Our Dead Relatives — John Wesley Willey

Written by Don Park

John Wesley Willey was brought up in Clark Co, IN, and lived there until he moved to Kansas in 1857. He was licensed as a Methodist preacher in 1838. When he moved to Kansas in 1857, he took a combined saw and flour mill with him.

He set the mill up next to the Wakarusa River about two miles southeast of Lawrence, Kansas near a very large hill called Blue Mound. He also established a farm and settled nearby on another hill known as Willey's Bald. He supplied flour and wood planks to local settlers and to persons traveling on the nearby Oregon and California trails.

There is no record available giving his reasons for settling near Lawrence, Kansas, but it is the author's assumption that he settled there because it was the center of Abolitionist activity in Kansas and sympathizers with Abolition were encouraged to move to Kansas to assure that it would enter the Union as a Free State.

"He was chaplain of a Kansas regiment during Price's raid (Campaign of Confederate Gen. Sterling Price in Kansas and Missouri, 1864.). He was a life-long, devoted Methodist, and a preacher for 40 years, resigning a short time before his death, which occurred Sep. 14, 1881, as a result of injuries occasioned by being thrown from his carriage while returning from church.

'He was,' says a notice of him by G. S. Dearborn of Vinland, Kansas, 'highly esteemed as a citizen, and took an active part in everything tending to improve society. Industrious, prudent, and discreet in his affairs, he planned well for his family and the church.'" (1)

The history of the Methodist church at Vinland, Douglas Co, KS in the possession of the author does not list John Wesley Willey as a minister. Circuit ministers are listed for the period of time John Wesley Willey would have been preaching. He is mentioned as one of the mainstays of the church. The author assumes that John Wesley Willey was a local preacher who spoke when the circuit minister was not there. He died of injuries suffered when the horse pulling his buggy bolted and upset the buggy near Coal Creek bridge as he and his wife were on the way to evening church services.