William L. Hill Papers, 1873-1930

Collection number: MC 115
Size: 8 boxes (2.66 cu.ft.)

About William L. Hill

William L. Hill (October 17, 1855 - August 2, 1922) was born in Auburn, Iowa of Henry Clay and Margaret (Cater) Hill. On November 18, 1873, he enlisted in the United States Navy and began a career that was to span a lifetime. On 1884 he received the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration in the United States, for saving William Mulcahy from drowning when the young man fell overboard from Hill’s ship the U.S.S. Minnesota in Newport, Rhode Island on June 22 that same year. Hill served in the rank of boatswain on the U.S.S. Brooklyn during the Spanish-American War and received a special commendation from Rear Admiral Winfield S. Schley for his bravery and fortitude.

In 1904 Chief Boatswain Hill took command of the U.S.S. Southery and U.S.S. Topeka prison ships at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and instituted policies of prison reform that were later adopted by other branches of the service and in civilian prisons (such as removing ankle chains from prisoners). In 1901, Hill testified before the Schley Court of Inquiry established to evaluate the conduct of Rear Admiral Winfield S. Schley “during the recent war with Spain, and in connection with events thereof.” The Inquiry lasted a little more than eight weeks and newspaper accounts (not all complimentary) earmark Hill’s testimony as one of the highlights of the proceedings, “bringing the courtroom to its feet” in patriotic fervor. William Hill was a member of St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth from 1905. Hill married Blanche Hedden from Troy, New York in 1881. After her death, he married her best friend, Katherine Sweetser, on February 3, 1917 and it is through this connection that the collection has been made available. He took his own life on August 2, 1922 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

About the William L. Hill Papers

Chief Boatswain Hill was an avid collector of news clippings, especially those related to naval matters. Moreover, he was a precise and articulate (and often emotional) observer of people and events. Accordingly, the collection contains an unusual record of turn-of-the-century American Naval history, including first-hand reports of “The Battle of Santiago,” the decisive battle of the Spanish-American War, the Schley Court of Inquiry (1901), and a series of photographs of the Portsmouth Navy Yard around the turn of the century. The collection also contains a scrapbook by Katherine Sweetser Hill which details her activities, especially those as a member of the New Hampshire Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William L. Hill Papers, 1873-1930, MC 115, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information


Mr. and Mrs. William Warren, October 1986 (Acession #: 8657)

Collection Contents

Series 1: Service Records, 1875-1921

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Continuous service certificate (in leather pouch)
Box 1, Folder 2Service records and assignments, 1875-1883
Box 1, Folder 3Service records and assignments, 1886-1891
Box 1, Folder 4Service records and assignments, 1892-1893
Box 1, Folder 5Service records and assignments, 1894-1895
Box 1, Folder 6Service records and assignments, 1896-1899
Box 1, Folder 7Service records and assignments, 1900-1903
Box 1, Folder 8Service records and assignments, 1904
Box 1, Folder 9Service records and assignments, 1905-1906
Box 1, Folder 10Service records and assignments, 1907-1908
Box 1, Folder 11Service records and assignments, 1909-1914
Box 1, Folder 12Service records and assignments, 1915-1917
Box 1, Folder 13Service records and assignments, 1918
Box 1, Folder 14Service records and assignments, 1919-1921

