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As It Was: The Hill Sisters Have Their Pick of Lonesome Bachelors

In the 1850s, most Southern Oregon men were miners seeking their fortunes in rough mining camps, while a few farmers planted crops on donation land claims.

Men outnumbered women by a wide margin when Isaac and Betsy Hill arrived in 1853 with their three daughters, 19-year-old Martha, 16-year-old Mary, and 15-year-old Ann, to farm by the side of Emigrant Lake.  The girls attracted immediate attention from the lonely men in the area.

Martha recalled young men lining the family’s fence on Sundays.  She said, “We had so few stools that when the cabin became too crowded, we would go out under the beautiful oak trees and do our entertaining if the weather permitted.”

When the girls rode on horseback to Yreka to spend the Fourth of July with relatives, Martha reported a brass band escorted her into town, and she danced until the wee hours of the morning.

The mother and daughters helped with the sewing and laundry for the Mountain House, a nearby traveler’s inn.  Two of “The Boys,” as they were called, brought eggs and a chicken as presents for the family.

In less than a year, the three sisters were married.

Sources: Curler, Dawna. "Plenty to Choose From: Romancing the Hill Sisters." Southern Oregon Heritage Today, 2006, p. 14.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.