This biography of Silas Hillman, born 1820 in Cambridge, Washington, New York and his family, is composed from many sources. Any corrections are welcome with the source. See contact page for my email.
Silas Hillman, son of Mayhew and Sarah King, was born 27 Feb 1820 in Cambridge, Washington, New York. He was the oldest of a family of four children. His father died in Nauvoo, Illinois, 2 Nov 1839; an account of his father's death being printed in the "Times and Seasons", a newspaper then published in Nauvoo, saying that he was a high priest and was loved by all the Saints.
Mayhew suffered all of the persecutions that the Saints had to endure during the mobbings, being driven from his home several times and leaving all behind. He was a body guard of the Prophet Joseph Smith and was hoisted on his horse at the point of a bayonet along with Stephen Markham and told to go, at the time the Prophet was thrown into prison.
Silas was very eager to go with Zion's Camp when they went to Missouri to redeem Zion, but as he was only fourteen years old, his parents decided against it. He was with a number of Saints that were marched into the square at Far West when their guns and ammunition were taken from them.
Opposition to the Mormons was so intense in Illinois that they were forced to begin their migration before adequate preparation could be made. They left in mid-winter, crossing the Mississippi on the ice for the most part, some going in wagons drawn by oxen or horses, some riding horses, a great many on foot carrying their few possessions in push carts. As they traveled it was seen that some pauses would have to be made to plant and harvest crops for food and build up supplies and equipment. There were several places across southern Iowa where such pauses were made. In August 1846, some thirty of the Mormons made a settlement on the banks of Keg Creek (in Lyons Township), establishing the town of Rushville. This was about four miles north of what later became the Fremont-Mills county line.
At first they pitched their tents in this wilderness, later building a number of log cabins. Here occurred the first birth of a white child and the first death of a white person.
In due course most of the group, after raising a crop and acquiring sufficient food, continued their migration. But several stayed on, most of them moving three or four miles north to the present site of Glenwood. Among them were Dr. Libeus T. Coons (who gave his name to the new community of Coonville (later Glenwood); William Britain, Silas and Ira Hillman, G.N. Clark, J. Everett, and others. (could be Russell Rogers, Almond Williams, and Jesse Meechomb)
While in Rushville, about 1848, in search of claims in the upland and hills, in order to secure timber, soil and water, they crossed the Pony creek lake in the bottom on the ice and came on over the hills to the land. On their arrival, they found nobody. However, they did find some timber felled and logs cut, some of them 30 foot cuts and very large. These logs were on the branch heading back and running into Keg creek in Walnut Street in Glenwood. In 1851 Silas Hillman built his house of the logs found from the winter before upon what is now called Tinkel's branch on lot 5 block 16 and dug a partnership well. Ira Hillman built on the opposite side of that branch.
When through building the houses and ready to return to Rushville, the route they came was impassable owing to the mud and water. They built a bridge across Keg creek. They used some of the logs they had found cut.
The migrant Mormons also established a village at Silver Creek Grove, about halfway between the present towns of Malvern and Silver City, in the fall of 1847, which was known as Cutler's Camp after their leader, Alpheus Cutler, on land later owned by Daniel Lewis. A mill was built to utilize the power furnished by the waters of Silver Creek and the Mormons stayed for several years, planting crops and preparing for the continuation of their migration toward their "promised land".
Spring of 1848, Abel Burger came back to find his claim jumped by Coons and was very angry. They had a big quarrel about it, but Coons kept the claim. Burger settled at Kidd's grove, east of Glenwood.
At a meeting of the Saints on 16 Apr 1848 at the house of Brother Libeous T. Coons, Ruben W. Strong was appointed Chairman for the day and Silas Hillman appointed Clerk.They voted to call themselves, the Union Branch, Coonville. A list of members at that meeting followed. I did not put it on this site. You can email me if you wish a copy or look-up.
