Bill Wills and Company~~My Ancestor

I have just received a book, entitled, “Bill Wills and Company,” written by his wife, Hazel McLeod Wills. Bill was governor of Vermont from 1941 to 1945.

Mrs. Wills wrote that Bill wanted to have an autobiography, but he never got around to it. He wanted the young men of America to know that the “American Dream” is still obtainable. He gave encouragement to the young men explaining that they just have to take chances and work hard. He thought his story from rags to riches would benefit the youth.

Obviously, his wife really loved him, for this valuable, little book has 95 pages of all the people in my gedcom that are just raw data. This kind and intelligent lady has brought that line of my family alive. I hope that Bill is smiling as I am enjoying his biography! I also am so thrilled to see what kind of personality the Wills/Willes/Willis side of the family had!

On page 95 of Wills’ book, she compiled Bill’s linage:

Oct. 26, 1882~~ Bill was born in Chicago


Joshua Welles

Jacob Wills (Willes)

Ebenezer Wills  (not proven)

Harry A. Wills

James A. Wills

William H Wills (Bill)

James A. Wills married Alzina Foster. Alzina’s father was Patrick J Foster.

James and Alzina’s children were:

• Adeline

• William H. who married Hazel McLeod

• Harry A. who married Winifred Adams

The book is hard cover, small, and has wax paper over the cover for protection. It is also in mint condition. The cost was $4.00, and postage ordered from a small bookstore in Vermont. Including postage, the total sum was $7.00. To me, it is worth a million dollars.

The Bill Wills’ story starts out when Bill was a child who boarded a train in Chicago with his mother, sister, and brother. The family was going back to Vermont to the old homestead, after the death of his Grandfather and father. The grandfather had an illness, and the father caught the illness from his father.  The grandfather died first, and 14 days later, the father died. 

Bill’s mother Alzina, buried both men and went to work on her own. While Alzina washed clothes and scrubbed floors, Bill helped his mother and family by going to work. After losing his first job as a department store salesman, he went out on his own and sold insurance, building the most successful insurance agency in Vermont. Bill then decided to go into politics. He ran for governor of Vermont and won the position. After his term was over, Bill served with the FCC by an appointment from President Truman.

During Bill’s governorship, Hazel describes the visiting politicians and ambassadors during WWII and the activities of fundraising they organized for the war effort. Hazel and Bill adopted a child and named her Anne Kimball Wills. What a surprise! There was no mention of the Kimball surname in the book. Kimball is an old family name and Bill must have known about Orinda Kimball Willes and maybe even Wilder Willes, who are my 3rd Great Grandparents. With this book, I am able to add new names to my family genealogy!


About hoosierbeth

I have been researching my ancestors, your ancestors and everybody else's since 1981.
This entry was posted in My Ancestors and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Bill Wills and Company~~My Ancestor

  1. Ron Grady says:

    I am the great great great grandson of Harry A. Wills through another of his sons, John E. Wills.

    I have recently acquired information from Graceland Cemetary in Chicago where both James H., his father Harry A. and my GGG grandfather John E. are buried. James and Harry did indeed die within 14 days of each other.

    I had never heard the name Ebenezer Wiils in this line and was wondering if the information came straight from the family.

  2. hoosierbeth says:

    Thank you so much Ron for responding to the post! I am always happy when someone replies!

    The reference to Ebenezer Wills came from the book, Bill Wills and Company.

    I went to find the book, and of course, cannot find it at this time. Whoever compiled the pedigree in the back of the book included Ebenezer. I looked in my files, and show no Ebenezer, either.

    My research shows the line as follows:

    William H Wills
    James H Wills
    Harry A Wills
    Jacob Wills
    John Wills
    Jacob Willes
    Lt. Joshua Welles

    If the line I compiled is not correct, let me know so I may correct it in my research. Since we both do not have any proof of “Ebenezer,” I will edit this blog post explaining “Ebenezer” has not been proven.

