Capt. J. Roland Hilman, the efficient commandment of the State Soldiers' Home at Columbia Falls, Mont. comes of distinguished fighting stock. His grandfather Hilman having been an officer in the Revolutionary War and his father a first lieutenant in the War of 1812. Among the cherished souvenirs in Captain Hilman's possession is a woolen quilt which was made by his Grandmother, Katherine Dougherty. This was carried through the War of 1812 by Lieutenant John Hilman and through the Civil War by Captain Hilman. Lost with his entire kit of baggage in a rushing southern stream, it was saved by an Indiana soldier and after a lapse of months was restored to its owner.
The Captain's parents were John and Sophia (Dougherty) Hilman, both natives of Pennsylvania and descendents of early colonial emigrants of England and Ireland. At the time of the immigration into Ohio, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Lieut. John Hilman and wife made their pioneer home in Ashland County, that state as farmers. Here their son J. Roland Hilman was born on Christmas day, 1832, and here his life passed on the farm until fifteen years had gone, when he availed himself of the educational advantages of the university at Hayesville, Ohio, where he was a diligent and progressive student. Before he finished the course of study, however, the golden glitter of California drew him to the Pacific coast. Leaving his Ohio home on May 10, 1851, and traveling by way of Nicaragua, he arrived in San Francisco June 24 of the same year. After engaging in lumbering for a year in partnership with his brother, he bought and laid out the mining village of Ashland, Ore., at that time supposed to be in California. In 1859 the entire plant, for which he originally paid $20,000, with saw mill, planing mill and various industries and dwellings that cluster around such a center, were destroyed by a fire started by a tramp. The property was uninsured and its destruction was a total loss to Mr. Hilman, who returned to Ohio. On June 4, 1861, he responded to the country's call for soldiers by enlisting in Company C, Forty-second Ohio Regiment, commanded by Colonel (later General and President) James A. Garfield. After an effective organization of the new troops at Camp Chase, wherein Mr. Hilman was elected second lieutenant of his company, the regiment began its brilliant record of service by crossing into Kentucky and fighting with General Humphrey Marshall on the Big Sandy. From this time till the close of the War the history of his regiment is the history of Captain Hilman. He was never ill a day and never took a furlough, but was always with his regiment, participating in every march, skirmish and battle in which it was engaged. In all the operations of the Army of the Cumberland, in the surrounding area of Vicksburg and the bloody encounters previous to the capitulation of the city, and later in the Red River expedition, the Forty-second Ohio took a conspicuous part and its battle roll numbers many of the hardest fought contests of the War. It was the first regiment to cross the Mississippi below Vicksburg in placing the terrible coils of war around the doomed city, fighting twenty-four hours at Thompsons' hill to secure a footing and was then engaged in daily battle until Vicksburg was reached. The Captain, although in the front of the regiment, the post of the color company, was wounded but twice while in the service, once in the left leg and once in the side of the neck at Champion's hill, both bullet wounds. To write a full military history would be to write in detail the brilliant record of the regiment. Abler pens than ours have done extremely well and to their authoritative volumes we refer the reader. Suffice it to say here that he was captain of his company when it was mustered out of service at Haines Bluff, Mississippi in 1864, but, instead of returning to Ohio with his comrades, he remained with the veterans at their request for four months longer and until all military operations ceased. One thing must be mentioned to make this a true record. The Captain has never used intoxicants or tobacco, and his sobriety was the means of placing him in many a confidential and responsible position during his military life, and never did the trust miscarry.
For some years after the War Captain Hilman engaged in a grocery and produce business at West Salem and prospered in it financially, but loaning his money after the sale of the business while looking for a location, he unfortunately lost most of it. He came to Montana in 1880 to engage in stockraising, but instead devoted his attention to dairying, at Miles City for some time, and later for three years at Billings, where he was one of the founders of the town. In 1885 he made his home in Helena where he followed various occupations until 1894, when he was appointed crier of the United States courts in Montana. He was discharging the duties of this position to the satisfaction of all concerned when the State Soldier's Home was established at Columbia Falls in the Flathead valley. He was selected as the proper person to have in charge of that important institution of the home and was appointed commandant of the home by the board of managers. He entered upon the performance of his duties May 1, 1897 and is still in office faithfully caring for the soldier boys.
Republican in politics Captain Hilman holds many of the old Whig principles advocated by his father and grandfather, and is strongly Baptist in religious faith, being one of the deacons of the First Baptist Church of Helena. He has been an Odd Fellow since 1854, and a Freemason since 1868, belonging to both lodge and chapter, and in both orders holds membership in Ohio.
In 1867 Captain Hilman was untied in wedlock with Miss Martha J. Pancoast, daughter of Lincoln and Elizabeth (Cook) Pancoast. She was also a native of Ohio and her death occurred in 1894. Their children are: Clifford, assistant assayer in the United States assay office in Helena and Claudia, now Mrs. John W. Wade, also of Helena, Mr. Wade being a civil engineer.
Source: Progressive Men of the State of Montana Vol. II 1901
Notes: John Hilman was born John Roland Helman. At some point in Montana he changed his last name to Hilman. It is unclear why he changed it.
Regarding his land ownership in Ashland, OR. John's brother Abel and his wife had 320 acres from a Donation Land Act claim. Abel, being deeply in debt, signed over his half, 160 acres, to his brother to keep from losing it. On October 1, 1859 the Ashland Boarding House burned down. This building also housed the Post Office and was where the towns legal records were kept. This did not have anything to do with the saw mill as mentioned above. Ashland was not a mining town. It was started with a sawmill and a flour mill. Abel, anxious to see the town grow, donated 12 lots to anyone who would start a business there.
As for the military service of John's father, we have not been able to substantiate this. The same information appears in the biographies of three of the brothers, John, Abel and Jacob. The above regarding John's Great Grandfather's Revolutionary War service is new information and not been researched yet.