Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 514
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
THOMAS J. WILLETT
Thomas J Willett, a resident farmer of Valley township, Rice county, making his home on section 3, was born in Mead county, Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio river, forty miles below Louisville, at the Willett Landing, which place was named in honor of his grandfather. His natal day was May 25, 1837. His grandfather, Richard Willett, was a native of Maryland and wedded a Miss Esery. They became the parents of seven sons and one daughter who reached mature years, the number including James E Willett, the father of our subject, who was born in the interior of the country in 1804, when that state was in its primitive condition, the work of civilization and progress having but just been begun. He married Lydia A Stout, who was born in Kentucky, in 1811, and their marriage was blessed with twelve children, of whom eight sons and two daughters grew to manhood and womanhood. Four of the sons are yet living, namely: Thomas Jefferson; Edward A, who resides near Lawrence, Kansas; R S, who makes his home in South Dakota; and George W, of Poweshiek county, Iowa. There is also a sister, Mrs Lydia A McWhorter, who resides in Miller county, South Dakota, and is the youngest of the family. The father died in 1854, and his remains were interred at Jacksonville, Illinois. His wife, long surviving him, passed away December 11, 1897, at the age of eighty-six years, and was laid to rest in a cemetery at Montezuma, Poweshiek county, Iowa.
Thomas Jefferson Willett acquired a fair education in Aledo, Illinois, where he attended a boarding school, devoting the greater part of his attention to the mastery of his studies until his majority. He afterward engaged in teaching for two terms and he remained with his mother until his marriage, which occurred in July, 1867, Miss Sarah A Dunning becoming his wife. She was born in Venango county, Pennsylvania, in March, 1837, a daughter of Hugh and Phebe (McElhany) Dunning. Six children have been born unto Mr and Mrs Willett, namely: Wirtie, who for a number of years was a very successful school teacher; Docia, the wife of J H Herner, of Oklahoma; Delpha, a teacher living at home; Rowe, a farmer of Center township, Rice county, who was married March 18, 1901; Katy, who is teaching in the home district; and Hugh, of Harper county, Kansas, who is married and has one daughter.
Mr and Mrs Willett were married in Illinois, but soon afterward removed to Iowa, where he and his brother, George W, purchased two hundred and eighty acres of rich land. After farming there for nine years he sold his property and the business relations between the brothers were severed. They settled upon separate farms and our subject continued to engage in the cultivation of the fields until 1878, when he disposed of his property and in the spring of 1879 came to Rice county, arriving on the 16th of March. Here he operated a farm belonging to his wife’s brother and later purchased the quarter section of land on section 3, Valley township, which he yet owns and on which he has since made his home with the exception of three years spent on the Strip in Oklahoma, where he secured a quarter section of land. He is a progressive and wide-awake agriculturist and his fields are under a high state of cultivation. In politics he is a Republican and has served as school director, but while he keeps well informed on the issues of the day he has never been an office seeker.