Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Biographies

LILLIS, William M. Born, Davenport, Iowa, USA.
Donated by Cathy Joynt Labath, Iowa, USA.


Source: Downer, Harry E. History of Davenport and Scott County Vol. II. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1910 Chicago

William M. Lillis, who throughout the period of his connection with business affairs of Davenport has been a representative of commercial interests, is now secretary of the Halligan Coffee Company, an enterprise of large and growing proportions which owes its success in no small degree to the business discernment, energy and acumen of Mr. Lillis.

William M. Lillis is one of Davenport's native sons. His father, John Lillis, was born in county Clare, Ireland, June 10, 1834, and in 1845 came to America with his father, Martin Lillis, who in that year emigrated with his family to Canada. There he remained for several years, during which period John Lillis was a pupil in the Canadian schools. In 1850 the family home was established in Scott county, Martin Lillis settling on a farm at Long Grove upon the Wapsipinicon river. He became not only a diligent and industrious farmer but also a highly respected citizen. He was a man of strong character, who fearlessly advocated whatever he believed to be right, while in his business affairs his activity was such that he contributed to general prosperity as well as to individual success. He died in 1888.

His son, John Lillis, determined to follow merchandising and established a grocery and dry-goods store in Davenport. As the years passed he won prosperity, carefully directing his business affairs and closely studying the needs of his patrons. He was a man of unswerving honesty, whose success was never won at the cost of another's advancement and wherever known he was esteemed and respected. In politics an ardent democrat, he was one of the small but enthusiastic band that kept the party alive during the troublous period of the Civil war. He was in fact recognized as one of the leaders of the democracy in Davenport and was called to several local offices, serving as city clerk for two terms and also as alderman. He was a devoted churchman yet was not aggressive in his religious views, according to others the right of personal opinion which he reserved for himself. He died in January, 1896. His wife, who in her maidenhood was Bridget P. Grace, was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, and in her girlhood days came to the United States with her parents. Her mother died in Buffalo, New York, while the family were en route to their destination in the middle west. Her father, James Grace, settled in Rock Island, Illinois, and his daughter Bridget was reared in the Mississippi valley. She became a devoted wife and mother and spared no effort in preparing her children for places of usefulness in society. She died in 1892. Unto Mr. and Mrs. John Lillis there were born four children, William M., being the eldest and the only son. His three sisters are: Mary, who is now the wife of Thomas F. Halligan; Genevieve, the wife of Joseph F. Volz; and Mattie, the wife of M. J. Kinnally.

William M. Lillis acquired his early education in private and parochial schools and afterward attended the Davenport high school. Early environment naturally turned his attention to a mercantile career and after putting aside his text-books he joined his father in business, since which time he has been a representative of commercial interests in this city. In 1887 he became his father's successor and carried on the business until 1889, when he joined the Halligan Coffee Company and has since been its secretary. The business has enjoyed a steady and substantial growth and is today one of the important mercantile enterprises of the city. The business methods employed are such as will bear the closest investigation and scrutiny an the energy and enterprise of Mr. Lillis and the other officers of the company constitute the attributes of the success of the house.

In June, 1889, occurred the marriage of William M. Lillis and Miss Bridget O'Donnell, of Bloomington, Illinois, and of Irish parentage. Their three children are John Hugh, Irene Grace and Carmel. While a citizen of notable patriotism and loyal to every project which he deems of public benefit, Mr. Lillis is not a politician nor has he any desire for office, preferring to devote his time and energies to his business affairs. He cooperates in progressive public movements, however, as a member of the Commercial Club, is a member of the Davenport Academy of Sciences and belongs also to the Knights of Columbus. Honored and respected by all, there is no man who occupies a more enviable position in commercial circles nor more justly merits the regard and esteem which are uniformly accorded him.

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