The Highland Township Historical Society
Highland, Oakland County, Michigan



Thaddeus D. Seeley, History of Oakland County, Michigan, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago (1912), Vol. II, pp. 781-783

HON. GEORGE WILLOUGHBY.  A man of integrity, Hon. George Willoughby occupies an important position among the influential citizens of Clyde, where he is carrying on a substantial business as a dealer in farm produce.   Active and genuinely interested in public affairs, he has filled the various offices to which he has been elected with tact and discrimination, winning thereby the respect and esteem of his fellow-men.  A native of Oakland county, he was born March 6, 1850, in White Lake settlement, where his father, Zerah Willoughby, settled in pioneer days. 

Zerah Willoughby was born in one of the eastern states, and was of noble lineage, having been a lineal descendant of Lord Willoughby of England.  Coming to Oakland county, Michigan, in pioneer days, he took up a tract of timbered land in Commerce township, and on the farm which he redeemed from the forest spent his remaining days, passing away at advanced age.  He was a prominent memler of the Democratic party, and served not only on the local school board, but was the first treasurer of Commnerce township.  He was a well educated man. 

Zerah Willoughby was twice married.  His first wife, to whom he was married in his native state, came with him to Michigan and died in Commerce township, leaving two children, as follows: Ryal, living [Begin Page 782] at Shepherd, Isabella county, Michigan; and Ellen, deceased, who married a Mr. Colvin.  He married for his second wife Delia D. Baker, who was born in New York city, and came with her parents, Rev. Daniel M. and Mary (Banks) Baker, to Oakland county.  Her father, who was a shoemaker and dealer, preached the first sermon ever delivered in the White Lake settlement, and also, with a few farmers living in his neighborhood, organized and named Farmington township.  Mrs. Delia D. Willoughby survived her first husband, and subsequently married a widower, Lyman Johnson, of Highland township, and with him lived on his farm the remainder of her life, dying when but fifty-seven years of age, while Mr. Johnson lived to the age of seventy-five years.  She had one child by her first marriage, namely: George Willoughby, the subject of this sketch, and by her union with Mr. Johnson had a daughter, Jennie, now the wife of R. C. Beach, of California. 

His mother marrying for the second time when he was two years old, George Willoughby accompanied her to the Johnson homestead in Highland township, and there lived until after the death of his stepfather, for whom he tenderly cared during his later years.  As a well-merited reward for his kindness, and for paying off the indebtedness on the farm, Mr. Willoughby, at the death of Mr. Johnson, succeeded to the ownership of the Johnson homestead, which was located on Duck lake, section 12, Highland township, and continued its successful management until 1885.   Retiring then from agricultural pursuits, Mr. Willoughby removed to Clyde, where he has since built up a large and exceedingly remunerative business as a dealer in grain and farm produce, making a specialty of buying and selling potatoes, hay and apples, shipping annually from seventy-five to one hundred and twenty-five carloads of produce.  He has an especial talent for music, and for twenty years played the first B flat cornet in the Clyde Brass Band, his work in that organization making it extremely popular throughout the community.

Mr. Willoughby is a stanch Republican and has served his fellow-citizens in many public positions, ever fulfilling the duties thus devolving upon him in a manner to reflect credit upon himself and to the honor of his constituents.   He was constable two years; justice of the peace eight years; supervisor one year; and township treasurer two years. In 1908 he was elected to the state legislature, and during the first session was a member of the committee on ways and means; on Federal relations; and on religious and benevolent societies.  During the second session of the legislature he served as chairman of the committee on the School for the Blind; was a member of the committee on Federal relations, during which time nine new Federal buildings were completed; was author of a bill to authorize the building of a soldiers' and sailors' monument; and introduced a bill relating to the primary school fund, its object having been to equalize its distribution according to valuations of different counties rather than according to the number of school children in a district, an action that would enable many of the poorest taxpaying counties to get fifty per cent more of the primary money than at present.  The bill, however, was not introduced in season to receive permanent action.  He was also successful in having passed several bills of local importance.  While a member of that august body Mr. Willoughby obtained a thorough knowledge of the inside workings of state affairs. His own work was mainly with the different committees, and [Begin Page 783] though quiet, was equally as effective as that done on the floor of the house by the ready speakers.   Mr. Willoughby married Sarah A. Allen, who was born in England and came with her parents when seven years old to Commerce, Michigan, where she was reared and educated.  Her father, William Allen, married, in England, Ann S. Kelton.  Fraternally Mr. Willoughby is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and has been a delegate to the Grand Lodge; he also belongs to the Yeomen of America.


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