"This once slave [William Sill's father] but now freeman was Levin Steel--afterwards changed to Still the better to escape identity by Southern claimants and pursuers of his family. Being free he could not breathe an air tainted by slavery, nor brook the surroundings of bondage. So, severing the sacred ties of family, bidding good bye to his wife, Cidney, and the four children she had borne him--two boys and two girls--and trusting under God to a future which should be brighter for himself and loved ones than the past, he started North and located in the neighborhood of Greenwich, New Jersey."
William's mother escaped and joined her husband, but was captured and returned to slavery. She escaped a second time, leaving the boys behind with her mother and taking the girls with her. William, born 7 October 1821, was the youngest of 18 children.