Isaac and Elizabeth Willits Family
Alternate Spellings - See Willits Family Page link above.
Links - Isaiah and Susanna Boone Willits, Beard, Thornton, James Willits, Levi Willits, Reuben Willits, William Willits, Drury, Shields, Davis, Burleigh, Honeyman, Pullen, Boyd, LaRue, Cunningham, Noble Thompson, Anderson, Harroun and Waterman (Misc Families), Bassett
Contacts - Albert James (Jim) Willett, Jr, Melisse Trent, Lola Ballard, Richard Clark, Stephanie Braucht
As mentioned on the Willits Family Page, Isaac Willits was born about 1730 in Islip, New York, and married Elizabeth about 1761 in Pennsylvania. The LDS Ancestral File gives her name as Elizabeth Wilson but we have nowhere found real proof of this. We have not found Quaker records for Isaac & Elizabeth Willits, nor did Eshelman. We know that Elizabeth was her given name, as the marriage of their daughter Rachel at West Grove Monthly Meeting in Wayne County, Indiana, gives Rachel as the daughter of Isaac & Elizabeth Willits.
Rachel Willits is the only child of Isaac and Elizabeth that we have found in Quaker records. Rachel was born 1/9/1777 and died 9/9/1816. She is buried in the Willits Cemetery at West Union Meeting in Wayne County, Indiana. Rachel married her cousin, Isaac Willits, son of Isaiah & Susannah Boone Willits, according to West Grove Monthly Meeting records. We will continue information on this family on the Isaiah & Susannah Boone Willits page.
There is a story we will relate here as it is a good example of the care that one must take when one finds a given surname - things are not always what they seem. A Henry Willits appears in the same records at West Grove Monthly Meeting as Isaac & Rachel Willits. He was born 10/11/1803 so is of approximately the same generation. His birthplace was Stokes County, North Carolina. Isaac named a child, by his second wife, Henry. Making an assumption (a bad one) that Henry was a brother or cousin of Isaac & Rachel, we spun our wheels for quite awhile before finding Isaac & Rachel's origins in Pennsylvania. Then out of curiosity we traced Henry Willits through his Quaker records and learned that his great, great grandparents came from New Jersey, so he is likely a descendant of Hope Willits of New Jersey, brother of our Thomas Willits who married Dinah Townsend. He is thus a cousin of Isaac & Rachel, but many times removed. They were fellow Quakers at West Grove and that accounted for the name Henry being given to Isaac's child.
Children of Isaac and Elizabeth WillitsPlease note sources carefully as much of the information must be verified!
Thomas WillitsThomas Willits, born 4/12/1762, Berks County, Pennsylvania (IGI Index)
Margaret WillitsMargaret Willits, born about 1764, Berks County, Pennsylvania (Ancestral File)
Samuel WillitsSamuel Willits, born 7/21/1766, Berks County, Pennsylvania, died 8/22/1842, Rush County, Indiana, married Elizabeth Thornton (Ancestral File)
Isaiah WillitsIsaiah Willits, born 9/15/1768, Berks County, Pennsylvania, died 5/3/1821, Catawissa, Columbia County, Pennsylvania, married Rachel Hughes, 9/14/1793, daughter of George & Martha Boone Hughes (Ancestral File & Eshelman). This may have some credibility as Eshelman did excellent Quaker research.
Jesse Willits (also see more below)Jesse Willits, born 11/1770 Berks County, Pennsylvania, died 7/7/1842, Eliza Township, Mercer County, Illinois, married (1)Sarah Van Horn (Ancestral File) (2) Susannah Van Horn (History of Mercer Co, 1882 )
Ruth Willits ThorntonRuth Willits, born 1772 Catawissa, Columbia County, Pennsylvania; died 1844, Muscatine, Iowa, married Edward Thornton (Ancestral File)
Isaac WillitsIsaac Willits, born 1774, Berks County, Pennsylvania (Ancestral File has errors on this one - he may or may not have existed)
Rachel Willits WillitsRachel Willits, born 1/9/1777, died 9/9/1816, West Grove, Wayne County, Indiana, married Isaac Willits, son of Isaiah & Susannah Boone Willits (West Grove MM records, Wayne County, Indiana)
Levi WillitsLevi Willits, born 12/29/1777, Pennsylvania, died 3/5/1828, Green's Fork, Wayne County, Indiana, married Rachel Field, 11/2/1797 (Ancestral File) . More on the Levi Willits page.
