Biography of Samuel Willison



Barry County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

Of the many whose portraits and biographies grace the pages of this work, none are more worthy of mention than the subject of this brief history. He was born Oct. 15, 1777, in Cayuga Co., N. Y. His father, William Willison, was born in Ireland, but came to America in 1774, and married Miss Hannah Bowker, raising a family of four boys and four girls. He served in the American army through the Revolutionary war, and was taken prisoner by the Hessians. Samuel’s early days were spent at home as a farm laborer up to 1824, when he married Miss Elizabeth Banks, who was born in Connecticut, June 15, 1800. Her parents were of English descent. After marriage they moved to the western part of New York, Allegany County, and bought a wild lot and improved the same, remaining there thirteen years, or until 1837, when with his wife and two boys, Elias and Samuel R. they started for Michigan, driving through with an ox-team, camping out nights, Elias being twelve years of age, Samuel, two, arriving in Michigan safe after a long and tiresome journey. They settled on the farm of one hundred and sixty acres now occupied by Samuel, which his father had purchased previous to his departure from New York, and which was then a dense wilderness of heavy oak timber, their nearest neighbor being some three miles away; leaving his family with Mr. Mills until he could erect a rude shelter to protect his family from the chilling blast; this took but a few days, as not much ornamental work was seen in those times, neither inside nor outside. They commenced life once more in their own home, and with the assistance of his eIder son began the hardy task of cutting for themselves a home from the unbroken forest, whcre but a short time before the wild beasts were undisputed masters. When he first settled there, he backed many of his provisions from Kalamazoo, a distance of twenty-two miles, going there and back in one day.

This is but one of many instances, and did our space permit we could pen many thrilling incidents that to the present generation would seem more like fiction than fact. His first purchase consisted of one hundred and sixty acres on section 24, Barry township, to which he afterwards added, so that at one time he owned three hundred and twenty acres. In September, 1850, he was bereft of his companion. In 1852 he was again married, his second wife being a Mrs. Barnes. She is still living with her son in Barry township. Mr. Willison died at his old home, Oct. 2, 1865.

He was a Democrat up to the formation of the Republican party; since then always could be found in the front ranks of that party, which place he kept until his death; was elected supervisor, in an early day justice of the peace, and other minor offices. Mrs. Willison was a member of the Baptist Church when she died, his views on religion being liberal.

History of Allegan and Berry Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Their Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.

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