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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



William Ladd Willis was born in New York City, the son of Charles T. and Jane S. Willis. One great-grandfather, on his father's side, was Lyman Hall, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the other, who lived at Newton, N. J., spent his fortune in raising and equipping a troop of horse for the patriot army, and was a friend of General Washington. The latter passed through Newton on his way north in 1779 and stopped to take dinner with his friend. It happened that it was the time of christening the son of his host, and Washington became one of the sponsors, and the boy was named George Washington Willis. The mother of the subject of this sketch was the daughter of one of the early merchant princes of New York, Thomas S. Walsh.

Charles T. Willis died when his son was seven years old, and the family moved to Unionville, N. Y., where the son grew to manhood. His school education was gained at various academic institutions .and at Troy (N. Y.) university. In the winter of 1860-61 he embarked in wholesale business in New York City, but the Civil war breaking out in the spring the general depression of business and the failure of many western firms to whom his firm had extended credit, forced him to close up his business at a heavy loss. He embarked in various lines for some years, and in 1871 came to Sacramento county, where he engaged in farming near Elk Grove, and teaching, until 1892. He then became a member of the editorial staff of the Record-Union, and continued the association for thirteen years. In 1879 he was tendered an appointment on the county board of education, of which he remained a member for twenty-three years, or until Ms removal to Auburn, where he resided for nearly two years and then returned to Sacramento, this city having been his home ever since.

In 1886 Mr. Willis was selected by the state board of education to compile the state speller, which had been in use in the schools for twenty years. He also assisted in the compilation of the first set of state readers. In the past four years he has been connected with the Carmichael Company in the real estate business. In 1872 he married Mrs. Emily Haines of Middletown, N. Y., by whom he had three children, Mrs. Jennie L. Brothers, now of Berkeley; Mrs. Clair Morrill, of Suisun, and William B. Willis of New York, an architect in the office of McKim, Mead & White. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011