    On the other hand,…..There is an Eleazer (the name kind of sounds like Ebenezer) in the Willes line.

    His pedigree is as follows:

    Eleazer Willes
    Gideon Willes
    Joshua Willes
    Joshua Willes Jr.
    Lt. Joshua Welles

    I wonder if Hazel; or whoever compiled the genealogy for the book, was confused?
    I am always happy to share my research, so let me know if I can help in any way.

    Thanks, Beth Thurston

    • rongrady says:


      I’m with you on this. I have always believed that there is a missing generation between Harry A. and Jacob. Jacob would have been pretty old to be Harry’s father and although it’s not impossible, I think it unlikely.

      Since reading your post, I have found an Ebenezer Wills (born 17 Oct 1793 in Chelsea, Orange, VT – died 24 Jan 1837) and wife Ruth (Ordway) who are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in AuSable, Clinton, NY — buried near Sarah (Severance), the first wife of Harry A. Wills. Ebenezer and Ruth were married in 1814 in Tunbridge, Orange, VT, which is where I have Harry A. being born at around the same time.

      Here’s the link to the cemetery info:

      I had always been told that Harry moved to NY with his family at around age of 14. The cemetery information confirms that Ebenezer and Ruth did indeed move to NY.

      Thank you for responding. This is exciting news since our family has had so much trouble for so long finding information about the Wills family.


  3. hoosierbeth says:

    Wow!! Did I break down a brick wall without knowing it!! Hurrah!! I clicked on your link, but rootsweb said there was an error somewhere. Anyway, should I remove the “unproven” for Ebenezer and include this new information into my research??
    It is always so exciting and fun to meet a new cousin!!

  4. hoosierbeth says:

    Ron, if you want to have a copy of the book~~here are the details:

    Title: Bill Wills and company
    Author: Hazel McLeod Wills
    Edition: illustrated
    Publisher Vermont Historical Society, 1953

  5. rongrady says:

    I’m always cautious about new info without proof, but like you say, “WOW!!”, the coincidences are hard to ignore.

    I have a good friend who works at the National Archives in D.C. He’s been very helpful in the past, I may have to get him involved.

    Try this Dropbox link. It’s four pages in a PDF format of information from the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. You may find it interesting.

  6. hoosierbeth says:

    It is always a good deal when we have friends in the National Archives!! Keep me posted on your findings, and I’ll do some “looking around” too. If I find something, I will report back here. Thank you for the link, it worked out fine. I joined the DAR under Sylvanus Willes. He descends from Lt. Joshua Welles and his wife Hannah Buckland. I would like to join the Colonial Dames sometime in the future. If I ever find out who Lt. Joshua Welles’ parents are, I will pass this along to you, with all my documentation for that line, which I will need to be able to join the society.

    I live 100 miles from Chicago, so if we need something from downtown, just let me know, and I will try to take a ride out there and find what we need.

    Thanks again for collaborating with me. Also, please keep in touch!! You can always find me here…just post a comment of any kind, and I will show up.

  7. hoosierbeth says:

    Ron, I checked good ole and found a birth record for Ebenezer.

    I included the link below.

    Name: Ebenezer Wills
    Gender: Male
    Christening Date:
    Christening Place:
    Birth Date: 17 Oct 1793
    Birthplace: Chelsea, Orange, Vermont
    Death Date:
    Name Note:
    Father’s Name: Jacob Wills
    Father’s Birthplace:
    Father’s Age:
    Mother’s Name: Penelope
    Mother’s Birthplace:
    Mother’s Age:
    Indexing Project (Batch) Number: I03330-1
    System Origin: Vermont-EASy
    GS Film number: 28068
    Reference ID: 16

    Citing this Record:
    “Vermont, Births and Christenings, 1765-1908,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 February 2015), Jacob Wills in entry for Ebenezer Wills, 17 Oct 1793; citing Chelsea, Orange, Vermont, reference 16; FHL microfilm 28,068.

