JOHN F. WILLSON, who is now practically living a retired life in Tallula save for the supervision which he gives his property interests, was formerly an active factor in banking circles and his business career is such as any man might be proud to possess, for he has mounted step by step from a humble financial position to one of affluence, never making an engagement that he has not filled nor incurring an obligation that he has not met. He has the respect and confidence of the business community and the good will of all with whom he has been associated in commercial transactions.
Mr. Wilson was born January 4, 1830, in that part of Sangamon county, which afterward became Menard county. He is a son of George W. and Milley (Row) Willson. The father was of Scotch-Irish and German lineage and was born in Deckertown, New Jersey, September 26, 1794. His father was one of a family of twelve sons, eleven of whom settled in the territory of Ohio at a very early epoch in its development. George W. Willson, the father of our subject, was reared in North Carolina and after arriving at years of maturity migrated to Kentucky, where he wedded Miss Milley Row, whose birth occurred near Petersburg, Virginia, August 5, 1802, and who accompanied her parents on their removal to Garrard county, Kentucky, where she was married. Mr. Willson was a journeyman shoemaker and arrived in Kentucky about 1816. Following his marriage he removed to Washington, Indiana, and in 1826 settled in what is now Menard county, Illinois. He purchased a claim of Solomon Pruitt, who was one of the soldiers of the Black Hawk war, and made his home upon that place throughout the remainder of his life. There were three children in the family at the time of the removal to this state, the mother carrying the youngest child on horseback. After arriving in Illinois the father devoted his energies to farming and improved a good tract of land. Here he reared his family of ten children, five sons and five daughters. Two of the sisters are yet living, Mrs. Mary Wilhite, a resident of Jacksonville, Illinois, and Mrs. Elizabeth Curt, who resides in Neodesha, Kansas. The members of the family in order of birth are: Rachel, Mrs. Margaret Combs; William K.; James R., who married and removed to Kansas, where his death occurred; John F.; Mrs. Wilhite; Mrs. Sarah Smedley; Henry C., who married and died in Springfield, Illinois, after serving his county in the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, being captured at Guntown, Mississippi, after which he was sent to Andersonville prison, where he lost his health; George Milton, who was likewise a member of the same regiment and died in camp at Memphis, Tennessee; and Mrs. Elizabeth Curt. The father was a Whig in politics and one of the first commissioners of Menard county.
John F. Willson acquired his early education at Winchester as a student in an academy in Scott county, Illinois. His collegiate course was pursued in Jacksonville, this state, and then wishing to enter upon the practice of medicine he began reading under a physician of Springfield, Illinois, while later he attended lectures in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was thus qualified for the calling. He entered upon the practice of medicine in 1858 in the vicinity of Tallula and there devoted his energies to ministering to the sick until after the outbreak of the Civil war, when his patriotic spirit was aroused and he responded to the call of the government, enlisting in the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry as assistant regimental surgeon. He was stationed at La Grange, Tennessee, and there received orders from General grant to join the regiment at Vicksburg. In August, 1863, he left the army and returned to Menard county. He then abandoned the practice of medicine and established a grocery and hardware store. He likewise acted as postmaster of Tallula for a number of years. In his commercial career he was ever watchful of the indications pointing to success, made the most of his opportunities and as the years advanced gained very creditable and gratifying prosperity. Eventually he developed his business into a banking establishment in 1877, following the death of his partner, William Green, and later he disposed of the bank to the firm of Scott, Green & Sons. In the meantime he had made extensive and judicious investments in property and he still superintends his farming interest, having seven hundred acres of valuable land in Menard and Cass counties. He was the second man to use tiling in the community and he has been most progressive in his farming methods, putting forth every effort to improve his land and make it highly productive. He is a man of resourceful business ability, enterprising and with keen discrimination, and in the control of his varied interests he has manifested strong purpose and marked sagacity, as well as unfaltering diligence.
On the 12th of January, 1860, occurred the marriage of Mr. Willson and Miss Sarah M. Crum, a daughter of James and Christina (Ream) Crum. She was born in Cass county, Illinois, near Virginia, September 9, 1838. Her father was one of the early settlers of Cass county and prior to that time resided in Indiana, while her mother was from Ohio, in which state had lived the paternal and maternal grandparents of Mrs. Willson. The Crum family was established in Cass county prior to the deep snow, which is one of the memorable events in the early history of Illinois. Her father was a farmer and continued to follow that occupation throughout his active business career, although he passed away in 1899 at the very advanced age of ninety-three years. His wife died in 1878 at the age of sixty-three years.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Willson have been born seven children: James O., who is vice-president of the People's Bank at Bloomington, Illinois, and married Ollie Whitmer; Frank G., who died in Winfield, Kansas; Mrs. Clara B. Shasted, whose husband is a practicing physician of Pittsfield, Illinois, and a graduate of the Philadelphia Medical College; Howard T., who married Myra Henderson, of Virden, Illinois, and is a linguist and has also studied vocal music, his wife acting as his accompanist, and is now singing in grand opera in Germany; Charles C., who is assistant cashier in the Bankers' National Bank of Chicago, and who has been admitted to the bar; a daughter who died in infancy; and Royal A., who is now pursuing a classical course in the Northwestern University at Evanston. All of the members of the family have been provided with excellent educational privileges and are well-qualified to occupy responsible positions in business life. It has taken an aggregate of thirty years for Mr. Willson to give his six children collegiate educations.
The parents hold membership in the Christian church and in his political views Mr. Willson was originally a Whig, but upon the organization of the Republican party he joined its ranks and has since been one of its stalwart advocates. His has been an active, useful and honorable career and throughout his entire life he has resided in Menard county, while as the years have advanced he has improved his business opportunities until the goal of success has been reached and he is now enabled to rest in the enjoyment of the fruits of his former toil