James J. Hill was born on September 16, 1883, close to Guelph, Ontario.
He started out poor and impoverished and ended as someone in history books.
His father worked as a hired hand on various farms. The earlier years in his life, he had a decent education at Rockwood Academy until his father died, and he had to help supply the family by working. His mother ran an inn, and James’ job was for a grocer. He studied under Reverend William Wetherald, who taught him math and english.
He wanted to be an animal trapper, so he moved to the United States when he was 17.
That did not satisfy him, so he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he started to work for a steamboat company.
When he was a child he’d lost sight in his right eye, so he could not fight in the civil war.
Instead he helped form the volunteer corps. This connected with bookkeeping and handling freight from different employers. This gave him experience in shipping and trading.
In the year 1879, James and other partners founded a business that formed out of the bankrupt St. Paul & Pacific Railroad company in to the successful St. Paul, Minnesota & Manitoba Railway Company. After a few years of working there he was promoted to the company president, his amazing management skills gave a firm reputation.
He decided to develop his railroad all the way to the west coast, they ridiculed the idea, and named it “Hill’s Folly”. But he had his heart set on it, through Hill’s surveys of the land, he located Marias Pass, which was the lowest crossing in the Rocky Mountains.
In his life he achieved similar things such as expanding through Washington to the West Coast with his newly named Great Northern Railway Company.
James gave the business to his son in 1907, and came to work everyday until a week before his death.
“Most men who have really lived have had, in some share, their great adventure. This railway is mine.” ~ James J. Hill