Amos WillitsAmos Willits, born 1779 (Ancestral File)
William WillitsWilliam Willits, born about 1781, Pennsylvania, died before 1860 in Wayne County, Indiana, married 3 times, last to Jane Burns Drury (widow of Edward Drury) 3/4/1832 in Wayne County, Indiana (History of Mercer County Ill, & Indiana Marriage Records, Indiana State Library). More on the William Willits Page.
More on the Children of Isaac and Elizabeth WillitsAs anyone knows who has used the LDS Ancestral File and the IGI Index, they are a wonderful resource, but all information found there needs to be proven. Anyone can submit data and sources are not given. As can be seen above, much of the information on the children of Isaac & Elizabeth Willits comes from the Ancestral File, so take it with a grain of salt. We would appreciate anyone letting us know if they have any proof of any of the information. Realize as well that family histories and county histories do not constitute proof. Family bibles, cemetery records and census records are reasonably good sources. In using family bibles check the publication date of the Bible as records may have been written down many years later from memory. Census records may obtain information taken from a neighbor or small child. Church records, wills, probates, marriage certificates, land records, and similar kinds of official documents are the best.
Having said that, from the Wayne County, Indiana, History, 1872 under Washington Township: "In the valley of Green's Fork, the following named persons were early settlers: Samuel, Jesse, Levi, and William Willetts, brothers...William and Levi died on their farms. Levi was an early justice of the peace. Jesse was in 1829, and for several years after, a county commissioner (he is also listed as an early carpenter). He removed to New Boston, Mercer Co., Ill., and died there, at the age of 66 years. Elisha, his son, lives near where his father settled; Nelson, son of Elisha, three-fourths of a mile south. J. B. & L. B. Willetts, sons of Eli, a brother of Elisha, reside on the west side...." We at least know that the four Willits men probably were brothers, which lends some credence to the list of children given above. Deed records in Fairfield County, Ohio, verify that Jesse was Justice of the Peace in 1805 and 1806.
There are some brief notes in the Wayne County History about West Grove Monthly Meeting of Friends, established 1815, about three miles north-west of Centerville. The Willits are not among the early members listed in the History, but we do know they were members of Whitewater Monthly Meeting and would have been charter members of West Grove when it was split off from Whitewater Monthly Meeting. The information about Isaac's wife and children given there would have come from Isaac himself so is the most authentic record we have. We do know that some of the Willits families paused in Fairfield County, Ohio, before going on to Wayne County. Jesse and some cousins are listed on tax records there in 1805 and 1806.
In the 1820 Wayne County, Indiana, census Levi, Robert and William Willets are all found on the same page. They were all engaged in agriculture. Levi's family consisted of one male and one female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 females 10-15, and one male under 10. Robert's family consisted of one male 16-25 and one female 10-15. William's family consisted of 1 male and 1 female 26-44, 1 female and 2 males 10-15, 4 females and 1 male under 10. More on these families on the Levi Willits page.
The 1840 Census in Wayne County, Indiana, lists James Willits, age 60-70 (son of Isaiah & Susannah Boone Willits), Elisha, age 40-50 (son of Jesse Willits), William, age 30-40 (son of Jesse Willits), and Robert, age 40-50 (son of Levi Willits). This gives us verification at least that Jesse and Levi were indeed together in Wayne County.
More on Son Jesse WillitsHaving made our point above about the questionable quality of non-official records, we must proceed with not much more than that on the family of Jesse Willits. Despite the fact that Jesse was a probate judge, there are no records of a will or estate for him currently existing in Mercer County. Alicia Ives kindly did the research there for us and found nothing for him. Without such a document, there has to be a great deal of speculation about his family. Alicia did discover a marriage for a Jesse Willits to Sarah Bopes in Rock Island County 7/13/1840, so perhaps (if this is our Jesse) the will can be located there if he named in-laws as executors. The History of Mercer County, 1882 tells us that Sarah Bauchard Bopes (mother of David Bopes of Perryton Township) lost her husband in 1838 in Rock Island County and afterward moved to Mercer County where she died in 1843. She seems to be of a generation that would fit with Jesse Willits.
