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Biographies Part 3

Some Significant Sills

"... our ancestry determines our deeds."
                            Theodor Fontane

Alfred Elliot Bates was born in Monroe, Michigan on July 14, 1840. He was the son of Alfred Gould and Betsy Ann (Elliot) Bates and a descendant of Mary Sill (1752-1849) and her husband James Gould. Alfred graduated from West Point and was appointed second lieutenant in the second U.S. cavalry June 23, 1865. He was promoted first lieutenant October 19, 1865 and served on scouting and frontier duty in Missouri, where he distinguished himself as an Indian fighter. From 1869-1873 he was an instructor in cavalry at West Point. Also in 1869, he was married to Caroline McCorkle. He served on the Big Horn expedition from August to October, 1874. While there he led a troop of cavalry and 200 Shoshone Indians and defeated the Arapahoes at Snake Mountain. In 1875 he became a major in the department of the paymaster-general. He served as paymaster in the departments of Texas, Dakota, Washington, New York, and San Francisco. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in January, 1897 and served as military attaché at the Court of St. James from 1897-1899 and as brigadier general of volunteers, May to October 1898. He was promoted assistant paymaster general with the rank of colonel, March 31, 1899. He served as acting paymaster general at Washington, D.C., in May, 1899, and was promoted paymaster-general with the rank of brigadier-general, July 12, 1899. In honor of his long and meritorious service, he was retired January 22, 1904, with the rank of Major General U.S.A. In 1906 he was sent to San Francisco to look after Red Cross and government funds sent for the relief of earthquake victims.

Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was born in New Haven, Connecticut on December 22, 1803. He was the son of Henry and Mary (Fenno) Mansfield. According to the author of Old Silltown, he was a descendant of a Sill who was married to a Hubbard. I have not yet been able to prove that. I have discovered however that his wife was a distant cousin of the Sills so I will include him here. Joseph graduated second in his class from West Point in 1822. He served as chief engineer under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War. He fought gallantly at Fort Brown, Monterey, where he was severely wounded, and at Buena Vista. He won the brevets of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel for his service in those battles. He was married to Louisa Maria Mather of Connecticut on September 25, 1838. He was involved in many other engineering projects through the years and was eventually appointed Brigadier General in the regular service and assigned to command Washington D.C. by President Lincoln on May 18, 1861. In 1862 he was the commander of the Twelfth Corps when General Robert E. Lee invaded the North by crossing the Potomac River. Union troops met Lee's troops near Antietam Creek and the bloodiest battle of the Civil War occurred there on September 17, 1872. The two sides combined suffered over 23,000 casualties in one day's fighting. General Mansfield was wounded in the battle and died the next day. He was memorialized in 1880 by having his portrait put on the United States $500 dollar bill. He was further honored when a granite monument was erected to his memory on the battlefield in May, 1900.

Anna Peck Sill was born in Burlington, New York, on August 9, 1816. She was the daughter of Abel and Hepsibah (Peck) Sill. She began teaching school at the age of 20, and in 1843 she opened a seminary in Warsaw, New York. From 1846 to 1849 she headed the female department of the Cary Collegiate Institute in Oakfield, New York. Also in 1849 she accepted an invitation to open a girls' school in Rockford, Illinois. The school opened with 60 pupils in 1850. She was confirmed as the principal of the Rockford Female Seminary in 1852. She maintained high academic standards and made the school a leader in women's education in the Midwest.

During the 1870's she began urging that the school be raised to collegiate status. Although it became a degree-granting institution in 1882, the name was not changed to Rockford College until 1892. She retired in 1884 and continued to live on the campus until her death there on June 18, 1889. What Anna Peck Sill accomplished was great in it's own right, but consider a little Illinois history as well. Although Illinois had been a state since 1818, Winnebago county was not established until 1835. In 1850 the first formal census gave the village of Rockford a population of only 2,563. Rockford did not even officially become a city until 1852. She accomplished all of this while living in what was at the time "out west" in the wilderness.

David Fithian Sill was born in Lyme, Conn. on April 24, 1733. He was the son of John Sill and his first wife Phebe Fithian. He served as a Lieutenant in the French and Indian Wars. He was in service at Lake George and at Crown Point, where he took the first French prisoner of the campaign. He was also in Montreal when the French surrendered. He married Sarah Griswold of Lyme, Conn. in 1760. In 1775 he entered the Continental Army. He commanded a company of one hundred men who were raised in Lyme, Conn. in three days. In 1776 he fought in the campaign against Lord Howe, in and around New York City. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the First Continental Line. After the war he was frequently elected to the legislature and served as Justice of the Peace and town Clerk for fifty years. He died at Lyme, Conn. on January 9, 1813.

