The Willey Book

("The Willey Book" was written by Ida M. Rose from material gathered over a period of at least twenty years. Copies were distributed to the family members and upon the death of my grandmother, Ida Myrtle Willey, in 1954, her copy of "The Willey Book" was eventually handed down to me. I hope to reprint the book in its entirety.)


by Ida M. Rose
(Chicago 1925)

Note 1.

Note on Grandpa Willey as told to me by Uncle Joe.

In 1781, my Great-Grandfather, Samuel Willey, and two brothers, came over from England with Lord Cornwallis, and fought as British soldiers in the Revolutionary War. They were with Cornwallis when he surrendered at Yorktown; were held prisoners there for a time, and then were let out on parole.

He became interested in a young widow (with one son), of an American Officer; a Scots woman named Manning, whose husband had been killed in Washington's Army. So he took the oath of allegiance to the United States; became an American citizen, and married her instead of returning to England. He then took his wife and boy, with all their earthly possessions, and WALKED 200 miles over the mountains, and settled on government land in Pennsylvania. There they raised a large family of 12 children, my Grandfather, Joseph Willey, being the youngest of the twelve.

His Mother died when he was less than 12 years old. He was then apprenticed to a cabinet maker named Kennedy till he was 21, to learn his trade. After he was 21, he learned the carpenter's and joiner's trades. They were all three separate trades then.

Thus equipped he went West, and settled in Medina County, Ohio, near the town of Akron. He had his little home, a house and workshop, kept batch, and worked at his trade. He also went into partnership with another young man, John McFarlin, on a contract to clear the timber from a piece of land. He could chop as easily left handed as right handed, so he could make his trees fall just where he wanted them to.

He also took a contract to build a barn, and applying the knowledge his trades had given him, he cut, shaped and numbered all his timbers in the woods, so when they were hauled to the barn site there was nothing to do but set them up. Such a thing had never been heard of before, in those parts, so it caused great wonder, and excitement, and not a few were ready to proclaim that it couldn't be done.

When the day came for the "raisin'" the whole country-side was there; some to help; some to see; and some to scoff. When the barn went up smoothly, just as planned, the crowd went wild! They carried him on their shoulders and made him "the lion of the hour," though he was a tall, large man.

(After that, I suppose it was considered a very good match, when he married his partner's bright, little sister, "Chipmunk", Merena McFarlin. Anyway they were married and she was by beloved "Grandma" for many years.)

They lived in Ohio till their first three children were born, then moved to Porter County, Indiana, and settled on government land on "Twenty-mile Prairie". It was practically a wilderness as there was no town or other settlement near, but plenty of Indiana and wild animals all around them. This was in 1835. There was a trading post at Michigan City and one at Joliet, and a little village (Chicago) at Fort Dearborn, about 40 miles away.

The country soon settled up. Grandfather tended his farm and at odd times worked at his trade, making furniture and coffins for the settlers around him. Many a night he worked all night to get a coffin ready for a burial next day; Aunt Martha, when quite a small child, often sat up till quite late to hold the candle for him to work by.

When he moved from Ohio to Indiana, Grandfather decided to banish liquor from his home. He resolved never to drink it again himself, nor to allow his boys to learn to drink it.

In those days people lived in log cabins and when a house was to be "raised" everybody around turned out to help roll up the logs, and always there was plenty of liquor to drink. So when his little cabin was to be raised he sent word around that there would be no liquor to drink. Again the people scoffed and said a house couldn't be raised without liquor; men wouldn't work.

So when the time came, the men were there and a few of the more belligerent ones set a trap. At a given signal, when a heavy log was being pushed into place, somebody was to let go, and the log would fall with disastrous results, and they could say, "I told you so." But when the time came, and the others let go, Grandfather was strong enough to push the log on into place alone, so it did not fall, the house was raised, and the crowd went home sober, if not glad.