In 1849 the Mormon exodus had started again and by 1852 there was little left of the villages of Rushville and Cutler's Camp. As the Mormons moved out other settlers came to the area. The Mills County land originally was a part of Pottawattamie County until early August, 1851. An election was held to organize the new county and Glenwood became the county seat.
In August 1851, the first election saw West Liberty Precinct (Glenwood) having 55 eligible voters. Two listed were Silas Hillman and L. T. Coons. In the fall election in 1852, there were 60 voters in West Liberty Precinct. A list of them was not given.
Silas Hillman's first wife, Electa Fidelia Hulet, died in Glenwood, Iowa and was buried on her husband's farm, leaving two little girls, Adlinda and Gueletta. She was 26 years 4 months 14 days of age and died 15 Sep 1849
He later married Emily Ann Cox who was the mother of one child, Jane, from a previous marriage. In 1850, Ellen Celestia, was born. The family, consisting of wife, husband, and four little girls emigrated to Utah in 1852.
Silas was one of the first settlers of Palmyra and was sent to the Utah legislature in 1853 from that community. He was ordained to the office of counselor to Bishop Stephen Markham by George A. Smith. He served in the Walker War, commanding a company of cavalrymen who went into Sanpete County to help protect the settlers there.
During the four years in Palmyra he taught school throughout the winter months, and was considered by A. A. Hicks as "most competent." The teachers were paid by the parents and as there was very little money, the teacher had to take anything he could use as pay. He also had to collect it himself, this being the hardest job for Silas and many times his family sufferd for food before he would ask for his pay. If a student owned a McGuffie's Reader, an elementary spelling book, and a Smith's Arithmetic, he was considered well equipped for books. They used the New Testament, Book of Mormon, or any kind of book they had. Hillman owned a Kirkham's grammar from which he taught grammar orally. The janitor work was done by students in payment for their tuition.
The school room was kept warm by burning wood in a stove designed especially for that purpose.These stoves were made of iron with a door in front large enough that a piece of wood two feet long and one foot in diameter could be burned.
Although punishment was used, little whipping was done. The other forms of punishment were as follows: The first offence was punishable by having the offender stand in the middle of the floor; the second, to stand on one foot; the third, on one foot with one arm raised; the fourth, on one foot with the raised arm holding a stick. Next came the dunce cap and various other unique ways of trying to keep order. The students had some amusements in the form of drama and the "spelling match," some of the students becoming quite proficient at the latter.
When Palmyra was abandoned in 1856, Silas Hillman moved to Pond Town (now Salem, where his name is recorded on the monument as one of the first settlers),but 1857 found him in Spanish Fork teaching school in a schoolhouse built of adobe brought from the old Palmyra fort. This building was situated in the southeast corner of the park. The school building was used for public meetings, dancing, and theatres. The furniture was very crude; the seats being made of plank or rough slabs with peg legs at each end. However these were soon replaced by better and more comfortable ones having a desk for books and a back rest. One teacher taught all the students, who were graded from the beginning up according to their reading ability.
As Spanish Fork grew in size and population, other school houses were built. Silas Hillman taught in an adobe building of one room located where the Reese School now stands. He taught almost continually during the winter months until 1870 when he moved to Vernon, Tooele County, where he kept post office for a number of years.
The exact date of his death is not known to the writer, but it was in 1876 or 1877 at Vernon, Tooele, Utah, USA. He was buried on his ranch just a few rods from his kitchen door according to his wish.
SOURCES: Ghost Towns of Mills County Iowa, 1975 by Allen Wortman, pages 22-26.
Unpublished biographies written by descendents before 1920.
Solomon's History of Mills County 1876
Branch LDS Record of Coonville, Pottawattamie County, Iowa organized on the 16th of April 1848, Repository is Glenwood, Mills County, Iowa Public Library and was printed in the Mills County Genealogical Society Quarterly newsletter of Oct, Nov, and Dec 1998.