Matthew T. Willett

Matthew T. Willett was born in Hancock county, Indiana, on December 5, 1859. He was a son of Matthew T., Sr., and Elizabeth Willett. Matthew T. Willett, Sr, was born in Maysville, Kentucky, on September 16, 1820. He was educated in Hancock county, having come to Indiana as a boy when the family took up farming. Matthew T. Willett Sr.'s father died when Matthew T. was only nine years old, leaving the family responsibility on the shoulders of young Matthew T., Sr. He farmed the greater part of his life, retiring in his later years and leaving the care of the farm to his children. He married Elizabeth Willett, who was a distant cousin. She, also was born in Maysville, Kentucky, in November, 1823, and accompanied her father and mother, in 1829, to Indiana. They made a visit to Kentucky when she was nine years old. They came on horseback and brought with them a bandana handkerchief in which was wrapped their wealth in gold, tied to the saddle-bags and thus conveyed to their new home in Indiana. The wilderness condition of what is now Hancock county is shown in a couple of instances related by the mother of the subject of this sketch: Upon returning home one afternoon she saw and captured a young fawn and taking it home made a household pet of it. On another occasion while she was out she saw a large bear which she took to be a dog and which her father later killed upon hearing of the incident. Elizabeth Willett died in January 29, 1896.

Matthew T., Sr., and Elizabeth Willett were the parents of the following children: C. J., who is a resident of Indianapolis; Mrs. Lida Carter, who is a resident of Greenfleld; Marion F., who is a farmer in Hancock county; Matthew T., who is the subject of this sketch, and Henry Clay and Josephine Boyd, who are both deceased.

Matthew T. Willett, th subject of this sketch, was educated in Hancock county and in the Greenfield schools. Later he took up farming, in which he was engaged until August 25, 1907, at which time he came to Greenfield and engaged in the undertaking business with Oak Morrison as partner. He remained in this business for two and one-half years at which time he sold out his interest to his partner and purchased a grocery store and on May 25, 1911, he entered the grocery business, in which he was successful from the start. He was secretary and director of the first gas company organized in Hancock county, outside of Greenfield, and saw to the management of the first gas-well sunk in Hancock county outside of cities. In commenting on the early condition of the Indiana roads, Mr. Willett stated that his family lived about four miles from town and despite the fact that four horses were used to haul a wagon, it took all day to get six bushels of grain to the mill and have it ground and return home with the flour. This trip lay over what is now known as the Noblesville road, one of the best pikes in the state.

Matthew T. Willett was married to Rosa L. Gant, who was born in Hancock county on November 3, 1861. She was the daughter of Frank and Lucina E. (Judkins) Gant, both early residents of Hancock county. Mrs. Gant died when Mrs. Willett was only two years old. She was the only child. Mrs. Willett received her education in the Greenfield schools. Mr. and Mrs. Willett were the parents of the following children: Earl, who is a farmer near Mr. Comfort; Mrs. Mabel Foster, of Greenfield; Mrs. Nellie Shelby, who resides in Indianapolis; Guy, who was born in December 27, 1880, and who died on November 4, 1885, and Clarence, who was born on April 30, 1885, and who died on January 5, 1916.

Mr. Willett has been a member and steward of the Sugar Creek Methodist Episcopal church for eighteen years. He has also been trustee of that church since 1892. He was also superintendent of the Sunday school there for a number of years. He is a Mason. He has been through the chairs of the Knights of Pythias. He holds the rank of captain on the staff of Colonel Shellhouse in the Knights of Pythias lodge and has been a trustee of that lodge for six years. Mr. Willett is a Republican in politics.

Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Page 1034-1036.

Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI October 31, 2001.

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