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James and Amy Allitson Willits Family

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Links - Isaiah and Susannah Boone Willits, Isaac Willits, brother of Isaiah, Harrell, Lloyd, Rader, Scudder, Anderson, Reynolds

Contacts - Milly Champeau and Paula Nevels on the Thomas Willits family, Mary Ann Commings on the Allison Willits family. Jamie Paul has posted photographs of the tombstones of some of the Thomas Willits family in New Boston Cemetery on Findagrave. Use the back button on your browser to return here.

Dr. Thomas Willits, son of James and Amy Allison Willits,
and his wife Catherine Willits
Photos courtesy of Milly Champeau

James Willits married Amy Allison in Ohio according to the tory of Mercer County, 1882. James was son of Isaiah and Susannah Boone Willits and was born 4/3/1777 in York County, Pennsylvania. Amy was born 10/21/1784 in Pennsylvania. The Willits and Allisons had immigrated from Pennsylvania to Pickaway County Ohio, according to the 1882 History. James and Amy married in Pickaway County and had their family there. Then in 1830 they moved on to Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana. We find no evidence that they followed the Quaker faith as some of their relatives did.

James and Amy had children: Thomas, born 1805; Amy; Allison Isaac, born 1811; Amos Mills, born 1814; and Murry, born 1824. There may have been more, as two females age 10-15 are shown with them in the 1830 census. In addition, Milly Champeau tells us there are three infants' stones by the markers of Amy and James in the Franklin Cemetery in Wayne County, Indiana : Horace died age 2 yr, 4 mo, 4 dy; Sylvia(? - very worn); and Elizabeth 11 mo, 10 dy. It is not certain that they are children of James and Amy.

James and Amy are found in Harrison Township in Wayne County in the 1850 census. Amy is given as Anne, but the age and birthplace are the same and we know that Amy was still alive. Son Murry, age 26, born Ohio, is living with them, as is son Mills (Amos Mills), age 36, born Ohio, with his young family (more below). They have a mulatto, Zenia Mears, age 21, born North Carolina, working for them as a domestic.

James and Amy Allison Willits both died in Wayne County, Indiana, and are buried in the Franklin Cemetery: James died March 7, 1851, age 73 y-11m-4d; Amy, wife of James, died April 1, 1851, age 66y-5m-10d. (Cemetery photo courtesy Millie Champeau - first two stones at the left.)

The obituary of son Thomas indicates that James served in the War of 1812 and that James's father was a continental soldier during the Revolutionary War. We have not yet looked for proof of either of these allegations but with the Quaker background of James's parents his father's service is unlikely. Another good clue is when descendants obtain free public land as they would have been entitled to in the mid 1850's for having served in any war. We find no such records for this part of the family.

Thomas Willits Family

We would like to thank Paula Nevels and Milly Champeau for help on this family. Milly provided the photos above and the copy of Dr. Tom's obituary which is posted at the end of the page. Please note that only a postcard was sent notifying people in Mercer County of his death and that most of the obituary comes from a Mercer County History and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. Milly also helped a great deal by providing information from her grandmother's genealogy notes. Jamie Paul has taken photos of family graves in the New Boston Cemetery and posted them on Findagrave (see link under Contacts above.)

Son Thomas Willits (photo above) was born in Pickaway County, Ohio, in 1805, and there is a biography of him in the History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882. He was a pioneer in his profession (physician) as well as a pioneer settler of Mercer County. At the age of twenty Thomas left home with the design of going to St. Louis, but stopped at Montezuma, Parke County, Indiana, where he began the practice of medicine. In three or four years he returned home, which was now Richmond, Indiana. In 1837 he went west and settled in Warren County [just south of Mercer] where he "entered" 500 acres of land ("entering" this amount of land would not have been possible so he likely bought up other people's claims [See Part 1 History for information on how land claims worked]). He farmed for awhile but was not pleased with the income and in 1840 moved to New Boston and continued his practice of medicine (see our Medicine page). He was elected a representative to the state legislature for one term. He organized a division of the Sons of Temperance in New Boston.

The History of Mercer County, 1882 tells us "Dr. Willits was married early in life to Mrs. Catherine Libby, formerly Miss Ainsworth, and five children were the fruits of this union." Milly Champeau has found information from Ohio marriage records that Catherine Ensworth married William Leiby on November 1, 1825 in Pickaway County, Ohio. William Lieby apparently died in 1826 in Ohio. This is without a doubt the Catherine Ainsworth Libby referred to in the 1882 Mercer County History. We believe that Thomas and Catherine were married in Pickaway County, Ohio, despite the information in the Mercer History that Thomas practiced medicine in Parke County, Indiana, and then returned to his father's home after his father moved to Richmond, Indiana. We do not find a marriage record for Thomas and Catherine in Indiana marriage records which are fairly complete in that time period and where many, many Willits family marriages are found. It therefore seems feasible that Thomas returned home to Pickaway County, Ohio, while his parents were still living there and married Catherine sometime before the 1830 census was taken. By the 1830 census Thomas and Catherine are living in Washington Township, Wayne County, Indiana, where they are both listed as age 20-30 and have no children so they probably have not been married long.

