Hill, who was from York, received theological training at Richmond. After ordination, he was posted to the English Wesleyan Methodist Central China field, based in Wuchang, Hupeh (Hubei) Province. Unmarried, he was more mobile than most Protestant missionaries. In 1878 a famine ravaged Shansi (Shanxi) Province, prompting Hill and a few others (including the British Baptist Timothy Richard) to devote nearly two years to famine relief work. This experience transformed Hill’s ministry into one with an expanded social vision and considerable ecumenicity. While in Shansi in 1879, through an essay contest, he was instrumental in the conversion of Hsi Sheng-mo (Xi Shengmo), a talented and dynamic leader who as an independent pastor had a considerable regional impact until his death in 1896.
In his later years Hill established a hospital and homes for the aged, the blind, and orphans; he also helped to begin the Central China Religious Tract Society. In 1890 he had a major role in the nationwide Shanghai Missionary Conference. He seems to have been respected and beloved in all quarters, and his early demise was counted a great loss.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Days of Blessing Inland China, Being an Account of Meetings Held in the Province of Shan-si, etc., intro. By J. Hudson Taylor (1887); William T. A. Barber, David Hill, Missionary and Saint (1898); Harold B. Battenbury, David Hill, Friend of China: A Modern Portrait (1949); Jane Elizabeth Hellier, How David Hill Followed Christ: A Biography (n.d.); Mrs. Howard Taylor, One of China’s Scholars: The Culture and Conversion of a Confucianist (1900, 1907). Hill’s official correspondence is in the Central China field section of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society archive, now at the School of Oriental arid African Studies, Univ. of London.