James Jerome Hill (16 Sep 1838 - 29 May 1916), was a Canadian-American railroad executive. He was the chief executive officer of a family of lines headed by the Great Northern Railway, which served a substantial area of the Upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest. Because of the size of this region and the economic dominance exerted by the Hill lines, Hill became known during his lifetime as "The Empire Builder".
During the Panic of 1873, a number of railroads, including the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, had gone bankrupt. The railroad in particular was caught in an almost hopeless legal muddle. For James Hill it was a golden opportunity. For three years, Hill researched the railroad and finally concluded that it would be possible to make a good deal of money off it, provided that the initial capital could be found. Hill teamed up with Norman Kittson (with whom he had merged a steamboat business), Donald Smith, George Stephen, and John Stewart Kennedy. Together they not only bought the railroad, they also vastly expanded it by bargaining for trackage rights with the Northern Pacific Railway. In May 1879, the St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway Company (StPM&M) was formed with James J. Hill as general manager. His first goal was to expand and upgrade even more.
Hill was a hands-on, detail-obsessed manager. A Canadian himself of Scotch-Irish Protestant ancestry, he brought in many men with the same background into high management. He wanted people to settle along his rail lines, so he sold homesteads to immigrants while transporting them to their new homes using his rail lines. When he was looking for the best path for one of his tracks to take, he went on horseback and scouted it personally. Under his management, StPM&M prospered. In 1880, its net worth was $728,000, in 1885 it was $25,000,000.
When there was not enough industry in the areas Hill was building, Hill brought the industry in, often by buying out a company and placing plants along his railroad lines. By 1889, Hill decided that his future lay in expanding into a transcontinental railroad. Note: The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885 - Wikipedia.