Woman of the Century/Mary Thompson Hill Willard
WILLARD, Madame Mary Thompson Hill, mother of Miss Frances E. Willard, born on a farm in North Danville, Vt., 3rd January, 1805. Her father was John Hill, of Lee, N. H., and her mother, Polly Thompson Hill, was a daughter of Nathaniel Thompson, of Durham and Holderness, in the same State. Both the Hills and the Thompsons were families of note, and their descendants include many well-known names in New Hampshire history. John Hill removed to Danville, Vt., in the pioneer period of that region, and on his farm of three-hundred acres, a few miles west of the Connecticut river, he and his wife made a happy and well-ordered home. The father was a sort of Hercules, strong in body, mind and soul. MARY THOMPSON HILL WILLARD. and an active Christian. The mother's character was a rare combination of excellence, religious, cheerful, industrious, frugal, hopeful, buoyant, mirthful at times loving and lovable always, with a poet's insight, and fellowship with nature. Their oldest son. James Hill, was a youth of rare powers and high ambitions. Mary, strongly resembling her brother James, was the second daughter in the family, each one of whom possessed abilities of a high order. Her early education was obtained in the country district school and in the log school house of a new country, but the schools were taught usually by students or graduates of Dartmouth and Middlebury colleges, who often boarded in Mary's home, and whose attainments and character made deep impressions for good upon the susceptible child. In her twelfth year her father sold his Vermont farm and removed to the new region of the Genesee valley in western New York. In the new settlement, fourteen miles west of Rochester, now known as the town of Ogden, Mary grew to young womanhood. She was a good student and a wide reader, and at the age of fifteen taught her first school. Teaching proved attractive, and she continued for eleven years with much success. She seemed not to have been made for the kitchen and she was never put there in her father's home. Fine needle work and fine spinning, the fashionable domestic accomplishments in those days, gave her pleasure. She possessed in an unusual degree an admiration for the beautiful, especially m language. She had the poetic faculty, was a sweet singer, had remarkable gifts in conversation, and rare tact, delicacy and appreciation of the best in others. Of fine personal appearance and dignified manners, she won the regard of a son of her father's near neighbors, the Willards, who had removed thither from Vermont. Josiah F. Willard was a young man of irreproachable character and brilliant talents, and when he became the husband of Mary Hill, 3rd November, 1831, and their new home was set up in Churchville, it was with the brightest prospects of happiness, comfort and usefulness. Both were active members of the Union Church in Ogden. The family resided in their first home until four children had been born to them, the only son, Oliver, two daughters who died in infancy, and Frances Elizabeth, who was a delicate child in her second year, when her parents decided to remove to Oberlin, Ohio, in order to secure educational advantages for themselves and their children. Mr. Willard entered the regular college course, which he had nearly completed when hemorrhage of the lungs warned him to seek at once a new environment. The years they spent in Oberlin were happy years to Mrs. Willard. There her youngest child, Mary, was born, the year following their removal thither. Her domestic life was well-ordered, and her three children shared the most devoted love and the most careful training, while her intellectual and social gifts drew to their home a circle of choice friends from among the most cultivated women of Oberlin. They formed a circle for study, long before a "woman's club" had ever been heard of, and kept pace with hus- bands, brothers and sons among the college faculty or in the student ranks. When necessity was laid upon the family for removal to a drier climate for the husband's sake, Mrs. Willard prepared for the long overland journey, and herself drove one of the three emigrant wagons which conveyed the family and their possessions to the Territory of Wisconsin. The summer of 1846 saw the Willards settled on a farm near Janesville, Wis. The trials inseparable from pioneer life could not be avoided, but they were accepted by the parents with Christian fortitude, lofty philosophy and ceaseless industry. Soon the father was a leader in the church, a magistrate in the communixy and a legislator in the State, meantime having created a beautiful estate, which was named "Forest Home." There they passed twelve years, when Mrs. Willard bade adieu to "Forest Home" for Evanston, near Chicago, that the daughters might be educated without sending them from home. In June, 1862, the family met their first great grief in the death of their daughter Mary, just blooming into womanhood. In 1868 she was called to lay her husband beside the daughter, and in 1878 she buried her son, Oliver, in the meridian of his years. From the earliest years of her children the chief aspect of life to Mrs. Willard was that of motherhood, and so nobly did she reach her lofty ideal that in this respect her character was a model. Sympathizing with, guiding, stimulating and training each child according to its needs, the law of liberty in the development of every faculty and freedom for every right ambition were observed carefully. In early youth her daughter, Frances, wrote: "I thank God for my mother as for no other gift of his bestowing. My nature is so woven into hers that I think it would almost be death for me to have the bond severed, and one so much myself gone over the river. I verily believe I cling to her more than ever did any other of her children. Perhaps because I am to need her more." "Enter every open door" was her constant advice to her daughter, and much of the daughter's distinguished career has been rendered possible because of the courage and encouragement of her mother. The widened horizon and the fame which came to the mother in later years was in turn through her daughter, and thus the centripetal and centrifugal forces united in the shaping of an orbit ever true to its foci, God and humanity. Preserving her mental powers undimmed to the last. Madame Willard died after a brief illness, 7th August, 1892, at the age of nearly eighty-eight years. At her funeral it was said, "She was a reformer by nature. She made the world's cause her own and identified herself with all its fortunes. Nothing of its sorrow, sadness or pain was foreign to her. With a genius, a consecration, a beauty and a youth which had outlived her years, a soul eager still to know, to learn, to catch every word God had for her, she lived on. a center of joy and comfort in this most typical and almost best known home in America. She stood a veritable Matterhorn of strength to this daughter. Given a face like hers, brave, benignant, patient, yet resolute, a will inflexible for duty, a heart sensitive to righteousness and truth, yet tender as a child's, given New England puritanism and rigor, its ha hits of looking deep into every problem, its consciousness full of God, its lofty ideal of freedom and its final espousal of every noble cause, and you and I shall never blame the stalwart heart, well-nigh crushed because mother is gone. "The birthday motto adopted in the famous celebration of Madam Willard's eightieth birthday was "It is better further on," and her household name was "Saint Courageous."