John Willis, farmer and stock raiser, was born in Edmonson County, Ky., in 1840 the fifth of ten children of William J. and Sarah N. (Nash) Willis. The father was born in Tennessee, in 1800, and died in 1859. His father, John, was a native of Virginia, and the grandfather, John, Sr., was a native of Scotland. William was educated in his native State, with a good business education, and for several years was a teacher. He went to Kentucky, and in 1827 was married. He finally settled in Jefferson County, Ill., in 1844, and resumed his teaching and farming. He was teamster in one of the early wars, and several years a justice. The mother, born in Kentucky in 1812, died in 1874. Both were members of the Christian Church. With limited education our subject left home at thirteen, and for six years was engaged on a boat in various capacities, on the Mississippi and
Ohio Rivers, and after his father's death he returned and assumed charge of the farm until he enlisted in Company F, Forty-fourth Illinois Infantry, at the war's outbreak. He was transferred to the Eleventh Kentucky Cavalry, operating in the Army of the West and of Tennessee. He was in several prominent battles, slightly wounded at Pea Ridge, and captured at Maryville, Tenn., in November, 1863, and held as prisoner in and about Richmond, Va. After four years service and suffering he returned, and in October, 1865, married Mrs. Mahala Smith, daughter of Allen and Jane Webb, and a native of this county. Their children are William T., George B., Samuel M., Charles F., Sadie J. and Ada J. With the exception of five years in Missouri he has made Franklin County his home. Since 1884 he has been on his present well improved farm of eighty acres, five miles northeast of Thompsonville. He has been a blacksmith also since the war, until the last few years, in which he has been farming exclusively, although in feeble health contracted by his war exposures. He is a Republican, and cast his first vote for Lincoln. He is an Odd Fellow and member of the G. A. R. He and his wife are faithful members of the Christian Church.