Biography of James L. Willson
Carroll County, IN Biographies





JAMES L. WILLSON.

Prominent in the affairs of Carroll county and distinguished as a citizen whose influence extends beyond the limit of Flora and vicinity, James L. Willson stands out as a conspicuous figure among the earlier citizens of this county. All of his undertakings have been actuated by noble motives and high resolves and characterized by breadth of wisdom. His success in life clearly exemplifies the consequence of rightly applying the talents with which he was endowed. During the Civil War he was one of the organizers of the Home Guard and held a commission as first lieutenant, signed by Gov. Oliver P. Morton. Although he never saw active service, he was subject to call at any time. Mr. Willson is proud of this commission, he has every right to be.

James L. Willson, a retired merchant of Flora, was born on December 17, 1835, in Preble county, Ohio, the son of James and Sarah (Ault) Willson. James Willson was born in Pennsylvania in 1792 and was the son of Joseph Willson. The genealogy of the Willson family dates back to the coming of three brothers to America from England. One located in the South, and it is supposed that the late Jason Willson, of Marion, Indiana, was a descendant of this brother. The other two brothers located in Pennsylvania and James L. Willson belongs to one of these families.

James Willson, the father of James L., located with his family on Twin creek, near Alexandria, in Preble county, Ohio, in 1813, and lived on the same farm until 1856, when he died. His wife also passed away about the same time. At one time he served on the board of county commissioners, being a member when the present court house in Eaton was built. Originally a Whig, he became a Republican upon the organization of the new party and was always active in local politics. He was also an active member of the Methodist church and died in this faith. A resourceful business man, he was able to give each of his five children one hundred and sixty acres of land, most of which was situated in Indiana. James L. Willson still owns the farm received from his father. The six children were: Jesse A., who was a merchant and banker, but is now deceased; Joseph, who was a farmer near Mexico, Indiana, is also deceased; J. Wesley, deceased; (a son, E. L., residing near Galveston, Cass county, is the only living member of the Willson family of his generation bearing the name); Nancy is the widow of Alfred Neff, who lives near Mexico, Indiana; Sarah is the widow of Vincent Homan, of Mexico, Indiana; James L. is the subject of this sketch.

Reared on a farm in Preble county, Ohio, James L. Willson attended the pioneer schools of Preble county until 'he was seventeen years old, receiving a good common school education. In 1858 he started in life for himself and for one year owned and operated a feed store at Eaton, Ohio. The next year he came to Mexico, Indiana, and established a grocery and hardware business, with a capital of five hundred dollars. He operated this store for twenty three years, a part of the time in partnership with Mr. Homan Willson. When Mr. Wilson sold out the stock invoiced for twenty three thousand dollars. The stock was traded for seven hundred acres of land at Medaryville, Indiana. After living on this land for three years. Mr. Willson came to Flora in 1888, having exchanged a part pf the land for a general store in Flora. Here he continued in business under the firm name of Willson & Horner until 1905, when he retired from the firm. Since retiring, he has been engaged almost exclusively in looking after his various property interests.

Miss Lizzie Golliday, to whom Mr. Willson was married first, died within fifteen months after their marriage. At the same time an infant son also died. Mr. Willson was next married to Mary J. Beckwith of Peru, Indiana, in 1864. She was born in Jackson county, Ohio, and bore her husband two daughters, Minnie I. and Jessie G. Minnie I. was educated in the public schools of Peru, Indiana, and is now the wife of Frank C. Horner, of Flora. Jessie G. died at the age of twenty three years.

Mr. and Mrs. Willson are members of the Methodist church. He is a member of the official board, of which he is president. For more than twenty years he served as superintendent of the Flora Sunday school and has been active in church work all his life.

Fraternally, Mr. Willson is a member of Flora Lodge No. 506. Free and Accepted Masons. He was a charter member of the lodge at Mexico, Indiana, and is a past master of the lodge at Flora. A Republican in politics, Mr. Willson served as postmaster of Mexico for seven years. He is a quiet man, of temperate habits, and is highly respected by all of the citizens of Flora and Vicinity.

From:
History of Carroll County, Indiana
Its People, Industries and Institutions
By: John C. Odell
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis 1916


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