(These two incidents: the barn in Ohio and the house in Indiana, convince me that Grandfather Willey was a man who could think things through for himself, and who ordered his course through life as he thought best, regardless of what others said or did. I wonder how many of his descendants can show the same masterful ability?)

Grandfather and Grandmother were both members of the Methodist Church. They were good singers, too, and used to sit in the yard before their cabin door, on pleasant summer evenings, and sing, and sing; in a way that did one's heart good to hear.

Grandfather died when I was too young to remember him at all, but the dear old farm is still there, having changed hands but twice since Grandfather entered it, some 90 years ago. (Chicago, 1925)
On his death-bed, Grandfather was perfectly sane and conscious to the last. The family gathered round him.

To each he said a few parting words, and gave explicit direction concerning what to do in his absence. Mattie, Charlie and John were already married and doing for themselves. To them he said, "Goodbye". To Uncle Joe, he said, "Jozie, you and Mother can run the farm." Then turning to the mentally deficient one, he said, "Mary, my poor girl, what will become of you"? Charlie, (my Father) answered, "Mary may have a home with me so long as I have a home." So she lived with us until her death, though she stayed with Grandma in the old home till it was sold soon after the Civil War.

Note 2.

Note on Grandma Willey, from Aunt Jennie.

Five generations back, from the present writer, a man named McFarlin lived in New York State with his wife, and one child, a son.
For some reason, unknown to us, it became necessary for him to leave his wife and child there while he made a business trip to South America. He had yellow fever while there, and was not heard from for several years; so was supposed to be dead.

His wife had married a former sweetheart, Sam McCloud and several children had been born to them when McFarlin returned. Learning of the situation, he left them in peace, not letting his wife know of his return. (I have the highest respect for this distant relative of mine. To me, it is quite thrilling that we have a real "Enoch-Arden" story in our family history!)

This McFarlin's son, my Great-Grandfather, lived with the McCloud family till he was 21. Then the stepfather gave him a suit of clothes and an ax, and he started out in life for himself. He married and had several children while living in Cayuga County, New York. Then he, with his family, moved to Medina County, Ohio, when Grandma, Merena McFarlin, was eight years old. (1819)

They settled in thick woods, far from neighbors and schools, but she was bright and quick to learn so she picked up a fair education at home, such as, "Readin', 'Ritin' and 'Rithmetic", and NOT "Taught to the tune of a hickory stick."

She was small, but plump; less than five feet tall, and wore a number one shoe. At the time of her marriage, at 18 years, a half yard of ribbon was amply sufficient for a belt. Her cheeks were so round and so plump, and her eyes were so bright that she went by the name of "Chipmunk" among her family and friends.

Some other reminiscences, as told by Aunt Jennie.

There was a little town on the lake called Baily, from Bay-oe, a Frenchman with an Indian wife who lived there with a tribe of Indians, and founded the place.

The trail from there to Joliet was called the "Sac Trail", and crossed Grandfather's farm. The Indians would stop at the house to trade cranberries for milk. They called the berries, "Pokemins", and the white man, "Smoke Man". The settlers endured many hardships. There were many wild beasts in the timber, and the Indians abounded plentifully.

When the cows didn't come home, the stronger ones had the instinct to form a circle with the weaker ones inside the ring, and fight the wolves all night. If the folks at home could hear the cowbells ringing, they wouldn't dare go to the rescue.

Grandma's Father was found dead in bed. Her Mother died of apoplexy.

--Ida M. Rose
(Chicago 1925)




1. SAMUEL WILLEY, born during the 18th century, in England
m. Mrs. Manning, a Scotswoman, at Yorktown, Virginia
near the close of the Revolutionary War. (1781)
(They lived in Pennsylvania)

Their Children, 2nd Generation

12. Joseph Willey
b. February 5, 1804 (Youngest of twelve, in Pennsylvania
d. January 23, 1858, near Wheeler, Indiana
(Cause, probably appendicitis; ill about 30 hours.)

