Heritage, 2011, Volume 2 Page: 5
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attacks. In 1842, Asa and sons, Jeffrey Barksdale and John
Christopher Columbus, were among the Texas militia
volunteers who participated in the Mier Expedition, an
ill-fated incursion into enemy territory. The three were
captured during the clash with Mexican troops. As the
Texans were marched further into Mexico's interior, Asa
was among the 176 prisoners who made an unsuccessful
escape attempt. He was forced to participate in the Black
Bean Episode, a lottery to choose the 17 men that were
subsequently executed by Mexican authorities as punish-
ment for the escape attempt. Although Asa's life was
spared when he selected a white bean (see sidebar below),
the return of both the father and son, Jeffrey, to Texas
came by way of a strange twist of fate that has become a
unique footnote in the Hill family history.
For Asa and Elizabeth Hill and their
children establishing roots in Texas
began with participation in the figh, .,
independence from Mexican rule. Yet 1
the same time, this loyalty to Texas lec
to an unexpected kinship with Mexico.
At 14 years of age, John Christopher Columbus' fearless
attitude during the Mier engagement so impressed Mexican
General Pedro Ampudia that the military leader sent the boy
to meet with President Santa Anna, who was also taken by
John's intelligence and character. Hill was persuaded to
remain in Mexico by the promised release of his father and
brother. He lived at the home of the Secretary of War General
Jose Tornel, adopted the name of Juan Cristobal Gil, was
educated in Mexico, and became a mining and civil engineer.
John visited his Texas family on many occasions and briefly
served as a translator at the General Land Office in Austin
from 1895 to 1896. However, this Hill sibling spent the
greatest part of his life in Mexico, marrying twice and father-
ing four children before his death in Monterrey in 1904.
Within a year of Asa's and Jeffrey's return to Texas, the fam-
ily patriarch died in Rutersville in July 1844. Son Jeffrey
went on to serve in the Confederate Army and was living in
Gonzales County when he died in 1901. As a member of the
Texas Veterans Association, James Monroe Hill was on the
committee that successfully lobbied the state to acquire the
San Jacinto battlefield, paving the way for a future memorial
and museum. His son George (Sr.) carried on his father's
effort to preserve the historic site during his tenure as
Secretary of the San Jacinto Park Commission. In turn,
grandson George Hill, Jr., served as the commission's chair-
man and then as president of the San Jacinto Museum's first
board of trustees. Hill and his family supported the funding
effort to establish the museum and donated artifacts, books,
and documents for the institution's collections.
Above: A.C. Hill, a descendant of Jeffrey Barksdale Hill, is pic-
tured at the state historical marker honoring Asa Hill. Photograph
courtesy of Angie Hill Price. Opposite: Left, James Monroe Hill
and his wife, Jane Hallowell Kerr, late 1800s; right, Texas
Veterans Association Reunion, circa late 1800s. James M. Hill is
seated in the middle row, second from right. Images courtesy of
the San Jacinto Museum.
For Asa and Elizabeth Hill and their children establishing
roots in Texas began with participation in the fight for inde-
pendence from Mexican rule. Yet at the same time, this loy-
alty to Texas led to an unexpected kinship with Mexico.
Today, descendents of the Hill family take pride in their
heritage and continue to be involved with the San Jacinto
Monument and Museum.-Pamela Murtha
* The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical
* San Jacinto Museum website: www.sanjacinto-museum.org
* Hill Family Genealogy website: www.hillgenealogy.com
The Black Bean Episode, an aftermath of the Mier
Expedition, resulted from an attempted escape of the
captured Texans as they were being marched from Mier
to Mexico City. After an escape at Salado, Tamaulipas,
on February 11, 1843, some 176 of the men were
recaptured within about a week. A decree that all who
participated in the break were to be executed was
modified to an order to kill every tenth man. The vic-
tims were chosen by lottery, each man drawing a bean
from an earthen jar containing 176 beans, 17 black
beans being the tokens signifying death.-From the
Handbook of Texas Online
Volume 2 2011 I TEXAS HERITAGE 5
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 2, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254221/m1/7/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.