to family's artistic beginnings
Mary Ann Gentry
The business and family connections between Madison, Ind.,
and Carrollton, Ky., are many. One of the most interesting is that of
F.G. "Bert" Hill, master craftsman and artist.
His father, Pete Hill, came to Indiana from Germany in the 1840s and
bought a farm in Trimble County, just across the Ohio River from what
is now the Madison Country Club. Bert's greatest thrill growing up was
to accompany his father to the annual Chautauqua, where they sold vegetable
soup and fried fish. Bert was 13 years old in 1897 when his mother died
from a bad fall.
by Don Ward
Ann Gentry of Carrollton, Ky.,
learned art techniques from her father,
F.G. Hill, who in turn learned
from William Snyder of Madison, Ind.
Pete sold his farm and moved the boys in with their older
sister, Kate, who was then married to a riverboat pilot and living in
Madison. There the boys continued their schooling while Pete and his
son, Bill, began a carpentering business.
Afterward, Bert worked in a factory in Madison for 10 cents an hour,
45 to 50 hours per week.
One Saturday while downtown, he noticed some beautiful oil paintings
in a store window. He began saving his dimes and quarters to buy paints
and canvas. He learned that the artist was William Snyder, and one day
he got up the nerve to visit Snyder in his studio. When he asked to
take lessons, Snyder said they would be $8 each.
"That is more than my salary for a week," Bert said.
"You can sit in my studio and watch me, and I'll give you information
as I go along," Snyder offered.
For the next two years, Bert learned Snyder's technique so well that
many years after Snyder's death, he could renovate and retouch his paintings
In 1914, the Carrollton Furniture Factory was hiring hands at 20 cents
per hour. So Bert thanked his sister for their years together and moved
to Carrollton on the packet Hattie Brown. There he lived for the next
He married in 1919, built a home, raised his family, endured the Great
Depression, survived the 1937 flood and moved up in his factory work
to become superintendent of the Finishing Department.
In 1954, the factory changed owners. Bert was 70, so he retired to his
workshop where he refinished antiques and made beautiful furniture for
his wife and daughter, who was me.
In a few years, he was back at his easel and from 1962 to 1978 painted
many commissions in addition to selling others. Quite often he made
his own frames, and when I was learning to paint, he made mine, too.
In 1970 when I submitted an oil landscape in the county fair, the judge
from Madison awarded it the blue ribbon with the comment, "I see
a touch of Snyder in this painting."
I beamed. Thank you, Daddy, and Mr. Snyder.
My father lived to be 96 years old and painted until he was 95. His
oil paintings and furniture are still enjoyed around this area.
My second connection with Madison was with Birl Hill, Bert's nephew.
Birl was a lifelong resident of that Madison. Birl designed and built
beautiful yachts for many years until an arsonist burned his plant,
including the just-finished yacht inside. Our friendship with Birl's
family continued throughout the years.
My third connection with Madison began in 1949 when I married Enos Baglan,
whose family resided there. We visited back and forth often. When Enos
died in 1966, Grandaddy Bert and our son, Charles, became friends. Charles
learned woodworking and patience from his grandfather. Our family's
association with the Baglans has continued through correspondence and
Mary Ann Gentry is a local historian from Carrollton, Ky.,
who has recently published a book titled, "A Bicentennial Look
at Carroll County." The book can be purchased for $12.50 by calling
her at (502) 732-5889.
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