Fulton, MO

The historic 'Dr. George M. Willing House' in Fulton, Missouri is overshadowed by the events of his life

CJ Coombs

Correction: Previously, it was stated that Dr. Willing died on March 20, 1864, in Prescott, Arizona. He died in 1874.

Dr. George M. Willing house in Fulton, Missouri.Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1980, the Dr. George M. Willing House (aka the Fleming Home and Joseph Denton Home) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is located on Jefferson Street in Fulton, Missouri. It was constructed in 1855 and the architectural style is Greek Revival. The house is a two-story brick home.

There is a large hand-carved walnut circular stairway in the front entrance hall that might be one of the main attractions inside. There's always something that seems to stand out when you walk into history.


There are six colossal pilasters dividing the front facade into five bays. The basement beneath the southwest quarter of the house contains large hand-hewn blocks of stone which formed the floor. (Hand-hewn means that the stone was cut or shaped from hard blows by a heavy cutting instrument like an ax or chisel so that's heavy labor.)

The ceilings on both floors are 10 feet high. There's another foyer on the second floor that leads to the porch over the front entrance. In 1961, closets with doors were installed. The flooring used to be hand-hewn oak and is hidden with new hardwood floors. The walls were replastered in 1960.

The house isn't far from Fulton's main business district or U.S. Highway 54. The front of the house faces east. This house also isn't far from Westminister College and other sites such as the Churchill Memorial or Westminister College Gymnasium, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. George M. Willing

Dr. Willing was an American physician, prospector, and political lobbyist. He was born in 1829 in Philadelphia and he died on March 20, 1874, in Prescott, Arizona at the age of 44-45.

He is known for his time as an unelected delegate to the United States Congress for Jefferson Territory and as the person who introduced James Reavis to the fraudulent Peralta land grant. (Source.)

His wife, Mary A. (Lamair) Willing was born in 1825 in Kentucky. She died on January 24, 1909, at age 83 in Missouri. She's buried in Cloverport, Kentucky.

Dr. Willing didn't have a lot of success in business. In 1858, he and his wife returned to St. Louis so he could set up a practice in medicine there. Interestingly, in 1859, he led a party of wagons to Colorado's Pikes Peak area to look for gold. They reached Denver after traveling for 60 days. They never found gold. After the beginning of the Civil War, Dr. Willing and his wife returned to Fulton.

While residents of Fulton supported the cause of the Confederates, during most of the war, Fulton was occupied by Union soldiers. This caused the southern sympathizers to fear threats of imprisonment. Dr. Willing, being known to support the Confederacy was imprisoned in Jefferson City. His wife managed to persuade a federal officer (who was a Mason like her husband) that her husband needed his help because he was not guilty. Dr. Willing ended up being released.

When they returned to Fulton, word got to Dr. Willing that an officer in charge of the Union troops was going to have him arrested again. Dr. Willing went to a nearby cornfield and hid. He managed to borrow a mule and escape to St. Louis. He never returned to Fulton.

In 1864, he visited Arizona territory. He was successful in forming the Willing Mining and Exploring Company which was allegedly successful.

On another trip to Arizona in 1867, he acquired from heirs, title to a property originally deeded by the King of Spain to Don Peralta, and which embraced about four-fifth of the state of Arizona, known as the Peralta grant. (Source.)

Dr. Willing spent the remainder of his life trying to gain formal recognition of his right to legal possession of the land grant. In 1874, he went back to Arizona to work up his claim and on the night he arrived, it's been written he was murdered in a hotel room in Prescott. Supposedly, no investigation into the cause of his death was performed.

However, according to an excerpt on the Find-a-Grave website that comes from the March 20, 1874 publication of The Weekly Arizona Minor (Prescott, AZ):

DEATH OF DR. WILLING. This sad event occurred last night, at the lodging house of Mr. R.E. Elliott, in this town, and was, we learn, brought on by exposure and privation. We stated in yesterday's paper, that the Dr. arrived here from the States, via New Mexico, on the previous evening. Soon after his arrival he made haste to visit us, when we learned that his object in again visiting the Territory was to secure title to some mines claimed by the Willing mining and exploration company in the vicinity of Black Cañon creek, and a Spanish grant on the Gila river, to which grant a French count was, he said, preparing to lead a colony.... He had his faults, not the least of which was the habit of stretching the truth, but was, on the whole, a bold adventurer and intelligent man. (Source.)

After Dr. Willing's death, his wife went back to Fulton to help her brother because his wife had died from tuberculosis. She helped to raise her brother's family. In 1904, she went back to Kentucky to her family home.

In 1886, in exchange for $100,000 in stock in a land company, she released Dr. Willing's claim to the Peralta land.

In 1862, when Dr. Willing left Fulton, his house remained in the family until 1904. There have been several owners of the home. It was even turned into apartments at one time. In 1960, the house was purchased by C.E. Pearre and his wife. They spent years restoring it as much as they could get it back to its original state.

As over half of the property was taken over by the City of Fulton for a public housing project, the house was sold by the Pearres (they never lived in it). From 1967 to 1978, the house was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Emmet L. Fleming. In 1978, it was purchased by Joseph Denton.

Thank you for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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