George W. & F. M. Wilson
Biography

From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois; pages 619-623, printed by Stevens Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
  George W. and F. M. Wilson are among the few men in Brown county who own and occupy the same farm on which they were born and on which they have resided continuously since childhood. Their grandfather, Savile Wilson, was born in Egg Harbor city, New Jersey, in 1770, of English parents. He was a farmer by occupation, owning several hundred acres of choice agricultural land. He made a specialty of dairying, having several hundred milk cows, and made cheese and butter, which he marketed in New York city and Philadelphia. He was engaged extensively in truck farming and poultry raising. In 1790, he married Susan Carver, and they had seven children, four sons and three daughters. On the outbreak of the war of 1812, he enlisted in a New York regiment, and participated in most of the great battles. He was in the battle of Bladensburg and saw Washington city burned. In 1817, he emigrated to Ohio, settling near Cincinnati, where he engaged in farming. His entire family, some of whom were married and had children of their own, emigrated with him. In 1825, he removed farther westward, settling near Indianapolis, Indiana. Here he bought 640 acres of wild land, from which he and his sons proceeded to clear the timber, preparatory to its cultivation. One would have thought that a man who had passed the meridian of life, and who had borne the hardships and privations of two settlements in the wilderness, would be content to remain where he was, but such was not the case. Indeed, a desire for change increased with the gratification of a naturally adventurous and roving disposition. Consequently, we again find him, in 1836, turning his steps toward the setting sun. This time he removed to Illinois, settling in Adams county, where he bought twelve sections of land, some of which now lies within the limits of the city of Quincy. In this same year, shortly after their arrival in the Prairie State, the devoted wife and mother was called to her reward, leaving a break in the family which time could never repair. As if the severance of those tender ties was too severe a blow to be endured, the husband and father also expired, two years afterward, in 1838. They wee aptly mated, both being persons of intelligence, activity and great perseverance, which contributed to their marked success in life. Mr. Wilson's influence and strong sense of justice retained his family around him until his death, many of his children having families of their own. The interests of these were consolidated, their land and agricultural interests being held in partnership, and all accomplished with the utmost satisfaction and good will. His forethought and perseverance were remarkable, and seldom failed to carry him forward to success. As witness of this, we append an incident, showing with what care the last removal of the family to Illinois was contemplated and brought to a happy consummation: Previous to disposing of his farm in Indiana, which in itself was contrary to the time-honored custom, of leaping first and looking afterward, he and his eldest son, John S. Wilson, went all over the proposed route to the "West," as Illinois and Missouri were then called, traveling through the Prairie State to St. Louis, thence to Fort Scott and Fort Leavenworth, at that time the extreme western part of Missouri. At the latter place they rested a few days, after covering this long stretch of territory on horseback, and then resumed their journey homeward, returning by way of Iowa and central Illinois. This was, indeed, an undertaking in those days, the magnitude of which cannot be correctly estimated in these times of rapid and comfortable transit. Their way led over lonely distances, the silence of which was, at time, oppressive, many days sometimes elapsing without disclosing to view a single habitation or the face of a white man. All glory be to those who went before and blazed the path for others to follow!
  Reuben Wilson, father of the subjects of this sketch, was born in New Jersey in 1790. The schools in that State were then but primitive affairs, but his quick perception and inherited judgment stood him in good stead, and he imbibed a fair amount of knowledge of books. He married Sarah Spencer, a bright, active girl, whose parents were German. His father, some time later, becoming inspired with his customary desire for travel, Reuben accompanied him to Ohio, afterward to Indiana, and finally to Illinois. He at first settled in Adams county, the latter State, whence he removed to years later, to Brown county, locating on the west half of section 32, township 1 south, 3 west. Reuben Wilson was thus a pioneer in three different States, and was well acquainted with the hardships and privation incidental to settling a wild new country. He was always a champion of education, and especially favored free public schools. He was one of three or four men, who built the first school house in district No. 1 township 1 south 3, west, which served for school purposes for twenty years. It was christened White Oak College, from the white oak logs used in its construction, and that name still clings to the large frame house, which took its place years afterward. He was a devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which he had belonged from his twentieth year; and he helped organize the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Brown county, his residence often serving for the public meeting house. This good and greatly esteemed man was called from this life in 1855, leaving a stricken family and many friends to mourn his loss. His worthy wife, Sarah, the companion of his youth and sharer of his hardships, survived him many years, expiring in 1873. They had ten children, seven sons and three daughters, all but the two, whose names head this biography having passed away. Following are their names:
  James {John} S., born in New Jersey, May 15, 1817, came to Brown county, where he died April 22, 1885; he married Elizabeth Adams, in 1845, who was born March 14, 1827, and died June 13, 1892; they had six children, three sons and three daughters, all now living in Brown county.
  Savile Wilson, born in New Jersey, came to Brown county, married Mary McDaniel, in 1845; he emigrated to Texas in 1853, and his wife died in Shreveport, Louisiana, with the cholera, on the way to their destination; he settled near Gainesville, Cooke county, where he died in 1889; his children consisted of four sons and two daughters, all but two now dead.
  Reuben J., born in Ohio, came with his parents to Brown county, where he died in 1860; he married Lucinda Marden in 1846, who died in 1889; they had three daughters and one son.
  Jesse J., born in Ohio, died in Brown county, in 1877, unmarried.
  Susan, born in Indiana, married Silas Campbell in 1868, and died in 1878; they had three daughters, two of whom survive.
  Hester, born in Indiana, married Dr. T. J. Norvell, and died in 1885.
  James M., born in Indiana, died in 1847, in boyhood.
  Sarah Ann, born in Adams county, Illinois, married Arthur Newenhan, in 1872; she died in Missouri, in 1879; they had two sons, one of whom is now living.
  George W. Wilson, senior partner of Wilson & Brother, was born January 19, 1837, on the west half of section 32, township 1 south, 3 west, Brown county, Illinois, where he has resided continuously ever since. He was educated in the country schools, which were crude at that time, attending usually for three months during the winter. He soon learned that it was a virtue to be industrious. The chief occupations were: cultivating and harvesting the various crops; attending and feeding stock; clearing off new land; splitting rails and building fence. There was ample recreation in the hunting of wild game, with which the prairies and woods on the streams abounded, especially wild turkey and smaller game, such as squirrels, quails, etc., affording great sport in shooting and trapping.
  When twelve years of age, he and his younger brother, F. M. Wilson, built a small pen out of fence rails covering it with the same, and made a trap door, which they set for turkey. They caught ten at one time, besides one or two on various other occasions.
  He was never married. He was never identified with any church, although a strictly moral and upright man. He experienced a great affliction in 1855, when his father died, leaving him and F. M. Wilson, the youngest of the family, and their mother, alone, the older members being married and having homes of their own. Such had been their training, however, that they successfully carried on the farm as usual. It was this trying ordeal, sharing a common sorrow through the long and lonesome days, as they went about their daily tasks, that laid the foundation for the partnership which has survived for more than a generation. In 1880, they, in company with William Eckler and Manville Larkin, took a trip out West, to look for a more favorable location. After visiting Missouri, Kansas and other portions of the West, they concluded Illinois was the best place, and accordingly commenced life in earnest.
  In 1865, they formed a partnership in sawmilling, of which the members were, Jesse J., George W. and F. M. Wilson, the firm name being Wilson & Brother. They continued successfully in the lumber business for eight years, sawing large quantities, which they shipped to Turner, Jacksonville and other places, besides supplying a large home trade, and in the meantime they were also farming. In the spring of 1866 and 1867, they set out a large orchard of apple trees, covering 120 acres, which, after a great expense, proved a failure, the winter of 1875 killing the trees, so they had to be cut down.
  In 1873, they were called upon to mourn the loss of their devoted mother, who went to her reward after a life of the purest unselfishness and entire subservience to the happiness of her children. She was widely known in her community, and was sincerely mourned by a large circle of friends.
  In 1877, Jesse J. Wilson died, and the business was continued by the two brothers, who, for several years past, having carried on general farming and stock raising. At the present time they have a feed mill, where they grind all the grain for their stock; and they have also a small sawmill, which they operate principally for their own use.
  F. M. Wilson was born March 3, 1839, in Brown county, on the west half of section 32, township 1 south, 3 west; and has resided continuously on the same farm ever since. He was known as a quiet, unassuming boy, ever ready to stand for the right and condemn the wrong, which characteristic is equally marked in him as a man. He never belonged to any church, but is an upright man, accepting for his guide the greatest of rules, that "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye also even unto them." He was a member of the Grange until that lodge was discontinued. He belongs to the Farmers' Alliance, is president of the Board, and has been School Director for twenty years, which position he still holds.
  He has been twice married; first, in 1862, to Martha Carpenter, who died the following year. In 1866, he married Minerva J. Richey, who died in 1874, leaving two children to his care, a son and daughter, who are living at home with him.
  Mr. Wilson was educated in the common schools of his vicinity, then called subscription schools, which he attended for three months each winter. The term "Subscription" arose in consequence of each parent signing a paper, which assured a teacher a certain number of scholars, the tuition being usual $2 for each child for a term of sixty days, including the teacher's board, who lived around for equal lengths of time among the various families. The school houses were crude, being built of logs, usually sixteen feet square, with a stove in the center. The furniture corresponded with the appearance of the house, the seats being made of slabs, a slab being the first piece sawed from a log. These were supported by wooden pins, inserted in auger holes bored in the bark side. These seats were placed around the stove, usually about two feet apart. For writing desks a plank was fastened to the walls, all around the room. Thus in this room would be crowded probably forty pupils, of ages ranging from five to twenty years. The studies were necessarily crude, nothing being attempted but the rudiments of reading, writing and ciphering, often denominated the "three Rs." However, on the foundation thus attained many built well, and afterward took their place in the world as useful members of society.
  The Messrs. Wilson have witnessed the improvements extending over a period of half a century, many of which are interesting for a later generation to note. The first plowing was done with a wooden plow, furnished with an iron share. A complete revolution has been made in agricultural implements and methods within their lifetime. One of them still bears the scars on his hands, which were made by a reaping hook, in his first efforts at harvesting wheat. After this came the cradle, which superseded the reaping hook; later the horse power machines, the grain being cut by horse power, after which it was raked from the platform and made into bundles by hand. Subsequently to this came the self-raking reaper, which was a great saving of labor entailed in hand raking. After this, the self-binder; first with wire, then with twine, and bunching the sheaves together ready for shocking. But, there have been more improvements, if possible, in threshing and cleaning the grain. First, the flail and tramping floor were used, the modus operandi being as follows: A circle of sheaves, five or six feet wide and ten or twelve paces in diameter, over which four or six horses would tramp, until the grain was out. Then the straw was separated from the chaff and wheat, after which the wheat was run through a fanning mill, to clean the grain. Fanning mills were at first few in number; men often hauled their wheat and chaff five or six miles in order to get it cleaned; often paying as much to get their wheat fanned as it now costs to have it threshed. The first threshing machines were composed of a cylinder, operated by a belt, which threshed the grain, but did not separate it from the straw, which was afterward accomplished by hand. The next improvement made, was a separator which, as the name implied, separated the straw from the wheat and chaff, after which the wheat had to be fanned free from the chaff. The cleaners were then used, which cleaned the grain as it was threshed.
  One would naturally suppose that labor saving devices would have been readily adopted, but such was not the case. There were men who opposed every advance that was made. They clung tenaciously to the reap hook, after they could have a cradle; others would still use the cradle when they could have a horse power machine; and, in credible as it may seem, there were binders destroyed in Brown county during the first year of their use, by the professional harvest hands, who said they could get no work to do.

See bio of nephews,
James M., Benjamin R., and William B. Wilson




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