Ohio Biographies

Thomas Wills

This venerable gentleman, one of the best known citizens of the village of Cheviot in this township, is of Irish lineage on both sides of his family. His paternal grandfather, James Wills, immigrated from Ireland to the new world about the year 1780, with a brother, and settled in eastern Pennsylvania for a time, but shortly afterwards removed to the present Fleming county, Kentucky, upon or near the site of Flemingsburgh. He was among the earliest pioneers to this part of the "dark and bloody ground," and was driven from his improvements by the marauding savages as many as three times, once being obliged to remain away for the period of two years. When preparing for flight, Mr. Wills was compelled to bring all his farming utensils in which there was iron, to prevent their falling into the hands of the Indians. He had many troubles with the redskins, and for a long period could hardly consider his life secure at any moment. James Wills is believed to have been a native of county Down, Ireland, so also was the maternal grandfather, George Dowler. He came to this country in 1790, and likewise located in eastern Pennsylvania, where he died some years afterwards. His son, George Dowler, jr., was a man of marked ability, and became a prominent minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. When his family removed westward, he was kept behind in Wheeling, through his mother's fear of the Indians, and grew to manhood in that place. After the death of the elder Dowler, his widow married James Grimes, of eastern Pennsylvania They removed to Hagerstown, in the same State, and remained there until 1795, when they came to Newtown, in Anderson township, Hamilton county, Ohio, being among the very first settlers of this region. Here Mr. Grimes spent the remainder of his days, in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, and died about four years after his immigration.

Samuel, son of James, and father of Thomas Wills, was born at the pioneer home near Flemingsburgh, Kentucky. He learned the trade of a stone-mason, and became proficient in all branches of the business. About 1808 he went to Newtown, in search of work, and there met Miss Mary, daughter of James Grimes and Mrs. Dowler Grimes, aforesaid, whom he married the next year. He died in 1822, when Thomas was but seven years old. About two years afterwards Mrs. Wills was united in marriage to William Hatfield, a shoemaker at Newtown. Thomas was the third son of the previous union. Upon the remarriage of his mother, he lived with his grandmother three years, and then returned home, where he learned the trade of shoemaking with his stepfather, and followed it in the paternal shop until the age of seventeen, when he left Newtown. In 1839 he removed to Cheviot, in Green township. Nine years after he was married to Miss Eliza Richardson, by whom he has had seven children, of whom three are still living. He continued the boot and shoe business and remained at it as long as he was able to work. He was soon called, however, to the performance of public duties, in which he was more or less engaged all the rest of his life. When he settled in Cheviot that region was almost entirely isolated, and material for official service was rather scarce; he was hence, in a manner, forced into prominent positions which he would not voluntarily have asked or accepted. For twenty-nine years he was a justice of the peace in this township, retaining remarkable popularity, and commanding general approval by the integrity and impartiality of his decisions. For thirty-one years, the entire period of a generation of the human race, he was postmaster at Cheviot. In 1865 he was chosen by his fellow citizens to a yet more responsible position, as director of the county infirmary, and was thrice reelected, serving in all, three terms in that position, with entire acceptance to his associates of the board and to his constituents. He then declined further service, on account of increasing infirmities and disabilities; and has since declined to assume official duties. He died Sunday, February 27, 1881, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, leaving abundance of proof that the sunset of his life was as glorious and peaceful as had been the purity of his relations toward his fellow men.


From History of Hamilton County, Ohio, Henry & Kate Ford, L. A. Williams & Co., Publishers, 1881