Jesse Willits is numbered among the early settlers in Mercer County, along with his cousin, Isaac Willits, and Isaac's sons. The History of Mercer County, 1882 states that Jesse was first probate judge, by appointment from the governor. Jesse's name appears on the poll book of Mercer County as the first man to deposit a ballot after the county was organized in 1835. He also served as grand juror for the first term of the circuit court. According to Public Land Records, Jesse bought the SW & W2SE Section 32, Township 15N, Range 5W in future Eliza Township, on 2/12 and 4/5/1836. Part of that land is still in the Willits family on the 1875 Plat Map of Eliza Township. It is listed as belonging to J. F. Willits. Stephanie Braucht obtained information from a Mercer County resident that this parcel changed hands a number of times and was in the hands of Jesse Frenklin "Frank" Willits, son of Dudley Willits, in 1875. Jesse Willit's grandson, Jesse, who married Mary Shields, was in possession of land in New Boston Township in 1875. (See the 1875 Plat Map of New Boston Township in the NW quarter of Section 16.)
There are varying death dates given for Jesse. The Wayne County Indiana History, 1872 says he died at the age of 66 which would have been about 1836. We know from all he accomplished in Mercer County that that date is probably too early. The History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882 gives his death date as 1843. The Ancestral File gives it as 7/7/1842. We are fairly certain he died before 1844 as he did not attend the estate sale of his cousin Isaac Willits in Mercer County.
Albert James (Jim) Willett, Jr., author of the Willett House Collection (Heritage Books, 1998) has given us some incredible help on this family, solving quite a few mysteries about it. His previous book The Willett Families of North America (out of print) included about 200 pages on the Willits families.
According to Jim Willett (Ref. Bartlett), Jesse Willits married (1) Sarah Van Horn, about 1790, and(2) Susannah Van Horn, sister of Sarah, about 1800. They were daughters of Henry and Elizabeth Van Sant Van Horn. Sarah was born February 7, 1773, Newton Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and died in 1799. Susannah was born October 9, 1768 in Newton Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and died June 6, 1839, in Mercer County, Illinois. This clears up the mystery of Ancestral File records giving his wife's name as Sarah and the History of Mercer County, 1882 giving it as Susannah. Jesse's birth date is given as 11/1770 in Berks County, Pennsylvania by the Ancestral File. If this is correct he married quite young for the times, as young men then usually waited until they were 24 to 26 and well established before they married.
Children of Jesse WillitsWe will list the children attributed to the two wives as given by Jim Willett (Ref. Bartlett). Some of the evidence is still weak, and we would appreciate any light anyone can shed on this list. We will give our reason for attribution with each child. The Wayne County Indiana History, 1872 attributes Allison Willits to this family but that has been corrected by Bartlett to properly attribute Allison Willits to James and Amy Allison Willits.
Children of Jesse and Sarah Van Horn Willits(1) Samuel Willits was born 6/22/1791 in Pennsylvania and died 12/10/1881 in Mercer County, Illinois. He is buried in New Boston Cemetery beside his third wife Nancy (photo courtesy Stephanie Braucht). The cemetery records of Mercer County were compiled from a walkdown of the cemetery in the 1960's and there are many errors from inability to read the old tombstones (they have his death date as 1821 which is obviously an error as no white persons were in Mercer County at that early date!). Descendants carry the death date as 1884 from a 1916 Willits family history, and Bartlett has it as 1881. Samuel is found with son Charles in the 1880 census in Marian Township in Henry County, Iowa so he was definitely alive then. (We have information from a descendant of Samuel, Julie Krohfeld. Julie does not have email). Samuel married (1) Sarah Ann Hurst Davis, probably about 1815 in Fairfield County, Ohio. They had one daughter Sarah Ann Willits, born about 1819. She married Cyrus Davis in Ohio and they came to Mercer County, no doubt with the Willits families.
