Solano County
California


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ALDEN B. WILLEY
Biography

For nearly thirty years Alden B. Willey, an honored veteran of the Civil war and one of Solano county's widely known and highly respected octogenarians, now engaged as a notary public at Vallejo, has been a resident of this county and he thus has been a witness to and a participant in the development of this community during the time that may be regarded as the "modern" period of that development. For years Mr. Willey was actively engaged in the realty business in Vallejo and his service in that connection was a material aid in the expansion of the community's interests. With a prior experience of years of responsible connection with constructive interests in the northwest as well as in California, he brought to his activities in this connection an intelligent direction that gave a real value to these services. In his fine old age, stimulated by a proper sense of accomplishment and in the enjoyment of the confidence and esteem of his neighbors and friends, he is able calmly to review within his own recollection the events of the past eighty years and more and to declare that all is well.

Alden B. Willey is a native of the old Pine Tree state, born at Cherry-field, on the Pleasant Bay coast of Maine, July 25, 1840, and is a son of Andrew Willey, who also was born at Cherryfield, a member of one of the old families of that section of Maine, and who was one of the substantial and dependable citizens of the place, owner of a farm of two hundred and forty acres and one of the leading lumber dealers in that region, also largely engaged as a contractor in the construction of wharves and dams. Under his father's direction Alden B. Willey became well skilled in this form of construction work and was working along that line when in the spring of 1861 the Civil war broke out, he then being in his twenty-first year. He straightway enlisted his services in behalf of the cause of the Union and went to the front as a member of Company I of the Thirteenth Regiment, Maine Volunteer Infantry, which was raised by the immortal Neal Dow, author of the Maine liquor law (1851), who was appointed colonel of the regiment and with his command accompanied General Benjamin F. Butler's expedition to New Orleans, suffering shipwreck on the way thither but escaping serious injury. In 1862 Colonel Dow was commissioned brigadier general and placed in command of the federal troops stationed south of New Orleans. Subsequently he was transferred to the command of Pensacola and from there to Carrollton, above New Orleans. In the siege of Port Hudson on May 27, 1863, he led a gallant charge in which his brigade lost in killed and wounded every field officer and thirty-three per cent of the men. He was himself twice wounded and while lying helpless on the field was taken prisoner and was confined in Libby prison and at Mobile nearly a year, or until his exchange for General Fitzhugh Lee, after which, being then past sixty years of age and much broken in health, he resigned from the army.

This brief sidelight on the activities of the Thirteenth Maine will show that Mr. Willey saw a good deal of pretty strenuous service during the campaign in and about New Orleans and he has some very vivid recollections of that service and of the engagements in which he thus participated. After the taking of New Orleans he was stationed at Fort Jackson and at Fort St. Philip, at the mouth of the Mississippi, for fourteen months, and was subsequently and for some time engaged in police duty in New Orleans, in that capacity having a part in the exercise of that firm control of the chaotic elements then afloat in the city that led to some pretty rigid military regulations for the government of the city and created a chapter in the history of the war that came in for a good bit of criticism at the time, but which historians now justify as having been essential to the purposes of good government so far as was practicable under the circumstances and in view of the intense animosity displayed against the Union soldiers by the people of the occupied city.

At DeCrows Point, Texas, Mr. Willey was veteranized and he at once reenlisted for three years or during the continuance of the war and with his old regiment engaged in the celebrated Red River campaign under General Banks. This regiment later was consolidated with the Thirtieth Maine under Colonel Hubbard and took part in all the engagements in the Shenandoah Valley up to the close of the war in April, 1865. When" the world was stirred by the news of the assassination of President Lincoln three days after Lee's surrender, Mr. Willey, with the command to which he was attached, was at Winchester, Virginia, and with his regiment was hurried by special train to the defense of Washington and stationed at Fort Meigs on guard duty and to aid in the capture of the assassin Booth. He took part in the grand review of troops at Washington marking the close of the war and was thereafter, until the fall of that year, stationed on duty at Savannah, Georgia, and in November, 1865, at Portland, the capital of his home state, was mustered out of the service, after more than four years of continuous service as a soldier of the Union. Upon the completion of his military service Mr. Willey became engaged in logging operations in connection with his father's lumbering interests in Maine, and in the next spring (1866) went into the then comparatively new Northwest country to take part in development work there, establishing himself at Minneapolis, where all interests, following the period of unsettlement attendant on war, were then rapidly expanding. Mr. Willey's trained experience as a mechanic and expert in heavy construction work brought him profitable employment there in wharf and railway construction and he presently was made superintendent of construction of the great iron ore docks at Duluth. He then became employed as superintendent of construction of the Duluth & Iron Range Railway Company, and in that capacity rebuilt every bridge on that road and also erected for that company two more docks, all in two years, with a force of three hundred to six hundred men under his control.

For years Mr. Willey remained connected with construction operations in that section of the country, and then, in 1892, he came to California, taking employment along accustomed lines in Pasadena. Later and for four years he was with the Union Iron Works at San Francisco, and then, in 1898, became employed in the operations of the Mare Island navy yard and was thus engaged for three years, at the end of which time he became engaged in the general realty business at Vallejo and in that capacity had an influential part in promoting the great development of the city which set in a quite marked fashion about the beginning of the present century. Mr. Willey also had a commission as claim agent and pension attorney and during the years of his activity carried on an extensive practice in the departments of the interior and pensions. Of recent years he has been living practically retired from the more active duties of his profession, but still retains his notarial commission and is ready for service on call at any time. During the time of his particular activities in the local realty field, years ago, it was written of Mr. Willey that "he has always had great faith in the future of Vallejo, believing that from its natural location it is destined to become a large city of maritime importance, and it is his ambition to inspire others with the same confidence. He therefore always has been ready to give of his time and means to the forwarding of any enterprise or movement that will build up and enhance the growth and development of his adopted city." And, within the limitations imposed by advancing years, it may be said that the same today is true, for the veteran realtor continues his earnest and intelligent interest in all local development projects, his counsel and advice along those lines being recognized as valuable.

Alden B. Willey has been thrice married. In 1872, while living in Minnesota, he was united in marriage to Mrs. Lucinda Butler, also a native of Maine, born in the city of Bangor, and who died at Vallejo in 1903. In 1909 he was again married. His second wife died in 1918, and in 1925 he married Mrs. Rebecca Pickard, widow of Isaac L. Pickard, a veteran of the Civil war. Mrs. Willey was born in Pennsylvania and has been a resident of California for forty-seven years. Mr. and Mrs. Willey have a pleasant home at 738 Louisiana street and retain a warm personal interest in general local affairs. For many years Mr. Willey has been one of the leaders among the now rapidly diminishing ranks of the soldiers of the Union army living in Solano county and has served as commander and as adjutant of Farragut Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic. In 1912 he was honored by appointment as aide-de-camp on the staff of the commander of the California department, G. A. R. In 1864, at his home town, Cherryfield, Maine, while home on a furlough from the army, he was raised a Master Mason in Narragus Lodge No. 88, Free and Accepted Masons, and has thus been a member of that ancient order for more than sixty years, now a member of Solano Lodge No. 229 at Vallejo, one of the real veteran Masons of California.

History of Solano County, California By Marguerite Hunt and Napa County, California By Harry Lawrence Gunn. From Their Earliest Settlement To The Present Time. Chicago. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1926. 883 pages.



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This page was last updated 22 Oct 2007

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