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William Willits Family

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Alternate Spellings - See Willits Family Page linked above.

Links - Isaac and Elizabeth Willits, Drury, Kirlin

Contacts - We are grateful for information provided by Albert James Willett for this family. He has included the research of Bartlett.

William Willits was son of Isaac & Elizabeth Willits. He was born about 1781 in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania and went to Ohio about 1802 with his parents. He is listed on tax records in Clear Creek Township, Fairfield County, Ohio in 1806. He died between 1850 and 1860. He moved to Wayne County, Indiana, with his three brothers Samuel, Levi, and Jesse. The Wayne County History, 1872 says that William died on his farm in Wayne County.

William married about 1804 to Mary Lewis (surname is not known for sure) in Ohio. In 1813 they lived in Salt Creek Township in Pickaway County, Ohio. Their children are given as: Harriet (b. abt 1806); Levi (b.5/3/1808); Charles (about 1810); Theodosia (about 1812); Naomi (about 1815); Abigail (about 1817); Amos (about 1819); Rachel (about 1820); Ruth (10/9/1825); Joshua (about 1827); Margaret (about 1832).

Mary Lewis(?) Willits is not with the family in the 1830 census in Washington Township, Wayne County, in 1830 so must have died before that date. On 3/4/1832 William married Jane Burns Drury, widow of Edward Drury, in Wayne County, Indiana. Margaret appears to be their child unless there was an intervening marriage not recorded.

The William Willits family may have made a trip to Mercer County, Illinois. The History of Mercer County, 1882, says that Courtney Drury (son of Jane Burns Drury) came to Mercer County in the fall of 1834 with the William Willits family. Courtney returned to Indiana as did likely the William Willits family. Some credence is lent to this theory from the fact that a son-in-law of William's, John Fraley, was owed money for services rendered to Isaac Willits in Mercer County before 1844 (see History Part2). The Fraley's are not found in Mercer County in 1850.

William and Jane Burns Drury Willits are found in the 1850 census in Washington Township, Wayne County, Indiana: William, 69, born Pennsylvania; Jane, 69 (actually 59), born Pennsylvania; Joshua, 23, born Indiana; and Margaret, 18, born Indiana. William died on his farm on October 12, 1858.

Daughter Harriet married in Wayne County, Indiana, on March 26, 1822, to Samuel Creviston. Daughter Theodosia married in Wayne County on 3/19/1829, to Henry Hendrix. They resided in Muscatine County, Iowa, in 1841. Daughter Naomi married John Fraley; daughter Abigail married Hugh Hannah 1/31/1833; daughter Rachel married 2/7/1839 to Richard Titherington. We know John Fraley was in Mercer County in the early 1840's (see History Part 2), but he is gone by 1850 and may have returned to Indiana.

Son Levi Willits went to Mercer County, Illinois, and has a good biography in the History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882. Much of the biography tells about the hardships of their trip to Mercer County and of their early life there. This is of historical interest to our page and we will add it here.