Series 2: Correspondence, 1881-1921

Box 2
Box 2, Folder 11881-1894: Army and Navy Register, (US Military Gazette); Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co.; Dept. of the Interior; L.R. Hamersly and Co. (2 letters); Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH; Navy Yard, New York; W.H. Reeder (2 letters); W. Smith; US Navy Dept. (8 letters, including 1 regarding award of Medal of Honor)
Box 2, Folder 21895-1898: W. Bull; F.H. Cleveland; Chauncey M. Depew; James R. Durham; Mrs. Hardy; T.W. Hartford; Blanche Hill (Mrs. William) (2 letters); F. Stanhope Hill; Theresa W. Hollis; Jordan Marsh and Co.; John Levis; Manhattan Railway Co.; National Association of Letter Carriers, New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Co.; John M. Portal; The United Press; US Army and Navy Journal; US Dept. Navy; US Dept. of War (2 letters); US House of Representatives; US Post Office; T.R. Wilson; S.J. Wright; Alice and Charlie; Maggie, Charley and Vi.
Box 2, Folder 3January 1899-June 1899: The Denver Times; Historical Dept. of Iowa (4 letters) Frank Jones; Thomas Lipton; William Ludlow; J.E.M. Sanford; US Army and Navy Journal; US Navy (2 letters)
Box 2, Folder 4July 1899- December 1899: W.A Marble; N.E. Mason (2 letters); The Salem Iron Co.; W.S. Schley; George E. Van Nostrand; US Navy; Charley and Vi
Box 2, Folder 51900: Army and Navy Journal; Baltimore American; Francis T. Bowles; First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Ind.; Frank Fitzmiller (2 letters); E.H. Hall; Kearsarge Association of Naval Veterans; E.W. Kennison; C.J. Leach; Chas. M. Moses (2 letters); New York Times (2 letters); A. Nowell; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Universalist Church of Portsmouth, NH; Andrew B. Rogers, US Dept. Navy (2 letters); US House of Representatives (4 letters)
Box 2, Folder 61901: The Army and Navy Register; Baltimore American; Francis T. Bowles; Pascual Cevera (in Spanish with translation); Commonwealth of Mass. House of Representatives; Clarence De Knight; Merta M. Fitch; First National Bank of Portsmouth, NH; Edward Hagman Hall; Harry Hayden; N.E. Mason, US Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, RI (2 letters); Frances W. Ross; Elihu Snow; George S Wasson; US Dept. of Navy (2 letters)
Box 2, Folder 71902: Army and Navy Register (2 letters); Francis T. Bowles (2 letters); S.R.(?) Luce; A.P. Niblock; J.E. Pillsbury (2 letters); US Dept. Navy; Winston Churchill; Julia (sister)
Box 2, Folder 81903: F.T. Bowles; Geo. R. Bufferton (?). F.A. Cook; William S. Coombs; Lloyd Erickson (?); Richard Kipp; B. L. Lopez (?); N.E. Mason; J.E. Pillsbury; George Rafferty (?); Winfield S. Schley; George S. Wasson
Box 2, Folder 91904: J.S. Chadwick; W.L. Hill (2 letters relating to Hill’s heroic deed); Arthur F. Howard; Medal of Honor Legion; T.S. Peck; Treasury Dept. of Navy (4 letters); US Navy Dept.
Box 2, Folder 10Feb. 1905-Sept. 1905: Pascual Cervera; John L. Garrity (?); Mrs. Mabel Humphreys; Arlo S. Knepper; J.C. Laughlin; Rear Admiral W.W. Mead (2 letters concerning rules for Peace Commission with Japan and Russia; 1 congratulations on a job well done); New York Railway Co.; T.S. Peck; J.E. Pillsbury; Treasury Dept. of Navy; A. V. Wadhams (3 letters)
Box 2, Folder 11Oct. 1905-Nov. 1905: Geo. A. Bufferton (?); Lena Cole; H.S. Howard; Wm. Kennedy; Horatio C King; Julius Langbein; Fred T. Lape (?); Robert H. Messer; T.S. Peck; Edgar Pressman (?); Alex Scott; H.A. Strohmeyer;; Charles Todd; A.V. Wadhams; Charles and Vi; Leatie
Box 2, Folder 12Oct. 1906-Nov. 1908: Florence H. Bodge; B.Diehl (?); Herbert Kimball; Arthur Mac Arthur; J.D. McClintock (2 letters); A.G. Muiterhalter; J.P. Parker; Moses Greeley Parker; J.E. Pillsbury (4 letters); J. Louise Porter; W. S. Schley; A.V. Wadhams; H.B. Wilson; unidentified (2 letters)
Box 2, Folder 131909-1911: W.B. Caperton; Albert H. Lides; F.A. Wilson; Arthur A. Carey (8 letters); G.R. Gove; Joseph Hill (brother); Arthur B. Hoff; R. Osborne McClintock; E.A. Moore; Louis W. Osborne; L.P. Rennolds (4 letters); Letter to Mrs. W. Schley; Josie Sullivan; Burman Winthrop(?)
Box 2, Folder 141912: Arthur a Carey (4 letters); Anson W. Belding (8 letters); B. Diehl (?); Frederick W. Donnelly (2 letters); Arthur B. Hoff; N.E. Mason; Thomas G. Nellist; L.P Reynolds; W. R. Rush (?); A. Rust; Ernest D. Trueman
Box 2, Folder 151913: Arthur Carey (7 letters); E.A. Moore; National Concrete Co.; H.R. Shaw: Ernest D. Trueman
Box 2, Folder 161914-1921: W.E. Benson (2 letters); Charles M. Charlton (2 letters); F.A. Cook; G.L. Hanscom; Robert H. Messer; E.A. Moore; Thomas Mott Osborne; C.W. Parks; M.J. Shaw (2 letters); Charles, L. Stilman (?); Alberta Todd; Ernest D. Trueman (3 letters); U.S. Dept. of State; U.S. Department of War; Union Trust Company; A. Watham (?); M.J. Wilkinson; Thos. J (?); Billie
Box 2, Folder 17Undated: Joshua W. Estes; L. Gaylor; L.L. Thompson; Joyce

