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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WILLEY, JOHN WHEELOCK - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WILLEY, JOHN WHEELOCK (1797-9 July 1841), Cleveland's first mayor, was born in New Hampshire, son of Allen and Chloe (Frink) Willey. He was educated at Dartmouth, studied law in New York, was admitted to the bar, and came to Cleveland in 1822. He became known as a witty, sharp debater, winning 3 years in the state house of representatives (1827-30) and 3 in the state senate (1830-32) as a Jacksonian Democrat. When Cleveland was chartered as a city in 1836, Willey became its first mayor (1836-38), responsible for writing the municipal charter as well as many of the original ordinances. He was also on the first board of school managers. Willey speculated in real estate in OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO). With Jas. Clark and others, he bought a section of the FLATS on the east side, planning to transform it into Cleveland Centre, a business and residential district. Next they bought land in Ohio City, named it Willeyville, and built a bridge connecting the 2 sections of Columbus St., diverting Cleveland-bound traffic that previously traveled through the WEST SIDE MARKET to Willeyville, Cleveland Centre and CENTRAL MARKET. CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL legislated removal of the Cleveland section of the Detroit St. Bridge, aggravating Ohio City residents and leading to the "Bridge War" (see COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE). Willey was also involved in the proposed construction of railroad lines. In 1840, he was appointed to serve as presiding judge of the 14th Judicial District. Willey married Laura Maria Higby in 1829, and had no children. He died in Cleveland and was buried in ERIE ST. CEMETERY.

Last Modified: 23 Jul 1997 02:08:11 PM

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