JUDGE BENEZET HOUGH BILL

 

BIOGRAPHY

AS RECORDED IN:

COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF 
TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES CONNECTICUT.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PROMINENT AND REPRESENTATIVE  CITIZENS AND OF MANY OF THE EARLY SETTLED FAMILIES
PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903          P.  8

JUDGE BENEZET HOUGH BILL, a prominent lawyer of Rockville, Tolland county, of nearly fifty years practiced there, is a representative of one of the old and prominent families of New England. The Bill family is one of the oldest in all England, being directly traceable in a single county, that of Shropshire, for a period of about 500 years.

The first of the family in America was John Bill, from whom Judge B.H. Bill is a descendant in the eighth generation, the line of descent being as follows: John, Philip, John, John, Jonathan, Eleazer, Josiah Bissel, and Benezet Hough.

John Bill, born in the parish of Much Wenlock, appeared in London, England, in 1613, as a publisher to King James and as one of the firm of Bill & Barker, published the first London Gazette, in the time of Charles II. His first wife was Anne, the daughter of Thomas Mountford, D.D. Their son (I) John and his wife, Dorothy (Tuttle), arrived from England prior to 1635, and were the progenitors of the family in America.

(II) Philip Bill, the son of John, born in England about 1620, was but a lad at the time of his arrival in America. His residence was at Pulling Point, then a part of Boston, and later at Ipswich, but about 1668 he settled in the town of New London, Conn., on the east side of the Thames river, in that portion of the town that in 1705 was incorporated as the town of Groton. The death of Philip occurred in 1689, and his widow, who married Samuel Bucknall, died in 1709. (III) John, son of Philip, born in 1667, in Massachusetts, married first, Mercy Fowler, and second, in 1726, Hannah Rist. In early life he removed from Groton to the town of Lebanon, where he seems to have spent the remainder of his life, his death occurring in 1739.

(IV) John (3), son of John (2), born in New London in 1696, removed to Lebanon with his father in 1703, residing there the remainder of his life. In 1725 he was admitted to the church in Lebanon, his wife, Mary, in 1733, and all their children were there baptized. He died in 1746, his widow surviving almost half a century.

(V) Jonathan Bill was born in Lebanon, Conn., Feb. 6, 1725-26. He was an extensive farmer in Exeter Society. He was twice married; his first wife was Mary, and the second was Phebe. His family consisted of four children, Lucy, Joseph, Jonathan, and Eleazer.

(VI) Eleazer, son of Jonathan, was born Feb. 24, 1758, in Lebanon. On May 27, 1790, he married for his first wife Elizabeth Cole, of Lebanon, who was the mother of his children. His second wife was Betsey Fitch, also of that town. They were married March 31, 1808. Eleazer Bill was a farmer, and always resided in Lebanon. He became a soldier in the Revolution, was wounded, and received a pension from the government, dying at the advanced age of ninety-two, his children being: Chester, who was born in 1791, and died in Columbia, Conn., where he kept a noted tavern; Josiah Bissell, the father of our subject; and David, born in 1797, who went to Snowville, Va., from Massachusetts, where he became a planter and extensive slave owner.

(VII) Josiah Bissell Bill, father of our subject was born May 13, 1793, in Lebanon, and on March 27, 1816, was married to Harriet Tracy Hough, of Bozrah, born May 3, 1794. (The sketch of the prominent Hough family appears in the records of Middlesex county.) Immediately after marriage, the young couple removed to New Milford, Susquehanna Co., Pa., where for twenty years the husband followed the occupation of teaching. In 1835, or at the end of this period, he returned to Connecticut, settling in the town of Lebanon, with the intention of taking care of his aged father. The trip back to Connecticut was made with a covered wagon which carried their goods, while they drove the entire distance in a carriage, the magnitude of such a trip, in these days of rapid progress, scarcely being appreciated. Mr. Bill had no other preparation for the profession of teaching than that offered in the incomplete schools of his time, but for twenty-three years he acceptably filled the pedagogic chair and was always regarded as an intellectual man. A radical temperance advocate, he made many addresses on the subject. After his return from Pennsylvania, he lived with his old father for several years and then went into mercantile business in the town of Columbia, which was then quite a thriving locality. For about three years he remained in Columbia and then removed to the town of Vernon, where he bought a farm near Bolton Stone Quarry, in the south part of the town of Vernon, but as his health was poor, he gave up farming and after about six years of residence there removed to Lebanon, where his death occurred Nov. 16, 1846. The death of his wife occurred April 1, 1852, in Rockville, where she had been making her home with Judge Bill for several years. Both father and mother sleep in the old cemetery in Lebanon, Connecticut.