Series 3: Subject Files, 1881-1921

Box 3
Box 3, Folder 1Sons of the American Revolution 1, 1892-1895
Box 3, Folder 2Sons of the American Revolution 2, 1896
Box 3, Folder 3Sons of the American Revolution 3, 1897
Box 3, Folder 4Sons of the American Revolution 4, 1898-1899
Box 3, Folder 5Medal of Honor Legion: Eighteen General Orders, one Special Order, Two circulars, 1894-1919
Box 3, Folder 6Medal of Honor Legion: Two Rosters, April 23, 1890-April 30, 1895 and April 23, 1890-March 1, 1898; Program of a Reception by the Citizens of Brooklyn held at the Academy of Music, N.Y., Sept. 11; One-page Congressional Report on the issuing of ribbons to Medal of Honor recipients in the Navy, January 13, 1897; Two newsclippings, one from The Scranton Truth reporting on the Medal of Honor Legion annual convention held in the Scranton Board of Trade meeting hall the previous evening, the other an undated, uncredited story about the banquet held the previous evening at the Monmouth Hotel at which General Porter was the guest of honor (Roosevelt was already President, so it must have been after 1901. The issue of Roosevelt’s receiving the Medal of Honor was raised), June 9, 1897; Undated; Three letters from Headquarters, one a general printed letter from Charles Collis, the others personal, one from James Durham to Hill stating that he has recommended that Hill represent the Navy on the Legion’s Executive Committee, the other from Nelson Miles, Commander, recommending that the annual convention be held in Scranton in June (as was later reported in the news clipping above), Dec. 1, 1894, July 25, 1896, April 5, 1897.
Box 3, Folder 7Medal of Honor and Legion of Honor Banquet Programs, 1904, 1906, and 1911
Box 3, Folder 8Programs for the Seventeenth and Twentieth Annual Conventions, 1907, 1910
Box 3, Folder 9Newsclippings of W.L. Hill lectures, “The Battle of Santiago,” Undated
Box 3, Folder 10Ledger containing handwritten extracts from letters written by Hill, and a journal of the cruise of the U.S.S. Brooklyn , Aug. 6, 1890-Aug. 29, 1891; Jan. 1 1899-July 24, 1899
Box 3, Folder 11Ledger containing information on “Heavy Weight Purchases”, misc. poetry and a detailed accounting of crew member results of annual skills testing (splicing, knots, exercise aloft, etc), circa 1889
Box 3, Folder 12Cut Book – Standing, Running and Misc. rigging from U.S. Ship Portsmouth, Aug. 1888
Box 3, Folder 13“Scrapbook” 1, 1895-1897
Box 3, Folder 14“Scrapbook” 2, 1895-1897
Box 3, Folder 15Receipts (W.L. Hill) including 3 purchase orders for the Peace Conference of 1905, 1902, 1905
Box 4
Box 4, Folder 1General Orders and Navy Records, 1891-1894
Box 4, Folder 2General Orders and Navy Records, 1895
Box 4, Folder 3General Orders and Navy Records, 1896
Box 4, Folder 4General Orders and Navy Records, 1897
Box 4, Folder 5General Orders and Navy Records, 1898
Box 4, Folder 6General Orders and Navy Records, 1899
Box 4, Folder 7General Orders and Navy Records, 1900-1904
Box 4, Folder 8North Atlantic Station “Squadron Bulletin,” 1898
Box 4, Folder 9Navy prisoner records (health record and service record) for 3 men, 1917
Box 4, Folder 10Photocopies of f.9 (Navy prisoner records; health record and service record for 3 men), 1917
Box 4, Folder 11Enlistment papers and fingerprint papers for 2 Navy prisoners, Jan. 1917
Box 4, Folder 12Misc. papers pertaining to the USS Brooklyn: Crew lists for Oct. 1897 and July 4, 1898 including other correspondence, 1897-1898
Box 4, Folder 13 Misc. papers including the Constitution and By-Laws of Warrant Officers Association 1893, International Flag Code, Knights of Templar certificate, 1893
Box 4, Folder 14Misc. papers
Box 4, Folder 15Misc. papers
Box 4, Folder 16Souvenir booklet by Eugenio de Texeira, USS Southery and Topeka Christmas Menu, 1898, 1911
Box 4, Folder 17Photocopies of original signatures of the officers for the USS Galena, USS Brooklyn, USS Jamestown and USS Prairie. [In Box 8 are pieces of pink silk that have original signatures], 1884, 1887, 1889, 1902
Box 4, Folder 18 3 indexes from William Hill’s scrapbooks. The Scrapbooks were dismantled for preservations purposes,

