Milton Merchant Joseph D. Willey (1854-1931)

By Muriel Bristol | January 9, 2022

Joseph Dearborn Willey was born in Wakefield, NH, January 14, 1854, son of Aziah C. and Martha A. (Dearborn) Willey.

Joseph D. Willey moved from his native Wakefield, NH, and took up residence in neighboring Milton in or around 1877. He opened a store that carried groceries and dry goods.

George H. Staples, works on shoes, aged forty-four years (b. NH), headed a Milton (“Milton 3-Ponds Village”) household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Lavina Staples, keeping house, aged forty-one years (b. NH), his child, Clara A. Staples, at school, aged fourteen years (b. NH), and his boarder, Joseph D. Willey, a storekeeper, aged twenty-six years (b. NH).

J.D. Willey appeared in the Milton business directories of 1880, 1881, 1882, 1884, 1887, and 1889, as a Milton merchant. (He had appeared also in 1889 as keeping a summer boarding house).

MILTON. Joseph Willey is repairing his dwelling in fine style, and is building a new stable. Go ahead, Joe, you will get a bird for your cage, by and by (Farmington News, October 29, 1880).

MILTON. Joseph Willey is about to put in a stock of boots and shoes in connection with groceries and dry goods (Farmington News, April 29, 1881).

Father Aziah C. Willey died in Wakefield, NH. February 21, 1882.

Joseph D. Willey married in Somersworth, NH, May 13, 1883, Annie O. “Olive” Roberts, he of Milton and she of Berwick, ME. He was a merchant, aged twenty-eight years, and she was a lady, aged twenty-two years. Rev. Samuel Bell performed the ceremony. She was born in North Berwick, ME, February 20, 1860, daughter of William A.C. and Catherine (Guptill) Roberts.

Son Joseph E. Willey was born in Milton, June 27, 1886.

MILTON. J.D. Willey, the grocer, has recently applied a new coat of paint to the interior of his store, which greatly improves its general appearance. The groundwork is walnut and the panels light oak (Farmington News, February 28, 1890).

CHIP’S CONTRIBUTION. The meeting of Fraternal Lodge last Friday evening was well attended. the Entered Apprentice degree was conferred on Joseph Willey of Milton. Refreshments were served at the close and a pleasant time was had (Farmington News, October 30, 1891).

CHIP’S CONTRIBUTION. The special meeting of Fraternal lodge Monday evening was well attended. The second degree was conferred on Joseph Willey of Milton. The time of meeting has been changed. The regular meeting hereafter will be held Friday on or before the full moon in each month at 7.30 p.m. sharp. The next meeting occurs this Friday evening. Work on the third degree. Let there [be] a full attendance (Farmington News, December 11, 1891).

Milton - 1892 (Detail) - Willey
Milton in 1892 (Detail). J.D. Willey is shown with the red arrow as having two buildings on Main Street near its intersection with Silver Street. Note his proximity to the Three Ponds schoolhouse (“S.H.”), next but two to the south, Dr. C.D. Jones, next but two to the north, and, on the other side of the street, the A.O.U.W. meeting hall next to the blacksmith shop of I.W. Duntley and the N.G. Pinkham shoe store. The Burley & Usher shoe factory may be seen along the river to the south, as well as the Riverside House at the road to Lebanon, ME, to the north.

Joseph D. Willey appeared in the Milton business directories of 1892, 1894, and 1898, as a Milton general storekeeper and merchant.

MILTON. J.D. Willey has prepared a large room at the institute by tearing down the partitions. A class will also be held in the vacant store in the new hall. … J.D. Willey is having the old school house at the foot of Silver street remodeled on the inside, and will convert it into tenements. He has also prepared a place for a large store in the basement (Farmington News, April 15, 1892).

MILTON. J.D. Willey is preparing to move the old institute nearer the road and to change it into a tenement house (Farmington News, September 15, 1893).

John A. Carrecabe, son of the John M. Carrecabe, founder of the Milton Leatherboard Co. mill, worked briefly as a clerk at J.D. Willey’s Milton grocery store in 1893.

MILTON. John A. Carrecabe is clerking at J.D. Willey’s grocery store (Farmington News, February 17, 1893).

Joseph D. Willey’s store was twice burgled in 1894. The first burglary took place on Thursday, April 5, 1894.

MILTON. J.D. Willey’s store broken into the 5th of April. Not much was taken and only a few dollars were missed. The safe was not touched (Farmington News, April 13, 1894).

Burglars struck the Murray Brothers’ store and post-office in Milton Mills in May 1894. (See Milton in the News – 1894). A month later burglars struck also at the N.G. “Gilman” Pinkham and J.D. Willey stores at Milton Three Ponds during the night of June 14-15, 1894.

Burglars Visit Dover, N.H. Dover, N.H., June 15. The store of Gilman Pinkham at Milton, which is also the post office, was entered last night and some stamps and money taken. The store of Joseph D. Willey, at the same place, was also entered, and a sum of money stolen. The safes in both places were wrecked (Boston Evening Transcript, June 15, 1894).