    I am still looking for the book. I will scan the page with Gov. Wills’ pedigree that Mrs. Wills included in the book and upload it here so you can see it.


    • rongrady says:

      Thank you Beth. I also found this (see attached Dropbox link.) I think Penelope’s last name may have been Wells. Could be a typo, but it definitely says MAIDEN NAME Wells. I also saw a transcription of the death certificate for a Charles Wills which lists his father as Jacob Wills and his mother as Penelope Wells. There were Wells in the area at the time.

      Chelsea, Orange, VT was where Ebenezer was born, within a year after Jacob and Penelope were married on 27 Dec. 1792. Without a birth certificate, not really solid proof, but… I believe the William Wills book lineage to be correct.

      Here’s the link:

      Hopefully, more to come!


  8. hoosierbeth says:

    I agree with you, Ron. I have changed the information in my gedcom to include Ebenezer’s generation with a note on how you and I came to an agreement while also including we don’t have the birth certificate.

    I went through my files from years ago, and saw we have communicated with each other in the past!! I was confused on the missing generation, and didn’t realize it when I wrote this blog entry. Good thing I found that little book and was I surprised to see Mrs. Wills included a pedigree!

    I am so pleased we found each other again, and figured out that missing generation! Bless Mrs. Wills’ heart for carrying out the Governor’s wishes when she wrote that little book!


  9. rongrady says:

    Hey Beth, more info. This time on Jacob.

    “Jonathan WILLS, with three brothers, Joel, Jacob and Jesse, from Windham, Conn., located on the West hill, as previously stated, in 1784. Jonathan and Joel had served in the Revolutionary war. Jonathan, the only one married at the time of their settlement here, brought his wife and two children, a son and daughter, Reuben and Lucinda, the latter dying a few days after their arrival, which was probably the first death in the town, although it can not positively by stated as the fact, as a daughter of Thomas MOORE died about the same time at the other settlement. Jonathan had born to him six sons and five daughters. He removed to Randolph, where he died, and where his son Anson now resides, at the age of eighty-six years. Joel never married, and died in Brandon, Rutland county. Jacob had born to him four children, equally divided as to sex, and died in Tunbridge. Jesse was born in 1766, and married Emma, daughter of Jacob PERKINS, in 1796.”

    Here’s the link. There’s a little more, but only about Jesse’s family.

    Seems that Jacob didn’t bring Penelope with him from Windham. There were Wells in Orange County, if that is in fact her last name.

  10. hoosierbeth says:

    Thank you for the link Ron! We are adding on folks to our tree right and left!!

    I was very interested in the fact Jonathan and Jesse served in the REV WAR, I will work on this side of the family this weekend, and then I will report back if I find anything new.

    I have the three brothers in my research, but never looked to see if the three~ Jonathan, Joel or Jesse were married or had children!! So, now I can add more!! Thank you!

    Thank you so much for keeping me updated on this family line. It is always more interesting and enjoyable when there are two or more minds collaborating!! If you would like any of my research concerning Lt. Joshua Welles and Hannah Buckland Welles, I have documented sources that I used for DAR concerning family leading up to Wilder Willes>Sylvanus Willes. I have them sourced…I have other research with sources on the family before Sylvanus, but not as good as my DAR sources. 😉

    Question (my brick wall?) I have, is: Who was Lt. Joshua Welles father?

  11. Ron Grady says:

    Hey Beth,
    I think I’ve proved conclusively that Ebenezer Wills was the father of Harry A. Wills.
    The 1820 US Census for Tunbridge Vt. shows Jacob with no children at home, just one 45+ male and one 45+ female. Ebenezer shows one a male child <5 and a male child 5-10. One or the other could be Harry, since he was born in 1815.

    • Harry supposedly moved with his parents to Essex, Clinton, NY at age 14. That's the same time as when Ebenezer and Ruth moved there.

    • Harry's first wife, Sarah, is buried next to Ebenezer and Ruth.

