CORNERSTONE HISTORY REVEALS UNUSUAL CONNECTION
CHARLES DEWEY Hilles is recorded in Barnesville historical accounts as the Barnesville native who became President William Howard Taft’s secretary, long-time chairman of the Republican National Committee and vice-president of the New York Life Insurance Company. But little is said that he was a brother of the late Dr. Kyle Miller’s wife, Mayme Hilles Miller who lived at 319 N. Lincoln Ave. where the George Laity family lives now. Samuel Hilles bought Adam Bentz’s “mansion” and lived there with his family for many years. The Millers continued to reside there for many years.
WHAT DOES all this have to do with Charles Dewey Hilles and the cornerstone from the Belmont County Children’s Home? A descendant of the prominent Hilles family, Florid resident, Bill Hilles, has been delving into the early Barnesville years and humanitarian efforts of Charles Dewey Hilles. In his words:
“Most who know of Charles Dewey Hilles, acknowledge his association with the Taft administration, but few know of his work with wayward youngsters. So my focus is his humanitarian works, first in Lancaster, Ohio, and after that in Dobbs Ferry, New York.”
“I’ve been pouring through the ‘Belmont Chronicle’ issues and found a fascinating account of the County Children’s Home cornerstone laying ceremony in June 1879. There was a great parade through the streets of Barnesville and then a festive occasion two miles away where the Home was being built. What makes this interesting in Dewey’s life was the fact that as County Sheriff, Dewey’s father, Samuel Hilles, led the procession as Grand Marshall. As an impressionable 12-year-old Dewey was probably there. This Home and its purpose may have been among the first of his humanitarian experiences. I’ve also learned that he was active in Christian Endeavor and its association with the Presbyterian Church in Barnesville.”
That cornerstone has had its own interesting life. When the Belmont County Children’s Home was closed and torn down, the Masons took back the cornerstone it had laid originally and put it inside its Lodge Hall at 160 E. Main St. When the Masons sold that building, they moved the stone to the Watt Center for History and the Arts.
jeanealities is compiled by Jean Palmer Davies, lifetime Barnesville Enterprise associate. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.