Leola Steel Willis was born in Columbus Grove, which is in Putnam County, Ohio, on the 10th of April, 1887. This is a very important date to me, as I was also born on April 10th, but not in the same year. Leola was the second child born to her parents, Zachary Taylor Willis and Isabelle Diantha Winland. Their first child, Dossie Grace, died the same year she was born in 1883. I had always believe that my great grandmother, Leola, was the first born child to Zachary and Isabelle until a visit to some Willis family in the summer of 1987 where I happened to see the Willis family bible and there I found out about Dossie Grace Willis. The other children of Zachary and Isabelle were Kitten Jean Willis and Winland James Willis.
Leola and her brother and sister grew to adulthood in Hamilton, county seat of Butler, Ohio. Leola graduated from Hamilton High School about 1904, somewhere I have a class pin of hers that reads "HH" for Hamilton High. I could be in error of the year of her graduation from Hamilton, but she would have been 17 in 1904. She met Orla Tellis sometime before 1909, for in that year she married Orla and on 25 April 1910, their only child, Dorothea Isabelle Tellis was born.
Leola was a sickly woman who suffered from tuberculosis and as the disease was known then, "consumption," it caused her death on the 15th of September in 1915. This left my grandmother without a mother until Orla married Clara Allen above in 1919. Until 1915, in all the photos you see of my grandmother, she was a happy little girl and treated very well by her parents and grandmother, Isabelle D. Winland Willis, after 1915, it is very hard to find a photo of Dorothea smiling with that beautiful smile she had as a small girl.
Leola's death changed the lives of many people for many generations. Orla became a distant father and his second wife was none too kind to Dorothea. Dorothea idolized her father, and she was a rather distant mother to her four children, and also to her 13 grandchildren. My thought is that my grandmother, having much bitterness growing up motherless without Leola, couldn't accept willingly the love of her four children and 13 grandchildren and judged them all according to the harsh standards of her father, Orla Tellis. Just my speculation. Had the second wife been more loving to my grandmother...well I'll say no more. These skeletons are really too sadly emotional to clog up this blog on family history.
Getting back to Leola's father...Zachary Taylor Willis was born in the year 1850 and was named, obviously for President Zachary Taylor who died in the year 1850. Zachary Taylor Willis was a shoe-maker by profession and he married the very young Isabelle Winland (always called "Belle') when she was but 17 years old on Christmas Day in 1882.
Zachary T. Willis, who was known by the name of "Jack" (source: Aunt Jenny Winland, sister of Belle Winland Willis). Jack and Belle Willis moved around in Ohio several times. Belle's family, the Winlands were from Paulding, Paulding County, Ohio, in the northwest section of Ohio, which borders on the Indiana line. The couple sent their eldest daughter, Leola, in the summer of 1893 to stay with her grandfather, Alexander Winland and her Aunt Molly (Mary Winland, eldest sister of Isabelle D. Winland Willis) and during the month of August in the year 1893, Leola, while only 7 years old, witnessed the death of her grandfather, Alexander Winland. Somewhere there is a letter from Mary Winland to Belle Winland Willis describing the death of their father, Alexander Winland and how Leola was right there at the house until the final passing of Alexander. I hope I still have a copy of this letter as it was most fascinating to read about a death-bed vigil, and if I find it I will post the contents here in this section.
As mentioned, Jack Willis like to move about. In fact, he moved so much that he abandoned his family! He left Isabelle D. Winland Willis with three young children sometime after the year in which Alexander Winland died in 1893. My grandmother, Dorothea Tellis Hackett told me that she thought he had gone west to the gold rush. The only gold rush occurring in the 1890s was the Alaska Gold Rush of 1898. Dorothea also told me that she thought that Zachary Taylor Willis died in the 1906 San Francisco, California earthquake in which over 3000 people died.
I cannot find any mention of Zachary T. Willis, or Jack Willis, in the 1900 or 1910 Federal Census. If he's dead in 1906, he won't be counted in the 1910 census. Unfortunately regarding the Alaska 1898 gold rush, that area was filled with thousands of people prospecting and the list of persons in the area at that time has not been all the promising when looking for Zachary or Jack Willis. Perhaps he never intended to abandon his wife, Belle and their three children, but by 1904, when possibly Leola graduated from high school in Hamilton, Zachary T. Willis is not in the picture.
As stated Zachary Willis was born in 1850 to Wilson Willis and Nancy Ann Parrish. Wilson Willis and his family lived in Coshockton County, Ohio, which lies in the mid-section of Ohio on the eastern side of the State. They had several children which shall be listed below. I lose track of Wilson and Nancy Willis after 1850. All of their five children were born between 1846 and 1859. As I have been unable to trace Wilson and Nancy by the Federal Census, after 1850, speculatively I believed they died before 1860, or Wilson Willis did and Nancy Ann Parrish Willis remarried (but again, I find no information on her).
Interestingly I find Zachary Taylor Willis living in Michigan in the 1880 census. He is living in Charlevoix County, as a border and his occupation is shoe maker. After this he moves back to Ohio, more than likely in Paulding County where he meets Isabelle Diantha Winland whom he weds in 1882.
At the beginning of this post you see an image of Zachary Taylor Willis in the 1880 Federal Census for Charlevoix County, Michigan:
There is a Wilson Willis in the American Civil War serving in an Ohio unit from Coshockton County, but this Civil War Wilson Willis is too young to be my Wilson Willis born in 1820. Alas the Willis family, beyond Wilson Willis born in 1820, are yet again, another genealogical brick wall.
Descendants of Wilson Willis
Generation No. 1
1. WILSON1 WILLIS was born Abt. 1820 in Ohio. He married NANCY ANN PARRISH 27 January 1845 in Muskingum County, Ohio. She was born Abt. 1830 in Maryland.
Children of WILSON WILLIS and NANCY PARRISH are:
i. ELIZA E.2 WILLIS, b. Abt. 1846.
2. ii. ZACHARY TAYLOR WILLIS, b. 1850, Coshocton County, Ohio; d. Aft. 1906, California or Alaska??.
iii. JAMES M. WILLIS, b. Abt. 1854.
iv. GEORGE R. WILLIS, b. Abt. 1856.
v. MARY E. WILLIS, b. Abt. 1859.
Generation No. 2
2. ZACHARY TAYLOR2 WILLIS (WILSON1) was born 1850 in Coshocton County, Ohio, and died Aft. 1906 in California or Alaska??. He married ISABELLE DIANTHA WINLAND 25 December 1882 in Paulding County Ohio, daughter of ALEXANDER WINLAND and HANNAH MASTERS. She was born 11 May 1864 in Paulding County, Ohio, and died 25 April 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Children of ZACHARY WILLIS and ISABELLE WINLAND are:
i. DOSSIE GRACE3 WILLIS, b. 1883; d. 1883.
ii. LEOLA STEELE WILLIS, b. 10 April 1887, Columbus Grove, Putnam Cty, Ohio; d. 15 September 1915, Detroit, Wayne Cty, Michigan; m. ORLA ARTHUR TELLIS, April 1909, Hamilton, Butler Cty, Ohio; b. 23 February 1887, Preble County, Ohio; d. 17 September 1969, Detroit, Wayne Cty, Michigan.
iii. KITTEN JEAN WILLIS, b. Aft. 1887; d. Arizona; m. GORDON DAUGHERTY, Bef. 1910, Ohio?.
iv. WINLAND JAMES WILLIS, b. Aft. 1887, Ohio; d. Hamilton, Butler Cty, Ohio; m. HENRIETTA STAFFORD; d. Hamilton, Butler Cty, Ohio