Willard R. Olds

By: Katie Sharpe

His Early Life

Willard R. Olds was born on September 9, 1845, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Coincidentally, this was the exact date that the Potato Blight broke out in Ireland, starting the Great Famine. Soon after his birth, his family moved out of Ohio, and settled in Ionia County, Michigan.


After the Civil War started in 1861, Willard joined the Third Michigan Infantry, Company C, on February 16, 1862. Although he was only fifteen, he lied about his age so he could join the Union Army. A little less than five months later, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, which authorized the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.


Willard fought in various battles of the Civil War, but was captured by enemy forces at Mine Run in 1863. He was then sent to Andersonville Prison in mid-February of 1862. At around the same time that he was sent to Andersonville prison, a Confederate submarine became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, the USS Housatonic, on February 17, 1864.

After the War


After being discharged from the prison, he married Gertrude Russell in 1869. In that same year, the first state, Wyoming, gave women the right to vote. I think that Gertrude would've been happy to hear that news.


Willard had two children, Robert and Edna, my great-great grandmother. Robert was born in 1873, the same year that the Heineken Brewery Company was founded in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Edna was born in 1880, in the same year that the first electrical streetlight was installed ever. This streetlight was installed in Wabash. Indiana.

His Death


He was a florist for many years in the town of Belding, Michigan. He died on August 30, 1937, at the age of 91, there. About two months before that, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared after taking off from New Guinea on her quest to fly around the world.

Amelia Earhart: Life and Disappearance
Click here to watch a short video on Willard's life

It is a short, 30 second overview of Willard R. Old's life.