LaSalle County

Biography - GEORGE E. WILLS

George E. Wills, a prosperous and public-spirited citizen of Troy Grove township, LaSalle county, is one of the early settlers of this locality, and for forty-three years he has been engaged in agricultural pursuits in this vicinity. He has seen the development of the county almost from its wild state, and has himself broken prairie and improved tracts of land which gave little promise of the wealth that proper cultivation was to evolve from the soil.

A son of George and Mary (Watts) Wills, both natives of Somersetshire, England, our subject was born March 22, 1836, in Michigan, and, with his little sister, Mary, was left motherless at a tender age, in the year 1838. The father, who was a carpenter and mechanic, returned to England, where his death took place in 1847. He was a son of Richard Wills, who likewise was a carpenter and who lived to a ripe age, dying in England, where he had been a life-long resident. He had but two children. The maternal grandfather of our subject also lived and died in that country.

George E. Wills was reared at a place about twenty-eight miles distant from Detroit, Michigan, and resided in that city also for a short period, prior to his seventeenth year. He was early thrown upon his own resources, and may truly be termed a self-made man. About 1853 he went to New Brighton, Pennsylvania, a town some thirty miles northwest of Pittsburg, and there learned the trade of plasterer. Later he attended school at North Sewickley, and by earnest study qualified himself for teaching. In 1854 he went to Jackson county, Iowa, where he worked on farms during the summer and taught school in the winter season. At the end of thirteen months he came to Mendota, and here he assisted James Henderson in establishing a seminary, in which he also became a student.

It was in 1856 that Mr. Wills permanently turned his attention to agriculture. For two years he carried on a rented farm west of the limits of Mendota, and then leased a place south of the town and adjoining his present homestead on the south. That land was wild prairie, and for sixteen years Mr. Wills cultivated the place, which soon bore little resemblance to its original condition. In 1874 he bought the homestead which has been the scene of his endeavors for a quarter of a century. In addition to this place, which he greatly improved, building a substantial house, barns, granaries and fences, he owns another farm, of one hundred and sixty acres, situated four miles north of Mendota, in the township of the same name.

During the past two years Mr. Wills has been the president of the Mendota Union Fair Association, of which he had served as a director for a number of years previously. For twelve years he has acted in the capacity of road commissioner, and was township assessor for one term, discharging his duties to the full satisfaction of every one concerned. He is a stanch Republican, and fraternally is identified with Mendota Lodge, No. 176, A. F. & A. M.; Mendota Chapter. No. 79, R. A. M.; and Bethany Commandery. No. 28, K. T.

In 1862 Mr. Wills married Mary, daughter of Slocum and Matilda Bunker. Jennie M., their first-born, became the wife of the Rev. W. H. Clatworthy, a Presbyterian minister, and has been called to the better land. James S., the eldest son, is in the west for the improvement of his health. George A., who married Miss Belle Garwood, is financially interested in the Stockholm Manufacturing Company, of Chicago, in which city he makes his home. Oscar T. married Miss Carrie Bailey, and is engaged in managing the farm owned by our subject. Edgar B. married Margaretta Moore, and carries on the farm north of Mendota owned by his father. The mother of these children, who was a devoted member of the Presbyterian church and a most lovable lady in every respect, departed this life February 12, 1877. On the 12th of October, 1886, Mr. Wills was united in marriage with Miss Sarah, daughter of Peter and Magdalena (Leufer) Miller. They have two children, Roy M. and Jennie Mabel. Mr. and Mrs. Wills are members of the Presbyterian church. Her parents were natives of Germany, and were early settlers of Troy Grove township. Her father, who was a respected, hard-working farmer, died about 1863; and her mother, who belonged to the Evangelical church, survived her husband many years, dying in January, 1887, when in her sixty-fourth year. She was the mother of one son and two daughters: Magdalena, who is the wife of Thomas Bowers; Henry J., and Sarah. Mr. Wills has led an interesting career. Left an orphan in very early childhood and thrown upon his own resources very early in life, he began the battle of life under very discouraging conditions. Nature had endowed him with a burning ambition to succeed in life, and with a noble purpose before him he set about first to gain the best education possible for him to gain under the circumstances of his early youth. His spare hours and nights were spent in study. We soon find him in the school-room as teacher, then we find him engaged in farming. To the latter noble calling he brought his thirst for knowledge and progressive spirit, and with energy and pluck he has risen to a high place among the successful tillers of the soil, and gained a competency for declining years, and established a lasting friendship with his fellow citizens.

Extracted 13 Jun 2019 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois, published in 1900, volume 2, pages 640-642.


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