Bess Ellen Hill Snyder
Bess Ellen Hill was born on December 26, 1888, in Montfort, Wisconsin. She was the tenth child born to John and Mary Ann Hill and their fifth daughter. From the family farm southwest of Montfort, Bess walked to the Hopewell School and later attended Montfort High School. During snowstorms and on days when it was too cold to make the long walk, she would stay in town with her Aunt Jenny. Like some of her older siblings, Bess enrolled in Platteville Normal School and after graduation became a schoolteacher at Kieler School with her sisters Alta and Mabel.
On Christmas Day in 1914, Bess married Dr, Harry Snyder who worked as a veterinarian in Montfort. They had a son named Harry Snyder, Jr. who was born on July 18, 1916, but tragedy struck just two months later when their infant son died. He would be the only child born to Bess Hill Snyder. Two years later, she faced another personal tragedy when her husband died on October 12, 1918. He was only 39 years old. For several years following the death of Harry Snyder, Bess cared for her aging parents until their deaths.
Bess Ellen Hill posing with her five sisters--she is in the center in the back row
Portrait of Bess Ellen Hill
Image of Dr. Harry Snyder
Bess and Vance Hannan on their wedding day--June 30, 1935
On June 30, 1935, Bess married Vance Mark Hannan in Montfort. She acquired a funeral director’s license and became the owner and operator of the Hannon Funeral Home in Montfort and Livingston as well as a furniture store. Vance Hannan died in Madison on September 30, 1958.
Bess Hill, or “Aunt Bessie” as she was affectionately known, was a beloved figure in Montfort. On her 100th birthday, her friends gathered to honor her and to present a special “This is Your Life” program at the annual Christmas luncheon. The event was featured in an article in a local paper on December 15, 1988. Bess Hill was very active in several community organizations such as the Royal Neighbors, the Rebekah Lodge, and the Eastern Star.
Later in life, Bess reflected on her childhood and some of her memories about growing up on the farm near Montfort that stood out for her:
“We had a wonderful life there growing up. My earliest memory in life was playing outside the house and looking up and seeing two little girl dresses all washed, ironed and nicely repaired blowing in the wind on my mother’s laundry line. I think back on that memory now and think how hard she must’ve worked. Imagine with 11 kids and all the farm work to do, my mother found the time to wash and press these little dresses for us."
A Tribute to Bess written by a friend in Montfort
Bess Hill Hannan died on May 9, 1990, and is buried at the Rock Church Cemetery on the outskirts of Livingston. She lived longer than any of the eleven children born to John and Mary Ann Hill and was the last of her siblings to pass away when she died in 1990.
Bess Hill with several of her brothers and sisters--August, 1952
(l-r): Tom, Alta, Bess, Annie, Mabel, Lillian, Vic, and Earl
Bess Hill at Christmas in 1987 at the age of 99