Volume 9, Number 7 - Spring 1987

Willis Keithley
By Teckla Keithley

Willis Keithley (1785-1861) was born in Virginia according to his 1850 Federal Census from Taney County, Missouri record and died in Taney County in 1861 in a timber on the Earl Seaton farm near the Taney-Stone County line. This farm is on old highway 65 now Missouri highway 160. Willis had been dead from eight to ten days, so was buried where they found him instead of at Keithley Cave (about 5 miles southwest of Reeds Spring) where he had planned to be buried, according to Elmo Ingenthron, in his book, "The Land of Taney."

There is some confusion as to the parents of Willis. Were they Samuel James and Elizabeth Keithley or John and Mary Keithley? James and John were sons of Samuel John Keithley (1732-1793) of North Carolina. John and Mary lived in North Carolina and James and Elizabeth lived in Virginia, but their farms were close by. (Mrs. Everard Spencer Keithley of Manitou Springs, Co. saw the farms from a hill on John’s farm). The Virginia-North Carolina state line was in dispute in early times. Willis’ census record says he was born in Virginia and he named his first son, James, and his first daughter, Elizabeth, so I think James and Elizabeth are the parents of Willis. But since Willis purchased the farm of John and Mary Keithiey in Tennessee (N.C. Territory when purchased by John) some think John and Mary were Willis’ parents. James and John both died in White County, Tennessee ca 1823. Both widows moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, before the 1830 census.

Willis and Nancy Keithley moved from White County, Tennessee, to Lawrence County, Indiana, late in 1816. Their son, James was born in White County, Tennessee, and the rest of their children in Indiana. Late in 1830, Willis and family moved to Taney County, Missouri. (It was Greene County at that time.)

The following is from a book written by J.W.A. Keithley in 1933, "One hundred and three years ago, a man from Tennessee wandered down the Indian Trials into Taney County, the paradise of the White River Valley. That man was my great grandfather. He made his camp in the forks of the two creeks at Walnut Shade, where he smoked the pipe of peace with the Indians."

"He wandered up the little creek where my grandfather and father put in the Keithley Water Mill, later known as Whacker Dam,"

The above mentioned creek was Bear Creek and his grandfather was James Keithley (18 14-1884), great-grandfather was Willis Keithley.

Willis and Nancy Keithley’s children were:

(1) James, B-1814 in White County, Tennessee. Mar. Susan Hodges in 1835 in Taney County. She was the daughter of William Hodges B- ca 1780. Susan was born in 1822-23, in Indiana. They had 12 children.

(2) Ambrose B-1817 in Lawrence County, Indiana. Mar. Lucy Clevenger ca 1838. She was the daughter of Reuben Clevenger. They had 10 children.

(3) Elizabeth B-ca 1818 in Indiana. Mar. Reason Friend about 1834. He was the son of William and Elizabeth (Grimes) Friend. I don’t have a list of their children, but later descendants lived in the Osa area and many are buried in the Osa Cemetery.

(4) John, B-1820, in Indiana. Mar. (1) Lydia Scott in 1840s and they had 3 sons. Lydia died and John Mar. (2) Jane Shook. They had no issue.

(5) Matilda B-1822 in Indiana. Mar. McDonald Clevenger in 1838, son of Reuben and Sarah (Pitman) Clevenger. I do not have a list of Sarah and McDonald’s children.

(6) William B-1827 in Indiana. Mar. Mary Bales (Bailes, Bayles,) in the 1840s. She was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Bayles of Greene County now Webster County, Dallas Township, Fordland, Missouri. Wm. and Mary had 2 sons. Williams second wife was Lavina Bailes. They were married in Springfield, Missouri in 1857. She died enroute west in 1862 while giving birth to twin daughters, who died also. William mar. (3) Mrs. Martha Jane (Neal) Young, in 1865 in Salem, Oregon. She was the daughter of the Calvin and Alcy (Bilyeu) Neal. Martha and James Young had a son and a daughter before he died. William and Martha Keithiey had 6 children, the last born in 1880 shortly after William died.

(7) Mary Ann B-1830 in Indiana just before the family left for Missouri, Taney County. Mar. John Jenkins shortly before 1850. They are listed in the 1850 Taney County census and in Christian County census in 1860, with 5 children.

Willis and Nancy Keithiey are living with Mary Ann and John Jenkins for the 1850 census. Nancy died in the 1850s and is buried in the Cupp Cemetery at the foot of her son, John’s grave.


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