In the Gum Log District of Union County, a post office by the name of Napoleon was opened June 20, 1881. This northwestern district of the county borders North Carolina, Towns County to the east, Ivy Log District on the west, and a portion of Lower Young Cane and Blairsville Districts to the south.
Why the unusual name Napoleon for this post office? It was given the first name of its first postmaster, Napoleon Bonaparte Hill. When he made application for a post office, he requested the name Reece’s Creek, as the location was on this creek. Evidently the U. S. postmaster general thought Napoleon would be an unusual name, as indeed it was. About two hundred people lived within the vicinity of the post office and would be served by it, according to the statistics given on the application.
Those who served the Napoleon post office were: Napoleon B. Hill (twice), June 20, 1881-March 12, 1883 and October 2, 1884-March 19, 1891. Miss Mary Ursula Hill, his daughter, served from March 12, 1883 until her father took the position again in 1884. The other three postmasters were Miss Callie Lance (3-19-1891), Charles N. Hill (4-22-1897), and Theodosia E. Mauney (5-17-1902) until the post office was discontinued March 30, 1907.
Napoleon Bonaparte Hill led an interesting life. Born to Felix Walker and Elizabeth Cooper Hill in Rutherford County, North Carolina on November 14, 1832, he seemed destined to become a soldier, with a name honoring that of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France and military leader during the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. The name itself shows that the family was familiar with personages in world history.
Napoleon Bonaparte Hill married Mary Arabella Evans in 1860 in Cherokee County, North Carolina. Their first child, Mary Ursula (born September 14, 1861) came after he signed up for service in the Civil War, along with his brothers, Abel and Noah, on June 17, 1861. They served in Company A of the 29th Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry, State Troops, Confederate States of America. Napoleon was promoted to Second Lieutenant on November 4, 1861.
Napoleon saw action in many battles in Tennessee and, Kentucky, Mississippi and back to Tennessee. He was wounded and in a hospital in Atlanta when the infamous siege by Sherman’s Army occurred in August, 1864. Hill was sent back to Cherokee County, North Carolina in October, 1864, with orders to recruit absent, paroled and recently released soldiers of Company A, as well as any others eligible for enlistment. The forty-five men joined as Company H to Major Ben M. Ledford’s Calvary Regiment of North Georgia Troops. They patrolled North Georgia and Western North Carolina for renegades and bushwhackers, the most notorious of whom were the Ray (Rae) Brothers. Napoleon Bonaparte Hill received the rank of major prior to his company’s surrender and release at Kingston, Georgia on May 12, 1865.
In 1865, Napoleon, his wife, Arabella, their daughter Mary Ursula, Napoleon’s parents, Felix Walker and Elizabeth Cooper Hill, and other of the family moved to Reece Creek, Union County, Georgia. The Hills became the third owners of a land grant issued first in 1832.
Napoleon built an imposing two-story house north of Reece Creek on the Blairsville to Murphy, NC road (now Hwy. 129). He farmed the land and opened a general store. It was probably in the store where the Napoleon post office opened in June, 1881. There, as people came to the store and for their mail, they no doubt heard of Napoleon Bonaparte Hill’s experiences in the Civil War.
Napoleon “Poly” Hill served as sheriff of Union County in 1876 and Clerk of Superior Court in the late 1880’s. His brother Charles Hill, had served as sheriff and was killed in the line of duty in 1867.
Besides their firstborn, Mary Ursula, Napoleon and Mary Arabella Hill had these children: America Victoria, Benjamin Harrison, Julia Elizabeth, and Charles Napoleon.
Napoleon Bonaparte Hill died at age 78 on January 17, 1910. His wife died June 22, 1917. Both were interred in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, as were others of the Hill family. Today, many descendants of this hardy family live and work in Union County and have made and continue to make contributions as worthy citizens.
One of the famous quotations attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte of France is: “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” This could well be a motto to the life and service of the Emperor’s namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte Hill.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 26, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.