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HILL, JOHN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

HILL, JOHN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (1828–1904). John Christopher Columbus Hill, mining and civil engineer and physician, son of Elizabeth (Barksdale) and Asa Hillqv, was born on November 15, 1828, in Columbus, Georgia, the first white child born there. His father moved the family to Texas in 1835; John attended Rutersville College. He displayed such bravery and audacity at the age of fourteen in the battle of Mier that Gen. Pedro Ampudia befriended him and sent him with special military escort to President Antonio López de Santa Anna in Mexico. Characterized as "a brave and handsome little fellow" by William Preston Stapp, veteran of the Mier expedition, and as "a very shrewd and handsome boy" by Waddy Thompson, United States Minister to Mexico, he so endeared himself to generals Santa Anna, Valentín Gómez Farías, and José María Tornel that they persuaded him to remain in Mexico. Although he was in no position to bargain, his agreement was based upon their promise to release his father and brother, Jeffrey, who were also prisoners of war. While living in Tornel's home, Hill entered the Colegio de Minería, in which he won scholastic prizes and from which he graduated in 1851. While living in Mexico Hill adopted the name Juan Cristóbal Gil. When American soldiers were billeted in the college, even though not yet eighteen, Hill was instrumental in having them placed elsewhere. During the occupation of Mexico City by the United States Army in the Mexican War, he was helpful to both sides, probably as an interpreter. In 1855 he married Agustina Sagredo of Real del Monte, who died in 1891; they were the parents of four children. As a mining engineer, he was engaged in mining enterprises, and as a civil engineer, he participated in laying out railway lines. In addition he was a practicing physician. Throughout his life, he kept in close touch with his Texas relatives and sent his son, Carlos, to Swarthmore College. In 1867 he procured the release from prison of his old benefactor, General Ampudia, who was under sentence of death because of allegedly siding with Maximilian.

Hill's first return to the United States occurred in 1855, and in later years he made frequent and extensive trips to his native country. He moved to Austin in 1895 and served as Spanish translator for the General Land Office until October 1896, when he returned to Mexico to look after mining properties. He was made an honorary life member of the Texas State Historical Association in 1897. In 1898 he married the sweetheart of his youth, Mrs. Mary Ann Murray Masterson, a native of England. He died in Monterrey, Nuevo León, on February 16, 1904, and was buried there.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin Statesman, February 19, 1904. Fanny Chambers Gooch-Iglehart, The Boy Captive of the Texas Mier Expedition (San Antonio: J. R. Wood, 1909). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Joseph E. Blanton

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Joseph E. Blanton, "HILL, JOHN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhi24), accessed September 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.