Orange County, NY
Black Hawk, Gilpin County, CO
Nathaniel P. Hill was born in Orange County, N.Y., February 18, 1832. The son of a farmer of the same name and who had served several terms in the New York Legislature, the death of the father in 1842 soon laced unusual responsibilities upon the boy; for, at the age of sixteen, he assumed charge and active management of the family estate. After several years’ attendance at the Montgomery, N.Y., Academy, young Hill, at the age of twenty-one, entered Brown University at Providence, R.I., where he was graduated. After graduation he became a member of the University’s faculty; in 1858 was appointed Instructor in Chemistry; and in 1859 was advanced to he Chair of Chemistry which he filled nearly five years and demonstrated his ability as a man of great scientific attainments. Of his coming to Colorado in 1864, of this attack upon the vital and most difficult problem of reducing our refractory ores, of his success in dealing with them after so many others had failed, and of the founding of the Black Hawk Smelter out of which later grew the great Boston and Colorado Smelter at Denver, the circumstances are related in detail on these pages. His solution of the then most grave and menacing problem of successfully dealing with our ores marked an epoch in the affairs of Colorado, and made him one of the most conspicuous two men among those who rank as builders of our Commonwealth.
Professor Hill’s first home in Colorado was at Black Hawk. In 1871 he was elected Mayor of that town, as which he served two years. In 1871 he was also elected the Gilpin county member of the upper branch of the Ninth Legislative Assembly [Territorial]. When the black hawk Smelter was removed to Denver in 1878, Professor Hill transferred his residence to this city where it remained until his death. A Republican in politics, his election to the United States Senate was urged by some of this friends, in 1876; and in January, 1879, he was chosen to succeed Jerome B. Chaffee in that high office for a term of six years by the Second General Assembly of the State. As a Senator his services were brilliant and secured enactment of several laws of commanding importance to his State. In the debates upon the great public questions of that time - especially those of public financial policies - he became a leader where leadership is attained by but few, and made a record for ability that is not an obscure part of our National history. One consequence of this was his appointment by President Harrison in January, 1891, a member of the International American Monetary Commission, the object of which was to secure uniform coinage by all the nations of the American continent.
In July, 1887, soon after his retirement from the Senate, Senator Hill became interested in operations in the Colordao oil field at and around Florence, and united under the corporate name “United Oil Company” several struggling concerns that had been operating there. The new company, of which he became President, with its abundant capital was the instrument with which that oil field was given its present important development. In December, 1887, as related more particularly in another chapter, he purchased a controlling interest in the Denver Republican, of which newspaper he was the guiding spirit until his death.
But it was his relation to the great mining industry, and the inestimable value of his technical knowledge and practical services to that industry that made Senator Hill’s commanding figure in the history of our city and State. To the close of his career his chief pride was in the results of his hard and industriously prolonged work as a mineralogist as exemplified in the Argo Smelter. Those and his other labors justly brought him a very large fortune.
Senator Hill, after two years of steadily declining health, died at his Denver home, on May 22, 1900, leaving a widow, one son and two daughters. He was good man in everything implied by that term, and the end of his busy, well-spent life, came peacefully.