William Willis

I cant say enough bad about the local God of History as an Historian. That "The History of Portland 1632 to 1864" is so widely quoted is an embarrasement to the quality of academics of Maine of today. Serious quality historians do not quote 'Willis', amatuers do constantly these days. They find the one paragraph they were looking for and stamp it as fact. Nobody could read more then a dozen pages of this gossipy, trashy tomb and not then realize what it was. It had nothing to do with history really.

'The History of Portland' was not created as a work of History, that was not its purpose. It was the central pillar in William Willis' campaign of 1864 for Mayor of Portland Maine. It worked, he got elected.

Willis was a local lawyer who went door to door collecting any favorite gossip of long dead family members he could find, if there was a deed to go with it, it went in the book, and it got the votes of the entire family. Why do you think the 'History of Portland' is 992 pages long? Was there really that much history in Portland, or was it that many voters ? The lack of Riquor and discipline in this work is an embarrassement. Its fawning worshiping tones discussing the voter's ancestors gets positively nauseating if you read just a few pages beyond the paragraphs describing your own beloved.

The real tradgedy of this work is that it has drowned out with noise so many more perceptive and in depth works of quality. The lazy historians of our time don't seem get beyond this work to ever see the really good stuff.

What makes Willis such a poisonous source is his constant filling in blanks with his own supposed facts and presenting them as actual facts. It's 1000 pages written in two years, and loose facts abound. 1886 born Joseph Pride is a great example. He discovers a birth record in Beverly which is really a baptisim record but he doesnt know that. Then a son born in 1726. Its the oldest reference available so now its Joseph "arriving from beverly" in 1726 (You can almost hear a band playing in the background), an oh yea he 'probably' lived in the back bay. The work is packed with such tripe. NOTHING in Willis can be depended upon without another source, so why even go there ? He took the paper record of deeds that he worked with daily as a lawyer, and wrapped in a bunch of loose talk and lies in a hurry. It was about votes not careful history. Voter FAMILY NAMES get printed all in bold,.... just so you don't miss the point. Lush, universally glorious details from the 1700's and even the 1600's abound for which there is no source today, and Willis was writing in 1864.

Family geneologists always go to Willis and they are aways pleased with what they find.

Joseph Pride