Charles N. Willis

Charles N. Willis, page 437-38

proprietor of Willis Transfer Line and director in the Fourth National Bank of Grand Rapids, with offices at 130 Ionia avenue, southwest, is an example of the success that can be attained by a young American boy who makes his own way in the world, with a steady application to one line of work and a determination to rise in his chosen field. Charles N. Willis was born in Oswego county, New York, on April 15, 1861. His father was Roun Kilbourne, who was killed in the Civil war when he had both legs shot off. After the marriage of his mother to Mr. Cornelius Willis, a well-to-do farmer, the subject of our sketch took the name of Willis. He had a brother, Frank Kilbourne, just one year older, who was born on April 16, 1860, and who died in 1924. After the death of his father, Charles was bound out, as was a custom in that period, but when his mother re-married he went to live with his step-father and mother, and in 1871, at the age of ten years, came with them to Corona, Michigan. He had so far attained a very limited education in the country schools in New York, which to a small degree was continued at Corona, Michigan, during which time he worked on a farm for about three years. He then felt a necessity of making his own way in the world and went to Lowell, Michigan, where he entered upon a line of work which he was destined to follow and in which he has made a substantial progress. His first activity in this work was as a bus driver. He also during this period learned the painters' trade, but that line he never followed. After a short career of two weeks as a bus driver he was assigned to checking baggage for Ball and Waters R. R. Transfer Company. He remained with them for ten years and when that company was sold to the Columbia Transfer Company he was superintendent and so remained with that company for eleven years. He then served with the Grand Rapids, Holland-Chicago Interurban Company for one year. But throughout this long period in which he had been gaining an experience in practically all branches of the work, he had entertained an ambition to embark in business for himself. So in 1910 he started in the transfer business with $187.00 and today has built up a prosperous business. Besides his business and property interest in Grand Rapids, he owns a fine cottage at Wood Cliff Park on Reed's Lake. In 1914 he purchased the baggage department of the Columbia Transfer Company and merged this into his own business. Mr. Willis is a member of the M. W. A., B. P. O. E., and the Association of Commerce. His is an ardent lover of sports and maintains membership in the West Michigan Game and Fish Protective Association and Grand Rapids Motor Club. He has been twice married, his first wife, who was Eva Gilvis, died in 1895, leaving two children, Wilda and Warren, both of whom are deceased. In 1900 Mr. Willis married Elizabeth Gordon, and to this union was born one daughter, Mary Jane. Mr. and Mrs. Willis make their home at the Cody hotel.

Transcriber:  Gloria Paas
Created: 17 April 2003