Samuel Willits married (2)Mary Gossage, about 1820, daughter of John Gossage. Their marriage record is found in Fairfield County, Ohio, where her name is given as Elizabeth Gorsuch (per Julie Krohfeld). This was likely Mary Elizabeth and it may have been a misspelling of Gossage or she may have been a widow. Because of her age it is most likely the name is actually one and the same. They settled for awhile in Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio. Samuel Willits and Mary Gossage had children Charles Gossage Willits (1/1821), Jesse Willits (abt 1823), George S. Willits (abt 1825), Tabitha Willits (abt 1827), two children who died as infants, and Job E. Willits (1832). All the children were born in Ohio.
Samuel is found in 1880 in Marion, Henry County, Iowa: #42 Charles G. Willits, 59, farmer, born Ohio; Ellen C., 45, Ohio; Ledru, 22, son, farm laborer, Ia; John C., 16, farm laborer, Ia; Wilmet, 14, son, Ia; Novello Shields, daughter, 20 born Ia; Tanner Shields, 1, grandson, born Ia; Jessie Barger, female, 10, adopted child, born Il; Samuel Willits, 88, retired farmer, born Pa. Next to them is son Thornton Willits, 27, farmer, born Il; Mary, 27, Ia. Charles Gossage Willits married Rachel Willet Thornton 30 March 1846 in Mercer County. He married Eleanor Crozier sometime after 1862 and the children are hers starting with John C. Willits. Novello Shields had married Leander Shields and she was widowed in 1878.
We believe Samuel is correctly identified as son of Jesse Willits, as he named a son Jesse. Jesse married Mary Ann Shields, daughter of William Shields, 3/21/1844, in Mercer County (We will be putting up a Shields page). Young Jesse and Mary had children: John Eskeridge(b. abt 1845); Samuel Adolphus (abt 1848); Martha Ellen (abt 1853); Elizabeth Ann(abt 1855); George S. (abt 1858); Ida (abt 1862); and Ruth (abt 1866 - died before 1891). Jesse is listed as owning land in 1875 in New Boston Township (see note above with plat map link). He is found there in the 1870 census: #60 Jesse Willits, 48, farmer, born Oh; Mary Ann, 42, In; Adolphus, 22, assisting on farm, Il; Martha, 16, Il; Lizzie, 15, Il; George, 12, Il; Ida, 8, Il; and Ruth, 4, Il. Jesse Willits wrote his will 11/2/1891 in Mercer County.
Jesse's daughter Martha Ellen married Abraham Beard, Jr., 9/11/1879. Photo of Martha Ellen courtesy Melisse Trentz. Daughter Lizzie married Marcellus Honeyman, 11/17/1884. Son John Eskeridge married Mary Pullen 8/30/1866. Son Adolphus married Vira Sterling 11/23/1876.
Samuel Willits married (3) Nancy Hall. Isaac Newton Bassett who was editor of the 1914 History of Mercer County, says a sister of his mother, named Nancy Hall, married Samuel Willits. Samuel and Nancy are found in the 1860 Census in New Boston Township in Mercer County: Samuel, age 68, farmer, born Pennsylvania; Nancy, age 65, born Pennsylvania. Samuel and Nancy had no children together but since Nancy raised the children we believe that may be why Samuel is buried next to her in New Boston Cemetery instead of with second wife Mary. We have yet to find Mary's burial place.
Samuel supposedly married (4) Sarah but we find no record of such a marriage in Mercer County. He married (4?5?) Mrs. Zeruah Bond 10/13/1867 in Mercer County, Illinois. They are found in New Boston Town in the 1870 Census: Samuel, age 78, retired farmer, Zeruah, age 67, born Connecticut, and Fanny Bond, age 20, housekeeper, born Ohio. Fanny is probably granddaughter of Zeruah.
(2) Elisha Willits was born 2/27/1794, in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. He is given as the son of Jesse Willits by the Wayne County, Indiana, 1872 history. He married Sally Huff 9/27/1818 in Wayne County. She soon died, probably in childbirth. Elisha married (2) Mary Hannah, daughter of James and Sarah Gregg Hannah, on 1/20/1820, in Wayne County. Their children were Nelson, Clarissa, Joanna, Jesse, Samuel, William and Anna according to the 1850 census. There was also a daughter Sarah who married John Hurst before 1850. There also appears to be a son, James Hannah Willits, born 5/19/1830 in Wayne County. He is not in the 1850 census but his birth date fits correctly in the family. Another son, Elias Willits, was in Muscatine County, Iowa in 1850. Information recently (9/04) received from Richard Clark has confirmed that he is son of Elisha and we have moved Elias from the Orphan Willits page to this page.