Series 4: Newspaper Clippings, 1895-1945

Box 5
Box 5, Folder 1Misc. newspaper reprints
Box 5, Folder 2Newspaper Clippings, 1895-1897
Box 5, Folder 3Newspaper Clippings, 1895-1897
Box 5, Folder 4USS Brooklyn, 1897
Box 5, Folder 5USS Brooklyn, 1898
Box 5, Folder 6USS Brooklyn, 1898
Box 5, Folder 7USS Brooklyn, 1898
Box 5, Folder 8USS Maine, 1898
Box 5, Folder 9USS Maine, 1899
Box 5, Folder 10“Admiral Sampson and Gunner Morgan,” 1901
Box 5, Folder 11“Schley Trial,” 1901
Box 5, Folder 12“Schley Trial and Death,” 1901
Box 5, Folder 13“Schley Trial and Death,” 1901
Box 5, Folder 14“Schley Trial and Death,” 1900-1910
Box 5, Folder 15“Schley Trial and Death,” 1905-1910
Box 5, Folder 16“Schley Trial and Death,” 1913-1917
Box 5, Folder 17Retirement of William L. Hill, 1919
Box 5, Folder 18Obituary of William L. Hill, 1922
Box 5, Folder 19Re: Settlement of Estate of William L. Hill, 1922-1923
Box 5, Folder 20Re: Settlement of Estate of William L. Hill, 1922-1923
Box 5, Folder 21Re: Settlement of Estate of William L. Hill, 1923-1945
Box 5, Folder 22Account book of investments for William L. Hill,

