Sunday, September 14, 2008

Part Three cont. The Willis family from Leola Steel Willis and her kin

My great grandfather Orla Arthur Tellis (1887-1969) had three wives, (1) Leola Steel Willis (1887-1915), Clara Allen (abt 1919-aft 1979) and Lillian Allen (1902-aft 1997). Clara and Lillian, were, yes, sisters. This blog is concerned with the family history of his first wife, Leola S. Willis, as it is from her than I am descended. I shall be discreet and not rattle the family closet skeletons about Clara and Lillian Allen Tellis, except to say that my step-great grandmother, Aunt Lillian was a very kind lady and I have good memories of her. Clara, on the other hand, yelled at me when I was four years old and got caught sticking my finger in the butter dish, and sadly, this has clouded my memory of Orla's second wife to this day. She also wore stockings that had lines on the back of her legs. Aunt Lillian never wore such fuddy-duddy hosiery.

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.


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.


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

Part Three - The Tellis Family, a line of Denial and I don't mean the River Nile in Egypt

Okay, so I'm bored with the Hackett line and I will get back to it, but now I want to venture into the exciting world of the Tellis family. Why do I call this branch of my family a line of denial? Well, I was raised to believe that my family was lily-white and that we didn't have one drop of German Ancestry in us. Check out the following physical characteristics of the Tellis family, tall, blonde haired and blue-eyed. We do not really know the geographical heritage of our Tellis line and at one time we thought the name "Tellis" could be Greek, as there are some Greek families in Detroit, Michigan, with the name "Tellis," and if you read the Blind Greek Poet, Homer, he talks about Helen of Troy (she was Greek before she took off for Troy with Paris) as being "divinely tall and divinely fair." Again, those of us descended from Orla Tellis are tall and start out fair-haired, but we're not divine, at least not in this branch of my genealogy, but that's another post for the blog and it belongs to the Hackett line.

I digress and will return to the denial part of my heritage. My great grandfather, Orla Arthus Tellis (1887-1969) apparently didn't want genealogy research done on his family, his daughter, my grandmother, Dorothea Isabelle Tellis Hackett (1910-1996) was often repeating a statement of his when I was beginning to search out my family history, "You shouldn't do genealogy as you don't know what skeletons might be in your closet." My philosophy to this statement is, I'm not responsible for the actions of my ancestors, and I've already discovered that one of my Hackett kin committed the first murder and was the first executed person in Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Now when you measure up black sheep, could it get worse than this? But again, I'm not responsible about the deeds of the dead but I want to know all that I can about these dead ancestors, so let the skeletons rattle in the closet. I'm all for discovery.

Orla (which means fair-haired in Irish Gaelic) Arthur Tellis was an adult during the first World War a time period, when it was not perhaps favorable to say that you had Germanic heritage. Kaiser Bill in Germany was invading most of Europe and Americans were largely out of the War, remaining neutral until 1917 when Kaiser Bill made a secret treaty with Mexico that allowed Mexico to take back parts of the United States that once belonged to Mexico, okay I'm recalling this history incorrecty, Germany proposed an alliance with Mexico, not a treaty, through the so-called "Zimmermann Telegram" which in essence states the above stuff about Mexico coming into the war on the side of Germany and retrieving all it's lost territories, stolen or purchased by the United States since 1845. Go to the following link on the Zimmermanm Telegraph, it tells the real history better than I can. When President Wilson was informed of this Zimmermann Telegraph he and the Congress got their American dander up and we entered World War I on the side of the Allies, the French and the English. Hence the bad connection for being German Americans.

So at sometime during this period of war, my great grandfather, Orla, denied his Germanic heritage to my grandmother, Dorothea and all his other children, and probably came up with the skeletons in the closet statement. I have no proof of this, and it's all conjecture, but until I was 36 years old, I did not know I came from three distince German ancestral lines until a cousin told me all about Heinrich Windlandt. You don't get anymore Germanic than the name "Heinrich!"

