James Jarome Hill was born near Rockwood, Ontario in 1838. A boyhood accident that blinded him in one eye dashed his early dreams of becoming a doctor. He was forced to go to work at an early age due to the death of his father. At the age of 16, Hill went to St. Paul, Minnesota and took a job with a steamboat company. At the age of 25, he became an agent for the Northwestern Packet Company and organized the Red River Transportation Company five years later.
The Red River Transportation Company was the first in a series of enterprises which led to completion of the Great Northern Railway. The Railway was completed in 1893 and combined existing lines and new consturction. The railway ran from Lake Superior to Puget Sound, Washington. It was the first transcontinental railroad built without government aid. James Hill later directed transportation between the United States and the Orient.
James Jarome Hill was a famous businessman. He earned the nickname “Empire Builder” for his work in the developing area of the United States between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest. Hill was an important part of changing the United States into a land of progress and prosperity.
Hill began his career in railroad manafemen in 1878, when he and three other associates bought the bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Hill took interest in all aspects of the management, and his railroad became known for rigorous efficiency and financial soundness.
To reduce competition, Hill had acquired control of the Northern Pacific, and to gain an entry into Chicago he bought the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy in 1901. He gave Northern Pacific a half interest in the Burlington. Competition between the two for Northern Pacific stock caused the Wall Street panic of 1901. The Northern Securities Co, formedin 1901 as a holding company for Hill properties, was dissolved in 1904 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Hill was also an organizer of the Canadian Pacific Pailroad. Besides transportantion, he was interested in agriculture and conservation. He died in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 29, 1916.