Bio: Willett, Leslie H. (History - b 1862)

Poster: Chris Barney


Surnames: Willett, Hill, St. Thomas, Masterson, Kennedy, Bartley, Elsen, O'Connell

---Source: History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties, 1924; page 731

Leslie H. Willett, a well-known farmer in the town of Rock Falls, Lincoln County, and one of this county's prominent officials, whose public service extends over a number of years, was born on a farm in the town of Linwood, near Stevens Point, Portage County, Dec. 6, 1862. His parents were Hibbard and Melvina (Hill) Willett, the father of native of Frances and the mother born in New York State. Hibbard Willett came to America in the 50's, setting first in Canada, but after remaining there but a short time, he came to Portage County, Wisconsin, locating on a tract of 100 acres of wild land in the town of Linwood, building thereon a log house as his first residence. At the time of the Indian massacre in Minnesota in 1862, when there were apprehensions of a similar uprising in Wisconsin, he helped to build a log fort on an island in the Wisconsin River opposite his home. Besides cultivating his farm, of which he cleared 60 acres, he engaged in logging and rafted lumber down the rivers to St. Louis. He died on the farm in 1868, but his wife is now living at an advanced age with her children. Of the latter there were four, namely: Leslie H., Arthur, Bradford and one who died in infancy. Leslie H. Willett was a child of six or seven years when his father died, and after that event his mother with her children resided with her relations until she married again, her second husband being Joe St. Thomas. They then moved to Mill Creek, Portage County, where young Willett went to school. Later he became connected with the lumber industry in that vicinity, being engaged in logging until 1881, when he came to Merrill, Lincoln County. Since then he followed various occupations. He was engaged for four years in the livery business in Merrill, and was for a while sales agent for the Gund Brewing Company of La Crosse. He also has followed logging in Lincoln County, having been engaged in it more or less ever since he came to the county. On Sept. 1, 1909, he bought his present farm on 130 acres in Section 30, (T. 33, R. 6) town of Rock Falls. The property was partly improved at the time, having a house and barn on it, and he has since plow and does general farming and dairying. His farm is not far from Grandfather Falls, where he owns a resort, which at one time was a well-known stopping place for woodsmen, and is today patronized largely by hunters, tourists, and others. For more than a quarter of a century Mr.Willett has been one of the best known citizens of his county. He was elected sheriff in 1896 and served in that office for two years. Then he was for years a member of the Merrill City council, serving on the fire committee and was chairman of the street and bridge committee, and he is now chairman of the road and bridge committee of Lincoln County. It was through his efforts that the county built County Trunk Highway E, from Merrill to Tomahawk, and by his manipulation in 1923 the state highway commission took it over for maintenance and it is now a state highway. Mr. Willett has had an active and useful career and has been a valuable man to his county. He has been fairly prosperous and is still active with the prospect of many years of further usefulness. He was married at Chippewa Falls in 1883 to Margaret Kennedy, daughter of James and Mary (Masteron) Kennedy, her parents, however, being now deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Willett are the parents of three children, all daughters, namely: Mabel, wife of L. P. Bartley of Bloomington, Wis.; Hazel, wife of Albert A. Elsen of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Helen, wife of Dr. Harry O'Connell of Casthon, Wis.

Additional Information:

Photos of Willett Family

Letter on O'Day

O'Day, Wis.



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