It is indeed a pleasure to incorporate in this volume a review of the career of this esteemed and popular gentleman, who has been prominent alike in his County, Nez Perces, as in Custer, his former County, and in the entire state of Idaho, as well, having filled responsible offices and having always manifested a becoming sagacity and enterprise in all his ways, both public and private business.

Mr. Willis was born in St. Lawrence County, New York, on October 10, 1845, being the son of John F. Willis, a native of New Hampshire, born in 1785 and died in 1855, and a pioneer of northern New York. The mother of our subject was a member of the Whitney family of New York, where she was born and died in 1848.

When ten years old, Frank B. was left an orphan, but remained at the old home, a part of the time being spent at the St. Lawrence Academy and at Eastman’s College at Poughkeepsie, New York. When nineteen, Frank B. came to Red Wing, Minnesota, where a half brother lived, and there he clerked in a dry goods store for eighteen months. Immediately after the Sioux war, in 1866, he crossed the plains from Abercrombie with an ox train. He landed in Montana, and the first sight that met his eye was three men dangling from the limb of a tree. Such a thing expresses die times of that then, new, rough and ready country. Our subject worked in the vicinity of Helena, for two years, then came to East Bannock, Montana, and mined.

In 1870 he went to Salmon City, Idaho, and mined there until 1878. Then he went to Challis and opened a livery stable. Next we see him assessor of Custer County, being the first elected incumbent of that office which he held for five successive terms. He was also elected grand master of the I. O. O. F., for the jurisdiction of Idaho, and he has held some of the highest offices in this order. In 1893 and 1894 he was representative to the Sovereign Grand Lodge at Atlantic City and Dallas, Texas.

In 1891, having been active and prominent in politics for years previous Mr. Willis was elected lieutenant governor of the state of Idaho, acting in conjunction with Gov. W. J. McConnell. Subsequent to this service, he sold his interests in Custer County and repaired to Pocatello and engaged in the drug business there. Six years were spent at this and then he sold out and came to Lewiston, where he bought the Aune interest in the furniture stock of Aune & McGilvory. He sold out that stock and in 1900 opened the Lewiston Furniture and Undertaking Company, where he is doing a good business at this time.

The marriage of Mr. Willis and Miss Anna O. Diehl, of Salt Lake City, was solemnized in 1887; two years later Mrs. Willis died, leaving one child, who died at the age of six. In 1892 Mr. Willis married Mrs. Delia B. Burns, widow of Judge James Burns, of Custer County, Idaho. She was born in southern Ohio, came west and was a teacher in Nebraska and Iowa. Mr. Willis has but one living brother, Charles B., in Willisville, New York, the old home.

Mr. Willis is a member of the Artisans and is one of the highest in the I. O. O. F. He has always been a Republican, and cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln. He is prominent in the councils of his party and has always been active in it. In addition to the fine business that Mr. Willis is doing in Lewiston, he owns property in Pocatello and in Custer County, Idaho.

Back to: Nez Perce Biographies

Source: An Illustrated History of Northern Idaho, Embracing Nez Perce, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1903