Banker J. French Hill, who is running for 2nd District Congress on the Republican ticket, lists his lineage among his other qualifications — "businessman, civic leader and ninth generation Arkansan" — for office. That's damn near prehistoric, right? So we decided to check out Hill's ancestral line, aided by online Catholic historical documents and information at arkansashistory.org, ancestry.com and other online sources. It starts out with a bang — and it's French.
Generation 1: Don Joseph Bernard Valliere d'Hauterive Valliere, born in Languedoc, France, in 1747, came to Arkansas to take command of Arkansas Post in 1778. According to the Historic Arkansas Museum, which has a portrait of Valliere in its collection, the commandant stayed in the post until 1790 and was awarded a land grant of more than 6,000 acres. "Captain Joseph was known for his money-making schemes, both personal and civil, as well as attempting to elevate the level of commercial and cultural activity at Arkansas Post." Valliere married Marie Felicite de Moran in 1763.
Generation 2: Marie Felicite Valliere, born to Joseph and Marie in 1771. She married Francois Nuisement de Vaugine, an officer in the Arkansas Post militia.
Generation 3: Eulalie Vaugine, born to Marie and Francois, married Creed Taylor in 1821 in Pine Bluff. Taylor was the first sheriff of Jefferson County.
Generation 4: Anne Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of Eulalie and Creed Taylor, married Pierce Gracie, an Irishman who immigrated in 1835, in Bogy (Jefferson County) in 1848.
Generation 5: John M. Gracie, born 1856 to Anne and Pierce Gracie, was a cotton grower and vice president of the Bank of Pine Bluff. He married Sallie E. (maiden name unknown).
Generation 6: Mary Gracie, daughter of John and Sallie, b. 1879, married a man with the surname French. She was living with her parents after she married, according to the 1910 census, and was listed as the head of her household in the 1920 census.
Generation 7: Elizabeth Gracie French was the daughter of Mary Gracie French and born in Mexico about 1902. She married Joey (a.k.a. Jay) W. Hill, who was born about 1893. At one time, they lived in the Absolom-Fowler house on Sixth Street in Little Rock, which then became known as the Gracie Mansion.
Generation 8: Jay French Hill was born in 1926 to Elizabeth and Jay Hill.
Generation 9: J. French Hill, born in 1956 to Jay French Hill.
Democratic candidate Patrick Henry Hays has not made an issue of his Arkie-blood bona fides, but his campaign says he's a fifth generation Arkansan. Seems like he was mayor of North Little Rock for several generations.