hills sprouted along railroad; town named for railroad manager frederick hills
The town of Hills is one of the younger villages of Rock County.
It came into existence after and as a result of the building of the Sioux City and Northern railroad from Sioux City to Garretson.
Following is information gleaned from “An Illustrated History of the Counties of Rock and Pipestone Minnesota.”
The Illinois Central railroad was built through the neighborhood in the fall of 1887, and men who were following the fortunes of that road founded the town of Bruce.
This was a couple of miles west of the future town of Hills, which of course precluded any idea of founding a town in such close proximity by the Illinois Central interests.
But when the line of the Sioux City and Northern was definitely located and grading was commenced late in July, 1889, the farmers living in the vicinity of the point where the new road would cross the Illinois Central interested themselves in inducing the railway company to locate a town at that point.
In August, before track laying was begun, a number of Martin township farmers raised $1,000 by subscription, with which they purchased from F.C. Finke a 40-acre tract on the northeast quarter of Section 28.
This they turned over to the railroad authorities, with the understanding that a station should be located thereon and a town site platted.
The matter of the establishment of the new town hung for some time.
According to the Rock County Star Herald, August 30, 1889, “There appears to be some question as to whether or not a new town will be started at the crossing of the Sioux City & Northern and the Illinois Central near Bruce in Martin Township.
A tract of forty acres has been donated to the company for a town site at the point mentioned, but it appears that the Central road is opposed to the scheme and it stated on what appears to be pretty good authority that the Sioux City & Northern company has no intention of putting a depot there.”
Eventually the representative of the railroad company accepted the 40-acre tract in September and purchased a 17-acre tract adjoining from William Thompson.
Oslo? Anderson? Hills? … What’s in a name?
The farmers residing in the vicinity were given the privilege of christening the new town.
They chose the name Oslo, but before it was platted late in October, it was learned there was another town of the same name in Minnesota.
So the name was changed to Grant, which was also short-lived. When the local passenger tariff of the new road was issued early in November, the new station was listed as Anderson, then a resident of Martin township, now of Hills. The station was known by this name until the following spring.
The town site was surveyed in November 1889, dedicated Feb. 17, 1890, and recorded May 31 that same year. The track was laid to and beyond the site of the town in the fall of 1889, and before the first of the next year a depot, section house, windmill and tank were erected.
No one made his home there, however, and prior to the year 1890 Hills (or Anderson, as it was called) did not have a single inhabitant.
The first inhabitant of Anderson was Olaf Nordby, who came in January 1890 as section foreman.
The section house was occupied by one of his men who had a family, and Mr. Nordby boarded with them.
Early in February B.F. Heastand came to Anderson as agent for the Sioux City & Northern and opened the station.
On March 1 a public meeting was held, at which the name Hills was decided upon. This was given in honor of Frederick C. Hills, who was at the time the president of the Sioux City & Northern railroad.
Hills was born in England Jan. 23, 1842, and came to America with his parents at the age of seven. He served three months in the civil war, being discharged because of physical disability.
He located in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1864 and was one of the organizers of the Sioux City & Northern. For seven years he served as president and general manager of that road. He died from poisoning in Sioux City, Nov. 23,1899.
In the spring of 1890 Hills became a town in fact as well as in name. Several business enterprises were started and before the close of the summer season there were a number of stores, shops and warehouses, the greater number of which had come in their entirety from the neighboring village of Bruce.
Next week the Crescent will feature a history of stores, shops and warehouses in the town of Hills.