Sunday, July 8, 2012

William Hayes Hilton (1829-1909) - California Artist

Hilton Gravestone, Plot 36, Lot 287; The backside reads "Pioneer of 1849"

William Hayes Hilton was born in New York City in 1829.

He enlisted in the Mexican War and served under Army General Zachary Taylor, who would later become President of the United States. Hilton participated in the Texas-Mexican broder skirmishes of 1845-46 before heading home to New York. In 1849, he headed to California in search of gold. While in the gold country he sketched the mining camps and scenes of everyday life. Apparently unsuccessfl as a gold miner, he began raising cattle.

"The Butterfield Overland Express Approaches" by William Hayes Hilton
Over the ensuing years Hilton created some enduring images of the Gold Rush era, including his 1861 painting "Pack Mules Climbing the Sierra Grade," an image of the "Washoe canaries" that carried treasure and mail. In later years, he would sketch images of Lake County, Sonoma County and San Francisco.

"Maricopa Village" by William Hayes Hilton
Many of Hilton's works appear in Edward Vischer's "A Pictorial of California," including Overland Mail Service, Stage Sleighing, Teaming up the Sierra Nevada and Treasure and Letter Express. There are also collections of his drawings of Mexico, Arizona and Texas done between 1858-1877.

Hilton lived in Virginia City in the early 1870's and was superintendent of a mine until 1873. Later in life he gave up a property in Glen Ellen and moved to Oakland.

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