Almost Yesterday: Morgan Hill of Cape Girardeau, Missouri … and Morgan Hill, California
It seems like Almost Yesterday that the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point in Utah. The year was 1869. Within a few months, Hiram Morgan Hill and his sister Sarah Althea Hill were on the new “Pacific Train” heading to California in search of fame and fortune.
At the time, “Morgan” Hill was 22 years of age; Sarah was 20. They were the orphaned children of Samuel Allen Hill, an attorney and Missouri legislator, and Julia Sloan, daughter of Hiram Sloan, who had operated a mill on Sloan’s Creek at the northern edge of Cape Girardeau.
Once in California, Morgan Hill found a position as a teller in the Bank of California, owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt and managed by William Ralston. Ralston was impressed by Hill, and quickly advanced him to a prominent position.
In 1880, Hill met Diana Helen Murphy, the beautiful daughter of cattle baron Daniel Murphy, one of the largest landowners in North America. But Murphy disliked Hill, and sought to block the developing relationship. In 1882 Morgan Hill and Diana Murphy were secretly married. Shortly thereafter, Daniel Murphy, on his death bed, made Diana promise that she would never marry Hill. Diana assured her dying father that she would never do so.
Soon, Morgan and Diana Hill inherited 4,500 acres at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, today’s Silicon Valley.
There Morgan and Diana built Villa Mira Monte, a grand estate overlooking the Monterey Highway and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Conductors on passing trains would call out the stop as “Morgan’s Hill.”
Today, Morgan Hill, California is a beautiful community of 40,000 people, named for a young man from Cape Girardeau, Missouri.