We have no knowledge of any other member of these two generations.


m. Merena ("Chipmuck") McFarlin, 1829, Medina County, Ohio
b. March 9, 1811, Cayuga County, New York
d. October 27, 1898, Mount Ayr, Indiana
(Cause, apoplexy; ill about an hour)

Their Children, 3rd Generation

1. Martha (Mattie or Aunt Mat) Merena Willey
b. January 22, 1830, Medina County, Ohio
d. March 23, 1903, Rensselaer, Indiana
(Cause, inside tumor)

2. Charles (Charlie) Wilson Willey
b. February 1, 1832, Medina County, Ohio
d. January 24, 1918, near Columbus, Kansas

3. *John Willey
b. January 9, 1834, Medina County, Ohio
d. January 20, 1864, in a hospital in Michigan City, Indiana
(Cause, typhoid pneumonia)

The family moved to Porter County, Indiana, in 1835.

4. Mary Samantha Willey
b. February 1, 1836, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. January 19, 1917, near Columbus, Kansas
(Cause, progressive helplessness from rheumatism)

5. Carolina (Carrie) Almina Willey
b. August 6, 1838, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. September 9, 1885, Delicon Springs, Florida

6. Joseph Hanford Willey
b. November 23, 1840, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. August 22, 1930, Plymouth, Indiana
(Cause, senility, heart-failure)

7. Sarah Jane (Jennie) Willey
b. October 10, 1842, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. April 28, 1923, Mount Ayr, Indiana
(Cause, recurring stomach ailment which had
troubled her for years. Short illness.)

8. A son, born 1844, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. at the age of three days

9. William (Will) Henry Willey
b. June 25, 1846, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. December 14, 1898, near Parsons, Kansas
(Cause, leakage of the heart, resulting
from army service. He was sane to the end.)

10. Thomas Eldridge Willey
b. January 30, 1849, near Wheeler, Indiana
d. August 4, 1906, Rensselaer, Indiana

11. Almira Estella Willey
b. July 3, 1852
(in 1925, lived in Waupun, Wisconsin, with son, Boyd.



1. MARTHA (MATTIE or AUNT MAT) MERENA WILLEY -- Aunt Martha was an attractive girl, industrious and capable; became a fine housekeeper and an excellent cook.

2. CHARLES (CHARLIE) WILSON WILLEY -- My Father, Charles (called Charlie) was very progressive in all his ideas, always keen for an argument, with anyone who cared to oppose him; the more formidable his antagonist the greater his enjoyment of the contest. In case of defeat he re-studied the question, always seeking a true solution rather than victory.

I recall the following incident: the earliest "get-acquainted" efforts among the settlers around were "Literary Societies". One night my Father attended one in an adjoining neighborhood. The program was entirely impromptu. When the question for debate was announced, my Father rose in defense of the affirmative.

When they called for someone to defend the negative, no one responded. So he said, "If no one else will take the negative, I'll take it myself." Then he argued that side, too. Whether he beat himself or not, I don't know, but that was the beginning of a friendship which lasted as long as they lived, and is still continued by the younger generation.

On his death-bed he was sane and conscious to the last. He knew that two of his daughters were enroute from Kansas City to see him. When a sinking spell came on and it looked as if he were going, he asked when their train was due. They told him, and he said, "Bring me a half-cup of hot milk." They brought it and he drank it. Then, he said, "Now fan me till the girls come."

After their arrival they talked casually for a few minutes. He said goodbye as if he were going on an ordinary journey and took messages to those who had gone before. Then, he said, "You need not fan me any more. I want to go and be with the rest." In a few minutes he was gone.

3. *JOHN WILLEY -- Uncle John didn't live very near us after I was old enough to remember him so what I know of him was told to me by others. My Father and Mother told me he was jolly and full of fun; therefore popular as a young man. Uncle Joe said, "At 20, John was the strongest man in all the country round. He could lift the master-wheel of a threshing machine clear off the ground and turn half way around with it."

