What’s your name, man? William S. Hamilton, my name is William S. Hamilton.
William Hamilton was the sixth child of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler. Hamilton first held elected office in 1824 as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Sangamon County. In late 1827, Hamilton served during the Winnebago War in the volunteer Illinois Militia as a captain. Hamilton commanded a company raised in Galena, Illinois known as the Galena Mounted Volunteers. Hamilton’s company was under the command of Henry Dodge and was mustered into service on August 26, 1827 and released on September 10, 1827.
Hamilton moved to Wisconsin and established Hamilton’s Diggings in 1827. During the April–August 1832 Black Hawk War, between white settlers in the lead mining regions and Sauk Chief Black Hawk’s British Band, Hamilton again served in the volunteer militia. Accounts of the war indicated that Hamilton was often in charge of the militia’s indigenous allies. At the war’s onset it was known that many of the Sioux and Menominee were eager to join the conflict against the Sauk. Hamilton was sent to the Michigan Territory, north of Prairie du Chien, to recruit the assistance of indigenous allies. The result was successful and several parties of U.S. aligned Native Americans joined the war.
When Hamilton moved from Illinois to Wisconsin in the late 1820s he established a lead ore mine that became known as Hamilton’s Diggings; he later renamed the settlement Wiota. His mother visited Hamilton at Hamilton’s Diggings during the winter of 1837–38. When gold was discovered in California, in 1848, gold fever spread into the Midwest lead-mining region. Hamilton set out for California, arriving in 1849, with high hopes, and new equipment. His life in the west would prove to be a disappointment and he later regretted moving there. Hamilton told a friend in California that he would “rather have been hung in the ‘Lead Mines’ than to have lived in this miserable hole (California).” William S. Hamilton died in Sacramento, California on October 9, 1850 at age 53.