The Life of Adeline Hill Ostwalt


Before Her Birth and Early Childhood

Adeline's grandfather, A. L. Hill, who was a country doctor, and her grandmother, Barbara, had 12 children, including Adeline's father, William Henderson Hill. Because A. L. Hill was strongly against slavery, believing that he did not have a right to own another human being, he took his family in a wagon and moved from Tennessee to North Mississippi in December, 1874 when the slavery became a serious problem.

Adeline Hill Ostwalt was born May 23, 1918 in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and she was the seventh child to Mr. and Mrs. Hill. She was named after her aunt whose name was Unity Adeline, but she just got the latter half of the name.

When Adeline was born, both of her grandparents had passed away, but she knew most of her aunts and uncles. One of her aunts, whose full name was Cynthia Jane Victoria Hill, was the only woman in her generation of the family who pursued a professional career and taught home economics. Adeline still remembers how Aunt Victoria made lovely hats for her.  


Her Parents, Rev. and Mrs. Hill

Adeline's father, Rev. William Henderson Hill, was a minister. Her mother, Mary Fogartie Hill, attended Agnus Scott College but dropped out after her sophomore year to marry Rev. Hill. William Hill saw her when she was just 13 years old and fell in love with her. When they were married, she was 21 years old, and William Hill 31 years old. He waited for almost 10 years to marry her!

The Hill family moved a number of times so the children were born in different places. Beth and Ruth were born in Jackson, Mississippi, and Margaret was born in Magnolia. Marian, Rachel, and Adeline were born in Brookhaven. When Adeline was born, her father was the minister of Brookhaven Presbyterian Church, and she was baptized there. When Adeline was about two years old, the family moved to Starkville where her only younger sister, Gene, was born. The only boy, Bill, was the youngest in the family.

Rev. Hill was a very friendly and fun father. He took all the children for a walk on Sunday afternoons, telling stories and answering any questions they might have. Adeline remembers him as a wonderful story-teller. When he told children the story of going hunting, for example, he made sounds like hunters and barking dogs. He also made toys such as jumping jacks for the children, and he made a doll house for them one Christmas.

Mrs. Hill was caring and devoted to the education of her children. She must have been very busy taking care of all eight children, but she always found time to read to two of the children at a time with the level that was right for their ages. She continued reading to the children until they could read on their own.

Rev. Hill never punished the children, and it was Mrs. Hill' responsibility to discipline the children. When Adeline did not behave herself, Mrs. Hill would tell her to go sit on "the box" in her room where Adeline had to impatiently wait for her mother to come. Because she did not know whether she was going to get punishment or whether her mother was going to talk to her about what she did, Adeline hated sitting on the box, but she could think back what she did wrong while waiting. She thought it was an effective punishment. As another way of disciplining her children, Mrs. Hill made children who did not behave themselves drink salt water which tasted very bitter and made them go to bathroom.

Young Adeline in 1944
Young Adeline in 1947
Photos courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt

Her Seven Siblings

Adeline had five older sisters, Beth, Ruth, Margaret, Marian, Rachel, one younger sister, Gene, and one younger brother, Bill. When Bill, the youngest of all, was just a baby, Beth and Ruth were old enough to go to college. Despite such big age differences among the children, they were close to one another and tried their best to get together as much as they could.

When Adeline and her siblings were young, they made up games to play with each other, and it was easy to play different games because there were so many children in the house. There were not as many toys to play with at the time as children these days have, but Adeline says that she had a lot of fun and great time just playing with her siblings. Sometimes they cut paper dolls out of catalogues and built paper doll families and furniture in one corner of the house. When they finished playing, they kept the paper dolls in a box. When her father made a doll house for the children, her mother gave them little furniture for the doll house.

Adeline and her sisters loved to cook. The girls were paired with an older sister and took turns preparing a meal for the family. Each pair did everything from planning the meal with their mother's help, fixing and serving it to, washing dishes. It was not easy to prepare a meal for such a big family because there were 10 people at every meal!

Adeline loved her only younger brother, Bill, and many pictures of her looking down on her brother illustrate how much she loved him. However, there was one sad memory about Bill which she has never forgotten. When he was about six months old, Adeline was walking with him. Her mother had just finished polishing the floor, and it was very slippery. Adeline slipped, fell, and broke her brother's leg. How upset she was!



Adeline Ostwalt (far right on the front row) with her mother and seven siblings

Photo courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt

Top of page
The text, video, audio, and website are the result of interviews conducted by Oh-jin Kwon,
Davidson College Class of 2008, in the Fall of 2007.
© 2007 Kristi S. Multhaup, Ph.D. | Davidson College | Davidson, NC 28035 | Phone: 704.894.2008
Please direct site comments to: