About Nathaniel Peter Hill
Nathaniel Peter Hill (February 18, 1832 – May 22, 1900) was a United States Senator from Colorado.
Born in Montgomery, Orange County, New York, at the Nathaniel Hill Brick House (now a museum). He married Alice Hale of Providence, Rhode Island, on July 26, 1860 (she was born January 19, 1840, and died July 19, 1908). Alice's father was Isaac Hale, born in the town of Newbury County of Essex, Mass, Sept. 17, 1807. He was a descendant of Thomas Hale, on of the first settlers in Newbury from England in 1635. Her mother, Harriet Johnson, daughter of David Johnson and Lucy Towne. She was born in the town of Newbury, VT, July 29, 1814. David was a son of Col. Thomas Johnson who distinguished himself in the Revolutionary War. N.P and Alice had three children, Crawford, Isabel, and Gertrude. N.P. took over the family farm in Montgomery, until he was 21, when his eldest brother, James King, attended Yale University. During this time he was a part time student at Montgomery Academy. He graduated from Brown University in 1856.
He was an instructor and later professor of chemistry at Brown from 1856 to 1864. He was the first to bring the idea of laboratories to Brown, which he copied from other schools, mostly in Europe.
He traveled to Colorado in the spring of 1865 to investigate mineral resources. While there, he bought several gold mines, but soon ran into financial difficulties because the smelting techniques at the time were resulting in low yields. The preferred method of extraction in those days was stamp milling. A stamp mill consisted of heavy iron blocks attached to wooden or steel rods that rose and fell in accordance with a horizontal beam. After the ore containing the gold was crushed sufficiently, the resulting dust was run over copper plates containing mercury, which formed an alloy from which the gold could be more easily extracted. Once miners got past the upper ore deposits, they found that the lower ores contained large amounts of complex sulfides. As a result, a precipitous drop in the recovery rate of gold occurred.
Accordingly, he spent a portion of 1865 and 1866 in Swansea, Wales and Freiburg, Saxony studying metallurgy, and returned to the United States with a perfected method of smelting. Hill learned while abroad that the best method was that of copper matte. In this method- known as the Swansea process- copper sulfide ore was mixed with gold and silver ore and the copper acted as a vehicle to hold the gold and silver. After returning, he took up a permanent residence in Black Hawk, Colorado. While in Blackhawk, he had the opportunity to work with James E. Lyon, an entrepreneur who he had met on his first trip to Colorado, and who had erected the first real smelter there. He capitalized on the experience and with his professional training as a chemist and the knowledge gained in Europe, founded the Boston & Colorado Smelting Company.
He was mayor of Black Hawk in 1871 and a member of the Territorial council in 1872 and 1873. He moved to Denver in 1873 and engaged in smelting and the real estate business, and was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate and served from March 4, 1879, to March 3, 1885.
While in the Senate, he was chairman of the Committee on Mines and Mining (Forty-seventh Congress), Committee on Post Office and Post Roads (Forty-eighth Congress).
Hill was owner and publisher of the Denver Republican newspaper, and a member of the United States delegation to the International Monetary Commission in 1891. He died in Denver on May 22, 1900 and was interred in Fairmount Cemetery.