Unlike steamship companies stimulating immigration to get the fares, Hill was seeking permanent settlers who would produce, manufacture, and use the railways as the means of exchange. Consequently he fixed low rates and let his passengers take a good deal of live stock and household furniture free. By doing this he made an appeal that was answered by eager families. In 1894 the vanguard of home seekers left Indiana in fourteen passenger coaches, filled with men, women, and children, and forty-eight freight cars carrying their household goods and live stock. In the ten years that followed, 100,000 people from the Middle West and the South, responding to his call, went to the Western country where they brought eight million acres of prairie land under cultivation.
When Hill got his people on the land, he took an interest in everything that increased the productivity of their labor. Was the output of food for his freight cars limited by bad drainage on the farms? Hill then interested himself in practical ways of ditching and tiling. Were farmers hampered in hauling their goods to his trains by bad roads? In that case, he urged upon the states the improvement of highways. Did the traffic slacken because the food shipped was not of the best quality? Then live stock must be improved and scientific farming promoted. Did the farmers need credit? Banks must be established close at hand to advance it. In all conferences on scientific farm management, conservation of natural resources, banking and credit in relation to agriculture and industry, Hill was an active participant. His was the long vision, seeing in conservation and permanent improvements the foundation of prosperity for the railways and the people.
Indeed, he neglected no opportunity to increase the traffic on the lines. He wanted no empty cars running in either direction and no wheat stored in warehouses for the lack of markets. So he looked to the Orient as well as to Europe as an outlet for the surplus of the farms. He sent agents to China and Japan to discover what American goods and produce those countries would consume and what manufactures they had to offer to Americans in exchange. To open the Pacific trade he bought two ocean monsters, the Minnesota and the Dakota, thus preparing for emergencies West as well as East. When some Japanese came to the United States on their way to Europe to buy steel rails, Hill showed them how easy it was for them to make their purchase in this country and ship by way of American railways and American vessels. So the railway builder and promoter, who helped to break the virgin soil of the prairies, lived through the pioneer epoch and into the age of great finance. Before he died he saw the wheat fields of North Dakota linked with the spinning jennies of Manchester and the docks of Yokohama.