For eighteen years after his marriage, Dr. Hill resided at South River, engaged in the practice of medicine and in mercantile transactions. By losses at sea, by bad debts, and tradition says by privateers, his affairs became greatly embarrassed, and in order to escape the persecutions of creditors, then more dreaded than now, and to endeavour to retrieve his circumstances, he was induced to settle at Funchal, in the island of Madeira. He was at this time (1739) in the forty-first year of his age, and the father of nine children; the oldest being his son Richard, in his eighteenth year, and the next, his daughter Hannah, not sixteen years old, and but recently married to her cousin, Dr. Samuel Preston Moore. Dr. Moore was then in his twenty-ninth year; he was the son of Richard Moore, the brother of Dr. Hill’s wife, by Margaret, the daughter of Samuel Preston,*(footnote)and the granddaughter of Thomas Lloyd.
To the care of this excellent daughter and her worthy husband, Dr. Hill and his wife committed their youthful family: Richard, in his eighteenth year; Deborah, aged eleven; Rachel, just turned of eight; Henry, of seven; Margaret, not two years; and Sarah, not eight months old. Their daughter Mary, aged fourteen, and Harriet, aged ten years, accompanied their parents to Madeira. We may imagine the urgent necessity of affairs which thus drove them into exile, and compelled them to leave such a family of children at so tender an age, in the charge of a sister, herself almost a child. How well Hannah Moore and her husband fulfilled the parental duties thus early required of them—with what tenderness, prudence, and fidelity—the following letters bear ample witness; and they were rewarded by the filial affection with which they were ever regarded in the family, and by the unwearied assiduities with which the sisters soothed thirteen years of Hannah Moore’s own long and melancholy decline of life.
Richard, Jr. and Henry both afterwards followed their parents to Funchal, and subsequently became partners in their father’s flourishing business. Richard died there unmarried; and Milcah Martha was born on the island. Deborah too was sent for, and, like her sisters Mary and Harriet, married abroad.
The young children in Philadelphia*(footnote) received such education as the best schools of those days afforded, an advantage which the sisters taken to Madeira were partly deprived of by their residence in a Portuguese community.
Having, at some expense of time, arranged these letters, in possession of various members of the family, their whole story now comes out in bold relief; and as a “History of a Family” an hundred years ago, their thoughts, struggles, affections, long separations, and anxieties, combined with the excellence of most of their characters, is highly curious to their relatives; I trust, too, it may prove valuable and instructive.
The “dear and honoured papa,” the father of these ten children, shows himself in his beautiful letters to have been a man of strong good sense, excellent judgment, a most doting husband and father, and a man of great integrity. He succeeded in accumulating in Madeira a sufficient fortune, and in establishing his sons and his son-in-law in an extensive and profitable wine and commission business. After having paid his old creditors principal and interest, he returned, and died in the arms of his American daughters. He left his only surviving son,
Henry Hill, to succeed him, with the husbands of Mary, Harriet, and Deborah, who formed the successful firms of Hill, Bisset & Co., and Hill, Lamar & Bisset. Henry returned many years later to Philadelphia, continuing a member of the latter firm, and married a daughter of Reese Meredith, then a prominent and valuable citizen; but left no children, as was also the case with Richard, Hannah, Harriet, Sarah, and Mileah. Henry built a very superior house for that or any date, in Fourth Street, between Union Street and Cypress Alley, still standing; lived in a fashionable and expensive style, and died of yellow fever in 1798, surrounded by the portraits of his affectionate family, which he had ordered to be brought to his bedside. Long after his death, and when the house was sold by his executors to Dr. Philip Syng Physick, the pictures—from which several of the copies in this volume were taken—were found in a locked room of the third story, and sent to Margaret Morris. Henry bequeathed his large fortune to his much beloved sisters, or their children.
Henry Hill’s country-seat, Wilton, below Philadelphia, was a place of much pretension for that period, and was surrounded by statuary, portions of which were pierced for fountains; they were greatly abused by the neighbouring working-men during the many years the farm was rented, and when I first saw them, about 1825, they were much mutilated; they are still lying about at this time (1852). This property, in what is called “the Neck,” was sold to Stephen Girard, and forms part of his estate bequeathed to the city of Philadelphia. His other country-seat**(footnote) was in Indian Queen Lane, near Germantown. To the endowed school of this village he was a liberal contributor; his name occurs in many subscriptions to charities, to the City Dancing Assembly, &c, &c. “Harry Hill’s wine” was much esteemed, and is still talked of by the old families of Philadelphia. My friends have sometimes opened an old bottle for me as the great-nephew of the importer; very excellent wine it was, after outlasting a succession of corks. In my mother’s family a bottle was set aside for the wedding of each descendant. In a series of poetic flights, understood to have been written by Edward Ingersoll, of the Philadelphia Bar, the following lines occur:—
(From “Horace in Philadelphia.”)
“Now stir the fire and bring the wine,
‘Twas bottled anno ninety-nine,
And bought of Harry Hill;
Pour out a bumper, here’s a toast:
‘To those on earth we love the most,
And those who love us still.’”
Dennie’s Portfolio, vol. xix. p. 36.
Though an extensive importer of wine, and an unrivalled judge of the article, it was rather remarkable that Henry Hill abstained from the use of it, or of any stimulating beverage.
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