NameJohn Wesley Willey 1
Birth9-25-1807, Pennsylvania
Death9-4-1881, Douglas Co., KS. Age: 73
BurialOak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas
FatherBarzillia Willey (1764-1851)
MotherElizabeth McCough (1765-1843)
Birth10-13-1809, New York
Death7-14-1886, Lawrence, Douglas Co, KS Age: 76
BurialOak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas
Marriage11-27-1828, Clark County, IN
ChildrenMartin Luther (1829-1903)
 Elam Wesley (1831-1889)
 Anthony Cyrus (1833-1894)
 John Wesley (1836-1915)
 James Addison (1838-1911)
 Fletcher Athon (1840-1863)
 Charita Minerva (1843-1916)
 Martha Malvina (1845-1920)
 Lemuel Barzillai (Died as Infant) (1849-1849)
 Zerilda Ann (1850-1935)
 Mary Elizabeth (1854-1936)
Notes for John Wesley Willey
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, KS 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, KS, 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.1


Biography researched and written by Evelyn Park Blalock. Please do not publish elsewhere without providing full and proper credit. Thank you.

John Wesley Willey was born in Pennsylvania Sept. 25,1807. He died Sept. 4, 1881, in Douglas County, Kan., and is buried in the Oakhill Cemetery. He moved to Indiana with his parents, Brazilla[i] and Elizabeth McCaugh Willey. On Nov. 17, 1828, he married Elizabeth Leslie (b. Oct. 13, 1809, New York; d. July 14, 1886; buried in Oakhill Cemetery). They raised a family of 11 children, who were born in Indiana: Martin Luther (b. Oct. 25,1829; m. Mary Catherine Prather; d. Jan. 24, 1907), Elam Leslie (b. Oct. 17, 183 1; m. Margaret ?; d. 1889), Anthony Cyrus (b. Dec. 11, 1833; d. April 25, 1894), John Wesley II (b. Jan. 22, 1836; m. Nancy Wright Prather; d. May 2, 1902), James Adison (b. March 28, 1838; m. Elizabeth Jane Prather; d. March 15, 1910), Fletcher Athan (b. Nov. 27,1840; d. Dec. 18,1863, captured and killed in Tennessee), Charity Minerva (b. Feb. 26, 1832; m. C.M. Peck; d. 1916), Martha Malvina (b. July 17,184S; m. James Reece; d. 1920), Lemuel Brazilla[i] (b. Feb. 3,1849; d. Aug. 24, 1849), Zerilda Ann (b. Sept. 7, 1850; m. John C. Walten; d. 1940) and Mary Elizabeth (b. March 1, 1854; m. M.E. Cole). Most of the above family members are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. John Wesley Willey I died as a result of being thrown from a buggy on his way to church. The senior Willeys moved to Kansas in 1857 and settled in Douglas County on Blue Mound and Bald Mound with their family. The elder Willey and son J.W. Jr. returned to Indiana, where they purchased machinery for a mill. It was shipped as far as possible by rail, then it went by boat to Kansas City (Westport) and was brought overland by oxen to the banks of the Wakarusa River to a farm owned by Robert Irvin where they built a mill. This mill made the first bolted (white) flour in Kansas. This was a combination mill in which they not only sawed material for houses and other buildings of the early settlers, but also rived shingles. About 1860 the Willeys installed cotton ginning machinery. Cotton was grown on the nearby farms for two years before the seasons changed and early frosts killed the cotton.

Lawrence Daily Journal, 6 Sept 1881

J.W. WILLEY, of Blue Mound, who in Company with his wife, were thrown from a buggy on Sunday week, while returning from church, died on Sunday morning last at nine o'dock. Mr. WILLEY, for several days after the accident, supposed that he might recover, but congestion of the brain supervening, he gradually showed signs of dissolution, until Sunday, when the great change came. Mr. WILLEY came to Kansas in 1857, and had lived on the present homestead ever since. He had his golden wedding in December last. He has always been marked for great uprightness of character. He won the esteem of his neighbors and all who had any business or social intercourse with him, by a strict observance of the golden rule. He was seventy-three years old, and leaves nine children, five of whom only will be able to be present at his funeral, one of whom is J.W. WILLEY, of this city. 

The funeral will be held at Blue Mound today, and the procession will reach Oak Hill Cemetery about two o'clock. It is a Singular coincidence that the father of Mr. WILLEY came to his death in a similar manner to his son, dying after suffering the same length of time. We are glad to know that Mrs. WILLEY, who has been enduring the pain of a dislocated shoulder, shows good reason for believing that she may recover.
Notes for Elizabeth (Spouse 1)
Elizabeth Willey died at the residence of her son, John Wesley Willey, Jr., in Lawrence, Kansas on July 14, 1886. The following obituary for her appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. ‘She was the wife of John Wesley Willey, and together they came to Kansas in 1857. Mr. Willey was one of the pioneer Methodist preachers. He built on the Wakarusa, near Blue Mound, a mill, which was probably the first in the country. He died about four years ago, and since then Mrs. Willey has resided on her farm near Blue Mound with her son. She leaves nine children, who reside in Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington Territory.” (1)
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