Series 5: Katherine Sweetser Hill, 1877-1944

Box 6
Box 6, Folder 1Hill Genealogy, Undated
Box 6, Folder 2Blanche Hill’s Journal pertaining to “Young Ladies Social and Literary Society,” 1877
Box 6, Folder 3Wedding Book, W.L. Hill, Katherine Sweetser, 1917
Box 6, Folder 4Mrs. Hill’s Expense Book, 1918-1921
Box 6, Folder 5Personal Correspondence to Mrs. Hill, 1922-1937
Box 6, Folder 6Business Correspondence to Mrs. Hill, 1922-1923
Box 6, Folder 7Misc. receipts to Mrs. Hill, 1926-1930
Box 6, Folder 8Mrs. Hill’s Diary, Sept. 1932-Nov. 1932
Box 6, Folder 9Foreign Investments papers for Mrs. Hill, 1944
Box 6, Folder 10Misc. Tax papers for Mrs. Hill
Box 6, Folder 11Mrs. Hill’s scrapbook, pertaining to her involvement in the Graffort Club of Portsmouth, NH, 1934-1936
Box 6, Folder 12Typed Summaries of Speeches presented at Fifth Annual Forum on Current Problems, sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune; copy of “The New Hampshire Clubwoman,” 1936, May 1935

