I'm taking a moment during this weekend's Space Camp to post something we may have discussed in the past. The following is an article published in the Quaker Magazine "The Friend". This article is a biography of our Great Grandfather Henry Willis (Along the Williamson line then to the Willis line). Please take a moment and read about these devoutly religious ancestors.
Henry Willis and Mary Pease my 9th Great Grandparents.
Margaret Ann Willis - George Matthew Williamson
William J. Williamson
The Nine Williamson Children (our parents and grandparents)
Of Ministers and Elders, and other concerned members of the Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia. (Continued from page 300.)
Henry Willis was born at Westbury, Wiltshire, in Old England, on the 14th of the Seventh month, 1628. We find no account of the character of his parents, nor what religious restraints he was subjected to in youth; but he himself in early manhood had evidently submitted to the cross of Christ. In 1654, he married Mary Pease, a religious young woman, and they both were soon convinced of the Truth as professed by the people called Quakers. In 1660, Henry Willis, going to Salisbury prison to visit some of his fellow professors, who were confined there for their christian testimonies, was arrested and carried before the mayor of that town. He was charged with no breach of the laws, but the oath of allegiance was tendered to him, and as he could not swear for conscience' sake, he was committed to prison.
In the year 1670, he removed with his family to America, and purchasing a body of land on Long Island, he called it Westbury, after the name of the place of his nativity. But persecution was not confined to England, as Henry Willis and his fellow professors on Long Island, found. About the beginning of the year 1680, Henry Willis and John Bowne had each of them a daughter married according to Friends' order. They were probably Henry's eldest daughter Mary, and John's daugh ter Elizabeth. Magistrates and priests were all displeased at the manner of those marriages, inasmuch as they received no fees. This caused them to bring Henry and John before a court of sessions, who fined them each £10. They could not conscientiously pay the fines, and so suffered distraints, as the following petition from them sets forth :—
To the Governor and his Council at New York. The address of Henry Willis and John Bowne concerning the proceedings of a court of sessions against us, who said they fined us £10 apiece, for suffering our daughters to marry contrary to their law. This proceeding, we arc satisfied, is without precedent, and we count it no less, but either a istake or hasty oversight. Though we have enloured for its removal, yet execution is issued and Joseph Lee, under-sheriff, hath seized
equity, where the witness of God may arise m every conscience to testify, whether if such things should go on and be proceeded in, it would not be the ruinating of families, and to the kindling of God's anger against the place or people. This we truly desire may be prevented, by taking away the occasion. Wherefore we make our address to the chief in authority, knowing that the magistrate's authority is to preserve men's persons and estates, but the prerogative of the conscience belongs to God, and we dare not but yield obedience thereunto, as God hath persuaded our hearts, and we do not act, as sometimes resented, in stubbornness, obstinacy, or contempt of authority; but in simplicity, having God's fear in our hearts that we may keep our consciences clear before him, from whom we receive strength to uphold us in trials and exercises. AVe earnestly desire the Lord may persuade your hearts, that ye may remove the cause of this our address, and open that eye in you that can see us as we are, who can pray for those in authority, that under them we may live a peaceable, holy and godlike life.
4th of Seventh month, 1680.
We know not whether the fine in the case was remitted or not, but we know that Henry Willis continued to suffer for his testimonies against war, and against hireling ministry. The distraints made on his property for his not training, induced him to address the governor and council, Twelfth month 24th, 1680. The last instance of pecuniary suffering inflicted on him by the magistrates, which I have met with, was a fine of £4 10*. in 1687, for not contributing towards a dwelling-house for the priest.
Henry Willis, pretty early in his religious life, came forth as a minister. We find him in the year 1681, at the first Yearly Meeting held at Burlington, in company with his friend and fellow sufferer, John Bowne. They were appointed by that Yearly Meeting, to request of the Friends on Long Island, that the members of Shrewsbury meeting might in future belong to Burlington YearlyMeeting. He and J. Bowne appear to have generally attended the Yearly Meeting at Burlington and Philadelphia, in the early day. They both signed in 1692 the testimony of the meeting of ministers against George Keith.
About the end of 1699, Henry Willis felt a concern to remove to Philadelphia. His eight children were all grown up, and principally settled, so that it appears he brought none of them with him. His daughter Elizabeth, however, in 1696, had
married William Rakestraw, and resided in Philadelphia.* The certificate granted by Flushing Monthly Meeting for him and his wife Mary, is dated Third mo. 26th, 1700. It certifies of him as " our ancient and dear Friend," and says he had " constantly sought the honour of God and his truth."
Henry Willis was growing in years, yet he appears to have been much dedicated .in visiting neighbouring meetings, and was employed in the business of the Monthly Meeting. In 1702, he
* Elizabeth lived but a few years after her marriage.
Yearly Meeting at Long Island. The record of his visits to meetings within a few miles of Philadelphia, continue abundant through every year until 1708. Early in that year, he requested a certificate for himself and wife, intending to remove to reside with their daughter at Newtown, West Jersey. Before the close of the year, they had removed from Newtown, it is believed, to Long Island, where amid their children and children's children, they might find comfortable and loving attention, during the few days of their earthly pilgrimage yet allotted them.
Here, our trace of this industrious minister of the gospel and labourer in the Lord's earthly harvest field ends. The period of his release from his earthly service was probably not long delayed. He was over 80 years of age, when he last changed, his place of abode. If, in the hour of death, he felt the testimony of the Lord's Holy Spirit, bearing witness in accordance with the declaration of his friends, that he had constantly sought the honour of God and his truth, to the end, he needed nothing more. This was sufficient to sweeten every bitter cup, even the final parting with his long united and tenderly beloved Mary.