Thomas Thornhill Willson

Thomas Thornhill Willson Born: March 8, 1834, at Prickwillow near Ely, Cambridgeshire, England

Died: January 13, 1911, Victor Township, DeKalb County, Illinois

When but a young man of nineteen years, Thomas Thornhill Willson crossed the ocean with his uncle John Willson. He lived with John for two years in Jamestown, New York, two years until heading to DeKalb County, Illinois, in 1855 with two cousins, William and James.

His name was spelled with the double L, but as the years wore on, he seemed to have dropped the second L. However, the purchase of his land has the double L underlined, so it is conceivable that when he was with the pony express, he used the double L.

Thomas worked on various farms in Illinois before going to Kansas for three years where he worked in a store in Atchison before returning to Illinois and buying a farm, marrying, serving on the school board, etc. While in Kansas drove the first Pony Express from Atchison to Seneca. (According to Jackie Lewin, Curator, St. Joseph Museum, Willson is the only rider that we know of by name that rode from Atchison).

On May 3, 1877, he was united in marriage to Mary Ann Bend who was from Lincolnshire, England. She was 24 and he was 43 when they married in DeKalb County, Illinois. At the time of their marriage he had been farming on the farm he purchased in DeKalb County, Illinois, in 1871. His daughter Sarah Matilda Wilson Parks died in Clarion, Iowa, in 1913, leaving 6 children. His daughter Esther Jane Wilson Baer died childless in 1951 on the family farm where she was born.

He had a brother at the time of his death that lived in Missouri. His siblings were George, Elizabeth, Johnson, Emma, James, Esther, John, and Mathilda. He also had a cousin in Illinois who was killed by a train, but it is not know by whom this cousin was connected.

He is buried in Wesson Cemetery in DeKalb County in Victor Township, Illinois,

Information provided by his great grand daughter, Margaret J. Parks, October 2001. She says in part:

"I'd love to know more. I'm hoping someone from his family also had ridden in the pony express with him, and that that person's descendants will see this."