Son James Hannah Willits married Annie McKenzie supposedly after 8/1850 in Mercer County, Illinois, but we do not find a marriage there. There was a J. H. Willits, single, working for James McCanada, grocer, in Keithsburg in 1850. He is age 20, born Indiana. They had children: Georginna R. Willits, born about 1852, James Willits, born about 1855. The family went on to California.
Son Elias Willits was born August 12, 1826 in Wayne County, Indiana. In the 1850 Census, City of Muscatine, Iowa - Elias Willetts, 24, Lawyer, born Indiana; Elizabeth, age 23, born Maryland. Richard Clark sent us the following from "The Past and Present of Warren County, Illinois - 1877": "Willets Elias, attorney; Monmouth; born in Wayne Co., Ind, Aug 12, 1826; rep; Prot; he came to this State in 1851, and to this Co. in 1862; holds office of Judge of the Co. Court; married Elizabeth Fish in 1850; she was born in Baltimore, Md.; has three children; lost four." 1860 Census, Aledo, Mercer County, Illinois - Elias Willits, 34, Lawyer, born Indiana; Elizabeth, 33, Md; Oscar H., 9, Ann E., age 7; Mary A., age 1, all born Illinois. Then in an advertisement in the Aledo Weekly Record April 12, 1864: Elias Willits Attorney and counselor at law and war claims agent - Monmouth Illinois. He was elected to fill the term of a local judge in 1870 and held that position until his death.
Lola Ballard who lives in Monmouth, Illinois sent us additional information on this family. Richard Clark has amplified the information. Elias is buried at Monmouth and his tombstone gives his birth as August 12, 1826 and death as 1 November 1881. The name is Willets on the tombstone. Wife Elizabeth has a separate tombstone (Elizabeth Willits 1827-1923) There is a school in Monmouth named the Willits school for Elias. At the time of his death Elias was secretary of the local school board.
Elias had seven children of whom only one, Anna Elizabeth, survived to adulthood. She married Henry Pattee on 8/25/1881. Anna Elizabeth went to Monmouth College and is honored as founder of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, now a national sorority.
Some of the children are buried at Monmouth Cemetery and some at Aledo but all are listed on the family stone at Monmouth: Ethel C. Willets (27 Apr 1864-6 Oct 1880); M. Ardie Willets (2 Apr 1859-10 May 1863); Oscar H. Willets (6 Sept 1851-8 May 1870); Hugh L. Willets, (10 Dec 1860-13 Mar 1861); Orville Willets (15 Dec 1861-3 Mar 1862); John Charles Willets (11 May 1867-28 Aug 1882).
Elisha Willits remained in Wayne County, Indiana, and as far as we know now, none of his other children came to Mercer County, Illinois. Elisha owned land in Sections 4 & 9 of Washington Township in Wayne County.
(3) Elias Willits was born 1/1/1797 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. During the War of 1812, Elias Willits served from September 27, 1812, until February 26, 1813, in Captain Courtwright's Company of soldiers from Fairfield County, Ohio (Willett House Collection). He was elected sheriff of Wayne County on October 22, 1821 and served for two years. Elias Willits married Eliza Kibbey on October 11, 1822, in Wayne County, Indiana. She was daughter of John C. Kibbey, a native of Warren County, Ohio, who moved to Wayne County, Indiana, in 1815 and to Richmond in 1821 or 1822. He was said to have been a man of "mathematical turn of mind, well read in general literature, and an honest man." He was a justice of the peace for many years (History of Wayne County, 1872). Elias Willitts died on April 18, 1824. His Probate is listed in Book A in Wayne County with John Kiggey, administrator. The History of Wayne County, 1872 attributes two sons, J. B. Willits and I. B. Willits to Jesse's son Eli, but Bartlett attributes them to Elias, assigning birthdates of 1823 and 1824. We feel this is an error on the part of Bartlett as he exactly quotes the Wayne County History about the children, but lists them under Elias instead of Eli. In the 1840 census in Mercer County, Illinois, widow Eliza Willits has two children in her family, 1 female, age 15-20, and one male age 15-20. She apparently did have two children with Elias but we have so far been unable to trace the names, and we do not believe Bartlett's attribution to be correct.
