Frances Dorothea Bowen and William Guy "Red" Hill

When Frances Dorothea Bowen was born on April 27, 1914, her mother Hilda Bowen (nee Gardiner) was 25. I am currently searching for birth information through the Archives of Ontario to identify her father (I believe Hilda's husband Frederick George Bowen was Frances' stepfather). She had no siblings.

Frances married William Guy "Red" Hill likely between 1932-1935 (their marriage record isn't yet available from the archives).

When Red Hill was born in Welland Ontario on September 8, 1913, his father, William Thomas "Red" Hill Sr. (1887-1942), was 25 and his mother, Beatrice Victoria (nee Clark) (1898-1975), was 15. He had four brothers and three sisters.



Frances and William had no known children.

Frances died suddenly on August 30, 1935, at the tender age of 21. She died six days after an operation to remove her ruptured appendix.


Frances' death certificate indicates that she was living at 860 Valley Way, Niagara Falls, which (interestingly) is the same address listed on related to the death information for her cousin Leonard Joseph Gray, who died six years later. As described in the post for Leonard, 860 Valley Way is now 4860 Valley Way, and it appears there is no longer a home at that location.


Hilda Bowen and Frances Hill are buried in Section R, Plot 0185 at Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls.


William "Red" Hill Jr. may have remarried after his wife's death to Alice Sills. The couple had a daughter, Sally. Red followed in the footsteps of his father - who was known as the "Riverman". According to the Niagara Frontier website, Red's father was legendary for challenging the Great Gorge Rapids and Whirlpool in a barrel.

The senior Hill had officially been credited with saving the lives of twenty-eight persons from drowning. He received more lifesaving awards from the Canadian Government than any man before or since.

Red Jr. was also fascinated by the Niagara River and Falls. He assisted his father in the recovery of 117 bodies from the Niagara River and Gorge and helped with more than 20 rescues.

Like his father, Red took on the lower Great Gorge Rapids and Whirlpool in a barrel not just once, but twice. Following those attempts, Red Jr. constructed another barrel, affectionately named "The Thing." The barrel consisted of thirteen large heavy duty inner tubes lashed together by three-inch wide canvas webbing and encased in heavy gauge fishnet.


As shown in the YouTube video above, on August 5, 1951, three years after his last gorge trip, Red launched "The Thing" from Usher's Creek approximately three miles from the Horseshoe Falls. According to a Niagara news report, Hill is said to have said prior to the trip, "There'll be 300,000 people here Sunday and I don't think that we'll disappoint 'em."

As his new wife, mother, and siblings watched, at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, The Thing reached the brink of the falls and went over. The pressure of the falling water broke the contraption apart and it was several minutes before pieces of rubber started surfacing. The next morning, Red's battered body was found near the Maid of the Mist dock. There was a large public outcry that resulted in the provincial government issuing an order requiring the arrest of anyone who tried a similar stunt from the Niagara Parks.

Like his wife and mother and father, William "Red" Hill is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls. His obituary, below, doesn't mention Frances.



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