Lee County Biography


JOHN B. WILLMAN has been exceedingly III prospered in the pursuit of his calling as a farmer, and is now the fortunate owner of two choice farms, the one upon which he makes his home lying in Willow Creek Township, and the other in Viola Township. Mr. Williams was born in the province of Lorraine when it formed a part of France, his birth occurring December 17, 1839. His father, who bore the same name as him­self, was also a native of that province, as far as known, and was a son of one Humphrey Willman, who was born in the same locality, and is supposed to have spent his entire life there as a farmer. The father of our subject learned the trade of a brick and stone mason, and continued to follow it in his native France throughout his life.

He married Nancy Antoine a native of the same place as himself, and three children were born to them:- Nancy, Mary and John B. After the death of the father, the mother came to this country and spent the most of her remaining years with our subject. She died at Seneca, La Salle County, at a venerable age.

He of whom we write was the only son of his parents, and he was early deprived of a father's care. He was four and a half years old when he came to America with his mother in 1844, and has no distinct recollection of other than his adopted country. His mother was a pioneer of La Salle County, settling not far from the present site of the town of Sandwich, where she bought thirty-three acres of land. That section, and in fact all of Northern Illinois, was but little settled at that time, and the greater part of the land was owned by the Government, and has since been sold for $1.25 an acre. A few years later, Mrs. Willman bought land near Ottawa, and John assisted in doing the farm work, he having begun early in life to gain experience in that line. In 1853 the family crossed the plains and mountains to California, in the hope to better their fortunes, starting from La Salle County and making the entire journey with ox teams. At that time there were but very few white settlers between the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast except the Mormons at Salt Lake, while deer, elk and buffaloes were encountered in large numbers. After six months traveling the weary little party arrived at Sacramento, and there our subject found employment in a hotel for eleven months. At the end of that time he went to the mines and tried his luck at digging gold, at which he was engaged with varying success until 1858. Tiring of the rough frontier life, he came back to Illinois by the way of the Isthmus. The following year he returned to California, and was busily engaged in mining for a year and a half. Returning to this State, he came to Lee County and invested in the farm in Willow Creek Township upon which he resides. It contains one hundred and fifty and one-half acres of fruitful land, which is under the best cultivation, and is amply provided with buildings of a good class and modern farm machinery. His farm in Viola Township comprises eighty acres fine land, and is in all respects a well-ordered place.

Mr. Willman has had considerable experience in various was and has profited by it, and is justly regarded as one of our progressive farmers, who has a clear understanding of his business, and knows how to carry it on so as to reap the best results. He and his amiable wife are highly regarded by their neighbors and others in their community. They entered upon their wedded life May 6, 1864, and to them have been born these seven children: Amerriba E., wife of James Yocum, David, Ella, John, Emma, Lucetta and Bessie. Mrs. Willman is a member of the United Brethren Church, and is a woman of true Christian character.

Mrs. Willman bore the name of Miss Matilda Norton prior to her marriage, and was born near London, Province of Ontario, Can. Her father, David Norton, was also a Canadian by birth. His father is thought to have been born in Vermont, removing from there to Canada during some period of his early manhood and settling at West­minister, where he resided until his death. He married Sarah Mudge, who died at Westminister. Mrs. Willman's father grew up in Canada and resided there until 1859, when he removed to St. Clair County, Mich. He lived there until 1862, and then coming to Illinois, he located at Ross Grove, DeKalb County. In 1873 he went back to Michigan, and was a resident of Traverse City until 1886, but after the death of his wife in that place, he returned to Ross Grove, and has since lived with his children. The maiden name of Mrs. Willman's mother was Rachael Manning. She was born nine miles from the city of Toronto, Can., and was a daughter of Jacob and Betsey (Palen) Manning.

Transcribed by Christine Walters "Portrait and Biographical Record of Lee County, Illinois,

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