Eliza Kibbey Willits married (2) Joshua M. Willits, son of Isaac Willits, and grandson of Isaiah and Susanna Boone Willits. They were married on 3/8/1827 in Wayne County. They were early settlers in Mercer County, but Joshua died before 1840. In the 1840 census, in addition to the two children mentioned above, Eliza has 2 females age 5-10 and one male under 5, children of Joshua.
Mrs. Eliza Willits married (3) William Shannon in Mercer County on 2/29/1844. We find William and Eliza Shannon in Knox County, Illinois in 1850 in Township 12N Range 1East #1097: William W. Shannon, 60, farmer, farm valued $4000, born Pa; Eliza E. Shannon, 45, born Ohio; Milton Shannon, 25, farmer, born Iowa; Samuel, 23, farmer, born Iowa; Ann Willits, 16, born Iowa; Mary Willits, 13, born Iowa; Jehah (male), 12, born Iowa; James T. Shannon, 5, born Ill; Joshua How, 21, laborer, born Ohio. The two older Shannon sons appear to be sons of William's first wife (name unknown). The three Willits children belong to Joshua (and there may have been more). James Shannon is son of William and Eliza. Janis Franklin, whom we recently met online, thinks that perhaps the Nancy S. Willits who married James S. Thompson in 1849 in Mercer County may be another child of Joshua and Eliza Kibby Willits. She would have been about age 21 in 1850 (born aout 1829) and was born in Indiana so she would fit but the 1840 census does not support it. We will be adding a Thompson page and perhaps can discover more about Nancy.
(4) Sarah Willits was born about 1798 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and married Isaac Busbey 10/14/1819 in Wayne County, Indiana. We have nothing further on this family.
(5) Eli Willits was born April 1800, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. (Bartlett carries him as son of Jesse and Sarah, though he states Sarah died in 1799. Obviously something is wrong with the dates, but without actual death and marriage records this cannot be sorted out. We are leaving Eli here for consistency with Bartlett.) The Wayne County, Indiana, 1872 history tells us that Eli was the son of Jesse. It attributes two sons to him, J. B. and I. B. Willits. J. B. was John Burns Willits but we do not find an I. B. that we recognize. Eli married Harriett Drury 4/13/1826 in Wayne County, Indiana. She was daughter of Edward and Jane Burns Drury. In the 1850 census they are found with four children John Burns Willits, age 18, Maria A. Willits, age 14, Clarinda V. Willits, age 11, and James N. Willits, age 4. Harriett died April 11, 1851, and is buried in the Franklin Cemetery in Wayne County, Indiana.
Eli married (2) Caroline Boyd O'Neill on August 21, 1851 in Wayne County. She was daughter of James and Margaret Mitchell Boyd and widow of James O'Neil/O'Neal. She was half sister of Amanda Boyd who married Eli's son John Burns Willits. (The name of Eli's second wife has been erroneously given as Caroline Crull O'Neil but Indiana marriage records verify that it was Caroline Boyd O'Neil.) Eli and Caroline had two children, Luediah, born about 1853 and Vie, born about 1855. We do not know the fate of these two children. Eli also died at a fairly young age, on September 4, 1857, in Wayne County, Indiana. He is buried in the Franklin cemetery.
