John Wesley was a successful businessman with a stove dealership, but was best known for his flour mills. Several articles were published about his innovations in the fields of flour milling and enriched flour. Milling and Grain News, a trade publication, credited him in 1909 with being the first producer of bolted flour (in 1857) in the state of Kansas.
He enlisted in the army 14 May 1861 as a private in Company D of the 2nd Kansas Infantry, but he served for only three months.
RECCOLLECTIONS AN EXPERIENCE OF MR. J.W. WILLEY RELATING TO THE LAWRENCE MASSACRE
Capture of SKAGGS Sullivan, Illinois
August 7th, 1913.
On August 21 st. 1863 I was living on the Chamber’s place one half mile south of Franklin, Kansas.
On that memorable day I had just gotten up and started after water which was an eighth of a mile distant from the house. I met a man from Franklin who told me that Quantrell had gone to Lawrence and that he, was going to inform the people (I thought he was going to the woods).
At that moment I heard firing at Lawrence and immediately went back to the house told my wife what was going on, took my gun and what ammunition I had and started for Lawrence. On arriving at Franklin, I got a horse and started for the scene of the shooting. When I reached the spot where the cemetery now is I fell in with others who were watching the fray and started for town in company with John and Tom McFarland and By. Gilliland. We were the only ones mounted and about the ravine east of the Spears house we met Skaggs (one of Quantrell’s men) and challenged him. He said that he was a southerner and at that we fired on him; however, without effect, except probably, to slightly wound his horse.
He started to run and we told him that we had made a mistake and got him to follow us and led him past where the men were concealed near the Enos house. At that moment the men stepped out into the road back of him and he saw he was in a trap. Wheeling his horse he forced the animal to jump a high gate and started south, we in pursuit. We were obliged to dismount and open the gate before we could follow. We chased him south half a mile then east to a point south of Sparrcy’s with us in full chase. He started east toward Eudora and as we were getting close to him. At this moment a man appeared on the road ahead of him and stopped him. We came up and took him in charge, taking him back to Lawrence where we met a party of citizens near the Spear’s residence they took our prisoner from us and shot him to death. I believe that he was shot by an Indian. (White Turkey.)
We went on into town and passed through and saw the descruction and the dead and then followed on after Quantrell and his gang. We followed them until about Nine O’Clock when in company with others we camped for the night and returned to Lawrence the next day at about 10A.M.
As far as I am able to learn I am the only survivor of the party who assisted in this capture.
J. W. Willey, Jr.1
———J.W. Willey 11 also grew fruit on Bald(Blue) Mound, which was also known as Willey Mound, and canned the fruit for sale. Around the 1880s, he owned and operated a store at 80 Massachusetts Street, selling stoves, tinware, pumps, etc. J.W. Willey ,he was among a group of men who helped capture Skaggs, one of Quantrill's men, on Aug. 21, 1863.
J.W. Willey I's older brother, Dennis (b. June 2, 1797), married a second time to Lydia Patterson. They lived in Baldwin, Kan., and were involved with starting Baker University in the 1860s. Dennis is listed as a trustee from 1866 to 1871, as vice president of the Board of Trustees from December 1868 to March 1870 and as treasurer from March 1870 to March 1871. The first class of 1866, three people, included Olive Kezia Willey. She married James Crooks Hall, also a graduate of class of 1866.
John Wesley Willey 11 (b. Jan. 22, 1836, Charles County, Ind.; d. May 2, 1902(??), Douglas County, Kan.) was married March 16,1862, in Franklin, Kan., to Nancy Wright Prather (b. Oct. 5, 1839, Hampshire County, Va.). To them were born the following children: Solon Fletcher (b. May 18, 1863; d. Oct. 27,1863, Franklin, Kan.), Amelia Charlotte (b. Sept. 2, ; d. Nov. 17, 1905, Lawrence), Arthur Austin (b. Aug. 16, 1867 d. Jan. 1, 1870, Lawrence), Jessie Ethel (b. June 14, 1870; d. Jan. 23, 1945, Lawrence), Silas Clinton (b. March 23, 1873, Bates County, Mo.; m. Nina Knutson; d. March 28, 1936, Eureka, Kan.), Edith Edna Wright (b. Nov. 10, 1875, Westine, Mo.; m. James Marion Harrell; d. July 22,194 1, Lawrence), John Wesley III (b. Jan. 3, 1879, Lawrence; m. Anna Nellie Lamka; d. May 11, 1960, Soloman, Kan.), Vance Athen (b. March 6, 1885, Lawrence; m. Mae Finn; d. 1965 Monett, Mo.) and James Marvin (b. April 18, 1887, Lawrence; m. Iva L. Mitchell; d. April 8, 1973, Anaheim, Calif.).
The John Wesley Willey name is now in the sixth generation. It continued from Jessie Ethel Willey. The Willeys had been members of the Methodist Church since the earliest generations in this country. James Wesley Willey's father, Brazillia, rode circuit in New York State after he left Connecticut, where his family had been since the mid-1600s. The family originally came from England. J.W. Willey I helped organize the Blue Mound School in 1857 and was a board member for many years. He also helped organize the Fairview Methodist Episcopal Church, which was held in the Blue Mound School for some time, and he was a trustee of the church for many years.