Edward Roland Sill was born in Windsor, Conn. on April 29, 1841. He was the son of Dr. Theodore and Elizabeth (Rowland) Sill. Left an orphan in 1853, he moved to the home of his uncle Elisha Noyes Sill Jr. of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He graduated from Yale, poet of his class, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1861. After college he made a voyage around Cape Horn to California. He remained there until 1866, employed at one time in a post-office and later in a bank. He then returned east and briefly attended the Harvard Divinity school. He was married, Feb. 7, 1867, to his cousin, Elizabeth Newberry of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. They moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he taught in a boys' school and was also employed as a critic with the New York Evening Mail. He taught school at Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio, 1868 - 1869, and was principal of the high school and superintendent of schools at Cuyahoga Falls, 1869 - 1870. He taught Greek, Latin and rhetoric in the high schools at Oakland, Cal., 1871 - 1874, and was professor of the English language and literature in the University of California, 1874 - 1882. He resigned in 1882 and moved back to Cuyahoga Falls. The rest of his life was devoted to literary pursuits. Click here to read a sample of his poetry. To read more of his poetry, click on the links found in the bibliography section. Many of his prose compositions appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, The Century, The Overland Monthly, the Californian, and the Berkeley Quarterly. He translated Rau's "Mozart" (1868), and is the author of: Field Notes, The Hermitage and Later Poems (1868): The Venus of Milo and other Poems (printed privately, 1883); Poems (1887); and Hermione and other Poems (1889). The Prose of Edward Rowland Sill was published in 1900. His portrait is in the library of the University of California. He died in Cleveland, Ohio, Feb. 27, 1887. One other note of interest: The fifth highest peak in the state of California is named Mount Sill. It was named after Edward Sill in 1903 by a climber who was a former student of his at the University of California.

Frederick Herbert Sill was born in New York City on March 10, 1874. He was the son of Thomas and Jane (Miller) Sill. He was a member of the monastic Order of the Holy Cross (O.H.C.), and graduate of Columbia University and the General Theological Seminary. In 1906, he founded Kent School for boys, a boarding school located in Kent, Connecticut. His vision for the school was to teach " Simplicity of Life, Directness of Purpose, and Self-Reliance." He was committed to educating students from all walks of life. This resulted in the Sliding Scale Tuition, in which families paid what Father Sill felt they could afford. Father Sill retired as active Headmaster in 1941 but remained as an honorary Headmaster until his death on July 17, 1952. Kent School remains open to this day. In 1960, a Girls Campus was added. In 1992 the Girls and Boys campuses were consolidated into a single coeducational campus. Today the student population is roughly 50/50 boys and girls. Click here to learn more about the history of Kent School.

George Griswold Sill was born in Windsor, Conn. on October 26, 1829. He was the son of Henry and Almeda (Marshall) Sill. He graduated from Yale in 1852. He attended Yale law school for a year then became a student in a law office in Hartford, Conn. He was admitted to the bar in 1854 and spent many years as Justice of the Peace, prosecuting grand juror, and side judge of the Hartford city court. It has been said that it was difficult to find a lawyer who would take a case in opposition to him. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut from 1873 - 1876. He was United States District Attorney during the administration of President Grover Cleveland. He was married to Mary Preston. He died in 1907.

John Mahelm Berry Sill was born in Black Rock, N.Y., Nov. 23, 1831. He was the son of Joseph and Electa (Berry) Sill and grandson of Col. John Mahelm Berry. He graduated from the Michigan State Normal school in1854 and remained there as professor of English language and literature from1854 - 1863. He married Sally Lovett of Jonesville, Mich. on March 22, 1854. He was superintendent of the public schools of Detroit 1863 - 1865 and 1875 - 1886, principal of the Detroit Female seminary 1865 - 1875, principal of the Michigan State Normal school 1886 - 1893, president of the Michigan State Teachers' association 1861 - 1862, and regent of the University of Michigan 1876 - 1870. He received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from the University of Michigan, 1870, and the degree of Master of Pedagogics from the Michigan State Normal college, 1892. He was consul-general and U.S. minister resident at Seoul, Korea under President Cleveland from 1894 - 1897. He is the author of: Synthesis of the English Sentence (1857), and Practical Lessons in English (1880). He died in Detroit, Mich., April 6, 1901.