LOCALS. June 14. Thieves broke into the store of Gilman Pinkham where the post office is at Milton, wrecking the safe by an explosion and getting a large amount of money and stamps. They also visited the store of J.D. Willey, where they got considerable money from the safe. No clew to the thieves (Farmington News, June 22, 1894).

Nathaniel Gilman Pinkham (1834-1906) kept a boot & shoe store at Milton Three Ponds. He also sold stationary and was Milton postmaster in 1885-89 and 1893-97. (See also Milton in the News – 1914 and Milton Versus the Yeggmen – 1923).

Mother-in-law Catherine (Guptill) Roberts died of dropsy in North Berwick, ME, August 7, 1895, aged sixty-six years. Dr. H.V. Noyes signed the death certificate.

Daughter Catherine R. Willey was born in Milton, September 24, 1895.

Mother Martha A. (Dearborn) Willey died of chronic pneumonia in Wakefield, NH, November 5, 1895, aged sixty-six years, twenty-six days. W.E. Pillsbury, M.D., signed the death certificate.

MILTON NEWS-LETTER. A lively runaway occurred Tuesday morning, the horse attached to J.D. Willey’s grocery wagon becoming frightened at a dog. No damage was done the team, but a little boy, Georgie Norton, came near meeting with a serious injury. In trying to get off from the runaway team, he fell, between the shafts, where he hung till he was rescued from his perilous position unharmed. … A concrete sidewalk is being built from the Phœnix House to J.D. Willey’s grocery store, on Main street. It would be a great improvement over the present sidewalks if concrete were used all over the village (Farmington News, March 19, 1897).

Nephew J. Herbert Willey (1875-1946) came to Milton and opened a drug store on Main Street, at its intersection with Silver Street, in May 1900.

Joseph D. Willey, a storekeeper, aged forty-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton (“Milton Village”) household at the time of the Twelfth (1900) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of seventeen years), Annie O. Willey, aged forty years (b. ME), his children, Joseph S. Willey, at school, aged thirteen years (b. NH), and Catharine R. Willey, aged four years (b. NH), his niece, Annie M. Roberts, aged sixteen years (b. ME), and his servant, Stephen E. Dixon, salesman in store, aged thirty-six years (b. NH). Joseph D. Willey owned their house, free-and-clear. Annie O. Willey was the mother of two children, of whom two were still living.

J.D. Willey appeared in the Milton business directories of 1901, 1904, 1905-06, and 1909, as proprietor of a Milton general store.

LOCAL. Columbian Chapter of Free Masons welcomed guests from neighboring towns, in the meeting on Monday evening, among whom were the Hon. J. Frank Farnham and William Lord of Union; Percy S. Jones and C.H. McDuffee of Alton; B.B. Plumer and Hazen Plumer, J.D. Willey and Mr. Willey the druggist, of Milton (Farmington News, June 14, 1901).

MILTON. Mrs. J.D. Willey and daughter Catherine are at Berwick, Me., for a two weeks’ visit (Farmington News, August 30, 1901).

Annie O. (Roberts) Willey’s nephew, Frank Roberts, died of typhoid fever in Wolfeboro Falls, Wolfeboro, NH, December 27, 1903, aged seventeen years, eleven months, and nineteen years. He was a blacksmith, who had resided in Wolfeboro only four months (his previous residence was Berwick, ME). Nathaniel H. Scott, M.D., signed the death certificate.

MILTON. J.D. Willey and family attended the funeral of Frank Roberts, Mrs. Willey’s nephew, at Berwick, Me., Dec. 30 (Farmington News, January 8, 1904).

MILTON. Miss Andrews of Boston, Mass., is the guest of Mrs. J.D. Willey (Farmington News, April 1, 1904).

Two political tickets – Republican and Democratic – appeared in the Farmington News edition published just prior to the November 1904 election. At the head of the Republican ticket stood Theodore Roosevelt, and at the head of the Democratic one stood Alton B. Parker, both of New York. (Theodore Roosevelt won). Further down the Democratic ticket were the Strafford County candidates.

For county officers – Sheriff, John F. Quinlan, Rochester; solicitor, James McCabe Dover; treasurer, Joseph D. Willey, Milton; register of deeds, John McCovey, Dover; register of probate, Walter H. Miller, New Durham; commissioners, Arthur J. Seavey Somersworth; Walter H. Smith, Barrington; Joseph Warren, Rochester (Farmington News, November 4, 1904).

Republican Stephen D. Wentworth of Rochester, NH, became county treasurer with 4,716 votes (56.5%) county-wide. Democrat Joseph D. Willey of Milton received 3,498 votes (41.9%), and Socialist C.R. Crosby received 131 votes (1.6%). The Prohibition and People’s parties did not field county-level candidates (NH Secretary of State, 1905).

