About John Baptist Wills, Sr.
The Wills in the Colonial Period The first well-documented ancestor of the Wills family of Charles County MD is John B. Wills, Sr. who was born c. 1740 and to whom all of the local 19th century white descendants of this name can be traced.
Before him the name is scarcely attested in Southern Maryland and it seems hardly a coincidence that it those earlier attestations are mostly in the area around Port Tobacco where John B. Wills lived. There we find at least 2 earlier generations of people named William Wills that lived near Port Tobacco on or near the property of the Greens, Roziers, and Hansons. There are a few earlier references to a Thomas Wills and a William Wills in St. Mary’s County in the 1600s, in documents concerning the Greens and Benjamin Rozier, and it is possible (but probably impossible to prove) that the Wills family of Charles County is descended from them.
Since John Baptist Wills, Sr. married an heiress of Green property, since the Wills name is not common, and since JBW and most of his children named children “William”, there is circumstantial reason to assume JBW was the son of one of these William Wills. Unfortunately, there also seems to have been at least one William Wells in Charles County and separating William Wells from William Wills in the records is not easy. The relative lack of mention in public documents, deeds, and testaments over the course of a century implies that these William Wills were not particularly prosperous or blessed with large families.
The religion of the Wills progenitors before John B. Wills, Sr. is not known, but his wife was Catholic and his given name suggests a Catholic maternal line. Unfortunately the colonial Catholic parish records of Charles County are not extant. Nevertheless, earlier generations of the father’s family are not closely connected to Catholic families and were more likely Anglican.
Ongoing research on the maternal lines of John B. Wills is exploring the source of his given name “John Baptist”. This name is not common in the English world, and there is every reason to assume that it comes into Southern Maryland from a French immigrant or an Irish one. Unfortunately by the mid-1700’s there are several scattered families in the area using this given name and no clear track yet of an available daughter who might have married into the Wills family.
PLACE OF ORIGIN UNKNOWN: There are early settlers by the name of Wills in Virginia and it is possible that this family came from there, but the evidence suggests the family was already in Charles County or St. Mary’s County in the 1600’s. There is no evidence yet to connect these William Wills with any persons or places in England.
John B. Wills Sr. and Anne Livers had eight adult offspring, who are clearly named and given various bequests in the 1794 will of their grandmother Mary Livers.
1) Anne Prudence Wills (bef. 1770-1820) m. James Thompson (d. 1795)
Her sons, Col. William Thompson and Col. Francis Thompson, acquired Araby, the estate of George Mason’s wife, and descendants lived there for a century.
2) Mary Aliana Wills (bef. 1770-1832), single.
3) Joseph Ignatius Wills (c.1770-1836) m. Anastasia Hatcher
Their descendants lived on Cobb Neck and were buried at Holy Ghost Church. There are a number of descendants of his sons William Alfred Wills and Joseph I. Wills, Jr.
4) John Baptist Wills, Jr. (c. 1773-1844) m. 1) Ann Carey Floyd, 2) Ann Jarboe
His son Dr. Francis Reed Wills lived at Preference, and his grandson Augustine Wills Neale inherited his house at Johnsontown.
5) Elizabeth Brent Doyne Wills (c. 1775/77 – ?) m. Mr. Clements
Their daughter Mary Elizabeth Clements (1814-1877) m Dr. John H. Digges.
6) William Livers Wills (c.1776/79- 1819) m. Mary Thomas
He went to West Feliciana, Louisiana around 1815 and soon married and then died there leaving two children: John F. Wills and Julia Ann (Wills) Bowman.
7) Frederick Wills (1780-1825) m. 1) Teresa Hamilton, m. 2) Ann Catherine Green
In the War of 1812 militia, then went to Grand Coteau, La. as part of a small migration of Southern Md. Catholics. The numerous descendants of his son Justin Wills still live there today.
8) Charles Wills (1782-1852) m. Jane Green
His son Charles H. Wills (1824-1896), m. his cousin Anna Thompson. They and their children lived at Araby until the 1940’s. No living descendants with the Wills name.