- Born: 14 Sep 1628, Warminster, St. Denys, Wiltshire, England
- Marriage: Mary Pease on 25 Mar 1655 in , , Wiltshire, England
- Died: 11 Jul 1714, Westbury, Nassau, New York at age 85
The following information was taken from Hicks, Benjamin D., Willis Family of Long Island, (New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Oct. 1884 Vol. XV reprinted in Hoff, Henry B. Genealogies of Long Island Families Baltimore :Genealogical Pub. Co., 1987]), p. 743.
Henry and Mary resided in the town of Devizes until 1667, where their three elder children were born. The year after the great fire they moved to London, where they lived for seven or eight years and had several children. It being soon after the rise of the religious sect called Quakers, of which they were members, they suffered, in common with their friends, imprisonment and persecution at the hands of the officials, and much abuse and annoyance from the rabble because of their peculiar views.
About the year 1675 Henry and his family (except the eldest daughter Mary) emigrated to America and found a temporary home in the town of Oysterbay, on Long Island. A year or two thereafter he purchased of Captain John Seaman a piece of land in the adjoining township of
Hempstead (now North Hempstead), where he permanently settled, giving the place the name of Westbury, after a town in his native county in England, which it continues to bear to the present day. Henry Willis died in Westbury July 11, 1714, and his wife Mary on April 23, 1714.
If you click on the official website Long Island, you will find the following information about our immigrant ancestor, Henry Willis.
East Williston website:
The immigrant Quaker Henry Willis settled on land on "north Hempstead plain" of Long Island. The land Henry settled on is now the town of "East Williston."
The first settlers arrived in 1658 in the region known as the Hempstead Plains. Many of the early settlers were Quakers. The village was incorporated in 1932.
Westbury's Jericho Turnpike was once a trail used by the Massapequa Indians. As far back as the 17th century, it served as a divider between the early homesteads north of the Turnpike and the great plains to its south. Today, it serves as a state highway complex.
In 1657, Captain J. Seaman purchased 12,000 acres (49 km2) from the Algonquian Tribe of the Massapequa Indians. In 1658, Richard Stites and his family built their homestead in this area. Theirs was the only family farm until an English Quaker, Edmond Titus and his son, Samuel, joined them and settled in an area of Hempstead Plains known to us today as the Village of Westbury. In 1675 Henry Willis, also an English Quaker, named the area "Westbury", after his hometown in England. Other Quaker families who were also seeking a place to freely express their religious beliefs joined the Tituses and Willises. The first Society of Friends meeting house was built in 1700. The early history of Westbury and that of the Friends are so interconnected that they are essentially the same.
These settlers, like many other landowners throughout the colonies, owned slaves. In 1775, compelled by their religious beliefs, the Quakers freed all 154 African-Americans that they had enslaved. Many of these freed men and women built their own homesteads on the open land near the sheep grazing pastures. Their new community consisted of farms and dairies. In 1834, with Quaker assistance, they and their descendants built the New Light Baptist Church. Now known as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the building still stands on the corner of Union Ave. and Cross St.
Westbury is where the very rich chose to live in the late 1800's. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" centered on that location. The Long Island website credits our Henry Willis with giving the name "Westbury" to Westbury, a town of the same name in his native Wiltshire.
Hinshaw's Quaker Records: Henry Willis was born in England, came fromDevizes, London after 1667, lived in Jericho and Hempstead. [vol. 3, p. 358]
Bought land from Capt John Seaman
Gravestone: 86Y Less A Few Days
First Settler w/ Edmond Titus of Westbury
Henry Willis of Long Island, New York was born in 1628 in Warminster, Wiltshire, England. After being persecuted because of his Quaker religion, he immigrated to Long Island in 1674. His elder son William remained in Long Island. His younger son John settled in Pennsylvania. John founded branches of Willis-surname descendants in Pennsylvania (York County), Virginia (Franklin County), Kentucky (Mercer County), Ohio, Missouri (Monroe County), and elsewhere. A genealogy, Henry Willis of Long Island, Vol. 1: 1550 - 1800, was published in 2008 by David W. Willis, the Administrator of this website. (The Wiltshire, England Group/8404, 8430, 10112, 10381, 10862, 27840, 30786, 85974, 141333, 168427, and 171536)
History of East Williston:
Most of the farmland was owned by the Willis family in the 1800s. So as not to be confused with the Willis areas of upstate New York, this area was known as East Williston. The original borders of the area known as East Williston, stretched west towards Queens to Herricks Road; north to I.U. Willets Road; south to the Village of Mineola; and east to Bacon Road in Old Westbury.
The coming of the railroad in 1865 stimulated manufacturing in East Williston. The industries that grew as a result of the new train station included brick making, windmill making and carriage making. Henry M. Willis designed and built the popular East Williston Runabout Roadcart. This carriage had two wheels and two seats. Its soft suspension allowed comfortable travel over the rough roads of the time. There was also a feature which allowed the body to be locked to the axle, allowing the carriage to be used on the racetrack. Over 1,000 East Williston Runabout Roadcarts were built by Oakley and Griffin (who purchased the business from Willis in 1889).
The Religious Society of Friends is a movement that began in England in the 17th century. Members of this movement are informally known as Quakers, a word that means, "to tremble in the way of the Lord." In its early days it faced opposition and persecution; however, it continued to expand, extending into many parts of the world, especially the Americas and Africa.
