Garry Gillard > genealogy >

William Samuel Hill

William Samuel Hill (30 May 1855 - 2 November 1924) was born in Tasmania, in Westbury near Launceston, but lived in at least three other states. Click/tap on an image to see it at a larger size.

Here is young Billy Hill, looking to me like a bit of a desperado, with a couple of sidekicks, ready for whatever trouble the mean streets of Adelaide might bring.

He was the son of Sarah Fox who was born in Port Louis, Mauritius, and Thomas Hill, who married her there. She was a widow who had been married to James Mills, with whom she had had a daughter called Anna Maria. Sarah and her daughter were brought to Tasmania by her second husband, who worked as a stonemason near Launceston, where their son William was born in 1855, and also later a daughter, Emily Ann, in 1859.

Sarah Hill brought her three children to Victoria, with or without husband Thomas, in 1873.

William married Margaret Roberts (b. 1855) in Melbourne (her home town) 31 December 1877, when they were both 22 - and this photo may have been taken then or at about that time (someone has written under the photo 'W & M Hill') - but they must have gone to South Australia almost immediately, as their first five children were born in Adelaide, 1879-1885. They then appear to have returned to Victoria as the last two were born in Melbourne, 1888 and 1891. In 1885, he was serving in the Water Police at Port Darwin and living in Palmerston (which was renamed 'Darwin' in 1910). Then in about 1899 he took his wife and remaining four children (three [or five?] boys having died in very early childhood) to Western Australia to make his fortune (or not) on the goldfields.

Billy's time in the Territory may not have been long. The Northern Territory Times of 29 August 1885 reports this.

The Minister of Education, in reply to Mr Moule, today, stated that he had his attention drawn to a letter signed by W.S. Hill, in reference to the management of the Police Department in the Northern Territory, and had found on enquiry that the writer W.S. Hill was a man who had been discharged from the Police force in Palmerston for disobedience of orders.

A week earlier, the NT Times and Gazette had the beginning of the story.

William Samuel Hill, the police trooper lately discharged from the Palmerston force, has written a letter to the Advertiser, describing his experiences in Palmerston, and alleging that he has been unfairly treated by Inspector Foelsche. He is applying for redress and compensation.

(The letter is available here.)

So perhaps I'm right in thinking that Billy Hill looks like a bit of a wild one in that earlier photo.

Adrian Spall writes:
After Billy was sacked from the NT police force, the matter of his and Trooper Smith’s dismissal was raised in the South Australian parliament. An inquiry was organised where both men were subsequently exonerated and it was recommended that W.S. Hill be paid compensation for his treatment. Billy was confined to barracks at the time the problematic police commissioner Foelsche sent out a hunting party under Trooper Morgenthau that went and committed the Daly River Massacre of the local indigenous people after a couple of miners had been killed in an incident.
From memory, I think Trooper Smith was a whistleblower of that event. Billy Hill was involved in the margins of this in that both men were fighting against their unjust treatment. It appears that Foelsche may have wanted Billy to perjure himself in court over a separate, earlier incident.
During his time of being confined to barracks in Palmerston prior to his dismissal, his wife had a miscarriage and I think Billy was dismissed from leaving the barracks building to speak with her.
From memory, I think Leslie Lewis’ AIF next of kin contact details for Billy were in Kalgoorlie. Leslie lost his leg in France from a gunshot wound to the leg. He was originally a driver behind the front lines, but after committing an offence (maybe skipped a shift), he was sent to the front lines where he was wounded in action.
He returned to Melbourne where he received his WW1 ‘participation’ medals at a ceremony at the MCG. On the Govt receipt to show he had picked up the medals, the witness was my grandmother and his niece, Ellen (Nellie) Raftis.
Billy Hill’s daughter, Beatrice, who married Robert Raftis in the goldfields, ended up separating from Robert in about 1913. She returned to Victoria where she found work as a domestic in Daylesford, where she died of a heart attack at around age 40, and was buried in an unmarked grave In Daylesford cement army by a drunkard who masqueraded as the local parish priest.

