James Jerome Hill made his millions through his railroad empire. He was the chief executive officer of a railway network that stretched from the Upper Midwest to the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. His empire has headed by the Great Northern Railway.
He was born on September 16th 1838 in Wellington County in Upper Canada (Ontario). During his childhood be became blinded in one eye during an accident with a bow and arrow. He was schooled for free at Rockwood Academy for nine years until the death of his father forced him to leave. He then worked as a clerk in Kentucky which led to him moving permanently to Minnesota at the age of 18. Here he worked as a bookkeeper for a steamboat company using the skills he acquired during his time working as a clerk. He began to learn about the transportation business during 1860 when he began working for a wholesale grocer. During this time he handled freight transfers and began to work for himself.
This work experience led to Hill going into the steamboat business in 1870 and the coal business in 1867. In 1872 he had a local monopoly and by 1874 it had increased by five times. He also entering banking and got on the board of directors for a number of banks. Along with this he bought several bankrupt businesses, built them up again and sold them on, frequently making massive profit. Wherever he saw opportunity he took it.
His key to success was the hard work he put in. Furthermore he was extremely competitive and was a particularly skilled man and leader. He entered the railway business in 1877 buying the bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with Norman Kittson, Donald Smith, George Stephen and John S. Kennedy after spending a long period of time doing research into whether making profit was feasible. He expanded it and in May 1879, formed the St. Paul Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway Company. In 1885 the net worth of the company was $25,000,000 and during this time he formally became president of the company.
From 1883-1889 Hill built railroads in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Montana. He aspired to make a transcontinental railroad and in 1893 the Great Northern Railway was built running from St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.
Even during the depression his company stayed strong making a net profit of around $10 million due to his strong leadership skills and decision making.
When he died in 1916, he was worth over $53 million. He was married to Mary Theresa Mehegan in 1867 and they had ten children.