Now Orla is not descended from the Winland's, (how we spell the family name today), but his first wife, Leola Steel Willis was. But in Orla's maternal Heywood line, there are two, count them, German ancestral lines, the Frey's and the Boyer's. I once did the math (and I'm not very good at math) and I figured out that I was 1/66 German. Orla Tellis would be 1/8 more Germanic than me, but is this such a terrible "skeleton?" Aside from Kaiser Bill and Adolph Hitler, the Germans are really great people, beautiful land, mountains, the mountains in southern Germany (Bavaria) are magical. If I had my 'druthers' I'd rather be of Austrian descent than German as "the hills are alive with the sound of music" in Austria, but genetically the Austrians and Germans are the same stock.

So now you have the story of the Tellis denial, we're German! My eldest sister is still affected by this denial, she doesn't want me to tell her about our 3 German lines and has said she doesn't want to know about the new ones I could find!

Returning to the name "Orla" being Irish for "fair-haired," my great grandfather has stamped out this genetic trait on all of us for four generations born after Orla, being that we have been taller than the average American and born with blonde hair. Not all of us have blue eyes, but Orla's physical characteristics have left its mark on us.

My one memory of Orla occurred when I was about 5 years old and my family was living on the Harvey farm in Lum, Michigan. (I will always call it the "farm," even if we only rented the house, but the Lum house was the best, childhood home to grow up in!) I was in the kitchen eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that my mother, Judith Hackett Brooks, had made for me and even though she had cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal, I was eating the bread slowly, taking bite after bite straight from the middle of the sandwich. At some point, Orla came into the kitchen and watched me slowly eating the sandwich. He suggested that the sandwich would get eaten faster if I took bites from each pointed end of the sandwich half rather than directly from the center as I was slowly doing. I recall I thought his advice rather unique and I followed it quickly eating the sandwich half from end to end until there was no middle left to consume, and in no time I was finished with the other half as well and got up to go play as little girls are wont to do. This is the way I still eat sandwiches and every now and I remember his advice to a little girl, who at the time didn't care for PB&J sandwiches.

Orla's Tellis family begins with his grandfather, William Tellis. William Tellis was born in 1835 and died in 1925. I believe that William was born in Ohio as on several of the Federal census taken during 1860 and 1920 (the last year William is counted) lists his place of birth as being Ohio. In 1850 there are several families in Ohio with the surname of Tellis. Most of the Tellis families in Ohio in 1850 list as coming from Virginia. When Ohio was a territory before it became a State, Virginia claimed most of Ohio as being part of Virginian territory after the American Revolutionary War. Connecticut also claimed Ohio as their reward from the Rev. War. Go to this link on the Ohio Country for a better explanation or the Virginian claim to Ohio. But what I was trying to recount is that there are many people in Ohio during the 1800's who came there from Virginia. So perhaps our Tellis are actually Southerners to begin with. And as the blog will further illuminate, there are many connections to the Tellis family history that come from the South, the Frey's were from Maryland, the Boyers from the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, the McPeeks (the only recorded case of Irish descent for my Mother's side) settled in Virginia after coming to this land in New Jersey. One Patrick McPeek came here about 1750s from Ireland and stayed to start the family McPeek in New Jersey (who later intermarried with the Masters who married into the Winlands) and Patrick McPeek went south to Virginia during the American Rev. War and served with the Patriots in Virginia. He was gone so long in Virginia that his wife had him declared dead and she married another man! Patrick McPeek came back to New Jersey after the War, and finding that Mrs. McPeek had remarried, he went back south to Virginia.

But again, the nature in me to digress has happened once more. Back to the Tellis', namely William Tellis 1835-1925. I don't know who his parents are. He's not listed in the 1850 or 1860 Federal Census in Ohio or anywhere else. Typical brickwall genealogy! He married Nancy Wilson who may have been from Indiana. The couple do not show up in the Indiana Census during 1850 or 1860. Nancy and William had four children: Henry, Lizzie, Reuben, and Thomas. The first three, Henry, Lizzie and Reuben were born in Wisconsin between 1856 and 1860. (There are other Tellis familes in Wisconsin in the 1850 and 1860 Federal census but I can't find any connection to William Tellis.) Thomas was born in 1861 and was not born in Wisconsin as I recall at this moment. If I find that this is not the case I will amend this blog for the correction. Nancy died after 1861, and where this occurred is not known.

