Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 621
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
Nearly thirty years were passed by James Hilton in the Sunflower state. To the settlers of the early days, far removed from the privileges and conveniences of city or town, the struggle for existence was a stern and hard one, and these men and women must have possessed indomitable energies and sterling worth of character, as well as marked physical courage, when they thus voluntarily selected such a life and successfully fought its battles under such circumstances as prevailed in the northwest.
James Hilton was born in Connecticut, near Bridgeport, May 1, 1841, a son of Elijah Hilton, who was a native of England. The latter was reared in his native country, and after coming to the United States he was married, in Connecticut, to Anna Hilton, a native of that state. In early life Elijah Hilton was employed on a boat on the Great lakes between Buffalo and Chicago. At length his boat was almost wrecked and he retired from a sailorís life. On the very next trip the boat was blown up and completely destroyed. Mr Hilton died in middle life and his widow passed the remainder of her life in Connecticut.
James Hilton, our subject, thus deprived of a fatherís care when young, was compelled to make his own way in the world. In 1860 he went to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he learned the bakerís trade, remaining there until 1872. Becoming weary of city life and learning of the possibilities and advantages to be secured in the new and growing west, in February, 1872, he came by rail with a party from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Kansas, first pre-empting a claim in Rice county. He subsequently sold that tract and secured a timber claim. People of the present century can scarcely realize the struggles and dangers which attended the early settlers, the heroism and self-sacrifice of lives passed upon the borders of civilization, the hardships endured, the difficulties overcome. Mr Hilton witnessed the development and upbuilding of this section of the state and ably bore his part in the work.
In 1876 he located on the last farm, where he recently died, of one hundred and eighty-six acres, on section 6, Center township. In addition there is also a grove of forty acres. The place is improved with a good residence, which is situated on a natural building site, and the large barn, thirty-six by thirty-eight feet, furnishes accommodations for twelve horses and the same number of cows, and thirty tons of hay can also be stored therein. He also owned ninety-three acres a half mile south of the home farm, which was afterward sold, and his landed possessions finally aggregated two hundred and sixty-six acres. In addition to the raising of the cereals best adapted to this soil and climate he also engaged in stock-raising, breeding white-faced or Hereford cattle. In this branch of his business he met with a well merited degree of success. The fields are under a high state of cultivation, and everything about the place indicates the careful supervision of a progressive owner. Before the county was organized the old Santa Fe trail went directly through this farm.
May 19, 1874, occurred the marriage of Mr Hilton and Miss Tillie Thompson, who was born in Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, and was reared and educated in the Keystone state. When seventeen years of age she removed to Jasper county, Iowa, locating near Prairie City. She is a daughter of William and Adaline (Smeed) Thompson, natives of Pennsylvania. After the fatherís death the mother became the wife of John Pentico, and she now resides in Frederick, Rice county, Kansas. Mrs Hilton is the only child by her motherís first marriage, and by her second union she had seven children. The home of Mr and Mrs Hilton was blessed with three children, one son and two daughters, namely: Ford J, who was born in 1875, and is now a resident of Geneseo, Rice county; Addie E, the wife of Charles A Dellinger, who follows farming on section 7, Center township, and they have one daughter, Anna Marie; and Anna E, a young lady of nineteen years, who is at home and is an excellent musician.
Mr Hilton was an advocate of Republican principles, but was never an aspirant for office, preferring to give his time and attention to his business affairs. When twenty-one years of age he became a member of East Mechanicsí Lodge, No. 66, IOOF, at Jersey City, and at his decease was a charter member of Sterling Lodge. Mrs Hilton is a member of the Christian church.
Not only did Mr Hilton see Rice county grow from a wild country to a rich agricultural district, containing thousands of good home and acres of growing towns, inhabited by an industrious, enlightened and progressive people, but he also participated in and assisted the slow, persistent work of development which was necessary to produce such a complete and wonderful change. He died March 26, 1902, respected by a wide circle of acquaintances.