John F. Willman, sheriff of St. Louis county, Missouri, and prominent worker in republican ranks in St. Louis county, was born in this county, April 20, 1877, his parents being John and Mary (Reichart) Willman. The father was a native of Germany an came to the United States with an older brother when twelve years of age. The mother was born in Bonhomme. St. Louis county, a daughter of Joseph Reichart, who one of the early settlers of St. Louis county, coming from Germany in his youthful day. He died in Baldwin, St. Louis county, at the age of eighty-three years, and had attained a considerable measure of success through the course of an active business life. The father of John F. Willman was a farmer by occupation and was killed in a street-car accident in 1891, when forty-five years of age. He had conducted the old St. Louis House on Main and Lucas streets at an early period, which was one of the most popular hostelries of the city. He was greatly interested in educational work aril did much to further the progress of the schools, serving as a member of the school board for a number of years.
John F. Willman went to live with an uncle, Gottlieb Boyer, when thirteen years of age and while there residing attended the district schools. He also had private instruction from a school teacher who boarded with the uncle and thus prepared for life’s practical and responsible duties. When nineteen years of age he took up his abode in the city and went to work, spending three months in the Timpken Carriage Works. From there he went, to the Niedringhaus Roller Mills, where he remained for three or four months and then turned his attention to the saloon business in connection with a brother at No. 3200 North Broadway. He found the occupation extremely distasteful, however, and later took up the candy business, selling candy from a wagon to the trade. This did not prove very remunerative, however, and after six months he sold out. He was then married and returned to the farm and for a time was employed by his father-in-law, operating his large farm and dairy business. After four years he rented a farm which he cultivated for a period of four years, when his property was destroyed by a flood. He determined, however, to try once more and in the following year lost all of his wheat by the failure of the elevator man in whose elevator he had placed his crop. He was then convinced that he did not care to try farming longer and he secured an appointment as deputy sheriff. His first job was a big one, for he was assigned to clean up Creve Coeur Lake, which was then the “hell hole” of St. Louis county. He tackled the job and accomplished it, arresting some of the most notorious gamblers, confidence men and women of the street in the country, and when University City was incorporated through the efforts of Mr. Lewis, John Willman was the person sought to fill the position of chief of police. Mr. Willman accepted the offer and served continuously for fourteen years, being appointed first on the 4th of September, 1906, on the incorporation of the city. Here his record has been such that the crimnial element of St. Louis gives him a wide berth. In the republican primary of 1920 he was nominated for the office of sheriff of St. Louis county, to which he was elected in the November following.
In 1898 Mr. Willman was married to Miss Minnie L. Boisseller, a daughter of Charles L. Boisselier, one of the prominent farmers of St. Louis county, now deceased. To Mr. and Mrs. Willman have been born three children: Pearl M.; and Arnold C. J. and Helen M., twins. Mr. Willman has been very active in Masonic circles for eighteen years. He is a past master of Clayton Lodge, No. 601, A. F. & A. M., and is the present master of University Lodge, which he instituted. He belongs to Ascalon Commandery, No. 16, K. T., of St. Louis, and is a member of Wellston Lodge, K. P. He likewise belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America and in club circles is well known as a member of the Gravois, Oakwood and the Malville Farmers Clubs, also of the Men’s Club of University City. He and his family attend the Methodist Episcopal church. He holds to high ideals for the individual and for the community and gives his aid and influence ever on the side of right and progress, reform and truth. His work has been of great benefit in holding in check lawlessness and disorder in University City and making it an ideal place of family residence.