Transcribed from "An Illustrated History of The Big Bend Country, embracing
Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin counties, State of Washington",
published by Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904.
JOHN A. WILLIS, a prominent farmer
and postmaster of the postoffice which bears his name in Adams county,
was born in Jefferson county, Iowa, January 1, 1859, was educated in the
state of his birth, and at the age of twenty-one started in life for himself
as a farmer. He rented a farm in Iowa which he cultivated for six
years and in 1886 he came to his present locality and filed upon the homestead
where he now lives. With the exception of J. N. Cusick, now a resident
of Ritzville, Fred and C. P. Lowe, and David Kirby, Mr. Willis was the
first settler in his section of Adams county. As he came to the country
with only two hundred dollars he found it very difficult to make improvements
on his land, and was compelled for a number of years to work in the harvest
fields of Columbia county in order to make a living. In 1889 he broke
ten acres of sod on his land, the next year one hundred acres, and since
that time he has made his living and more from his land. From time
to time he has by purchase added to the extent of his farm until he now
has eight hundred acres of choice agricultural land all under cultivation
and well improved. His land is abundantly supplied with water, produces
a fine orchard and is improved with a handsome house and many large and
up-to-date outbuildings, making it one of the best farms in appearance
in the county.
John A. Willis is the son of Shelby and Sarah
J. (Bradley) Willis, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter of
Indiana. The parents settled in Iowa during the early days, and there
spent the greater portion of their lives, in fact the mother died there.
In 1894 the father removed to Kansas, where he still lives at the age of
seventy-six years. He was a Civil war soldier, and his business all
during his life has been farming.
Mr. Willis is a member of a family originally
comprising ten children, of whom six survived Mrs. Mary Wilson, John A.,
Mrs. Etha Waln, Mrs. Lucy Kelley, James S., and Mrs. May Bicknell.
On December 24, 1883, John A. Willis was married
to Mary E. Newhirter, daughter of James and Sarah J. Newhirter, both born
in Ohio. They were early settlers in Iowa, where they lived until
the death of the father in 1896. The mother is now making her home
with the subject of this sketch. They were the parents of twelve
children, nine of whom are now living, Adam, Mrs. Lydia Foulk, Daniel,
Mrs. Willis, Mrs. Rachel Smith, Mrs. Jane Buck, Brough, Marvin, and Mrs.
To Mr. and Mrs. Willis have been born seven
children, two of whom have passed away. Those now living are: Chloe,
married to Peter Teynor; Wroe, Dean M., Claud, and Claire, the latter four
living with their father. Achsah and Hazel are dead.
Mr. Willis, in regard to politics, was originally
a member of the Greenback party, but is now a Populist. He has served
four years as county commissioner of Adams county, and in 1892 was appointed
postmaster at Willis, and is still the popular incumbent of that office.
He has ever been an active man in matters pertaining to the betterment
of the educational facilities of his locality and has assisted in the organization
of his home school district. He is a member of the W. O. W. and of
the Methodist Episcopal church.