Wyllys Silliman was born on October 8, 1777, in Stratford, Connecticut. As a student, he studied law and eventually opened up a legal practice in the Northwest Territory. He married in 1802 in Washington County, Ohio. Respected for his legal knowledge, the Ohio legislature named Silliman one of the original justices of the District Court of Ohio in 1803. Silliman ran for one of Ohio's United States Senate seats in 1826. He was a strong supporter of internal improvements and of President John Quincy Adams. Many Ohioans concurred with Silliman's views, but some of these people disliked Silliman for his pretentious nature. Some Ohioans believed that Silliman, who grew up on the East Coast, viewed his fellow Ohioans as being less gentile than himself. Silliman lost his bid for the Senate to the incumbent Benjamin Ruggles. During the 1830s, Silliman practiced law in Cleveland, before moving to Zanesville. He died in Zanesville on November 13, 1842.