CHIP’S CONTRIBUTION. A special meeting of Fraternal Lodge, A.F. and A.M., was held Saturday evening for the purpose of conferring the Master Mason’s degree on candidates George E. Jordan and Fred S. Hartford. Arthur B. Jefferson, D.D.G.M., Nashua, and Charles L Wentworth, D.D.L.G., of Rochester were present to witness the work and complimented the officers in pleasing terms for the way in which the degrees were conferred and the manner in which the affairs of the lodge were conducted. Visitors from out of town were Dr. C.G. Rogers, C.H. Brigham, Union; Hazen Plummer, Fred B. Roberts, James H. Willey, Hazen W. Downs, George I. Jordan, S. Lyman Hayes, Charles A. Horn, Joseph D. Willey, Milton; George L. Young, George W. Pendexter, Eugene C. Howard, Rochester. At the close off work all repaired to the banquet hall in Odd Fellows hall where an oyster supper was in readiness, and an hour was happily spent, when all returned home well pleased with the entertainment of the evening (Farmington News, March 3, 1905).

Joseph D. Willey, a general store merchant, aged fifty-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton (“Milton Village”) household at the time of the Thirteenth (1910) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of twenty-nine years), Anne O. Willey, aged fifty years (b. ME), and his children, Joseph E. Willey, a general store helper, aged twenty-four years (b. NH), and Catherine R. Willey, aged fourteen years (b. NH).

J.D. Willey appeared in the Milton business directories of 1912 and 1917, as proprietor of a Milton general store.

Milton elected Joseph D. Willey as its NH State Representative for the 1913-14 biennium (NH General Court, 1913).

Strafford County Sheriff Edward S. Young charged Joseph D. Willey with “keeping for sale,” i.e., keeping liquor for sale, thus violating NH State liquor sales prohibitions. (Milton was in this year a “no license” town. (See Milton Under “Local Option” – 1903-18)).

LOCAL. Two cases from Milton were brought before Judge A.H. Wiggin in the local district court on Wednesday of this week: State vs. Joseph D. Willey, brought by high Sheriff Edward S. Young on a charge of “keeping for sale,” in which the respondent entered a plea of guilty and the court imposed the minimum fine and jail sentence. Sentence was suspended upon payment of costs. The other case, that of State vs. Robert Mcintosh brought by Fred B. Roberts, wherein the respondent was charged with using derisive language toward the complainant, the respondent plead guilty and was fined five dollars and costs (Farmington News, December 15, 1916).

Joseph D. Willey, a retail merchant (groceries), aged sixty-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Annie O. Willey, aged fifty-nine years (b. ME), his children, Eugene Willey, a retail merchant (groceries), aged thirty-three years (b. NH), and Catharine R. Willey, a U.S. government secretary, aged twenty-four years (b. NH), and his father-in-law, William A.C. Roberts, a widower, aged eighty-six years (b. ME). Joseph D. Willey owned their house on Upper Main Street, free-and-clear.

Father-in-law William A.C. Roberts died of atheronia (heart disease) in Milton, February 1, 1921, aged eighty-seven years, ten months. John J. Topham, M.D., signed the death certificate.

J.D. Willey appeared in the Milton business directories of 1922 and 1927, as proprietor of a Milton general store.

J.D. Willey, a general store retail merchant, aged seventy-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Fifteenth (1930) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of forty-seven years), Annie Willey, aged seventy years (b. ME), and his child, Joseph E. Willey, a general store manager, aged forty-three years (b. NH). J.D. Willey owned their house on North Main Street, which was valued at $1,000. They had a radio set.

Joseph D. Willey died of apoplexy on Main Street in Milton, September 4, 1931, aged seventy-seven years, seven months, and twenty days. He had resided in Milton for fifty-three years, i.e., since circa 1877. Walter J. Roberts, M.D., signed the death certificate.

Annie O. (Roberts) Willey died of heart disease in Milton, April 12, 1937, aged seventy-seven years, one month, twenty-two days. She had resided in Milton for fifty-four years, i.e., since the time of her marriage in 1883. Walter J. Roberts, M.D., signed the death certificate.

Joseph E. Willey, a hardware store stockman, aged fifty-three years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his cousin, Ann L. Redell, a high school teacher, aged fifty-six years (b. ME). Joseph E. Willey owned their house in the Milton Community, which was valued at $1,000.

Son Joseph E. Willey died of “some form of heart disease” in Milton, November 27, 1942, aged fifty-six years, and five days. Forrest L. Keay, M.D., signed the death certificate.


Find a Grave. (2016, June 16). Frank Roberts. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2016, June 16). William A.C. Roberts. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2014, May 25). Aziah Chandler Willey. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2015, June 2). Joseph Dearborn “Joe” Willey. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2015, June 2). Joseph Eugene Willey. Retrieved from

NH General Court. (1913). Journal of the Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of New-Hampshire. Retrieved from

NH Secretary of State. (1905). Manual of the General Court. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

One thought on “Milton Merchant Joseph D. Willey (1854-1931)”

  1. Great job Muriel…. Knew the names of siblings and locations. Where was Dr. Hart during this time frame?

    Mr. Lucier,

    If you are referring to Dr. Hart’s absence from the 1892 map, he moved to town at just the time the map was being produced. I understand that you place his house site on what was Main street but is now Dawson street. I really do need to sort out the whole confusion (in my mind) between So. Main street. Main street, and No. Main street. You may notice too, there does not seem to be a Charles street at this time.


    Muriel Bristol


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