Josiah Bissell Bill was a staunch Whig, but not an office seeker, although he served as justice of the peace in Pennsylvania. His religious connection was with the Baptist Church. The children of Mr. And Mrs. Bill were: Joseph C., born in 1817, who died in 1839; Mary E., born in 1822, in Pennsylvania, who married Hon. Dwight Loomis, an ex-member of Congress and a Judge and prominent attorney of Rockville, now of Hartford, and who died in 1864; Edwin, born in 1827, who married Susan Corey and lives at Vernon Center, Conn.; and our subject.

(VIII) Benezet Hough Bill was born Feb. 26, 1829, in New Milford, Susquehanna Co., Pa., and received his primary education in the State of his birth. When but six years old he made the trip to Connecticut with his parents, and his first school teacher in Vernon was his father. Later he attended the Lebanon Academy, and from there went to Worcester, Mass., and to the Suffield Literary Institute, both of these being schools of note at that time, going thence to the Academy at Wilbraham, Mass. While still a young man he taught school at Lebanon, Conn., at Sandwich, Mass., and at the academy at Vernon, but in 1851 he entered the law office of Hon. Dwight Loomis, of Rockville, and was graduated from the Yale Law School at New Haven in the class of 1854, with the degree of B.L.

For three years, beginning in 1855, Mr. Bill was associated with his preceptor, Judge Loomis, in the practice of the law at Rockville. Possessing fine natural talent and superior qualifications adapted to the successful practice of his profession, he established, in a very brief period, not only a remunerative business, but a most excellent reputation as a citizen. Proving himself to be an honorable and public-spirited gentleman, as well as an able attorney, his townsmen were not slow to recognize his abilities and signify the confidence which they have ever since continued to repose in him. In 1869 he was appointed State’s attorney for Tolland county and held the office for twenty-four years. He held the position of judge of the Rockville city court, for many years, resigning in 1899, owing to the age limit. For a number of years he was corporation counsel. He has been prosecuting attorney for some years.

For many years Judge Bill has occupied a leading position among the lawyers of Rockville, and indeed of all Tolland county, and no citizen of his section has won more honorable distinction in all the walks of public or private life. For many years he has been president of the Rockville Savings Bank, one of the old and prosperous institutions of that city. Judge Bill is connected with the Union Congregational Society at Rockville.

On Nov. 2, 1859, Judge Bill was married to Kate, daughter of Rev. Leverett Griggs, D.D., and Catherine (Stearns) Griggs, of Bristol, Conn., who died April 13, 1887. On July 10, 1890, Judge Bill was married to Lucinda R., daughter of Charles R. and Falla (Roberts) Bronson, of Waterbury, Conn., where she was born and reared. The children of Judge Bill were: Lila Loomis, born Aug. 16, 1861, who married Hon. Charles Phelps of Rockville, ex-Secretary of State, and ex-Attorney General, and who died in 1888; and Katie Elizabeth, born in 1864, who married Dr. Thomas F. Rockwell, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere. Mrs. Bill is a member of the D.A.R., a lady of refinement and culture, and is prominent in social circles. Her husband is one of Rockville Library trustees. Since 1885 his residence has been on Park street. Coming of an old family which gave Westminster its first dean, Judge Bill fitly represents it in dignity and honor.

Reproduced by:  Linda D. Pingel

 

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