Back in Time: The North Hill vs. the South Hill

The Hooley Delivery Wagon in 1895. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)


It is not uncommon to have communities split into different sections. From New York’s different boroughs to the New Orleans parishes – the place where you come from in a community can be as distinctive as the community itself.

In Stillwater is a community filled with ravines and hills, it’s not surprising that there would be friendly competition between the North and South Hills.

It is not known if there was a thought to make the two hills when Harvey Wilson platted Stillwater in 1848, but it seemed to work out that way. As the original town of Stillwater grew with more additions, the differences between the areas started to show.

The earliest advertisement for the north hill was from Miss Eggleston who would “give instruction in Piano Music,” on the “north hill.” It was on this north hill that St. Michael’s Catholic Church started in 1853 before moving to the South Hill in the 1870s.

The actual line of the beginning of each hill is subjective depending on who you talk to. The line to the North Hill is sometimes looked at as Laurel Street, and the South Hill sometimes as Pine Street. These definition lines have changed and blurred over the years.

Some of the early competitions between the two “hills” was in baseball. In a note in the May 4, 1889 Stillwater Messenger, it said that the “south and north hill juvenile baseball nines, captained by “Tug” Wilson and Will Alexander, respectively, will play at the north Main Street brick yard grounds,” the score was not reported. Another match that same year was played at the north hill ground also stating that “both nines are in good trim and a close game is expected.”

Another form of competition between the two was card games. There was the North Hill Euchre Club and the North and South Hill Whist Clubs.

In March 1890, a third contest was held between the North and South Hill Whist Clubs at the residence of A.C. Hospes. The North Hill team was victorious at each playing table by a joint majority of 22 points. Playing for the North Hill that day was Leonard Clark, F.L. McKusick, A.C. Hospes and C.H. Brown. Playing for the south hillers were August Booren, L.L. Manwaring, J.S. O’Brien, B.J. Merrill, R.M. Anderson and J.N. Castle.

The North Hill Whist Club in the 1880s. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

In January 1891 under the leadership of R.G. Rhoades, the North Hill Band was organized. These musicians would play at local weddings and other events throughout the community and even around the state. By 1896, the band was so popular it changed its name to the Stillwater City Band.

On both hills there were schools. In the North Hill, the Lincoln School was the first high school in the city. A new high school building was built in 1887 on the South Hill, next to the Central School. The South Hill could boast the Washington County Courthouse, while on the North Hill was the Staples, Sabin and Sauntry mansions.

Each community had its local businesses. The North and South Hill had meat markets by the name of their respective hills. The North Hill Meat Market was operated by Edward O. Johnson on North Fourth Street and the South Hill Meat Market was operated by Dennis J. Hooley on South Fourth Street. Hooley would later branch out into groceries and the family eventually operated the Public Provision stores and then developed Consumers United in Buying – or CUB Foods.

The North Hill Band in 1893. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

There are other sections of Stillwater with names such as the West Hill and Dutchtown. The competition between the sections of Stillwater still underlies many of the sporting events and even in some campaigns. Like those sections of New York or New Orleans, Stillwater is stronger as a whole, but the parts that make it up are unique in their own way and always will be!

Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society

  • minnesotasam

    Fantastic article – thank you Brent!