Ashbel Fairchild Hill was born to James and Martha Kefover Hill on the October 23, 1842 in German Township, Fayette County, PA. Even as a young boy he enjoyed writing stories and poems to delight his family and friends. As a teenager Hill clerked in a small store in Smithfield, PA owned by Captain McCleary. At a summer celebration in Smithfield Hill witnessed a fight between some local boys and a produce vendor. The incident inspired a poem called the “Watermelon Riot” which, at age 16, became his first published work.
With the outbreak of The War Between the States, Hill enlisted in Company D, 8th Pennsylvania Reserves (37th Pennsylvania Infantry) which was raised in Fayette County and commanded by Capt. C.L. Conner. The regiment was commanded by Col. George S. Hays and subsequently by Col. S. Duncan Oliphant and Col. Silas M. Bailey. Hill was mustered in as a private on June 21, 1861 and promoted to Sergeant May 1, 1862. He participated in the battles of Hunter’s Mills, Mechanicville, Gaines’ Mill, 2nd Manassas (Bull Run), South Mountain and Antietam. At Antietam Hill was wounded and lost a leg near the edge of the infamous Cornfield. He was discharged due to disability from the army by Surgeon’s Certificate dated December 15, 1862.
Following his military service, A.F. Hill became a fine scholar and a writer of considerable ability. He served as editor of the Golden City in San Francisco, assistant editor of the Philadelphia Mercury, and was a contributor to Saturday Night and other literary papers. He was the author of several widely read publications, the most popular being “White Rocks”, the true story of the murder of Polly Williams, a young girl thrown to her death by her lover in Fayette County, PA in 1811. He also authored “Our Boys” a history from the soldiers perspective of the boys of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves and “Secrets Of The Sanctum”, a tale of power and distrust of the editor of a Philadelphia newspaper. The latter work resulted in Hill being sued by the editor. “John Smith’s Funny Adventure on a Crutch” recounted the life of a young soldier who lost a leg during the Civil War as he traveled around the country. Hill also authored a serial published in the Genius of Liberty titled “Able Gray or Romance on the National Road”.
During Hill’s time in San Francisco he met and married a young lady named Mary. In 1874 he returned to Fayette County, PA and began writing for the Genius of Liberty. Not long after his return he and Mary divorced in 1875 and she returned to California. On October 28, 1876 he delivered an address at New Geneva in a drizzling rain during which his clothing became wet. In this condition he returned to Uniontown, PA, a distance of fifteen miles, to the McClelland House where he had been residing. A severe cold resulted, followed by fever. Although he received the best medical attention, he never recovered from the severe attack and he passed quietly away on November 7 at age 34. His remains were taken to Masontown, PA on November 8, and was buried on Thursday November 9, 1876.
Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.