The Valley of Heart's Delight

ANDREW P. HILL Pioneer of Santa Clara County


The positions that Andrew P. Hill occupies in the professional, commercial and social life of San Jose is an evidence of the rare ability distinguishing his citizenship in this community.  The state of California has long been recognized by artists as furnishing a diversity of scenes unsurpassed by any other state in the union, and Mr. Hill is easily recognized as a leader in the portrayal of nature; but Andrew P. Hill's name and strenuous efforts will forever be associated with the preservation to the state and to humanity of the beautiful California Redwood Park.  Thousands of tourists visit this beautiful spot annually, and reverence the man who so bravely fought for the preservation of these wonderful trees, and the people of California owe him a debt of gratitude for his perseverance and unselfish efforts in the saving of this forest from the ravages of fire and vandals.  Mr. Hill has long enjoyed the distinction of being one of California's foremost artists. He has exhibited pictures and taken gold medals in panoramic photography at Buffalo, Omaha, St. Louis, New Orleans, Portland, and the Mid-Winter Fair at San Francisco.

   Many of his canvasses adorn the walls of permanent art exhibits and homes in California and other states, and his wide experience and generally approved method of representation justify the influence which he exerts in all matters pertaining to the establishment of high artistic ideals in the west.  Mr. Hill brings to his work the energy, excellence and distinction which is characteristic of the undertakings of the artists, authors and statesmen of the state of Indiana, where he was born near Valparaiso, Porter County, August 9, 1853, and where he lived until he was fourteen.  A pride of ancestry centers around his forbears; his paternal great-grandfather, John Hill, served in the Revolutionary War under General Putnam, and he married Rebecca Harvey, niece of the gallant general and hero of Bunker Hill; and Hyacenth Hill, daughter of John Hill, married Abraham Garfield, father of James A. Garfield.  Elijah B. Hill, son of the Revolutionary soldier, carried a musket in the war of 1812, and in time became one of the earliest pioneers of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where he carried mail to Cleveland, when that now flourishing community consisted of three houses.  Elijah Putnam Hill, father of Andrew Putnam, was born in Hillsboro, Ohio, and was a buyer of furs for northern Indiana for the Hudson Bay Company.  In 1853, he crossed the plains in an ox train which counted Samuel Manning among its fortune hunters.  While crossing the plains he became separated from his party and, in company with Mr. Manning, was hunting some stolen stock which had been run off by the Indians.  They succeeded in keeping the Indians at bay and were able to reach camp, but Mr. Hill died from the strain and exposure on the sixth day after his arrival at Amador City, Cal., and he was the first white man buried there.  On the maternal side, Mr. Hill is descended from colonial stock, for his mother Jennie (Rose) Hill, was the daughter of Henry Montgomery and Sallie (Frisby) Rose, the former of whom served in the War of 1812, and was in turn the son of a Revolutionary soldier.  Grandfather Frisby also espoused the colonial cause during the War of Independence as drum major to Washingtons's staff.

   Andrew P. Hill came with an uncle via Panama in 1867, to California, stopping for a year in Amador County.  Very early in life he developed an aptitude for drawing, which grew as he had opportunity for study. During the year of 1868, he enrolled as a student in Santa Clara College, but before finishing his course, he was offered a position by his uncle, Warner Rose, a prominent stock raiser of San Luis Obispo County, with whom he remained for about three years, receiving a practical education along various lines, but the knowledge gained could not be computed in dollars and cents.  Through the advice of Charles F. Reed, Mr. Hill began to take lessons in painting under Virgil Williams in San Francisco, and a few years later he was associated with L. O. Lussier in portrait painting in San Francisco and San Jose.  In the meantime he studied the human figure under Virgil Tojetti of San Francisco.  His progress along his chosen line of work was gratifying, both to himself and friends, and he became an active member of the San Francisco Art Association.

