Introduction to Samuel Magnus Hill

This biographical portrait of Samuel Magnus Hill, written by James Iverne Dowie and originally included as two separate chapters in his doctoral thesis (later published as Prairie Grass Dividing in 1959), describes Hillís life from his arrival in the United States in 1868 to his move to Oregon in 1915. Dowie, writing more than thirty years after Hillís death, never had a chance to interview Samuel Magnus Hill, but based his research on some of Hillís personal papers saved by his daughter, Cordelia Hill Barnes, on interviews with people who knew him, and on material extracted from various archives. Sadly, some of the papers studied by Dowie, such as Hillís unpublished memoir, now appear to have been lost. On the other hand, among the Hill documents that fortunately have been preserved in the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College (where Hill was a student in the late 1870ís), there is material that Dowie never knew existed (and therefore never wrote about). The archive contains, for example, a copy of a Hill typescript entitled Sverigeresan [the trip to Sweden], describing a journey back to his native country in 1901. For these reasons it is important to keep in mind that Dowieís study is, on the whole, an attempt to describe the push toward higher education among the Swedes in Nebraska, and not a complete biography of Hillís life. A biography Hillís life still needs to be written.

Following Hillís university education, his years as a college instructor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, and his stint as an unsuccessful Lutheran missionary among Scandinavian Mormons in Utah, Hill was called by a newly founded Swedish school called Luther Academy (later renamed Luther College) in Wahoo, Nebraska. Serving initially as a teacher, but eventually also as the schoolís president for fifteen years, Luther College became Hillís mission in life and the main focus of Dowieís study. But Hill had yet one more incarnation in a very rich and varied lifeóthat as minister and poet in a small Swedish community in Oregon. A brief synopsis of those years has been added as a postscript.

Lars NordstrŲm, Ph.D.

 

gravestone