George Herman Willems, a biography

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George Herman Willems

Greetsiel Zwillingsmuehlen
©MLCarl

While some men's lives are quietly and peacefully spent within the influences of a home, others meet with adventures in the course of their lives which read almost like a romance. Bold and adventurous, they penetrate into unknown lands, and meet unknown dangers. Among the latter class is the gentleman whose name introduces this sketch. For several years he traveled extensively over the world but is now living a more quiet life in Roanoke, Illinois, where he is succesfully engaged in the manufacture of tile and brick.

Mr Willems was born in Greetsiel, near Emden, Germany, July 12, 1866, and was educated in the schools of his native land. At the age of fourteen he went to Wittenberg, where he served an apprenticeship to the machinist's trade for nearly three years, but on account of ill health was forced to abandon the shop before his time expired. He then returned home and remained there until his health was restored. He next went to sea as a steward on the North German Lloyd line, sailing from Bremen to Antwerp, and from there to Lisbon, Portugal; the Las Palmas Islands, St Vincent Island, Rio Janeiro, Brazil and Santos, returning thence to Bremen the same way. He next went to the Argentine Republic, and made fourteen trips on the Elbe, which was subsequently sunk in a collision. On the last trip with the North German Lloyd line he visited all the countries on the east coast of South America. He was next employed as a fireman on the railroad for a short time in Argentine Republic! Later he went to Patagonia, from there to the Bahama Islands, then Buenos Ayres o Valparaiso, Chili over the Los Andes. For a time he worked in a saltpeter mine at the Pampas, and from there went to Peru, where he boarded an American vessel for the first time, remaining on her for two years. She stopped at Port Townsend and Melbourne, Australia, then went to New Castle, Sidney, Port Piere, Australia, and from there to San Fransisco. He has also been in Japan and China. For a time, Mr Willems was connected with the coast trade between San Fransisco and Oregon, and then worked in Logan Camp, near Seattle, Washington, for a few months, after which he returned to sea. His last trip was on a five-masted schooner, the Governor Ames, which carried over one million feet of lumber from Seattle around the Horn to Liverpool, England.

After visiting his old home in Germany, Mr Willems then came to America, landing in New York, August 23, 1894. He first went to Baltimore, Maryland, where he remained a short time, but later in that same year came to Secor, Woodford county, Illinois, where he was employed in a tile factory for about two years. In 1898 he began the manufacture of brick and tile in Eureka on his own account, and in 1899 moved his machinery from that place to Roanoke, where he has since succesfully carried on business, furnishing employment to from six to eleven hands. He uses the refuse shale and fire clay from the mines at this place, and manufactures all kinds of paving and building brick, roof and tile drain. He is a wide-awake, energetic business man, and has already met with substantial success in his new undertaking.

In 1899, Mr Willems was united in marriage with Miss Ida Feen, a daughter of John Feen, of Roanoke. Mr Willems is a very intelligent, well-informed man, and is able to speak several languages, including English, Norwegian, Spanish, low and high German. As a business man he is upright and honorable in all his dealings, and is held in high regard by the people of his community.


From The Biographical Record of Livingston and Woodford Counties, Illinois (1900)
(Transcribed as written in the book)

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