Levi was born May 31, 1808, in Pickaway County, Ohio. Levi spent his youth on the farm, enjoying but few school advantages, yet he early manifested peculiar mathematical ability. When about of age he began the trades of carpentry and cabinet making, which he followed some years. He was married January 19, 1832 to Miss Clarinda Drury, daughter of Edward and Jane Drury. (Jane was later his stepmother). Clarinda was born in Wayne County July 20, 1811. Mr. and Mrs. Willits resided in Raysville, Indiana for four years when they decided to move to Illinois. In the fall of 1836 with an ox team the journey was begun. Mrs. Willits became sick with the measles, having to keep her bed in the wagon. Arrived near Mud Creek, not far from the Blue River, the day being warm, the oxen seeing the water were uncontrollable by the driver and rushed toward the muddy element. In their race the wagon was upset, precipitating Mrs. Willits, sick as she was, into mud and water, completely drenching her and piling the heavy goods on her. In extricating her she was further bruised. She was then taken on horseback by a passing woman to a poor hovel and there treated as well as the circumstances would allow. The dirt and squalor of the hut could not be mentioned. As soon as able the party pushed on with their ox-team to Indianapolis, where they remained some time. While there Mrs. Willits' sister was taken ill of the measles and died. They buried her there in the bloom of her youth (the identity of this sister is not known by us). It was then decided to return to Wayne County for the winter, at least, which they did. In the following spring the journey was again undertaken. Mr. Willits purchased three cows and considerable young stock, one horse and the ox-team. Mr. Willits was to ride the horse and drive the cattle, while Mrs. Willits should drive the ox-team, the man hired for the purpose being sick. Mrs. W. rode the horse for a time which, becoming scared at the cattle whip the driver carried, jumped, thowing the rider, but causing no dangerous injury. Slowly and interruptedly the journey was made. The three cows and much of the young stock were lost on the way. Arrived at New Boston, they found three or four log cabins and more Indians than white men. An old log cabin was occupied by them, necessitating, so dilapidated was it, the hanging of bed clothes, etc., over cracks and holes in the walls. With the ox-team Mr. Willits hauled all the lumber he could get at Millersburg and with it built one small room for a dwelling, with a sort of loft above for sleeping apartment for men employed. Below a bed and a trundle bed occupied one corner. Across one corner was hung a sheet, partitioning off a little room for flour and smoke room. Hired men slept up stairs and on the floor down stairs, while the good couple occupied the bed. In that house was born the Willits first child. In that house court was held when New Boston was the county seat and there the court and jury were boarded and lodged. The beds, etc., served as seats and the floors were their beds. Mrs. W. did her cooking in a cabin nearby. The young cattle brought with them were slaughtered for food, a scarce article that year. A small stock of goods had been brought with them, such as groceries, paints, medicines, liquors, etc. With these merchandising was begun, which grew into a very lucrative business. William Drury was for years Mr. Willits' partner. During these early days Mrs. Willits, to aid in fortune, did washing and ironing for the young men of that day; also made pants, vests, etc. A man and a woman had been hired to do the baking for the trade, but they quitting, Mrs. Willits undertook it. She had an oven made, constructed of straw, shavings, mud, etc., and plastered with mud, then burned, as there were no brick. She paid for this from her own earnings. She also paid for her first cook stove by her own efforts. Mr. Willits, two years after opening his store, declared he would sell no more liquors to his neighbors, making them drunk, but would put in a supply of dry goods instead. He was extensively and many years engaged in the lumber business, trading in land, buying grain, packing pork, contract building, erecting a number of buildings in New Boston. He helped lay out the town of Aledo. In connection with Judge John Thompson he founded a college for the Presbyterians and one for the Methodists; he built the Barton hotel and various other buildings. No doubt his exposures to water in laying out the town at the time he did, caused, in some degree, the rheumatism that brought on his sickeness. He died on March 2, 2858.

The names of the five children of Levi and Clarinda are not known as none survived. They raised a child of James Thompson. James Thompson purchased the mercantile establishment of Drury and Willits. Levi and Clarinda raised four children of Harriett Drury Willits (see Eli & Harriett Willits under Jesse Willits on the Isaac Willits page).

Son (of William and Mary) Charles Willits married Hannah Kirlin, daughter of William Getson and Lydia Thompson Kirlin, on July 30, 1835 in Wayne County. Several of Hannah's brothers went to Mercer County, Illinois, and we will be putting up a Kirlin page. According to deed records Charles & Hannah Kirlin Willits were living in Howard County, Indiana, in 1876.

Daughter Ruth Willits, born 10/9/1825 in Wayne County married Courtney Drury 4/12/1843 in Wayne County. Courtney was son of Edward and Jane Burns Drury and was born 11/23/1820 in Wayne County. According to the History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882 Courtney Drury came to Mercer County in the fall of 1834 with the William Willits family. He sold goods for the firm of Drury and Willits (William Drury and Levi Willits). He returned to Indiana to go to school and there on 4/12/1842 married Levi's sister Ruth, and came back to Mercer County in the fall of the same year. Courtney and Ruth had one child, Alice, born 5/11/1844. Ruth Willits Drury died 2/21/1847 and is buried in New Boston Cemetery. Courtney returned to Indiana, then came back to New Boston and with James Thompson bought the Drury and Willits mercantile establishment.