Joshua Woodrow Sill was born Dec. 6, 1831. He was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Woodrow) Sill of Chillicothe, Ohio. He graduated with distinguished honors from the U.S. Military academy at West Point July 1, 1853. He was assistant professor of geography, history, and ethics at the academy from 1854 - 1857. He attained the rank of 1st lieutenant before resigning from the service Jan. 25, 1861. He was professor of mathematics and civil engineering in the Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute at Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1861. He served as assistant adjutant-general of the state of Ohio from April to July, 1861, and participated in the Western Virginia campaign, being engaged in the combat of Rich Mountain on July 11. He was appointed colonel of the 33rd Ohio volunteers, Aug. 27, 1861 and engaged in the advance on Bowling Green, Ky. and Nashville, Tenn. In North Alabama he marched to Huntsville, took possession of the railroad from Decatur to Stephenson and captured valuable stores. He was promoted brigadier-general of volunteers, July 16, 1862, and commanded a division of McCook's corps in the Army of the Ohio in the advance into Kentucky. He engaged Kirby Smith at Lawrenceburg, succeeded in joining his corps at Perryville on Oct. 11, three days after the battle, and joined in the pursuit of General Bragg's army. He marched toward Nashville, Tenn., joined the Army of the Cumberland in command of the 1st brigade of Sheridan's 3rd corps, and was killed Dec. 31, 1862 at Murphreesboro, Tenn., in the battle of Stone's River, while giving the order to charge. After his death, Camp Witcita was renamed Fort Sill by his West Point classmate and friend Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan.

Richard Sill was born in Lyme, Connecticut on August 4, 1722. He was the son of Joseph and Phebe (Lord) Sill. He married Zipporiah Ayers on June 10, 1753. They had six children. Richard was a shipmaster who was engaged in many voyages up and down the coast of the colonies as well as voyages to the West Indies. He later retired from sealife to become a farmer. He died at his home on March 14, 1795.

Despite what I have said about him, the main reason I have included Richard is because of someone else acquainted with him. In 1775, a Yale graduate named David Bushnell came to live with Richard's family. While living there he invented a torpedo, known as Bushnell's torpedo, as well as a submarine to tow it. The submarine, known as the Turtle, held only one person and was operated by a hand crank. During the Revolutionary War it was sent into action in New York harbor against the British ship the Eagle. The torpedo was supposed to be attached to the bottom of the Eagle but the Eagle had a metal bottom so attachment was not possible. The torpedo was let loose and exploded harmlessly in the bay. Although the attack was a failure, it was one of the first successful attempts of submarine operation in history. Exactly how much Richard Sill had to do with these inventions is not known. However, since he was a shipmaster, I believe he was probably very helpful and influential to David Bushnell. Richard's knowledge of ships may even be the reason David moved there. The turtle was immortalized by Gary Larson as a Far Side cartoon. Click here to see a copy.

Richard Sill was born in Lyme, Conn. on July 18, 1755. He was the son of John Sill and his second wife, Hepzibah Lee. He graduated from Yale in 1775. He entered the Revolutionary War as a Lieutenant in 1776. He spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge with Gen. George Washington. After the war he studied law with Aaron Burr ( who later became Vice President under Thomas Jefferson) and practiced law in Albany New York. He married Elizabeth Nichol of Bethlehem, New York on May 2, 1785. He died at Bethlehem, New York June 4, 1790.

Benjamin Franklin Wade was born near Springfield, Massachusetts on October 27, 1800. He was the son of James and Mary (Upham) Wade. Okay, he is not technically a relative, but he is an in-law. He was married to Caroline M. Rosenraus who was a descendant of Sarah Sill (1728 -1814) and her husband Nehemiah Hubbard (1721-1814). Benjamin held a number of public offices, but was most notably in the U. S. Senate at the time of Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865. When Andrew Johnson then became president, the Vice President position was never filled. In 1867, Benjamin was elected president pro tempore of the Senate, which meant he also became the "acting" Vice President of the United States. In the spring of 1868, the Senate voted 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson. The final vote was just one vote short of impeachment, or put another way, Benjamin was only one vote away from becoming the President of the United States! It has been suggested that the failure of the impeachment proceedings was in part due to Wade's radical views, such as voting rights for women and blacks, which caused him to be feared more than Johnson. Although unsuccessful, Benjamin was also a leading candidate for the Vice Presidential nomination on the republican ticket with Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. Benjamin died March 2, 1878, in Jefferson, Ohio.

James Franklin Wade was born April 14, 1843. He was the son of Benjamin Franklin Wade and Caroline M. Roseneraus. James entered the Union army as 1st lieutenant, 6th Minnesota cavalry, May 14, 1861. He served many years and was eventually promoted to major-general of volunteers on May 4, 1898. During the Cuban battle for independence he was placed at the head of the Cuban evacuation commission, and in January, 1899, became military governor of Cuba. He was promoted major-general, U.S.A., in 1903, and succeeded General Davis in the command of the division of the Philippines in July, 1903. By 1904 he was commander of the Atlantic Division. His date of death is unknown to me at this time.


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