It appears that William married almost immediately after the death of Nancy as his second wife's name is Mary McNealy. Mary brought to this family two or three sons of different surnames, meaning Mary McNealy had been married at least twice before she married William Tellis. Willliam and Mary had at least three more Tellis children, William, Elva and Franklin.

At what point I am not certain, but William Tellis with his second wife and family settled into Western Ohio, on the Indiana border in Butler County, at or near Somerville. From 1870 until before 1920, William Tellis lived here with his family.

In the 1870 Federal Census for Ohio, as I've mentioned, William is living in Butler County, Ohio, but I can't find his three oldest children living with him or nearby. The youngest son, Thomas, is still living with William Tellis and his second wife, with her two or three sons from previous marriages and her father, Hiram McNealy. But where are Henry, Lizzie and Reuben living? They are not counted in the 1870 census and they would be very young adults, Henry being approximately 15 or 16 in 1870, Lizzie about 14 and Reuben 10. I can't find them with other Tellis families in this 1870 census and as I cannot place them with any Wilson's in Indiana, where Nancy Wilson is supposed be from.

In the 1880 Federal Census William is living in Butler County with Mary and her children, William, Elva and Franklin. The older children are not listed. But in Preble County, the county directly north of Butler County I find Henry, Lizzie and Reuben Tellis, all living on their own and Lizzie has married Herman Voss. Preble County Ohio has some significane to the Tellis family history as it is the county where the Heywood family had connections. Orla A. Tellis' mother, was Lottie May Heywood and I'll write more about the Heywoods at some point when I'm finished with with the Tellis. Reuben Tellis married Lottie May Heywood in the mid-1880s and they were married by Lottie May Heywood's grandfather, Nathan Heywood, a German Dunkard minister. There is another German connection! It is so easy to connect all these German dots, but why deny it, I'll never understand?

As mentioned William Tellis remained in Ohio from 1870 until just before 1920 when he can be found living in Decatur County, Illinois with his daughter, Elva who had married a man named Leathers. There he died in 1925 and some day I will have to travel to the county seat in Decatur County, Illinois and obtain a copy of William's death certificate in the possibility that his parents will be named on it, imagine what brick walls will crumble if this information is on the death certificate? William's other two sons from the second marriage, remained in Ohio and there are some Tellis descendants to this day around the Dayton, Montgomery County area.

Descendants of William Tellis

Generation No. 1

1. WILLIAM1 TELLIS was born Bef. 1835 in Ohio. He married (1) NANCY WILSON Bef. 1858. She died Bef. 1869. He married (2) MARY MCNEALY Abt. 1869, daughter of HIRAM MCNEALY. She was born Abt. 1834 in Ohio.

2. i. HENRY2 TELLIS, b. 1858, Wisconsin.
ii. ELIZABETH TELLIS, b. 1859, Wisconsin; m. HERMAN VOSS; b. 1856, New York.
3. iii. REUBEN TELLIS, b. 1860, Ohio; d. 05 March 1916, Somerville, Butler County, Ohio.
iv. THOMAS TELLIS, b. 1861, Ohio.

4. v. WILLIAM MAY2 TELLIS, b. Abt. 1870, Somerville, Butler County, Ohio; d. 1925, Somerville, Butler County, Ohio.
vi. ELVA E. TELLIS, b. Abt. 1872.
vii. FRANKLIN TELLIS, b. Abt. 1877.

Generation No. 2

2. HENRY2 TELLIS (WILLIAM1) was born 1858 in Wisconsin. He married ALICE KOONTZ 08 July 1883 in Preble County, Ohio. She died 12 March 1935 in Eaton, Preble County, Ohio.

Children of HENRY TELLIS and ALICE KOONTZ are:
i. CHESTER E.3 TELLIS, b. 25 July 1891.
ii. MINNIE E. TELLIS, b. 08 November 1896; m. FUDGE.
v. HERBERT TELLIS, d. 1952, Preble County, Ohio.

3. REUBEN2 TELLIS (WILLIAM1) was born 1860 in Ohio, and died 05 March 1916 in Somerville, Butler County, Ohio. He married (1) LOTTIE MAY HEYWOOD 30 May 1886 in Preble County, Ohio, daughter of NATHAN HEYWOOD and MARY BRUNSON. She was born 27 May 1869 in Preble County, Ohio, and died 18 September 1895 in Eaton, Preble County, Ohio. He married (2) NELLE OVERMEYER Aft. 1895. She died Aft. 1920.

