WILLIS R. CASSITY. - Willis H. Cassity now deceased, was one of the respected citizens of Sangamon county, who from early boyhood days resided in this portion of the state and was an active factor in its early development and progress. He watched with interest the growth of the county and assisted materially in agricultural pursuits for many years. He was born in Bath county, Kentucky, March 23, 1828, a son of Alexander and Eliza B. (Groves) Cassity. His father was born in Bath county in 1793 and was a son of Willis Cassity, Sr., who in the pioneer epoch in the history of the "dark and bloody ground" made his way into Kentucky, where he built a stockade of block houses. It stood on Slate creek in Bath county and was one of the first structures erected in that part of the state. The place became known as Cassity's Station and was used as a refuge when the Indians were on the war path, the settlers for some distances around fleeing to the stockade at the time of threatened danger. Amid pioneer conditions Alexander Cassity was reared and after arriving at years of maturity he married Miss Eliza B. Groves, of Bath county, who died there in 1832, leaving three children, John F., Willis H. and James L.. The father afterward married Elizabeth Lockridge and with a party numbering six or seven families came to Sangamon county, Illinois, arriving on the 26th of October, 1835. He purchased a farm of two hundred acres two miles from Auburn on what is now the southeast corner of Chatham township. The journey from Kentucky had been made in a covered wagon. For two weeks the family lived in a hen house until a cabin could be erected and in the early days they suffered all the hardships and trials of pioneer life, but their labor soon wrought many changes in the homestead and a good farm was developed. There were seven children of the second union and the following is the record of the entire family. John F., born in Bath county, Kentucky, in 1826, enlisted in Sangamon county, August 10, 1861, for three years' service as a member of Company B, Thirtieth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to sergeant major and was mortally wounded at the battle of Atlanta dying four days later on the 26th of July, 1864. Willis H. is the second in the family. James L., born in Kentucky, was reared in Sangamon county and died in Iowa. Margaret E., born in Sangamon county, is the wife of Andrew Rauch. Emma C. is the wife of Jacob Rauch. Francis M. died in infancy. Amanda M. married James T. Hutton and resides on the old home place. Alexander M. enlisted for three years' service in Company I, Seventy-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry in July, 1861, and was wounded December 31, 1862, at the battle of Stone River, after which he was discharged on account of physical disability. He wedded Mary A. Hutton. Louisa G. died in childhood. Martha L. was married September 5, 1866, to John T. Welch. Alexander Cassity, the father of these children, died March 12, 1851, and his widow, surviving him until November 16, 1861, passed away on the old homestead farm in Sangamon county on which they had settled in 1835.
The educational privileges which were afforded Willis H. Cassity were very limited owing to the primitive condition of schools in what was then the pioneer district of Sangamon county. However, he gathered much knowledge from reading, observation and experience and became a well informed man. He was only seven years of age when his parents came to Sangamon county and as a young man he assisted his father in improving the farm of five hundred acres three and a half miles west of Auburn, which was purchased from a party who had taken up the land from the government. He carted rails from Brush creek, nine or ten miles, oxen being hitched to the cart and on one of these trips he came in contact with two panthers but gave them wide berth. Like most boys he enjoyed pleasures and often would relate how on one occasion he went fishing on Sunday. His mother was a very strict member of the Cumberland. Presbyterian church and allowed no frivolity on the first day of the week. On a certain Sunday, however, in company with a number of other boys, Mr. Cassity discovered some fine fish in a pond, and, making his way to the house, he secured a linen tick, which he ripped open and made a drag of it. While seining for the fish he happened to glance up and saw his mother standing on the bank with a stick in her hand. She returned home, however, ere the boys left the water and he took the fish to her and asked her to cook them. It seems that maternal discipline had relented in the meantime, for she said she did not blame him, as the temptation was too strong. At another time he and a party of schoolmates locked their teacher out of the schoolhouse because he would not give them a Christmas treat. However, much of his time was given not to play but to work, for he assisted in the arduous labor of developing the home farm and cultivating the fields. In manhood he was ever reliable, his word being considered as good as his bond, and in all his business career he was active and energetic, making the most of his time and opportunities. After attaining his majority he continued farming for a number of years, keeping his land in excellent condition, while everything about his place was done in a methodical way, showing neatness and careful supervision. In 1895 he removed to Auburn, where he was engaged in the grocery business for fifteen years, and then returned to the farm, to the cultivation and improvement of which he devoted his energies for the following six years. At the end of that time he again became a resident of Auburn and bought his present home.
On the 26th of September, 1865, Mr. Cassity was united in marriage to Miss Ella McGriff, a daughter of I. and Eliza (Kuhn) McGriff, who were natives of Ohio. In their family were three children: Carrie E., who was born August 7, 1866, and died September 25, 1867; Minnie L., who was born October 20, 1868, and is at home with her mother; Emma M., born January 16, 1883, is also at home. Mr. and Mrs. Cassity were reared in the Cumberland Presbyterian church, to which she yet belongs, but Mr. Cassity united with the Methodist Episcopal church and was prominent and active in church work, serving as one of its elders. Socially he was connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and in politics he was a stanch Republican, giving unfaltering support to the men and measures of that party. He served as a member of the school board for a number of years and was president of the town board of Auburn for two terms. In matters of citizenship he was progressive and public-spirited, giving hearty co-operation to everything that he believed would tend to advance the welfare and substantial progress of his community. He died June 2, 1902, after sixty-seven years in Sangamon county. His life had been an upright and useful one, so that his name was honored while he lived and his memory is revered and cherished by his many friends since he has passed away.