The children of Eli and Harriett Willits were raised by Levi Willits, son of William & Mary Willits, grandson of Isaac & Elizabeth Willits, and Jesse Willits' nephew<. The History of Mercer County, 1882 tells us he raised her four children, and it also has an extensive biography of Levi Willits. Levi was married to Harriett Drury's sister Clarinda Drury, so there was a double family connection. The four children "raised" by Levi appear to include Maria A. (Elvira) Willits, born 1836, Clarinda V., born 1839 (died at age 14), James N. (Leslie) Willits, born 1846. Maria E. Willits married Anthony Burdick 6/21/1858 in Mercer County (a Burdick page will be added). James Leslie Willits, age 14, is found with Levi's wife Clarinda Drury in the 1860 census in Mercer County. The fourth child is probably Orr Willits, found in the 1870 census in Mercer County, age 23, living with Anthony Burdick and his sister Maria Elvira. Orr Willits is not listed with Eli and Harriet in the 1850 census in Wayne County, but if Harriet was not well, he may have been raised in another family. Eli and Harriett's son, John Burns Willits also went to Mercer County, where he is found in the 1870 census: J. Burns Willits, 37, farmer, Amanda E., 37, Clarinda A., age 14, and Nora O., age 6, all born Indiana. (In the 1860 census in Wayne County they had a son Levi W., born 8/1859 who apparently did not survive.) John Burns Willits had married Amanda Boyd, daughter of James and Hester Ruby Boyd on 1/1/1855 in Wayne County, Indiana. John Burns Willits (7/4/1832 to 10/16/1888) and Amanda Willits (4/3/1832 to 10/17/1907) are buried in the Aledo Cemetery in Mercer County. Amanda was half sister of the Caroline Boyd O'Neil who married John's father Eli as second wife.
In the 1830 census in Wayne County, Indiana, Eli and Harriett had a male and female child, age 0-5. The female was apparently Cecilia Willits, born March 14, 1830 and died July 1850 (buried Franklin Cemetery). The male apparently was Wells W. Willits, born April 16, 1827, near Centreville, Wayne County. In 1850 Wells Willits was living in the Courtney Drury household in New Boston. He married Rachel Lair about 1853 (their marriage record is not found in the Illinois marriage records). Their only child was Edward Lee (Lair?) Willits, born October 27, 1854, in New Boston. By 1854 Wells Willits had opened a store in New Boston (see advertisement). In 1864, Wells Willits advertised in the Aledo Weekly Record: "Wells Willits, Produce Commision, Storage & Forwarding Merchant, New Boston, Illinois. Also General Steamboat Agent, and agent for Mercer County for the sale of C. H. McCormick's Celebrated Reaper and Mower. New Boston, Ill, April 28, 1863." Wells and family are found in New Boston in the 1870 census: Wells, age 43, Merchant, born Indiana; Rachel C., 40, born Indiana; Ed L., 15. There is an interesting poem written by Isaac Beard LaRue about 1875, telling of the hard times in Mercer County. He talks of shopping in Wells Willit's store (among others) in New Boston. The hard times are confirmed by the fact that Wells had given up his store before 1880. Wells Willits and family moved to Dorchester, Saline County, Nebraska Territory in late 1879, and later to Harlan County, Nebraska. Wells Willits died on November 13, 1902, in Alma, Harlan County, Nebraska. Son Edward married (1)Blanche Conklin May 25, 1882 and (2) Rebecca Metts July 17, 1898. He died October 8, 1903 in Alma, Harlan County, Nebraska. Wells and his son were successful merchants in Harlan County and Edward became president of the Harlan County Bank. (Information on this family courtesy Jim Willett.)
Children of Jesse Willits and Susannah Van Horn Willits(6) Dudley Willits was born 3/17/1802 in Fairfield County, Ohio, and died at the age of 71, on 12/2/1873, west of Crawfordsville, Iowa. At the time he was living at Y. B. Trego's house and was buried in their front yard, according to Dudley's obituary. Dudley was an interesting and well known character in Mercer County and a good deal was printed about him in the Aledo Weekly Record, including his obituary, written in his own style, and probably dictated by him on his death bed. As time permits we will add some of these articles on a separate page as they tell us of the life and times as well as of the character of Dudley Willits (one has been added on the Schools page). Dudley had Quaker roots, became an ardent spiritualist, often debating with conventional ministers. He died and was buried at the home of a family with Quaker roots. Dudley married Mary Ann (Polly) Roby (Ruby?) on 11/15/1827, in Union County, Indiana. Polly was born 5/30/1811 in Kentucky, and died 7/1/1868, in Mercer County, Illinois. She is buried in New Boston Cemetery. Dudley and Polly Willits had children: Van Horn Willits, born 7/4/1831, in Wayne County, Indiana (married Genette Cunningham); Daniel Willits, born about 1832, Wayne County, Indiana; Jesse Franklin Willits, born 12/17/1835, Wayne County, Indiana; and Hester E. Willits, born about 1837, Wayne County, Indiana. Dudley and Polly are living in Eliza Township in 1860 with children Daniel (incorrectly given as David) and Hester. Dudley is not found in the 1870 census in Mercer County and must have left soon after Polly's death.
