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Wilella Sibert Cather

Also Known As: "William Cather", "Will Cather"
Birthplace: Back Creek Valley, Winchester, Virginia, United States
Death: April 24, 1947 (73)
New York, New York, New York, United States (Cerebral hemorrhage)
Place of Burial: Jeffrey Center, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Charles Fectique Cather and Mary Virginia Boak
Sister of Roscoe Clark Cather; James Donald Cather; Elsie Margaret Cather; Douglass Cather; Jessica Auld and 1 other

Occupation: Writer
Managed by: Tim Frentz
Last Updated:

About Willa Cather

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years, then at the age of 33 she moved to New York, where she lived for the rest of her life..."

"...She was born Wilella Sibert Cather in 1873 on her maternal grandmother's farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia (see Willa Cather Birthplace). Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak (d. 1931), a former school teacher. Within a year of Cather's birth, the family moved to Willow Shade, a Greek Revival-style home on 130 acres given to them by her paternal grandparents..."

"...The Cathers moved to Nebraska in 1883, joining Charles' parents, when Willa was nine years old..."

"...Mary Cather had six more children after Willa: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie..."

"...In 1896, Cather moved to Pittsburgh after being hired to write for the Home Monthly,[6] a women's magazine patterned after the successful Ladies Home Journal. A year later, she became a telegraph editor and drama critic for the Pittsburgh Leader and frequently contributed poetry and short fiction to The Library, another local publication. In Pittsburgh, she taught Latin, algebra, and English composition at Central High School for one year. She next taught English and Latin at Allegheny High School, where she became the head of the English department. In 1906 Cather moved to New York City upon receiving a job offer on the editorial staff from McClure's Magazine..."

"...her Prairie Trilogy —O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). These deeply felt works became both popular and critical successes..."

"...Through the 1910s and 1920s, Cather was firmly established as a major American writer, receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her novel One of Ours..."

"... By the 1930s, critics began to dismiss her as a "romantic, nostalgic writer who could not cope with the present."

"...Discouraged by the negative criticism of her work, Cather became reclusive. She burned letters and forbade anyone from publishing her letters..."

"...Beginning in 1922, Cather spent summers on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, Canada. She bought a cottage in Whale Cove, on the Bay of Fundy. It was the only house she ever owned.
Cather died on April 24, 1947 in New York City of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried in the Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey, New Hampshire..."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'Willa Cather', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 June 2012, 08:26 UTC, <> [accessed 5 June 2012]

I was named after my fathers youngest sister Ella. She died about four years of age. And she was named after her father, his name was William, and his favorite sister whose name was Ella. So they put the two names together and called her Wilella.


My Uncle GEORGE/Frances claimed a homestead 12-16 miles NW of Red Cloud Nebraska in 1873 with the Clarence and John Wilson families help in 1874. We called the territory Catherton and named the Church and Cemetery NEW VIRGINIA after our eastern ancester home of Virginia.

The Wilson's and Cather's came from the same township of Windchester (Back Creek) Virginia. John Wilson's son Conley would grow up with Willa's cousin Wilella who shared her name for their sickened aunt who could not make the trip west and died before departure. My grandparents (William and Caroline) left with the Wilson's in 1873 from VA.

Conley and Wilella would marry in 1910. Both Clarence and John's ancestors own 50% of present day Catherton as of 2008. The Cather's are still being tracked to find out where they all went. Some went to Kearney, Willa went to UNL and then NY. William and Caroline are buried beside the Wilson ancestors in Catherton Cemetery. 3 particular married into the FRENTZ family from Germany.

More info available from Tim Frentz at Follow this tree to see how Tim is related to the Cathers via the Wilson's.


Lincoln, Neb., January 23, 2007 -- A new collection containing a large amount of Willa Cather's personal correspondence was donated to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The collection of more than 350 letters is the largest ever donated and triples the University Archives' collection of Cather letters. The correspondence also opens new doors to Cather's life.

"The letters and other materials donated are previously unknown resources for Cather scholars to study. I firmly believe that the Roscoe and Meta Cather Collection will change the face of Cather scholarship, and the University Libraries are honored to be entrusted with the materials," said Katherine Walter, chair of Digital Initiatives and Special Collections and co-chair of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at UNL.

The Roscoe and Meta Cather Collection, named for Willa Cather's brother and sister-in-law and donated on behalf of their grandchildren to the University of Nebraska Foundation, contains some 358 letters, 38 postcards, 35 photographs and 77 books. Two of the grandchildren, Patricia Schreiber and Kathryne Shannon, delivered the materials to the UNL Libraries in person earlier this month.

