WILLIAM RILA WEBSTER, deceased, was born Oct. 29, 1810, in Stanstead, "Canada East." His earliest traditionary ancestor was his grandfather twice removed, - otherwise his great-great grandfather, - who was an Englishman and came from Norfolk to the United States and settled in New Hampshire, where all his intermediate paternal ancestors were born. His father, John Webster, was born in 1787 and removed to Vermont with his family in 1792. He was married in 1809, to Marcia Eastman, and soon after that event went to Stanstead. The wife was born April 10, 1790, in New Hampshire. She was of Welsh ancestry, and died in Big Prarie, Dec. 23, 1863. John Webster died Feb. 15, 1819, in Stanstead, Canada East.
Mr. Webster came to Michigan in June 1853, and selected Newaygo County as a place of residence. In the spring of 1854 he settled on section 21, Big Prairie Township, where he bought 600 acres of land. ON this he wrought out his life work as a Pioneer, a husband and father, and citizen. Mr. Webster was married at Port Hope, Ontario, Oct. 12, 1836, to Phebe Ann Moore. She was born in that place April 8, 1822, and is the daughter of James and Azubah (Soule) Moore. Her father was born in the State of New York, in 1792, of Scotch and Irish lineage, and one remove from such ancestry. Azubah (Soule) Moore was born in 1796, and was the daughter of Wilson Soule, and of German descent. Wilson Soule married Polly Curtis, who was a native of New York and of English ancestry. Their marriage occurred in 1792, and about the year 1808 they removed to Ontario, near Coburg. Wilson Soule died in Clarke, ONtario, May 7, 1837; his wife died in Brantford, Ontario, in January, 1857. James Moore and Azubah Soule were married in 1811. The latter died Sept. 19, 1843, in Clarke; the latter in Haldimand, ONtario, Jan. 18, 1865. Their children were born as follows: Azubah Fidelia, July 3, 1814; Emily Rosetta, March 16, 1816; Calvin Wilson, May 23, 1818; Polly Lavinia, May 22, 1820; Phebe Ann (as given); Hosea Lysander, July 23, 1824, died July 21, 1826.
The following are the records of the children born to Mr. and Mrs. Webster: James M. H. (see sketch); Charles Wesley, July 28, 1845 (died Sept. 16, following); John Emory (see sketch); Sophronia Adelaide, Aug. 7, 1850 (died Oct. 6, same year); George Rila (see sketch); Herbert Fremont (see sketch); Chester Calvin, July 31, 1858 (died April 13, 1871); Phebe Adela, Aug. 10, 1861; Leslie Allison, July 20, 1863. The daughter last named is remarkable for an unusual mental organization. She attracted much notice in her early childhood for precociousness, and it became the purpose of her parents to give her an education commensurate with her abilities. At a suitable age she was sent away to school, but it soon soon became necesary to remove her to the quiet and tranquility of her home. Her studies developed her reflective faculties so rapidly that her physical powers utterly failed to keep pace, and her health became endangered. She is a young lady of lovely Christian character and is the endeared companion of her widowed mother. Leslie, the youngest son, has a marvelous genius for music, and is able to manipulate any instrument that comes within his reach. He plays the violin and all keyed instruments with taste and skill. He was married Jan. 8, 1884, to Jessie, daughter of J.F.A. Raider of Newaygo.
William Rila Webster's grandfather was the brother of the same paternal ancestor of the representative statesman and orator of America - Daniel Webster. It is a singular circumstance that the generation before them married into families of similar name but no kin. The similarity of many traits in different lines of descent in the Webster family is a well established fact, and is discernible in the character of him whose earthly career this sketch commemorates, as in his younger brothers - Francis Webster, residing at Fairbanks, Buchanan Co., Iowa; John Webster, who died in Michigan, in 1877; and West Webster, a citizen of Minnesota. He was of powerful physique, large brain, strong mind and wonderful self-poise, and possessed a phenomenal memory, seeming never to forget anything he read pertaining to his duties as a man and citizen.
Mr. Webster was a natural mechanic, and from his childhood was distinguished for his love of architecture. He employed all his leisure in studying, planning, drawing and designing buildings for himself and others, and, had he devoted his life to architecture as a calling, would have acquired distinction in that art.
All his life long he was a believer in a Supreme Being, and insisted on his entire household observing the ordinance of the Sabbath. In March preceding his death he made profession of religion, and when the moment of his dissolution came he passed to the silent mystery of the world beyond in the triumph of a living faith. With his last breath he strove to impress upon his children and others the precepts of religion and the imperative necessity of temperence and morality. Mr. Webster died May 21, 1882. His portrait with that of his surviving wife may be found on other pages of this volume. The character of the one is indelibly impressed upon those who knew him as a man of sterling traits and such characteristics as built Newayog County to her present completeness and position. Five surviving sons and one daughter are living testimonials to what he was as a father. Mrs. Webster is such a woman as experience and self-sacrifice develop from the stock of earlier generations - such a woman as under the impulse of later civilization would have taken front rank in the work of the world. She is possessed of most strongly marked personal traits of character. No one has larger sympathies or more heartfelt interest in the well being of others. "Bear ye one another's burdens," is he law of life. She has followed it in sweet patience, unfaltering courage and with a purpose and spirit wholly exempt from any personal end or motive. She has been, since the death of her husband, the mainspring in all the family and business matters relating to the settlement of his estate, and prosecutes her affairs with all calmness and wisdom of judgment. Who will say, when Newaygo County reaches its height of promised achievement, what part he pioneer mothers had in the consummation?