The Society of Friends, while always small in membership, has been influential in the history of reform. The state of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn in 1682, as a safe place for Quakers to live and practice their faith. Quakers have been a significant part of the movements for the abolition of slavery, promote equal rights for women, and peace. They have also promoted education and the humane treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill, through the founding or reforming of various institutions. Quaker entrepreneurs played a central role in forging the Industrial Revolution, especially in England and Pennsylvania.
Here is the full entry for your selection:
Gilder Lehrman Document Number: GLC 2509.01
Title: Persecution of the Quakers
Type of document: petition
Quotation: "We are...necessitated to lay before the Governor an oppression we lie under"
The social upheaval ignited by the seventeenth-century English Civil War spawned many radical millennarian religious groups, including the Diggers, who rejected private property; and the Ranters, who claimed to worship God through drinking, smoking, and fornicating. Only one of the radical religious group that emerged during the tumultuous years of the 1640s and 1650s has survived until now: the Society of Friends or the Quakers.
Today, the Quakers are often associated with austerity and self-discipline, but in the sect's early days, members behaved in very rebellious ways. Some marched into churches, where they denounced ministers as dumb dogs and hirelings. They also refused to doff their hats before magistrates or to swear oaths. They opposed war and gave women the right to speak at public meetings, holding that both sexes were equal in their ability to expound God's teachings.
The Quakers rejected the orthodox Calvinist belief in predestination. Instead, the Quakers insisted that salvation was available to all. It came, however, not through an institutional church, but from within, by following the "inner light" of God's spirit. It was because Friends seemed to shake when they felt religious enthusiasm that they became known as Quakers.
In England as well as in a number of American colonies the Quakers faced violent persecution. Some 15,000 Quakers were jailed in England between 1660 and 1685. In 1660, Edward Burrough catalogued the maltreatment of Quakers in New England: 64 Quakers had been imprisoned; two Quakers lashed 139 times, leaving one "beat like into a jelly"; another branded with the letter H, for heretic, after being whipped with 39 stripes; and three Quakers had been executed.
Even in New York, which tolerated a wide variety of religious persuasions, the Quakers faced hostility. After arriving in Long Island in 1657, some Quakers were fined, jailed, and banished by the Dutch, who (like Puritan New Englanders) were outraged by Quaker women proselytizing. In this selection, New York's Quakers inform the province's royal governor about ways they are mistreated.
Over time, the Quakers found successful ways to channel their moral idealism and religious enthusiasm. The sect established weekly and monthly meetings which imposed structure and discipline on members, and beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, directed their energies against a wide variety of social evils, including slavery. By the early nineteenth century, Quakers were engaged in moral reform movements in numbers wildly disproportionate to the sect's size. As many as a third of all early nineteenth century feminists and antislavery activists were Quakers.
Noted events in his life were:
• Notes. Henry was born the 14th day of the 9th month 1628 at Wiltshire, England.3 On 14 September 1628, Henry was christened at St. Denys Church, Warminster, Wiltshire, England.4 Henry married Mary Peace on 25 March 1655 at St. Denys Church, Warminster, Wiltshire, England. Her maiden name may have been Pearce.5 In 1666, Henry & Mary Willis, along with their family, moved from Devizes to London after the great fire & plaque there in the mid 1660's. It is in the public record that Henry went to visit his father and other friends in jail (they had been placed in jail because of being at a Quaker meeting). When Henry and his friends arrived at the prison, they were asked to take the Oath of Allegiance, which Quakers refuse to do, and upon their refusal, they were jailed as well. Their daughter, Elizabeth was born during the time that Henry was in prison. While in London, the family was living in the Quaker Center of Spitalfields, which is located less than a mile away from the Tower of London. In 1675, the family immigrated to the New World, where Henry made a purchase of 22 acres of land on 2 Ocrtober 1675. This was in Hempstead snf was called Wood Edge which is now known as Westbury. They purchased the land from Captain John Seaman.
31 August 1698, an unknown person and his wife, [ROF:Hempstead Town] were listed on the Hempstead Town Census. Enumerated in this household were Henry Willis, Mary, Hester Searing. Henry departed this life the 11th day of the 7th month 1714 at Westbury, Hempstead Town, Queens County, Long Island, New York.
Source: L.I. Benjamin D. Hicks of Old Westbury, Willis Family of Long Island, page 170 - In 1760 Samuel Willis, a grandson of Henry Willis, the emigrant ancestor of the American family, wrote "An account of kindred," in which he traced, with some care, many of the branches of his paternal and maternal ancestry from his own time back to that of his English great-grandfather. In 1801 Thomas Willis, grandson of the above Samuel, perfected some parts of the record left by his grandfather, and made a few additions of later generations. Since 1852 Samuel Hicks, who married a great-great granddaughter of Samuel Willis, has been interested in completing the record, and in bringing down the main line and its collateral brances to the present. [note: the references in this work to this source are mainly coming from the work done by the above Samuel Willis in 1760. - KLM]
• Occupation. Henry was a Quaker minister
Henry married Mary Pease on 25 Mar 1655 in , , Wiltshire, England. (Mary Pease was born on 12 Jun 1632 in Warminster, St. Denys, Wiltshire, England and died on 23 Apr 1714 in Westbury, Nassau, New York.)