would have to wait for weather conditions to improve and for their supplies to be replenished before they could attack.  Conditions of this kind would cause them to almost lose their patriotic zeal and be strongly tempted to return to their homes.  However, Hillman was one of the Continental soldiers who served during the entire conflict, except for short periods that he would return to his home when his company was encamped a short distance from his residence.

Thomas Hillman was one of the men who experienced the bitter hardships at Valley Forge.  It was during this severe winter that his feet were frozen and he lost one tow as the result.  It will be interesting to know that the battles that Hillman engaged in were some of the most outstanding battles of the entire conflict.  The principal engagements in which Hillman saw action were the battles of Trenton, Brandywine, Princeton and Monmouth.  There were times when Hillman’s activity was with Washington’s Continental Army, and the rest of the time he was with the New Jersey Militia.  It is not known whether or not he was wounded.

He was married a short time after the war ended.  We are unable to learn the name of his wife.  He and his wife moved from New Jersey to Virginia.  They were the parents of three children, two sons named Squire (born in 1795 in Virginia) and Pate and an invalid daughter.  It is believed that the three children were all born in Virginia. 

The family was still living in Virginia when the United States became engaged with the second conflict with Great Britain.  As Squire Hillman was old enough to serve in the armed forces, he joined the Virginia Militia and fought in the War of 1812.  The dates of his enlistment and discharge are not available.  It is believed that he joined the armed forces in 1813 or 1814, but we are unable to get verification.

A short time after the War of 1812 closed, Thomas Hillman moved with his family to Ohio (exact place is not known), and lived there until the year 1824, when he moved to Henry County, Indiana.

Thomas Hillman became a Baptist minister near the year of 1800.  While living in Indiana he was known as a Baptist circuit rider.  Instead of holding church pastorates, much of his work consisted of traveling over a wide territory and working at organizing new churches, and beyond doubt he served as evangelist for revivals at various places in his territory.  His legal residence was in Henry County, Indiana, though he was not at his home very often during the latter years of his life.

He was away from home attending to church matters at the time of his death.  His death occurred May 5, 1835 at the home of one of his parishioners, after fifty miles east and a short distance north of Bedford, Indiana.  Thomas Hillman was buried in a stone crypt near the home of one of his church workers.  This first burial was intended to be a temporary burial, but his remains were not removed for thirty-three years.

In the year of 1868 a stone corporation notified his two sons, Squire and Pate Hillman, that they ere planning to quarry stone from the place where Thomas Hillman was buried, and that if they desired to have the body moved to a burial place of their own choosing to please do so, or else the stone company would rebury it some place away from there.

Upon learning of the stone company’s plans, Squire (who was living near Richardson Hill) and Pate (who was located near Paducah, Kentucky) drove a horse drawn vehicle to the place where their father was buried.  Squire took a wash boiler and some cloth with him on his journey to Indiana.  When they opened the stone crypt, they found a perfect skeleton with the exception of one toe bone.  His sons knew that years before he had a frozen foot as a result of the better cold that he like his comrades had experienced at Valley Forge.

Squire Hillman and his brother, Pate, dismantled the skeleton carefully and lovingly, then wrapped it in the cloth Squire had brought and placed it in the wash boiler.  As Squire had established a home a short distance north of “The Hill” with the purchase of eight acres of land, and this place with the beautiful elevation had already been established as a public burial ground, they planned to make the reburial of their father at Richardson Hill.  A short time before they left Indiana, Squire sent a letter by stagecoach to Aaron Richardson, who owned the land at that time, to obtain permission to bury their father’s remains at Richardson Hill.  Mr. Richardson received his mail at that time through the post office at Lovilla, the famous village (now extinct) located a short distance from Richardson Hill.  He granted permission without any hesitation.  

Chester Judd, a well-known farmer, miller and carpenter built a coffin out of walnut for the remains.  Enos Burton and Edward Newby, neighbors of Squire Hillman who had served in the Civil War, assisted in the reburial of Thomas Hillman.  It will be interesting to know that both Burton and Newby are among the many veterans that are buried in this same cemetery.

Squire Hillman lived approximately eight years after the reburial of his father.  He passed away October 31, 1876 and was buried beside his father.  This is one of the few instances where father and son both served in early American wars and were buried side by side.

No action was taken for many years to obtain a monument or marker of any kind for the man who served in the War for Independence.  In the year of 1948 the officials of the cemetery association decided to get a headstone from the Federal Government for Thomas Hillman.  Federal regulations provide that headstones or markers may be furnished by the government for veterans of any America war (if his family has not purchased a monument previously) and it may be shipped at government expense to the railroad station nearest the cemetery where the veteran is buried.

The officials of the cemetery association encountered considerably difficulty in establishing proof that Hillman was a war veteran.  Some one in former years had stated that his given name was Pate.  As is stated above, this was the name of one of his sons.  When a search was made through government records for Pate Hillman, they reported that no such person could be found in their records who had served in the Revolution.

A representative of this Bureau (who was doing veteran’s service work at that time) was requested to assist in establishing proof that Hillman had served in the American armed forces during their first conflict with Great Britain.  Letters of inquiry were sent to New Jersey authorities as well as to the authorities in Virginia.  Both of these states as well as the federal authorities reported back that they could not find a record of Pate Hillman in their records of Revolutionary War veterans.  Every effort was exhausted that could be thought of to obtain proof of his being a veteran.

In 1952 or 1953, the Sons of the American Revolution (commonly known as the SAR) organization was asked to assist in the search to prove the eligibility of Hillman’s getting a government headstone for his grave.  After checking certain other records, the National Headquarters of the SAR learned that the actual name of our soldier was Thomas Hillman.

Because the cemetery association had been given an incorrect name, much time and effort had been wasted in trying to secure a suitable memorial to be erected at the grave of the only man buried at this place who assisted in the suppression British tyranny.  Records were found in the early months of 1953 that proved beyond all doubt that Thomas Hillman had served in America’s struggle for independence.  After this proof had been established, formal application was filed with the Quartermaster General’s office in Washington, D. C. for a headstone to mark the grave of Thomas Hillman.

This memorial was lettered in Washington, D. C. and shipped to Dahlgren, Illinois, then transported to the cemetery and erected with appropriate ceremonies on May 30, 1953.  The marker of Thomas Hillman was the first marker furnished by the Government to a Revolutionary War soldier since 1889.


Page RH-5

  Oscar Brake Reporting…..

Frank Brake

Frank Brake lived hear historic Richardson Hill.  It is not known where he was born.

Like many of his neighbors, he depended on his rifle to supply the family with meat.  The area had a large supply of deer and wild turkey.  When in need of turkey he would leave the house early in the morning while the turkeys were still roosting, and in a very short time he would have all the turkey that he could carry home.

He was considered a crack marksman.  While hunting deer on one occasion, he saw a deer coming by the side of him, and he fired a flintlock rifle, then he discovered that when his deer fell he had shot two of them.  They were looking for water and the ice had frozen over.

One of his hobbies was to play the “fiddle” during his leisure hours; he would always pat his foot while playing.

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