The children of Thomas and Catherine were: Elmira, died in infancy; Lee Roy (photo); Viola; Celeste (photo); and Kate (photo).

In 1850 Thomas and Catharine are found in New Boston: Thomas Willits, 44, physician, property $1500, born Ohio; Catherine, 44, born Pa; Leroy, 17, born Ind; Viola, 14, Ind; Celest A., 11, Ill; Kate I., 7, Ill. This tells us they came to Illinois at least by 1839 which agrees well with the Mercer History.

Thomas Willits was appointed executor for the will of his uncle Isaac Willits in 1844. He may also have been the doctor that treated Isaac during his illness as the bill for treatment was from Dr. Edmund Harrell who supposedly partnered with Dr. Tom.

We believe the reference in Thomas's obituary below to a partnership with Dr. Harrell is probably correct. Thomas Willits and family are not found in the 1840 census in Mercer County, but in the household of Dr. Edmond Harrell in New Boston there are listed 1 male 30-40, 5 males 20-30, 1 female 30-40, 1 female 20-30, and two females age 5-10. Two of the males were engaged in trade but four were professionals. Dr. Harrell and his wife were male and female age 20-30, and their daughter was one of the young females. Dr. Tom and his wife could fit the male and female age 30-40 but their children are not in the household except perhaps one young girl. Since the History above indicates Dr. Tom moved to New Boston in 1840 perhaps he was temporarily staying with the Harrells and other relatives were caring for the children.

Son Lee Roy Willits was born 10/26/1832 in Indiana, and died 10/13/1913 in Mercer County, Illinois. Lee Roy married twice: (1) Mrs. Louise Hagen on 11/2/1860 in Mercer County; (2) Ella Lloyd on 3/1/1874 in Mercer County. We do not know the surname of Louise Hagen but know she was born about 1838 in Bavaria. Louise died 4/18/1870 and is buried in New Boston Cemetery as is Lee Roy. Widower Lee Roy and children Fredericka, Allison, and James were living with Leroy and his parents, Thomas and Catherine Willits, in the 1870 census. There is a Hermon Willits, age 14, born Bavaria, also living with them; this is no doubt Herman Otto Hagen, child of Louise Hagen Willits by her previous marriage and found with her in the 1860 census. Another child, Viola (aka Vie Ella) Willits went with an aunt and uncle on her mother's side as she is found with William Frentzel, a groceryman in Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois, in 1880, listed as niece, 18, born Il, father born unknown and mother born Bavaria. We cannot say that Louise's maiden name was Frentzel as we do not know if William Frentzel was her brother or whether his deceased wife was her sister.

The children of Lee Roy and Louise were then Viola/Vi Ella Willits (b. about 1862), Frederika Mable Willits (b. abt. 1864); Allison I. Willits (b. about 1865); and James H. Willits (b. abt. 1868). Daughter Frederika was housekeeper for her grandfther in 1880 and living next door to Leroy and second wife Ella and family. Curiously Viola and Frederika may also be censused with her aunt Celeste in 1880 (see below). Milly Champeau tells us that Vi Ella married Benjamin Harry Elgin but we cannot find a marriage or census record for them after 1880. Frederika married twice: (1) George D. Field on 12/24/1888 in Cook County, Illinois; (2) Ira Gibson 2/7/1894. Son Allison I. Willits married Rose Rader on 12/28/1886 in Mercer County. They had a son Scott Allison Willits (photo ) courtesy Milly Champeau). ( Photo of home of Allison and Rose Willits courtesy Milly Champeau). Another Willits researcher (Paula Nevels) tells us the family was well-to-do.

Lee Roy Willits married next to Ella Lloyd, daughter of Benijah and Arelda Willits Lloyd, on 3/1/1874 in Mercer County. They had children: Thomas Benjamin; Xen L.; Louise; Lara; Hilda; Zoe Iris; Ira Verne; and Bart M. Willits. Thomas Benjamin Willits is the line of Paul Nevels. Xen L. Willits married Alfred Jarvis Harrison on 11/4/1900. Louise Willits married William G. Harrison on 10/11/1899. Lara M. Willits married (1) May Meade on 3/1/1899; and (2) Hattie Harrison Van Hook after 1911. Hilda Willits married Elmer Crose, son of William and Sarah Palmer Crose, on 12/27/1899; Zoe Iris, born 3/11/1885, died 8/15/1887; Ira Verne, born 7/17/1890, died 8/15/1891; Bart M. Willits, born 8/6/1892, died 9/12/1958, buried Greenmound Cemetery in Keithsburg.