The records of the Adjutant General's Office, Washington, D.C. show that he enlisted for service in the Civil War at Valpariaso, Indiana, December 19, 1863. He was inducted into Company M, 18th Regiment, Indiana Cavalry. This regiment participated in the first battle, July 25, 1864.

Uncle John died January 20, 1864 of typhoid pneumonia, in a hospital in Michigan City. Aunt Allie said, "He came home to attend the double wedding of Carrie and Jennie (his sisters), that awfully cold New Year's Day." If he had been less strong and self-reliant perhaps he wouldn't have returned that day, or if he had, perhaps he would have given up and gone to the hospital sooner. Thus his life might have been saved then. We shall never know.

4. MARY SAMANTHA WILLEY -- Aunt Carrie had a severe illness in early childhood which left her with a weak heart, so she was obliged to conserve her strength ever after in order to live as long as she did. She was a very beautiful woman and my Father's favorite sister.

5. JOSEPH HANFORD WILLEY -- Uncle Joe was a pillar in his church, and highly respected by everyone. He seemed to feel the responsibility of being placed, more or less, in the position of head of the family at his father's death. He tried to keep in touch with each one, and to assist, if possible, if he found any of them in difficulties. So he seemed, quite naturally, the patriarch of the family.

He was much more conservative than my Father; disliked argument or controversy of any kind, especially on religion. He would express his opinion, if asked to do so, but was not inclined to argue with any one to establish it.

When Aunt Allie's second child, Rena, lay sick in a hospital in Michigan, and it seemed best to summon some one of her relatives, she was asked if her father or mother could come. She said, "No, but I have an awfully good Uncle Joe." They sent for him and he went to her.

Uncle Joe was a veteran of the Civil War. He enlisted at Valparaiso, Indiana, August 10, 1862, served as a private in Company I, 73rd Indiana Infantry till July 1, 1865. He was honorable discharged a corporal, as the records in the War Department will show.

After the war he was a dry goods merchant for a number of years. When his health failed he became a traveling salesman and was in every state in the Union, except two, and in Australia.

He passed quietly, as if just fallen asleep, mind clear to the end.

6. SARAH JANE (JENNIE) WILLEY -- Aunt Jennie suffered much with poor health all her life, but it never soured her kind and placid disposition. Her grief for the loss of three children of her own, seemed to make her the more anxious to mother the rest of us in the younger generation, and we loved her dearly in return.

Grandma Willey spent her last days with Aunt Jennie.

Aunt Jennie lived with her daughter Jean, in Chicago. She had gone to Mount Ayr to visit her son, Budge, and had accompanied him on a business trip. It was an all day ride and visit; was taken sick soon after and died after a short illness.

7. WILLIAM (WILL) HENRY WILLEY -- Uncle Will was also a veteran of the Civil War; enlisted at Ninevah, Indiana, February 27, 1864 and served in Company A, 42nd Indiana Infantry. He was honorably discharged at Lousiville, Kentucky, July 21, 1865. He had marched with General Sherman to the sea.

He spent some time with us after his return. I used to enjoy hearing him sing old army songs. He seemed to have enjoyed the comradeship of army life. That first winter, he had pneumonia, but recovered from it.

8. THOMAS ELDRIDGE WILLEY -- Uncle Tom taught school when a young man; was a farmer, and later a druggist. He had diabetes and other complications; was sick a long time before he died, so was glad to go when the end came. His last words were (looking around in surprise), "Why, I'm dying!" then, exultently: "Oh, it's come! It's come!"

9. ALMIRA ESTELLA WILLEY -- Aunt Allie is the youngest one of the family. She is ninety, a little less than four years older than I. We were almost children together, when I lived on the old home farm, about the close of the Civil War. (written in 1942 by Ida M. Rose)


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