(7) William Willits, born January 7, 1802, Fairfield County, Ohio. Now we get into some conflict over the children of Jesse. Dudley Willits above was born 3/17/1802 in Fairfield County, Ohio, so both of these can't work! The History of Mercer County 1882, gives the birthdate in a biography of Mary D. Willits, his second wife, and the date is also used on his tombstone. (Perhaps the date should read 1805?). William Willits was married first to Chariah Drury, daughter of Edward and Jane Burns Drury, 4/1/1830, in Wayne County, Indiana. Chariah was born 1814 in Indiana, and died 1850 in Mercer County, Illinois, and is buried in the Davis Cemetery. The children of William and Chariah Drury Willits were: L. Volney Willits, born 1831, Wayne County, Indiana; Margaret Willits born 1833, Wayne County, Indiana, married Joseph Elliott Harroun, 3/1855, Mercer County, Ill; Clarinda Jane Willits, born 1835, died 12/24/1837, Mercer County; Adelia Willits, born 1836, Mercer County; Courtney Dement Willits, born 1840, died 11/4/1842, Mercer County; James Leslie Willits, born 1843, Mercer County, married Alice Davis 3/14/1867, in Mercer County; Walter D. Willits, born 1845, married Irene Burleigh, Rock Island County, died 1/12/1875 in Mercer County, burial Davis Cemetery; Teressa Willits, born 1847, died 9/14/1850, and Vienna Chariah Willits, born 1850, died 9/23/1850 in Mercer County and buried in the Davis Cemetery.
The History of Mercer County, 1882, tells us that widow Mary Alyea Danford married on March 10, 1852, to William Willits, who was the seventh child of Jesse and Susannah Willits. William and Mary Alyea Danford Willits had five children: Vienna Chariah, born 1/18/1853, and died before 1870; Arthur, born 4/23/1855; Silas Dement, born 2/16/1857; Clarence L., born 4/4/1859; and Florence Nightingale, born 9/24/1861, all in Mercer County. There are no hints in the naming of the children to verify the parentage of William. The names of the children are verified in the 1870 census. Three Danford children are living with them in the 1870 census so there is no error in the marriage. William died September 1, 1871, and is buried in the Davis Cemetery. He owned a farm five miles east of New Boston and this is verified in the 1875 New Boston plat map where the land of Mary D. Willits can be seen in Section 25.
(8) Matilda Willits was born 3/12/1809 in Fairfield County, Ohio. She married Lewis Noble, Jr., 12/15/1831 in Wayne County, Indiana. He was son of Lewis and Elizabeth Burgess Noble, born 3/8/1811, in Ohio. Matilda and Lewis named a son Van Horn, indicating they are properly placed in this family. Lewis and Matilda had children: Willits Noble, born 1/4/1834, died 4/18/1850, burial Eliza Cemetery; William Wallace Noble, born 3/12/1836, married Sarah Ann Black; Laben Burgess Noble, born 11/16/1839, married Irabell Stephens, served Civil War; Van Horn Albert Noble, born 2/10/1841, married Mary Emma Ellis, served Civil War, died 12/8/1881, burial Eliza Cemetery; Elizabeth Jane Noble, born 10/20/1844; Lewis Albert Noble, born 11/18/1848, died 8/10/1876; S. Milton Noble, born 3/8/1851, died 6/11/1852, burial Eliza Cemetery; Joshua W. Noble, born 2/1/1854, died 5/24/ 1891. (This family will be followed further on the Noble page.)
(9) Margaret Willits, born about 1811, Fairfield County, Ohio. No further information. Possibly the Margaret Willits who married William Hays 2/7/1833 in Wayne County, Indiana??
Updates 6/2008 Updates to Jesse Willits son Samuel Willits with the help of Stephanie Braucht including a photo of Samuel's tombstone.