Viola Willits Scudder

Daughter Viola Willits married Russell S. Scudder, brother of Lyman Scudder, on 12/21/1856 in Mercer County. Viola probably died in childbirth as Russell and a new wife Elizabeth were living with brother Lyman Scudder in 1860 in New Boston Township.

Celeste Willits Anderson

Daughter Celeste Willits married William A. Anderson 9/14/1859 in Mercer County. They are living in Mercer County, New Boston Township, in 1860: William A. Anderson, 24, tinner, born In; Celeste Anderson, 21, born Il. Information on this family is continued on the Anderson page.

Kate Willits McCurdy

Daughter Kate Willits married Thomas Manning McCurdy on 10/21/1871 in Mercer County, Illinois. The 1882 Mercer County History styles him as "Thomas Manning of Chicago" as it styled William Anderson "of Chicago" and indeed we find Thomas and Kate also in Chicago in 1880. The Manning/McCurdy family is a bit of a puzzle and descendant, Milly Champeau, would be most appreciative of any light anyone can shed on it. Milly believes that Thomas's mother was Anna Manning (photo) who later married a McCurdy. There is no information on them in either the 1860 or 1870 census in Mercer County. Efforts to locate Thomas as either Manning or McCurdy in the 1850 census have not been successful. We have found a John McCurdy in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1852 but cannot confirm a connection. Milly has found a death record for Tom McCurdy. It does not name his parents but gives him born New York.

The family is found in Chicago in 1880: Thomas McCurdy, 36, Elevator Conductor, born NY, parents born NY; Kate, wife, 36, born Il, father born Oh, mother born Pa; Anna, daughter, 7, born Il, at school; Vera, daughter, 2, born Il. Thomas McCurdy died May 4, 1882 at age 37 after living in Illinois for 24 years. He died of Brights disease and "was sick a long time in Chicago and came here a short time before his death". Millie tells us that family lore has it that Tom knew he was ill when he married and told Kate they might have a short marriage. Place of burial was Chicago on April 23, 1882.

Thomas and Kate Willits McCurdy had two children: Anna and Vera Daisy McCurdy (photo). Milly tells us they also had a son, Tom, who died a few months after birth. Anna was a milliner and her card has been used for decoration at the top of the page between the photos of her great grandparents. Vera Daisy was the ancestor of Milly Champeau.

Amy Willits Reynolds

Daughter Amy Willits married Addison Reynolds, 9/5/1833, in Wayne County, Indiana. More on the Reynolds page.

Allison Isaac Willits Family

Son Allison I. Willits was born in 1811 in Pickaway County, Ohio, according to the 1850 census of Linn County, Iowa. The Wayne County Indiana History, 1872 gives him as the son of Jesse Willits. Bartlett in his Willits family history has attributed Allison to James & Amy and we believe this to be correct as it was often the custom to give a son the maiden name of the mother. Allison Willits married Elizabeth E. Julian on January 12, 1841 in Wayne County, Indiana. They went almost immediately to Linn County, Iowa. The Wayne County History says he was the founder of the town of Mt. Vernon. This appears to be incorrect according to Linn County records. He was indeed one of the very early settlers and landowners but certainly was not the founder. Elizabeth Julian was born July 15, 1819, the daughter of Quakers Isaac & Rebecca Hoover Julian of Randolph County, North Carolina, and Wayne County, Indiana. Her brother George Julian was a teacher in the first log school house (see Schools page) at New Boston in Mercer County, Illinois, in 1834/35. Allison & Elizabeth Julian Willits are found in the 1850 census in Linn County, Iowa: Allison I. Willits, farmer, property value $3000, age 39, born Ohio; Elizabeth E., 28, born Indiana; Adelia, age 2, born Illinois. Two doors away we find Elizabeth's mother and brother: Rebecca Julian, age 59, born North Carolina; Isaac N. Julian, 27, farmer, born Indiana. Allison & Elizabeth apparently had a son before Allison died in the 1850's. The Wayne County History says they had three children but the Linn County Iowa histories say two. Elizabeth Julian Willits married second in 1859 to Andrew Beatty in Linn County, Iowa.

(MaryAnn Commings of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, kindly furnished us information from The Centennial History of Mt. Vernon, 1946 and History of Linn County (Iowa), 1878.) The Centennial History of Mt. Vernon says Allison Willits settled east of the Abbe farm (about 2 miles WNW of Mt. Vernon) and later purchased much of the land which is now Cornell (College) Campus. Moving into town he built a store near the present Kepler Building. Elizabeth's brother, Isaac Julian, donated land as well for Cornell College before returning to Indiana to become a newspaper publisher in Wayne County. George Julian, early New Boston school teacher, also returned to Indiana and became a state senator, active in the women's suffrage movement.