Margaret died after only two years in the appalling conditions on the fields, of tuberculosis (then called phthisis), on 14 October 1901. She was buried at Yundamindera Cemetery. ('Yundamindera' is the name of the gazetted town. 'Yundamindra' is the name of the station, and the area.)

The first photo is of what is thought by Alex Palmer (to whom we are all grateful) to be her grave.

(The second photo was taken by Andrea Lewis - thanks! - and is from the WAGS Lonely Graves site.) Palmer writes this.

The next [grave] in line has been carefully prepared by a loving bereaved person, probably Sam [Billy] Hill husband of Margaret Hill. The grave was once carefully lined with boulders and a large ironstone rock stands proud as a headstone. All is still in fair shape. (Palmer: 56)

Apart from a brief return to his earlier occupation as a bootmaker in Kalgoorlie, Wm Samuel pretty much stuck at mining. Alex Palmer describes him as being by about 1906 the sole occupant of what had been the town of Linden.

W S (Billy) Hill, together with his ten dogs and as many goats were the only sign of life on the field. Over the years he had built himself a battery from the scrap of the abandoned shows. Its two stamps were kept moving by a long doglegged arm that buckled in the middle about ten times an hour. Each buckle meant a drop. It worked, but its through put [sic] at the best was five ton a month. The coughing and spluttering associated with its operation acquired it the name of the consumptive battery. (Palmer: 78)

The 'consumptive' epithet is not very amusing, given that Billy's wife died of consumption (tuberculosis).

Here's a mining inspector's report from 1907. It refers to a letter that Billy Hill had written, which the inspector supports, requesting that a battery be supplied by the government not far from his mine at Linden.

I am enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. W. S. Hill who owns a small ore crushing plant 210 chains south of Mt. Linden. ... He has a water shaft 80 ft. deep ... This locality appears, at first sight, to be the best for any proposed battery, as there is a splendid catchment at the Carbine Creek, which runs about 300 yards west of the water shaft, and a basin where a dam could cheaply be made. Mr. Hill also owns a fresh water well ...

Palmer writes:

WSH remained at Linden until 1914 [tho he doesn't say what happened to any of his children] living on his homestead lease and operating the Great Carbine mine (in the photo), from which he did quite well. He left the district and later died at Claremont WA on the 2-12-1924 [sic]. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery. (Palmer: 82) Here is his death certificate.

He was indeed buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, and here is a photo of his unmarked grave. (At Anglican JA0409.) If he 'did quite well', he didn't provide for any monument to himself. Except, of course, all his descendants!

William Samuel and Margaret ROBERTS Hill's seven children were: Hugh, Lionel and Leonard - who all died in earliest infancy - Beatrice Harriet, Ethel May, Leslie Lewis, and Elizabeth Mary (Elsie). The first five children were born in Adelaide, and the last two in Melbourne. Beatrice married Robert Raftis and had five daughters: Ellen, Beatrice, Margaret, Mary and Hanoria.
Leslie Hill enlisted 17 February 1915 and saw active service in France. He was wounded 19 September 1917, sustaining a compound fracture of the left femur, which led to him being discharged 30 August 1918 with a 1914-1915 Star, a British War Medal and a Victory medal. His sister Ethel wrote him a letter in verse, addressed to 'Les', which has survived (as a handwritten copy) in the possession of GMG . He married, but had no children.

An impression of Billy Hill from 1914, when he was apparently in Kalgoorlie/Boulder:
The amateur elocutionist usually gets on your nerves. Mr. W. S. Hill, who recites "The Man from Snowy River" is an exception. We could listen to him all night. He is so natural, and puts so much spirit into his work. We would like to see him in local drama. Boulder Evening Star, Sat 31 Oct 1914 page 2, 'Our Ladies Corner'.

References and Links

Coate, Yvonne E. & Kevin Coate, More Lonely Graves of Western Australia, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 2000.

Palmer, Alex, Yundamindra: Its Towns, Mines, People and Station, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 2006.

WAGS page, source of the second Margaret Roberts grave photo.


Many thanks to fellow descendant Adrian Spall for almost all of the above, including the photos of WSH, and the research.

Garry Gillard | New: 18 July, 2009 | Now: 17 July, 2022