James Hill was born Dec. 6,1822, in Cheddar, England. He spent is youth on the family farm there and later worked as a clerk in a general store in Bristol, England. At the age of 26, he married Sylia Brown and soon sailed to America. They established themselves in Dubuque where he worked as a store clerk and later as assistant Postmaster. James soon undertook farming near Cascade and began conducting Baptist services in Worthington, Epworth, and Cascade. This calling was evident even in his Civil War service as he requested an appointment as Regimental Chaplin after the Vicksburg campaign.

After the Civil War he returned to Cascade and continued with his ministry. In 1874, he married his second wife, Angeline Potter, and together they spread the gospel. He ran unsuccessfully several times for state and local office. In business, he extended his interest into the development and management of a narrow gauge railroad, the Chicago, Bellevue, and Cascade, and while president, sold the railroad to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. He died September 22, 1899, and is buried in Cascade Cemetery, Cascade, Iowa.