6. i. ORLA ARTHUR3 TELLIS, b. 23 February 1887, Preble County, Ohio; d. 17 September 1969, Detroit, Wayne Cty, Michigan.
7. ii. ETHEL BIRDIE TELLIS, b. 27 July 1889, Butler County, Ohio; d. 15 December 1960, Dayton, Ohio.

4. WILLIAM MAY2 TELLIS (WILLIAM1) was born Abt. 1870 in Somerville, Butler County, Ohio, and died 1925 in Somerville, Butler County, Ohio. He married (2) HUGHES.

Children of WILLIAM MAY TELLIS are:
i. HARLEY EDWIN3 TELLIS, d. 1925, Somerville, Butler County, Ohio.


Children of WILLIAM MAY TELLIS are:

Generation No. 3


Children of OLLIE TELLIS and SWAIN are:
i. LLOYD J.4 SWAIN, b. Abt 1955.

6. ORLA ARTHUR3 TELLIS (REUBEN2, WILLIAM1) was born 23 February 1887 in Preble County, Ohio, and died 17 September 1969 in Detroit, Wayne Cty, Michigan. He married (1) LEOLA STEELE WILLIS April 1909 in Hamilton, Butler Cty, Ohio, daughter of ZACHARY WILLIS and ISABELLE WINLAND. She was born 10 April 1887 in Columbus Grove, Putnam Cty, Ohio, and died 15 September 1915 in Detroit, Wayne Cty, Michigan. He married (2) CLARA ALLEN Abt. 1919 in Detroit, Michigan. She was born in Traverse City, Michigan, and died Aft. 1979. He married (3) LILLIAN ALLEN Aft. 1950 in Detroit, Michigan. She was born 1902 in Traverse City, Michigan, and died Aft. 1997 in Eugene, Oregon.

i. DOROTHEA ISABELLE4 TELLIS, b. 25 April 1910, Hamilton, Butler Cty, Ohio; d. 01 January 1996, Anaheim, California; m. LYLE ELTON HACKETT, 07 November 1931, City Hall, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan; b. 30 November 1908, Cleveland, Ohio; d. 07 March 1973, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan.

Dorothea H. Tellis was cremated as per her wishes in January 1996. She was flown back to Michigan in April that same year and interred in the ground next to her Mother, Leola Steele Willis Tellis, Saturday, the 4th of May, 1996 when the ground was soft enough to permit burial of her remains..

Children of ORLA TELLIS and CLARA ALLEN are:
ii. JOANN4 TELLIS, b. 08 November 1920, Detroit, Michigan; m. JACK FITZMAURICE; d. Aft. 1990, Traverse City, Michigan.
iii. ORLA ARTHUR TELLIS, JR., b. 13 March 1927, Detroit, Michigan; m. KATHY FOOTE, Aft. 1950; b. 18 August.
iv. PATRICIA TELLIS, b. Abt. 1929, Detroit, Michigan; m. A. W. BIRK, Aft. 1945; b. Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
v. NANCY TELLIS, b. 05 October 1932, Detroit, Michigan; m. HANK DIZNEY; b. Missouri.

7. ETHEL BIRDIE3 TELLIS (REUBEN2, WILLIAM1) was born 27 July 1889 in Butler County, Ohio, and died 15 December 1960 in Dayton, Ohio. She married (1) HARRY BLACK Abt. 1907. She married (2) OSCAR HITCHEW 05 May 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. He was born 1895, and died 1967 in Dayton, Ohio.

i. MARILYN JEAN4 HITCHEW, b. 18 May 1924; d. Aft. 1990, Dayton, Ohio; m. CHARLES ENOS GRIMM, 07 December 1947, 1st Lutheran Church, Dayton, Ohio.

8. WILLIAM C.3 TELLIS (WILLIAM MAY2, WILLIAM1) He married (1) MABEL ETTER. She was born in Cowlesville, Ohio.

i. VINCENT H.4 TELLIS, b. Abt. 1925.

Child of WILLIAM C. TELLIS is: