From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and
Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing
Company, Chicago, Illinois; pages 293-294, a reprinted by
Stevens Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler
County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
Thomas Wilson, President of the Schuyler County Bank, and a leading
financier and business man of Rushville, Illinois, was born near Five-Mile
Town, in county Tyrone, Ireland, in March, 1812. Both his grandfather,
Thomas, and father Thomas, were natives of the same county. They were
of well-known and esteemed Scotch ancestry, who were sturdy, rugged farmers,
and passed their entire lives in their native land. His father was
reared to manhood in his native county, were he married Jane Greer, also
a native of the Emerald Isle. They resided in Ireland until 1843, when
they commenced the long journey to America. Unfortunately the wife
and mother died in England while en route, leaving six children and a bereaved
husband. These children were: William, Thomas, Joseph, George, Jane
and Robert, all of whom came to America, except George, and located in Illinois.
The father settled first in Schuyler county, Illinois, where he remained
four years, after which he removed to Hancock county, locating near Nauvoo,
where he resided until death. He was an intelligent, pious, good man,
and was greatly esteemed by all who knew him.
The subject of this sketch was reared and educated in Ireland, where
he continued to live until 1832, when at the age of twenty years, he emigrated
to America, sailing from Derry in the sail vessel William Ewing. He
landed in Philadelphia after a tempestuous voyage of seven weeks, a stranger
in a strange land. He found employment in the City of Brotherly Love,
at the weaving trade, and continued to operate a loom until the fall of the
year of his arrival. He then removed to Lancaster county, that State,
where he obtained employment on the farm of his uncle, James Little.
He continued there until 1834, when he removed to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania,
securing employment on a farm near that city. Three years latter he
went to Illinois, going via the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers, to
Rushville, Schuyler county. At that early period the country was sparsely
settled, and some of the land was still owned by the Government. Rude
log houses dotted the country. At that time Rushville was an insignificant
village, with nothing like its present pretentious appearance. Mr.
Wilson immediately engaged in merchandising in a small way, buying his goods
in St. Louis and transporting them by way of the river in summer an by wagon
in winter. His business gradually increased until he became, in time,
a prominent merchant of the town. Since 1872 he has been interested
in banking, and upon the organization of the Schuyler County Bank he was
elected its president, bringing to this position unusual financial ability
and extended experience.
He was married September 18, 1834, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania,
to Miss Susan Clark, an estimable lady, a native of Lancaster county, that
State, and a daughter of John and Eleanor (Greer) Clark. They have
three children: Anne Jane, wife of James P. Clark; John; and Lorinda, wife
of John T. Sweeney. Eleanor and Sarah Elisa are deceased. Eleanor
died in December, 1860, after finishing her education at Monticello in 1857;
and Sarah died in February, 1883, leaving three children; she was the wife
of Hiram Graff.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are earnest and useful members of the Methodist
Church, and are prohibitionists in principle. They are worthy people,
and enjoy the esteem of the entire community.
From: "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois Illustrated 1908, edited by Newton
Bateman, LL. D. and Paul Selby, A. M., Volume II, Schuyler County", edited
by Howard F. Dyson, pages 971-2, a Reprinted by Stevens Publishing Company,
Astoria, Illinois 61501, 1970, is sold by the Schulyer County Historical
Society, Rushville, Illinois.
Wilson, Thomas (deceased) - No personality which invaded the infant
community of Rushville in the later 'thirties erected a more enduring monument
to foresight and business sagacity than did that of Thomas Wilson, farmer,
merchant, banker, churchman, and all-around promoter of stable community
conditions. Fro seventy years, the firm of Wilson & Company has
been a central and compelling necessity around which has gathered in turn,
all of the commercial and industrial enterprises, and nearly all of the residences
which comprises the town of Rushville, and it is not known that any other
business concern in Schuyler County has had so long and continuous a tenure
of activity. One reads in its changing fortunes practically the entire
history of the settlement. Its first modest housing, its few commodities,
its subsequent enlargement and its present prosperity, are all landmarks
unerringly pointing to the law of demand and supply which controls business
interests the world over. The oldest living settlers never heard of
a more jolly meeting place than this old store of other days; no larger crowds
gathered anywhere, outside the church, than used to settle upon it cracker
boxes and barrels and counters, to warm themselves at the ruddy stove and
settle, after vigorous and sometimes physical persuasion, the weighty questions
of local or national import. Mr. Wilson himself was the presiding genius
of the establishment for more than half a century, and carefully guarded
its growing importance from 1837 until his lamented death, in 1898.
