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The Dutiful Son:
Louis W. Hill Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder, James J. Hill


The Ramsey County Historical Society is proud to announce the publication of the new book The Dutiful Son: Louis W. Hill, Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder, James J. Hill.  Local author Biloine (Billie) W. Young and researcher Eileen McCormack bring to light the extraordinary life and contributions of Louis Hill Sr., the second son of James J. Hill.  Following the death of his father, Louis Hill took on the management of the Great Northern Railway and banking empire, became the major force behind the establishment and development of Glacier National Park, restored the St. Paul Winter Carnival as a city-wide celebration and equitably settled his parents’ vast estate despite, at times, bitter opposition from members of his family.

Published by the Ramsey County Historical Society (Minn.) Historical Society, Copyright © 2010
Hard Cover  /  356 Pages  /  7x10   /   Over 125 Photos and Maps, Index   /  ISBN 978-0934294-71-3

Contact Ramsey County Historical Society for a discount schedule and terms 651-222-0701 or 

Members Price: $34.00
Non-Members Price: $38.00
Contact RCHS to order at 651-222-0701 or email info(at)rchs.com



About the Book:
When James Norman, eldest son of James J. Hill, departed St. Paul for the brighter lights of New York City, it was second son Louis Warren Hill who took his father’s place managing the portfolio of railroads that became today’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe. When James J. died without signing his will, it was Louis who executed his father’s vast estate, oversaw the welfare of his mother, and distributed their inheritance to his eight surviving siblings. When their mother, Mary Theresa Hill, died in 1921, their long-simmering family disputes broke out into the open and multiple lawsuits fractured the unity of the family. 

Louis was a worthy successor to his empire-building father. He looked beyond railroads to the nation’s natural resources and identified the value of the iron ore deposits in northeastern Minnesota and the wealth inherent in the vast tracks of timber in Oregon. Louis’ efforts led to the establishment of Glacier National Park and the Great Northern Railway, under his leadership, became its developer. Louis oversaw the design of the historic hotels, and the location of many of the roads and trails. He was an artist who stole time from a hectic schedule to paint. 

Louis rejuvenated St. Paul’s Winter Carnival and led his community in relieving the suffering brought on by the Great Depression. His example of leaving a major portion of his fortune to a foundation, today’s Northwest Area Foundation, inspired two of his sons’ philanthropic efforts—the Jerome and Grotto Foundations.  

Author Biloine (Billie) W. Young and researcher Eileen R. McCormack, depended almost entirely on archival sources to produce this first full-length biography of Louis W. Hill. They reveal the complex personal and business influences on Louis as he succeeded his celebrated father in the management of a vast transportation empire and dealt with the dynamics surrounding his parents’ estates and his siblings’ disputes. In The Dutiful Son Young and McCormack provide an insightful portrait of a conscientious, generous business leader who left a legacy of continued service to communities from the Mississippi to the Pacific along the route of the Great Northern Railway founded by his father.


About the Authors:
The author, Biloine (Billie) Whiting Young, holds a B.A. degree in English and Journalism from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Communications and Latin American History from the University of Illinois, Urbana. A resident of St. Paul, she is the author of numerous journal articles and more than a dozen books. Her books include A Dream for Gilberto: Mexican  Odyssey; Minnesota Women in Politics with Nancy Ankeny; Grand Ave—The Renaissance of  an Urban Street with Prof. David Lanegran; Cahokia: The Great Native American Metropolis with Prof. Melvin Fowler; Obscure Believers: The Mormon Schism of Alpheus Cutler; River of Conflict—River of Dreams: Three Hundred Years on the Upper Mississippi; My Heart, It Is Delicious: The Story of the Center for International Health; and A Noble Task: The Saint Paul Public Library Celebrates 125. She is the recipient of the 2010 More Award given by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons for excellence in orthopedic reporting.  

Young agreed to write the Louis W. Hill biography when Eileen R. McCormack signed on to conduct the research in the vast archive of Hill family and Great Northern Railway papers. For fourteen years McCormack was the associate curator of the Hill Manuscript Collections in St. Paul. Her research in the papers, now housed at the Minnesota Historical Society, provided the documentary foundation for their account of Louis W. Hill’s life in the shadow of his celebrated father.

 McCormack holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in American History, Museum Studies, Women’s Studies, and Historic Preservation from the University of Minnesota. She has published articles and presented public programs dealing with James J. Hill, Louis W. Hill, and Hill family history. McCormack lives in St. Paul where she operates a business that preserves history through archival services, research, and writing for a variety of national clients.


Comments from Readers:

"At long last, Louis W. Hill gets his due. This biography of the second son of ‘Empire Builder’ James J. Hill offers a fascinating insider's look at high finance as well as the often tender and yet sometimes stormy personal relationships that defined one of America's wealthiest families in the opening years of the twentieth century. For the story of the Great Northern Railway and its ongoing role in developing the Northwestern states, it is essential reading."
—Carlos A. Schwantes
    St. Louis Mercantile Library Professor of Transportation and the West
    and coauthor with James P. Ronda of The West the Railroads Made (2008)

  “… at the heart of this biography is the story of one man, his decisions about his life and the context for those decisions; his luck and his talent, his relationships with his parents and siblings, his wife and his children, his career and his community. Yes, he’s silent on some key issues: how did he feel about living in an identity so thoroughly defined by people outside of himself? Did he find comfort or gloom in his father’s shadow? But it is a fascinating life.

            “Who knew that Louis Hill—so eclipsed in his times and ours by his amazing father, James J. Hill—lived such a remarkable life? Young and McCormack, clearly. Now, they’ve made it possible for us to know, too. Thank you to them and to the Ramsey County Historical Society for this book.”
—Annette Atkins                      
    Professor of History/Flynn Professor in the Humanities
    Saint John’s University/College of Saint Benedict
    and author of Creating Minnesota (2007)

"The Dutiful Son is the first fully developed biography of Louis W. Hill—a complicated if talented man who lived always in the shadow of his better-known father, James J. Hill, but one who cut his own wide swath in railroading and in a host of other business and social endeavors. And it was Louis Hill who had to plot and navigate a vexing path through an often public and very hostile family thicket following his father's death. It is a compelling read for those interested in early twentieth century business history and in the life and times of an evolving St. Paul, Minnesota.
—Don L. Hofsommer
    Professor of History
    St. Cloud State University
    and coauthor with Ralph W. Hidy, Muriel E. Hidy, and Roy V. Scott of
    The Great Northern Railway: A History (1988; 2004)



Our Mission
"The Ramsey County Historical Society inspires current and future generations to learn from
and value their history by engaging in a diverse program of presenting, publishing and preserving." 

The place for St. Paul & Ramsey County, Minnesota history.
Ramsey County Historical Society programs include a research center, St. Paul & Ramsey County MN history magazine, 
historical exhibits, historic site attraction the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life.

323 Landmark Center, 75 West Fifth Street, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102    
Phone: (651) 222-0701, Fax: (651) 223-8539

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