Willis, William (1794 - 1870)

Genre: Non-Fiction - Scholarly

William Willis was born in Haverhill, MA August 31, 1794 and died February 17, 1870 in Portland, ME. He was a lawyer who is considered the most important nineteenth-century Portland historian.

He graduated from Harvard in 1813 and was admitted to the Suffolk bar in January of 1817.

He practiced law in Boston until April of 1819, then moved his practice to Portland, ME in 1820. In 1835, he began a twenty-year partnership with William Pitt Fessenden.

In 1849 he edited the Journals of the Rev. Thomas Smith and the Rev. Samuel Deane. Smith and Deane were the pastors of the First Parish Church in Portland. Their journals record their experiences from 1726-1814 and provide an invaluable view of 18th-century social and political life. The book is included in The Mirror of Maine: One Hundred Distinguished Books That Reveal the History of the State and the Life of Its People.

Willis's political career included a term as state senator in 1855 and he served as Portland's mayor in 1857.

Bowdoin College granted him an honorary degree in 1867.

Selected Bibliography

  • The History of Portland (1831)
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society (1831-1859)
  • A History of the Laws, the Courts, and the Lawyers of Maine (1873)

Selected Links

Bowdoin College Willis papers collection