Thomas Wilson was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1812, and in
the same county were born his parents, Thomas and Jane (Greer) Wilson, whose
marriage was solemnized in 1801. Thomas Wilson, Sr., was born in 1768,
and to him is due the distinction of being one of the first in that part
of Ireland to unite with the Methodist Church. His task pf promoting
that faith was not an easy one, for there was much opposition in the conservative
neighborhood. Mr. Wilson was a farmer by occupation and , according
to the standard of wealth prevailing in the community, was in fairly prosperous
circumstances. His son and namesake was reared also to farming, but
early felt the limitations by which he was surrounded, and which, seemingly,
had satisfied the ambition of his father. At the age of twenty, he
took a decided stand in regard to his future, left all that he held dear
behind him, and came in a sailing-vessel to America, reaching Philadelphia
in the fall of 1832, after a tempestuous voyage of seven weeks. After
a brief sojourn in Philadelphia he went to Lancaster County, Pa., then to
Allegheny County, in both of which places he worked as a farm hand and saved
a little money. Later making his way to Pittsburg, he found various
kinds of employment, and there married, on September 18, 1834, Susan Clarke,
daughter of John Clarke, with whom he continued to live in that city until
1837, when, during the summer of that year, he brought his wife overland
in a wagon to Schuyler County, Ill., and at once established the business
with which his name ever since has been connected. He has a hard, uphill
fight at first, but he was a shrewd buyer, a keen observer of the trend of
affairs, and an instinctive judge of human nature. What drew him to
this locality is a matter of conjecture only, but he seems never to have
hesitated in his plans or, at any time in his career, to have regretted his
course. He drew the horoscope of the locality with great foresight,
and the community may he said to have lived up to his expectations.
His business places on a secure footing, he sent to the old county for his
father, mother and other members of his family, but the mother sickened and
died on the journey, and the reunion of which he so long had dreamed was
therefore incomplete. The father made his home with his children in
the county, and, at the time of his death in December, 1854, was living with
his son, Joseph, then a farmer in Hancock County, Ill.
By 1870, the fortunes of Mr. Wilson had assumed such substantial proportions
that, recognizing the need of a conservative banking establishment, in conjunction
with James G. McGreery, he established the Farmers and Merchants Bank of
Rushville, which continued until 1874, when the business was closed and all
accounts paid in full. When the Bank of Schuyler County was established
in 1890, Mr. Wilson became one of the largest stock-holders and first President,
serving until his death in 1898.
While merchandising and banking consumed the business energy of Mr.
Wilson, he was no less active and influential in church and social matters.
He was one of the pillars of the Methodist Church, was a constant attendant
and contributed generously of his means to advancement of church interests.
He was a generous and public-spirited citizen, and many who were once downcast
and discouraged owe their start in life to his sympathy and practical assistance.
His home was one of the hospitable places in the county, and the friends
who visited it and partook of the bounty of the merchant and his whole-souled
wife, were legion. Having sufficient of this world’s goods, no one
ever went from his door empty handed. There were few local enterprises
of a worthy nature which did not, in some way, profit by his connection,
and the names of those he helped in his capacity as a merchant are unnumbered.
He was liberal with his credit, and lenient with belated debtors, and his
patrons, who were temporarily in hard luck, were sure of at least the necessities
The three children now living of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are: Anna Jane,
the wife of James P. Clark, a retired merchant of Springfield; John C., who
is a large land-owner and lives on a farm adjoining Rushville on the east;
and Amelia, the wife of John L. Sweeney, present owner of the dry-goods establishment
founded by Mr. Wilson in 1837, and which is still operated under the firm
name of Wilson & Company. Eleanor, a gifted and beautiful daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, after completing her education at Monticello Female
Seminary, at Godfrey, Ill., returned to her home, was taken ill with a baffling
disease, and died at the early age of twenty-two. She had been the
joy and sunshine of the household, a student of the highest standing at Monticello,
and was greatly beloved for his gentleness of disposition and sweetness of
character. Sarah E. the decease wife of H. B. Graff, passed away in
1883, leaving a family of four children, two of whom are now living: Wilbur
W., a mining engineer, of Ishpeming, Mich., and John C., a partner of Graff
& Co., Grain Merchants at Rushville, Ill.
Of this pioneer merchant of Rushville, too much cannot be said in
recognition of his noble and generous character, or of the incalculable benefit
to humanity and the community conferred by his life and work. Sufficient
that he left a fragrant and helpful memory, and that his name is enshrined
among the real workers and the true men of the city of Rushville.