The donors said they were very happy to donate the collection to UNL and make it a part of the premier collections of Cather in the UNL Archives and Special Collections. Thirteen collections relating to Cather are now housed in the University Archives.

Schreiber shared her hope that this collection will renew interest in Cather and will motivate more people to read Cather's books. Shannon said she believes the collection as a whole would bring Cather back to life in a more personal way and that the love, care, and affection that Willa Cather had for her brother and his family, and their love for her, would be revealed.

Willa Cather (1873-1947) graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895 and went on to write a number of essays, short stories and novels that drew upon her life in Nebraska, Virginia and her travels. She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel about World War I: "One of Ours." Some of her other novels include: "O Pioneers!" "My Antonia," and "Death Comes for the Archbishop." More about Willa Cather can be found by visiting the Willa Cather Archive at

Guy Reynolds, professor of English at UNL, director of the Cather Project, and general editor of the Cather Scholarly Edition and Cather Studies, called the gift "an extensive collection of national significance and weight."

Until this collection came to light, scholars knew of only three letters to Cather's brothers in existence -- one in Red Cloud and two at UNL, said Andrew Jewell, assistant professor of digital projects and editor of the Willa Cather Archive online resource.

Upon receipt in January of the new materials, University Archives staff pored over the trove of letters, discovering that the vast majority of them were written by Willa Cather to her brother Roscoe, his wife and daughters. In addition there are letters from Willa to her sister Elsie, from Willa's close friend Edith Lewis to the Roscoe Cather family, and assorted letters to Willa from family members.

Cather's letters often give detailed accounts of her life, work and opinions.

"Once Cather scholars begin to use this collection as a resource, we could see a revised biography of Cather, and numerous essays, books, and dissertations added to the volumes of Cather scholarship already in existence," Jewell said.

Also in the collection are personal documents written by Margaret Cather Shannon, one of the daughters of Roscoe and Meta Cather, of her memories of "Aunt Willie" and a biography of her mother, Meta Elizabeth Schaper. Meta was a University of Nebraska alumna who started at the university in 1899 at age 15. She lived in Havelock, Neb. (now part of Lincoln), graduated from NU in 1903 and worked at Havelock High School. She met Roscoe Cather while teaching and they married July 27, 1907, in Havelock.

This information is just the first nugget in a priceless literary collection, according to Jewell and Mary Ellen Ducey, associate professor of libraries, university archivist and special collections librarian.

"We knew Roscoe was married, but few scholars even knew his wife's name. Now, not only do we know her name but we know something about her life and we are discovering how close she was to Willa," Ducey said.

The discoveries have just begun. The next step for the University Archives and Special Collections staff is to move the collection into archival folders and boxes and to create the finding aid to the collection, which lists the letters and other materials and make that available via the UNL Libraries Web site (

Plans are also under way to update and digitize the University of Nebraska Press's work, "A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather." Janis Stout, editor of the original calendar, is co-editing with Jewell the digital version which lists all known letters by Cather with the date written, location, the person to whom the letter is addressed, and a paraphrased summary of the content of each letter. The Roscoe and Meta Cather Collection will significantly expand the new digital edition.

Instructions outlined in Willa Cather's will do not permit the publication of any of her personal correspondence. Scholars from around the nation and world can visit the UNL Libraries to use the materials in a Cather collection. The reading room of the University Archives and Special Collections (Love Library, Room 29) is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

An event is being planned for April to bring Cather scholars to campus for a day of discussion on the new collection.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 70 years. More than $87 million was provided last year for students, faculty, academic programs, research and campus capital improvements. More information is available at

The links below are to four JPEG images, three of photos in the Roscoe and Meta Cather Collection, one of the donors, Patricia Schreiber and Kathryne Shannon. The images are:

  • Willa Cather with her brother Roscoe Cather's daughters, Virginia and the twins Margaret and Elizabeth.
  • Meta Schaper Cather, wife of Roscoe Cather, sister-in-law of Willa Cather.
  • Roscoe Cather, brother of Willa Cather.
  • Donors Patricia Schreiber and Kathryne Shannon.

CONTACTS: Joan Barnes, Development and Outreach Librarian, (402) 472-6987;

Katherine Walter, Chair, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, (402) 472-3939;

Joan Giesecke, Dean of Libraries, (402) 472-2526

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Willa Cather's Timeline

December 7, 1873
Back Creek Valley, Winchester, Virginia, United States
April 24, 1947
Age 73
New York, New York, New York, United States
Old Burying Ground, Jeffrey Center, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States