Series 6: Photographs, 1879-1930

Box 7
Box 7, Folder 1Photographs of Hill
  • e.1: W.L. Hill, Marseilles France, June 1, 1879
  • e.2: W.L. Hill, 1881
  • e.3: W.L. Hill [Vallejo, Cal], 1882
  • e.4: W.L. Hill, 1882 (?)
  • e.5: W.L. Hill, c. 1890s?
  • e.6: W.L. Hill, c. 1890s?
  • e.7: W.L. Hill in an unidentified group of 5 womem and 3 men with Hill in background (probably the Hedden family), c. 1890s?
Box 7, Folder 3Photographs of Hill cont.
  • e.1: W.L. Hill standing on deck of an unidentified ship in full uniform, c. 1900s?
  • e.2: W.L. Hill in uniform standing in front of an unidentified building (2 same pose), c. 1900s?
  • e.3: W.L. Hill double exposed image: Hill and Andrew E. Kakbash, Naval Cadet, U.S.N., c. 1900s?
  • e.4: W.L. Hill USN Commander of the Southery and the Topeka (3 same pose different sizes), 1911
Box 7, Folder 3Photographs of Hill, cont.
  • e.1: W.L. Hill USN Commander of Southery (3 same pose different sizes), Jan. 1914
  • e.2: W.L. Hill USN Commander of Southery (3 same pose different sizes), Jan. 1914
  • e.3: W.L. Hill USN Commander of Southery (5 same pose different sizes), Jan. 1917
  • e.4: W.L. Hill (2 poses), ca. 1919
  • e.5: W.L. Hill in white uniform in his office at U.S.S. Southery, where he was commandant, ca. 1900
Box 7, Folder 4Photographs of Other Hill Family Members
  • e.1: Portrait of Blanche (Hedden) Hill, William Hill’s 1st wife, undated
  • e.2: Portrait of Blanche (Hedden) Hill, undated
  • e.3: Blanche Hill and Mrs. Soden swimming, undated
  • e.4: Blanche Hill and Mrs. Soden sitting at water’s edge, undated
  • e.5: Blanche Hill and Katherine Sweetser (they were best friends) sitting on rocks. This was before she was married to Hill, undated
  • e.6: Blanche Hill and Katerine Sweeter standing at the waters edge in New Castle looking towards Seavey Island, undated
  • e.7: William L. Hill and Katherine Sweetser Hill (center) at launching of U.S.S. S-3 (2 copies), 1919
Box 7, Folder 5Photographs, etc.
  • e.1: W.L. Hill and unidentified man, undated
  • e.2: Autographed picture of Rear Admiral W.S. Schley, undated
  • e.3: Sergeant Peter J. Downey, boyhood companion and shipmate. Note on back of photos states Peter Downey and William Hill entered the Navy together in 1893, 1897
  • e.4: Autographed picture of Joseph Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, undated
Box 7, Folder 6Photographs
  • e.1: William L. Hill’s cat “Timmy,” undated
  • e.2: “Timmy” at Quarters G at Navy Yard, undated
  • e.3: Black and white photo of an unidentified house, undated
  • e.4: “The Pines,” Grover Cleveland’s house in Tamworth, NH, undated
  • e.5: Unidentified young woman - future Mrs. Hill?
Box 7, Folder 7Shipyard Photographs
  • e.1: Portsmouth Navy Yard from Portsmouth side, July, 1920
  • e.2: U.S.S. Southery and U.S.S. Topeka, undated
  • e.3: U.S.S V-1 (submarine), November 13, 1926
  • e.4: 2 unidentified photos of submarines, undated
  • e.5: H.M.S. Capetown, August 14, 1929 -August 20, 1929
  • e.6: Old Ironsides, Portsmouth, NH, July 4, 1931-July 19, 1931
  • e.7: Unidentified photograph of the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard, undated
Box 7, Folder 8Shipyard: Construction, Prisoners
  • e.1: U.S S. Southery and U.S.S. Topeka at dock in Portsmouth, undated
  • e.2: Spanish-American prisoners of war on parade, W.L. Hill at right center, undated
  • e.3: Southery working parties, Rock Drilling and Stone Handling Squads, >March 8, 1915
  • e.4: Section of Yard work force leaving Southery, March 8, 1915
  • e.5: Southery clothing factory squad, March 9, 1915
  • e.6: Southery, prisoners at study March 9, 1915
  • e.7: Driving the first rivet into the keel: William L. Hill holding pipe, R.P. Schlabach of the construction crew and Admiral C.J. Bouche (2 copies), undated
  • e.8: Unidentified crew as another keel is begun at Portsmouth Navy Yard, undated
Box 7, Folder 9Photographs - Spanish American War, etc.
  • e.1: Photograph of a painting of the U.S.S. Brooklyn (painted by George S. Wasson, commissioned by W.L. Hill, following the Battle of Santiago de Cuba on July 3, 1898), undated
  • e.2: “The Wreck of the Aquinda” a Spanish ship in Cuba, undated
  • e.3: Shore party in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, undated
  • e.4: Shore party in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, undated
  • e.5: Battleship in harbor, Spanish-American War, undated
  • e.6: Unidentified men looking at a ship from a pier, undated
  • e.7: Unidentified ship leaving port, undated
Box 7, Folder 10Portsmouth Photographs
  • e.1: Connie Bean Community Center on Daniel Street in Portsmouth, originally the Off-Base Enlisted Men’s Reading Room. Hill raised the money for the building (2 copies), undated
  • e.2: Different view of the Connie Bean Community Center (2 copies), undated
  • e.3: Billiard and Men’s Reading room, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, Sept. 17, 1913
  • e.4: Billiard and Men’s Reading room, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, March 8, 1915
  • e.5: Billiard and Men’s Reading room, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, undated
  • e.6: Reading Room Building No.22, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, undated
  • e.7: Gymnasium, Building #22, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, (3 copies), Sept. 17, 1913
Box 7, Folder 11 Various views of London (probably acquired in 1895 at the U.S.S. Brooklyn‘s participation in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee):
  • e.1: Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben (mistakenly called “Big Tom” on the back of photo), undated
  • e.2: The Strand and the Royal Courts of Justice with the monument, in the middle of the street, marking Temple Bar (mistakenly called “Temble Bar” on back of photo), undated
  • e.3: Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, undated
  • e.4: St. Paul’s, top of Ludgate Hill on Cheapside, undated
  • e.5: London Bridge and the monument marking where the Great Fire of 1666 began, undated
  • e.6: Thames Embankment and Cleopatra’s Needle (mistakenly called Thotmosis Obelisk on back of photo), undated
Box 7, Folder 12Civil War Soldier
  • e.1: Tintype of unidentified Civil War sailor (in 3×3 black decorated box with a clasp), undated
Box 8
Box 8, Folder 1Physical Items
  • Three pieces of pink silk bearing the signatures of the officers of the USS Galena, USS Brooklyn, USS Jamestown and USS Prairie, (1884), (1887), (1889), (1902)
  • “The Fight Off Santiago; A Personal Account of the Destruction of the Spanish Fleet” by Rear Admiral William Scott Schley, Saturday Evening Post, August 13, 1904
  • Framed order signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 posthumously conferring the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy on William Hill, 1930
  • Portrait of William Hill kept at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, undated
  • Framed plaque kept at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, undated
Finding Aid Image TEMP