    • Ruth lived with Harry after the death of Ebenezer and later, next door.

    I think it’s undeniable. Ebenezer is the father of Harry A.

    I have images of the census records if you'd like copies. Just let me know.

  12. rongrady says:

    Hey Beth,
    I think I’ve proved conclusively that Ebenezer Wills was the father of Harry A. Wills.
    The 1820 US Census for Tunbridge Vt. shows Jacob with no children at home, just one 45+ male and one 45+ female. Ebenezer shows one a male child <5 and a male child 5-10. One or the other could be Harry, since he was born in 1815.

    • Harry supposedly moved with his parents to Essex, Clinton, NY at age 14. That's the same time as when Ebenezer and Ruth moved there.

    • Harry's first wife, Sarah, is buried next to Ebenezer and Ruth.

    • Ruth lived with Harry after the death of Ebenezer and later, next door.

    I think it’s undeniable. Ebenezer is the father of Harry A.

    I have images of the census records if you'd like copies. Just let me know.

  13. hoosierbeth says:

    Well!! That’s great!! I have entered this info into my gedcom~~ used your conclusion as evidence, and have looked up the census, so I don’t need hard copies. Thank you so much for sharing with me Ron! I still haven’t found that little book, but I am so grateful that I actually posted about the book here on this blog. We just broke a brick wall, and that doesn’t happen very often!!

    Now we should really figure out who Lt. Joshua Welles’ father and mother were. That’s a brick wall for me. Some folks on public trees think he is part of the Wyllys family that were prominent in Conn. They claim Joshua didn’t inherit anything, and that’s why he wasn’t listed in his father’s will, and the old genealogy books didn’t list him for some reason.

    I think the reason is~~~He is not related to those famous Wyllys folks….but I have no proof, and they have no proof either for what they say.

    Keep in touch…this blog will be here until Word Press stops….or I think my email is on my gravatar, or whatever they call that picture of me sitting in a pumpkin patch, LOL!.

  14. rongrady says:

    Nothing really new, I think, but interesting reading on Lt. Joshua Wells (Welles, Willes, Willis, Wills)

    The webpage is very hard to read.

    WELLS (Welles, Willes, Willis, Wills). Enlarged by Ruth T. Sperry. The change in spelling of the name from Wills to Wells among the E.W. families seems to have commenced with Capt. Hezekiah Wells — Letter of his gd.-s, Hes. L. Wells.

    Joshua, no land rec. at W.; acc. to Hinman, was W. 1647, m. (1) “Joshua Wells and Azubuty [or, in one entry, Azubath, prob. Azubah] Lamson m. by Capt. Newbury, 5 May, 1670;” she d. 12 Sept. 1676 (O. C. R.); 2. “Joshua Welles & Hannah (dau. Thos.] Buckland, m. 14 Aug. 1681, by Capt. Newbury.” — N. Eng. Hist. Gen. Reg., v. (O. C. R.) gives date as 11th; see also, Col. Rec., Vol. III, pp. 119, 192, 200. She d. 1 Nov., 1694; he d. 6 Jan., 1721, in75th yr.—Stone stag. in E. W. O. name spelled “Willes.”

    “He was one of the collectors chosen by the Ch. on E. side of the Gt. River, 1706, and again in Dec. 1709, call Lieut. and was paid £1 “for sweeping the meeting-house”; “May 18, 1714, voted that Lieut. Joshua Willes & insign Henry Woolcot should go to the Governor and acquaint him with what we have don [i.e. with regard to a vote they have passed as to finishing the meeting house] & desire to hasten the coming of the Counsel & also go to the counsel and desire them to come.” Dec. 17, 1717. “voted that Lieut. Joshua Willes should be seator [that is for seating the meeting house] with Deacon Drake & Deacon Skinner.”

    Beyond that is a list of children: Jonathan, Joshua (and his progeny), Hannah, John, Henry, Jacob.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s