Amos Mills Willits Family

Son Amos Mills Willits married Maria Boozer 5/31/1849 in Wayne County, Indiana. They were living with Mills's parents in 1850 with a young child Silvy, age 6/12, who apparently died before the 1860 census. The family is found in Millersburg Township in Mercer County, Illinois, in 1860: A. Mills Willits, age 45, farmer, born Ohio; Maria A., age 32, born Ohio; Horatio M., age 5, born Indiana; Cora C., age 4, born Indiana; Peacher, age 3, born Illinois; and Mira, age 1, born Illinois. The birth dates of the children indicate the family went to Mercer County about 1856. The family is not found in Mercer County in 1870.

Obituary of Dr. Thomas Willits

November 28, 1884 ALEDO DEMOCRAT
Dr. Thos. Willits Dead
A postal card from New Boston announced the death of Dr. Thomas Willits, at his home near that city, on Monday, the 24th, at12 p m. The following facts in regard to his life are taken from the Mercer County Atlas, published in 1875.

Dr. Willits was born in Pickaway county, Ohio, December 6,1805. When five or six years old the family moved to the vicinity of Cincinnati, where he was raised and where he read medicine under Dr. William Thomas, a noted physician and surgeon from England. After completing a course of reading in company with another young physician, Dr. Halstead, he started to St. Louis and on reaching the town of Montezuma, Park county, Indiana, his traveling companion was taken sick, and during the subsequent detention and while Dr. Willits was engaged with his friend in the double capacity of nurse and physician, he received a number of professional calls from the inhabitants of this place, and such was his success that the people persuaded him to remain for a time at least, in their midst, and he immediately entered into a large practice. Here he became acquainted with his wife, formerly Miss Catherine Ainsworth, daughter of Andrew and Margaret Ainsworth, relict of William Libby, whom he married April 30, 1830.

After the lapse of about three years he was called to the care of his father and family who had moved in the mean time to Wayne county, Indiana. Here he lived till 1837 when he came west and made a location in Warren Co., Illinois, where he entered land and improved a farm, on which he lived three years, and then came to New Boston, Mercer Co, where he has resided ever since, engaged in the practice of medicine, and was the oldest physician of his county, and has had a practice of nearly 50 years. Immediately after coming to New Boston he entered into partnership with Dr Edmond Harrell, a graduate of the Louisville medical college, a partnership which lasted over fifteen years. Dr Harrell was an able physician and a gentleman of great personal merit.

Professionally, Dr. Willits has had to do with about all the diseases peculiar to this section of the State, and has noted the changes which have occurred in their history, which have kept pace with the physical changes of the country and mode of life. In the first part of his practice in Mercer County the ailments were principally of that class arising from malaria, such as bilious and remittent fevers, ague, etc., and which have been succeeded by those more of a nervous character, such as neuralgia in its various forms, spinal meningitis, etc.

A large amount of his practice has been given to the poor and distributed Among people in cramped circumstances, and as a consequence, thousands of dollars of his dues have never been collected. In fact he has only realized in money what the people have voluntarily paid him, and one of the proudest monuments in his career as a physician, aside from his professional skill, is that he has ever given his best attention to the indigent, and has always lent a helping hand to the poor.

He raised four children, three living: Leroy, Mrs. Celeste (Wm.) Anderson, and Mrs. Kate (Thomas) McCurdy. Mrs. Viola (Russell) Scudder died in New Boston, and Almira, an infant daughter, in Morton, Wayne, County, Indiana, which makes the family list.

James Willits, Dr. Willits father, was born in Pennsylvania and died in Wayne, county, Indiana. From the best of recollection, the Willits are of Welch nationality, though they came to this country from England. Four brothers arrived, according to the family tradition, on Long Island when the States were colonies, subject to the English crown. One remained on the Island, one went to Canada, one to Pennsylvania, and another to North Carolina. Their descendants were among the patriots and soldiers of 1776 and It is supposed that the Doctors grandfather was a continental soldier. His father was in the war of 1812, and served under General Scott part of the time. The Doctors ancestry have generally been tillers of the soil, honest, moral and useful citizens, though none have ever risen to political distinction. The Doctor, who has twice been elected to the legislature of Illinois is the only one of the family that is known to have accepted of legislative honors. Dr. Willits was buried from his late home on Wednesday, Rev. Sarches conducting the services. And after a life full of deeds of benevolence to his fellow men, he will sleep well.

8/10/2009 Added Jamie Paul to the list of contacts on Dr. Thomas Willits family and a link to photos she has taken of tombstones in New Boston Cemetery and posted on Findagrave.