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Lawrence County's Yesteryears

(Editor's Note: Today's article was written by a Lawrence County pioneer, Hugh Willis, Sr. on March 1, 1902, when he was 84 years old. This copy of the original article was submitted to the Tribune by Robert m. Willis, Box 1, Rt. 1, Ironton, Ohio. The original paper is in the possession of Chester R. Wessel, son of Amanda Willis Wessel. The fact that the writer was born just one year after Lawrence County was formed as a governmental unit, and was part of the county's growth during the last century offers today's readers and opportunity to visualize our area from 1817 to 1902.


By Hugh Willis, Sr.

Forestdale, March 1, 1902 Correct account of family names of Grandfather Henry Willis who was a citizen and merchant in the city of Richmond, Virginia and reared his family in Richmond. The following named are the children of Grandfather Henry Willis; Isaiah, Joshua, George, John, Hugh, Andrew, Tabitha, Catherine and Mary.


When Ohio was admitted as a state and the Pre-emption law passed, these seven sons and three sons-in-law, Mathias Cooper, Charles Cooper and William Corbin husbands of the above named daughters of Grandfather Willis, all pre-emptemed homes. Grandfather Henry Willis, served as colonel (this is blocked out) in the Revolutionary War and when he died he left 75,000 dollars to his heirs. The city treasurer wrote to father Joshua Willis and Uncle George Willis that he had that amount collected in his hands and would pay it....(unclear).

Brother Elza Willis and I, Hugh Willis were appointed to go there and receive the money and was supposed to start May 6, 1861, but in April 1861, the first 75,000 soldiers was called and on account of the war we could not go to Richmond, to receive our estate and it was said it was captured during the war or 1861-1865.

I am the oldest Willis in the county and the only one of Father's family living. The following are the children of father Joshua Willis; Elza, Clara, Andrew, Elizabeth, John , Hugh, Julian, George, Mary, Joshua Jr. and Arimetha.

I was born in Aid Township on the homestead of Marion County of Lawrence, State of Ohio, September 3, 1817 and worked on the farm with father. When Spring came I helped mother to make sugar. She sent sister Arimetha to Loss Creek for water to fill the pots when the syrup was done. Sister stayed too long. Mother sent me to look after her and I went to the place where she went to get the water and lo, she had fallen in and was drowned and I took her out of the water and carried her to Mother at the camp in the bottom where Father's orchard was. Uncle Henry Webb was there and rolled her in a barrel and brought her to life.

When I was 16 years of age in the year of 1833, I went with Father to work at Vesuvius Furnace, and Quarried lime rock in the winter. The morning were so cold the wedges would stick to my feigners. I worked at the furnace in winter and back to the farm in summer. I hauled ore and pig iron from Vesuvius to Hanging Rock six them in Loss Creek and we run them down in the back water to Symmes Creek and on to Clarks Dam and the money Father relieved for those logs paid the expense of entering four 40 acres of land. The we went to work at the furnace again.

Wade & Co. was running the furnace when we e first went there to work and $3,000 was due Father on first settlement and book account. The company broke up. Wade went to England to make Wade razors and Father never got a dollar of his money.

....(unclear) came in as signers for Wade J. Gould & Company. I was hauling ore to the furnace and Patten weighed it and several loads had lost weight and at the same time I had increased the amount of each load and Father told me to have the scales balanced which I did and drove on to weight the ore. I turned back to the wheel horse. I heard the roller on the beam click. I jumped forward and caught him cheating me in the wieght. I drew in my horse whip and as he run to his office I gave him a lick across the legs about every other step to his door. The boys just laughed and he never came to weigh my ore anymore. He cheated me out of several hundred pounds in several loads.

In the year 1839, November 6, I left the furnace, went home to Marion and wet to school that winter. In 1849, September 20, I took a subscription school on Yellow Creek and taught a three month term. In the year 1841, I taught the Marion school. I the year 1842, on May the 9th, I entered the academy at Burlington (Ohio) and remained in school six months and took the second degree of graduate signed up by the officials of the institution, George C. Beaman, teacher and a grand teacher he was. I turned my attention to the science of mathematics. I sat under the great beech trees...(unclear) side and there I took some of the best and most lasting ...(unclear) I ever got in figures. Then for four years I run as (unclear) ark on the Gondola. William Davison was Captain and...(unclear) the relief Fuson Davison, Captain during the summer season and fall. In the winter I taught school at Marion. Then I entered the Big Sandy ...(unclear)ore boat as salesman. Joseph Davison, Captain ....vner, continued in that capacity for four years.

In the year 1847 on February 8, I was married to Miss Phoebe Crowley. I taught school in Lawrence Co., Ohio seven years in all at Marion and in all 30 years in Lawrence County, a year in Gallia Co., Ohio and two years in Scioto Co.. In all ... years in the state of Ohio. I taught two years in the state of Kentucky and three years in the state of Indiana and 12 years in the state of West Virginia. In all 50 years in the school room I labored in the cause of education. Besides, I did a great deal of teaching outside of the school building.

Another sad experience in my boyhood days, Father rented the Holderby Farm on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River, the first farm above Guyandotte, lived there three years. When the great explosion of the boat "Kanawha", I first heard the report then I looked and saw the smoke from the field where I was pulling fodder. I saw the bodies of the nine dead men side by side from that accident.

And after that brother Joshua, sister Remetha and Elizabeth took the Flux and all died and all the distress was what enthralled Father in the Holderby debt. It was when I grew it was settled. Father told me if I would stay with him until the debt was settled (which i did) I should have the upper part of the farm above the lane but I did not get it. This was after I was of age and when I was 23 years old I could not write my name.

When the war of 1861 came up I responded and served three years and 1 month in the US Army, Co. C., 5th West Virginia Vol. Inf., in which service I contracted the disease for which I drew my pension. While in service I had a recruiting commission ...(unclear) from General Seigle. I recruited 64 men for Lieutenant John Witchers Cavalry Co. and twelve men for the 5th W. Va. Inf.

In the year of 1975, March 31 my wife Phoebe Willis died and left me and seven children to mourn her loss. In the year 1876, Jan, the 18th, I was married to widow, Mrs. Harriet Louisa Wilson, Nee harried Louisa Stratton, in Wayne County W. V.

Five daughters were born to this union, three of whom died in infancy, the second , third and fourth, and have raided Mrs. Olive May the oldest and Amanda Willis, the youngest. This I leave to be published after I pass away. This is a true account.

Hugh Willis passed away March 13, 1903

This article was published in the ...Tribune Sunday, July 27, 1975.