One point of note is that in the will, his father, Jean Baptiste, referred to to Joseph, in the will, as the 'hardware dealer'. This must reflect some correspondence, since his departure in 1850, between Joseph and someone in the family. My guess would be his mother, and probably telling her of his marriage in 1861.
As the story goes, he left France to avoid military conscription, which then was a term of 7 years. The age for conscription was 21, so that puts his date of departure around 1850.
He then came to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a clerk for sometime. Since it had previously been a French territory, there were probaly relatives and/or friends there.
Somehow, he ended up in the Peoria, Il area, according to Sister Theresa. Since he ended up in the railroad business it might be fair to assume that's what brought him there initially.
In the early 1850's the 1st RR in Illinois was being constucted. The locomotive, made in Mass, was sent by sea and then from New Orleans, up the Mississippi river, then the Illinois river to Meredosia, south of Peoria.
As pure speculation, I think he might have been involved with the shipment of RR parts, if not directly, then as an interested spectator. With this assumption, after the shipment and the first trials, he headed up river to the next big town, Peoria.
Since the will in 1862 stated he was a 'hardware dealer', he could have been trying to establish such a business. At this point he was a school teacher, with one of his pupils being his future wife. The teaching could have been to supplement the meager income of a start-up business.
Seems to me in those days, a teacher had to cover a broad range of materials to a range of different ages. Joseph apparently had these skills.
We know nothing about what he did from his marriage until the 1st railroad work in Albia, Monroe county, Iowa. Joseph A. was born there in 1878. I think it would be unlikely to assume he was a school teacher all that time and then suddenly went into the railroad construction business.
By 1878, the bulk of the initial RR construction had been done. Bridges initially hurriedly built for expediency were being replaced with more permanent structures. There also was a steady stream of small new RR lines filling in the gaps in RR coverage to smaller towns.
By 1888 the Willier's were in Springfield, MO. Shortly thereafter there was a rather severe economic downturn. It was at this point that they did RR work in Central America.
The one line they did, which we have some information was the one from Crane to Springfield in the early 1900's. Happened across an article that said the tracks of that line were taken up on elecion day in 1972.
Recently uncovered materials shows that the Willier Construction Co had been acquired by another firm. Thomas stayed on as a figurehead until his death in 1910. Since Josesph A Willier's name appears in the Denver records in 1907, the date of the acquisition would have been prior to that.
Wondered if Joseph W. Willier's death in 1905 had any relationship to the sale of the company.