Willey, Lurena Ann

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If one could turn the hands on the clock of time backward some fifty or sixty years they would be surprised at the sights that would greet their eyes. In lieu of the cabinet organs and grand and upright pianos now gracing the parlors of the country home one would behold such useful and necessary article as the spinning wheel and the loom. In the fields would be found patches of cotton and flax which in proper time, by the deft fingers of the womenfolk would be transformed into cloth to be used in a multitude of ways. So far as a practical knowledge of the use of the instrument is concerned how many people in Cass county today can tell from its looks whether a flax hackle belongs to a burglar's kit or not? How many women are there hereabouts today who can put the warp in a loom and begin the manufacture of the coarsest sort of fabric? How many, removing the stamp from the back of the implement, could tell a pair of cotton or wool cards from an antediluvian curry comb? Yet there was a time in this community when all these things were in use, and there are yet living some people who have used them.

Lurena Ann Miller, daughter of James and Sarah (Cowand) Miller, was born on what is now the Joe Huffman farm, up in the Springer neighborhood, March 3, 1848. She was the second of nine children, the daughter of poor parents, and was pressed into service and taught how to work, to save and to manage. When she was small she attended school at the Springer school (the little building then stood near the home of the late Job Springer). Her father was a renter up in that country and later bought a farm and moved over into the Sand Prairie country near the Sand Prairie church. The family remained there for a time. Mr. Miller sold the farm with the intention of moving to Oregon, but sickness prevented, so the family moved back into the Springer neighborhood, and lived on one of the farms now owned by J. A. Schaefer. Later they moved into the Bethlehem neighborhood, where they remained one year. Mr. Miller then bought the farm now owned by John Kircher and moved to that place.

On November 19, 1868, Lurena Ann Miller became the wife of John Willey, Justice Seeger, of Beardstown, officiating. To this union seven children were born. They are: James Robert, Malinda A. (Mrs. Charles E. Wagle, of Monmouth, Ill.); John O., of near Emporia, Lyon county, Kansas; George A., who lives near Sand Point, Idaho; an infant (deceased), Lewis Rolla and Walter Otis.

For the first two years of their married life Mr. and Mrs. Willey lived in a small house owned by Valentine Walter which stood in what is now his garden. Mr. Willey was a brick molder and was employed by Walter & Kircher. Following this, they and her father's family fitted up a couple of "prairie schooners" and made a trip overland to Kansas. They didn't take kindly to "Bleeding Kansas" so they came back to Plattsburg, Missouri, where Mr. Willey worked one season on a brick yard. They then returned to Illinois and located on the Henry Krems farm, near the Korsmeyer school house, where they lived for a couple of years. Mr. Willey bought an acre and a quarter of ground, where Mrs. Willey now lives. The land was purchased of the late George Kolberer. From Fred Zahn Mr. Willey bought an old log cabin which he took down and moved to his newly acquired possession. At that time the Willey family lived in the "old log cabin settlement" of Arenzville, there being along that stretch of road the Kolberer, Willey, Herbert and Bauyan cabins. For a number of years their home was in this cabin. Mr. Willey followed brick making for a number of years and for seven years before his death was in the employ of Mrs. Elizabeth Engelbach. He died March 31, 1892.

In the retrospect of this narrative it might be well to state that Mrs. Willey belongs to that class of pioneers who knew how to card and spin and weave, and it was her custom, as a young lady, to do considerable of that class of work for the neighbors. She would answer calls and would go throughout the neighborhood doing that kind of work. She still has in her possession a "flax wheel" used in the good old days when people toiled and spun.

Mrs. Willey is the daughter of religious, God-fearing parents. Her father was a member of the Christian church, an elder in the flock, and many times was called upon to supply the pulpit and preach to the people in the absence of a regular minister. He often walked from the John Kircher farm to Concord to attend church. When she was twenty years of age Mrs. Willey made a profession of religion and united with the Christian church at Concord. Her membership remained with this church until the organization of the Methodist Protestant church here a number of years ago, when her letter was placed there. When that organization was disbanded and the Methodist and Presbyterian organizations were evolved out of it, Mrs. Willey went with the Presbyterians and she is now an active member of that denomination.

The Arenzville, as it was when she first knew it fifty odd years ago, and the Arenzville of today are vastly different places. Some of the old settlers, the men and women of the time, are here, but many of the old land marks, the guide boards pointing the path of progress, are gone. In the years of her residence among this people she has suffered her hardships and her cares, she also enjoyed her comforts and her pleasures. She has possessed the happy faculty of making and retaining friends and now finds comfort and consolation in the firm and lasting friendships she has formed. She is conscious of the fact that she has led a good life; has been true to the higher and finer instincts of womanhood and motherhood; has contributed her mite towards the advancement of the community in which and the people among whom her lot has been cast, and it is but just and proper that she could enjoy the full fruition of the confidences and friendships which have endured throughout all the changing years.

Submitted by Sheila Neuenfeldt