   Mr. Hill is the recipient of many medals for paintings exhibited at the state capital.  In the year of 1876, he established the first studio, in partnership with Mr. Lussier, in San Jose, where he also had a large class.  After the death of his partner, he continued his varied art career, and from portraiture branched out into the painting of horses in motion, a departure gratifying in its results, for practically all of the famous horses in the state were painted by him, either singly or in groups.  The first and most notable historical work painted by Mr. Hill was known as the "Murphy Party," the first emigrant party ascending to the summit from Donner Lake, and which because of its faithfulness to incidents of the pioneer life of the state, was purchased and placed in the historical room of the California Pioneers' Association of San Francisco, but destroyed by fire in 1906.  He took a gold medal on this in 1878 at Sacramento.  His "Camp of Israel," painted for J. W. Kelchner, has received encomiums of praise from the art world in general, and was given two pages in the New York Sunday Times.

   Mr. Hill became interested in photography about fifty years ago, and maintained a fine studio in San Jose from 1885 to 1906.  Governor Stanford desired his horses taken in motion, and Mr. Hill was thus employed for nearly eight years.  He also photographed the laying of the corner stone of Stanford University, and the breaking of the ground. Until the death of the famous financier and philanthropist, the services of Mr. Hill were in constant demand.  Mr. Hill has contributed many illustrations to the magazines and periodicals throughout the world, his scope including portraits, animals and landscapes.  His sketch portraying a fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, that had been put out with new wine, appeared in the London Wide World during the year of 1900.  While endeavoring to secure material for these pictures, he became interested in the old redwood trees, which have been preserved through his strenuous efforts in their behalf.  During the disastrous earthquake and fire of 1906, most of his paintings were destroyed, but he soon opened up another studio at his home, and his exhibits attract people from every part of the United States.  To Mr. Hill belongs the distinction of being the first artist to discover the means of matching photographs, so as to form a continuous, panoramic picture, and he has taken many prizes and medals for his exhibits.  His photographs of the giant redwoods of California are famous the world over.  He lives close to nature, and every mood in which she indulges is reflected upon his temperamental, fine and aspiring mind.  The singing brook, the giant tree, the turbulent winds, talk to him as to one who understands, and who, understanding, portrays with genius and sincerity.

   Mr. Hill is an honored member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneers.  Mrs. Hill has been his constant companion and helpmate in his various lines of art, and has assisted him in his studies.  She is a graduate of the San Jose State Normal School, class of 1876, and for eight years was an instructor in the schools of San Jose.  She is the daughter of Benjamin F. Watkins, a native of Genesee County, N. Y., who, in 1846 crossed the plains to Oregon, being a member, when he started, of the ill-fated Donner party, but from which he separated at Fort Hall.  Mr. Watkins engaged in mining in Oregon for a time, and then crossed the mountains to California.  He owned 160 acres of land in San Francisco which is now the site of the depot at the corner of Third and Townsend streets.  In 1850, he returned east by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and married Laura Broughton, of Malone, N. Y., who accompanied him to the west during the year of 1851.  Mr. Watkins then purchased and located upon a ranch near Santa Clara and owned the first strawberry farm in California.  Here he engaged in general farming and fruit raising until he passed away at the age of fifty-eight.  Mrs. Hill's maternal grandfather, Shebuel Broughton, married Sarah Summer, a cousin of Charles Summer, a lineal descendant of General Israel Putnam, of Revolutionary fame.

   Mr. and Mrs. Hill are the parents of two children; Andrew P., Jr., a graduate of Stanford University, and now---1922---head of the department of manual training in the Palo Alto grammar school.  He is married and has one child; Frank E. is also a graduate of Stanford, which he supplemented with a course at the Illinois University; later receiving a degree from Columbia University, and for years prior to the outbreak of the war, was assistant professor in the English department of Columbia. He married the daughter of Prof. George Hempl, and they are the parents of two children.  He enlisted in the aviation corps at the opening of the war, received his training and commission as lieutenant at Kelly Field, and was on his way to serve overseas, when he was honorably discharged at New York.  He was then employed by the Curtis Aeroplane Company as publicity man, and remained there two years; he then became first assistant to the chief editor of the New York Globe.

   Had Mr. Hill not penetrated the home of the giant redwoods in search of illustrating material, and had he not been denied the right to perpetuate, through his camera, their dignified and giant proportions, the history of this now famous region of the Big Basin might  have terminated with much less credit to the state of California.  The achievement of Mr. Hill in saving these giants of the forest, is appreciated by the lovers of nature throughout the world.  Already the shadow of the sawmill hung over the sentinels of the forest, and their doom was read in the books of a lumbering company, which measured their lengths with commercial tape, nor cared that their passing meant the destruction of a portion of the glory of the universe.  The Big Basin Lumber Company had purchased its rights, and H. L. Middleton, the heaviest stockholder, was probably, before his awakening, totally unconscious of the part he was to play in averting a tragedy of nature. Had Mr. Hill not worked untiringly toward his goal, this magnificent park of 10,200 acres would not now belong to the state.  Through his energy, he succeeded in organizing the first meeting of interested people held at Stanford University to formulate plans to save the giant redwoods of the Big Basin for a public park, and perseveringly kept the wheels of action in motion, enlisting such men as David Starr Jordan; Prof. W. R. Dudley; Father Kenna of Santa Clara University; Dr. McClish of the Pacific University, and others taking up the matter, and Carrie Stevens Walter, Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, Mrs. Lowell White, and many other prominent women of the state, coming to the rescue of the great trees of the Big Basin.  The press throughout the state spoke favorably of securing at least a portion of the basin for a park.  Mr. Hill had a public duty to perform, and he went at it with a singleness of purpose which has made men conquerors of fate since the beginning of time.  He traveled throughout the state, rousing press and people to enthusiasm, and bringing them to see the advantage of preserving these giants of the forest.  After ceaseless waiting and anxiety, the legislature of California passed a bill appropriating $250,000 for the purchase of the park from the lumber company, and the governor affixed his signature to the bill, and the towering giants were saved.  The traveler in no other clime sees trees a hundred feet in circumference and upwards of three hundred and more feet high.  The Big Basin is shut in by a mountainous rim from 1800 to 2600 feet in height.  On the southwest the Basin slopes to the sea, which is reached through two deep gorges piercing its rim. It is in Santa Cruz County, and touches a portion of San Mateo County, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of the Coast Range, barely thirty-three miles from San Jose by road and sixteen miles in an air line.  Mr. Hill was the organizer of the Sempervirens Club of California and for ten years has served as president.  Their rallying cry was "Save the Redwoods."

   Probably the painting entitled "Crossing the Plains" is the most notable of Mr. Hill's recent productions.  It was purchased by subscription and it was a memorable event on April 23, 1921, when this fine painting was presented to the people of California.  Many notables were in attendance at the presentation, among them being Governor Stephens, Mrs. James Patterson, who drove the last iron spike that united the east and west; Mr. Brown, who made the first plow in California on J Street, Sacramento; John McNaught, the well known author and publisher; Alfred Bettens and R. M. Bettens, the leading hotel managers; Mr. and Mrs. Alden Anderson and many others.  Alex. P. Murgotten, secretary of the Andrew P. Hill Art Committee, made the presentation speech, in which he spoke of the inspiration of the artist to paint a picture that would live in the memory of the pioneers of California.  Governor Stephens accepted it for the people of California.

   Mr. Hill is an honored member of the Pioneer Society of Santa Clara County, and served on the board of directors of the Forest Play Association of California, and the Sempervirens Club.  The "Save the Redwoods" league appropriated their name from the "Save the Redwoods" rallying cry of the Sempervirens Club.  Mr. Hill's name and his life work is entitled to a conspicuous place in the historical literature of California, for there are few men living here today whose labors have such a lasting influence upon the happiness, prosperity, and welfare of the commonwealth.  Mr. Hill holds a concession at California Redwood Park to sell park pictures, and his summers are spent there.  He gives lectures every  Sunday on the trees of California to appreciative audiences, and during the winter months he paints pictures to fill orders taken during the summer.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 355