Hill, James J.

Hill, James J. (Jerome)

(1838–1916) railroad executive, financier; born near Rockwood, Ontario, Canada. He moved to St. Paul, Minn., in 1856 where he worked in the offices of a steamboat line and a railroad. In 1872 he formed the Red River Transportation Company with partner Norman Kittson; they prospered in the Manitoba fur trade. In 1875 Hill bought the Northwestern Fuel Company, and in 1878, with three others including Kittson, he bought out the bankrupt St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. This launched what became the Great Northern Railway, which extended west from St. Louis and Chicago to Seattle and north to Winnipeg. Hill led this successful and important railroad in various capacities from 1879 to 1912 and was one of the few railroad entrepreneurs who took a hands-on approach to the details of the operation. He became known as "Hill the empire builder" because of his important contributions to developing the Northwest.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.