What Happened to Ada Hill?
Updated: May 7
Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.
The past few weeks I have been focusing on different historic events, people or places located in Folsom. This week is going to be a little different. You are still going to read about people in Folsom, but I also want to show you how I research them.
Recently I received a research request asking about Ada Marion Hill, a little girl who died at age 7. The request stated that they found information saying Ada had been killed by “H. Carr”. I immediately was intrigued and if you read my blog two weeks ago, you already know that true crime is my favorite. Regardless of content, it’s my part of my job to answer research questions but I can say that some topics are more interesting to me than others and this falls into the interesting category. Before we dive into what I found (or didn’t find) and how I found it, I want to introduce you to the Hill family.
Ada Hill’s mother was named Marion Caroline Sanders and she first came to the area from Indiana with her family in the 1850s, her father was Chauncey (or Chancey) Sanders and her mother was Lucy Ann Nichols Sanders (Later Bennet). Marion had 3 siblings, Mary Sanders Corson, Edward Randall, who was a Pony Express rider and Ruby Sanders Hitchcock (later Jones) and later multiple half siblings from her mother’s second marriage.
In 1864, Marion married Tyler Jefferson Hill, a blacksmith and stable owner in Folsom who had come from New York. Together they had three children: Ada Marion Hill in (b. 1867), Charles Edward Hill (b.1870) and Joseph Washington Hill (b.1872). T.J. Hill, as he was better known, later became Constable in Folsom.
Now that you are introduced to the family involved, I will tell you how I got this information. When a research request comes in, I always go first to our cataloging program because that’s where we record everything in the museum. From there, I can see all our photographs, artifacts and archival material and its location within the museum, so I don’t have to hunt it down by memory. In this case, I was asked about information relating to Ada Hill’s death. After a quick search I found that all we had were photographs and a quick note on Ada saying that she had died, but no information on how or when. Unfortunately, this time the catalog wasn’t helpful.
Next, I go to our research binders which are organized by a good old-fashioned card index (yes, I am aware that this is 2020). No Ada Hill here, just T.J. Hill in some articles and advertisements for his blacksmith shop or reelection as constable…and an article detailing his arrest of a George Carr in 1866 for theft. Now I was onto something, surely this was the key to what happened to Ada Hill. Nope. George Carr seemed to live a long life of arrests and theft but no connection to Ada Hill or an H. Carr. Although I still think the coincidence is fascinating.
Alright so, nothing useful in the research binders. At this point I was getting well acquainted with the family in general but no closer to finding out what happened to Ada.
Now its on to the microfilm reader. Yes, again I am aware that this is 2020 but our microfilm reader, which is older than I am, does not. From an earlier internet search, I know that Ada Hill died in November 1874 (thank you Find a Grave) so I went straight to our 1873-1876 roll for the Folsom Telegraph and…another dead end. The roll skips from 1873 to 1875.
As you can see by now, research can often be hours of work with very little information gained and quite frequently, a dead end. You also have to take into account all the searching for name variations as well, will the perfect piece of information be found under Tyler Jefferson Hill? T.J. Hill? Tyler J. Hill? Or Constable Hill and so on. Thankfully I am too curious (i.e. stubborn) for my own good so dead end after dead end rarely stops me from trying again.
So now my last resort, online searches. I say this only because I don’t trust a lot of information circulated online, often it is edited by whoever and not checked for accuracy or sourced. I have found it to be extremely helpful in the past by using websites such as Newspapers.com because they are just a searchable newspaper database but other sites I take with a grain of salt and always look for another source as well.
The obvious first internet search was on Newspapers.com (this isn’t a sponsored blog post but if you’re reading this and work for Newspapers.com or Ancestry, hi, my name is Kaitlyn and I would love to save money each month). It didn’t take long for me to find out that their database also didn’t have the Folsom Telegraph from 1874. Another dead end. 1874 was nearly 150 years ago so its understandable that newspapers from that year might be missing but it’s an extremely disappointing feeling. Searching Sacramento newspapers from 1874 uncovered one result for Ada, a single line in the Sacramento Daily Union stating when she had died and her age.
Another internet search connected me to Ancestry.com and someone had entered that Ada had been “killed in a tragic accident on the railroad tracks in Folsom” but with no source sited. So, what are we to take from this? Was Ada killed by the mysterious “H. Carr”? Or was she killed on the railroad tracks in Folsom? Or did she die from some other third cause that is yet to be revealed? Its difficult to say. As I have shown you, research takes you down different paths that don’t always pan out. Typically, I would reach out to other local archives to see if they had information or by some miracle an 1874 Folsom Telegraph, but that will have to wait until this lock down ends.
For now, the mystery of what happened to Ada Marion Hill will remain just that…but my curiosity refuses to let her remain just a single line in an old newspaper and I hope one day I can update all of you.
As for the rest of the Hill family, T.J. Hill died almost exactly a year after Ada, leaving Marion a widow with her two remaining children. She remarried a Mr. Lockhart and remained in Sacramento County until her death in 1922. Her sons both married and had children, remaining in Sacramento County until their own deaths.