JOHN WILSON, one of the oldest settlers of the town of Fenner, was born in the city of Utica, July 7, 1816. The family is of English origin. The grand-father, Thomas Wilson, a native of Northumberland, England, emigrated to this country
in 1798. He was a wheelwright by trade, and went to the town of Fenner from Utica, making the journey on foot and carrying his kit of tools. This part of Madison County was what might well be termed a howling wilderness; for wolves, bears, panthers, and the dismal owl made night hideous for the lonesome settler who made his home here. Thomas Wilson bought one hundred and twenty-two acres of land at an auction sale of one Peter Smith. He paid seven dollars and ten cents per acre for a forest that had never heard the sound of an axe. But he set manfully to work, and cleared the land and built his log cabin. The nearest place to get his flour and meal was at Whitesboro; and it was literally
"Five miles to meeting, forty miles to mill,
Horsebacked the grist and travelled with a will."
These pioneers who bivouacked in the forest were indeed a "royal breed of tramps"; but they were working ones, and stout-hearted men, who never quailed before the growl of the bear or the tomahawk of the Indian. The grandfather lived on this farm, dying at the age of eighty-three years. His wife Elizabeth survived him a few years, and died at the age of eighty-eight. They had seven children, who were: Thomas, Edward, Robert, William; Mary, who grew to maturity; and Elizabeth and Laura, who died young. Mr. Wilson was a prominent man in the community. He and family were members of the Episcopal church.
The parents of our subject were Thomas and Mary Ann (Evans) Wilson. Thomas Wilson, Jr., was but fifteen years of age when he came to America with his father, above mentioned. He learned the carpenter and joiner's trade, following it through life. He was an artist in his line, and many buildings still remain in the vicinity and town of Fenner that show his skill as an expert finisher in his style of work. Mr. Wilson was twice married. He died in the town of Fenner, at
the age of sixty-nine. He was a Democrat in politics, and an Episcopalian in his religious belief. He had a family of five children, of whom two are living: George W., who resides in Onondaga County; and John, the subject of this sketch. Those who died were: Thomas, aged thirty-six; Robert, forty-five; and Mary, Mrs. C. F. Crossman, who died in Rochester.
John Wilson was brought up in Madison County, going to the town of Fenner when but ten years of age. He lived with his uncle, Edward Wilson, until the age of twenty-nine. He married Miss Jane Ann Hyatt in 1845. (For history of her family see sketch of Smith K. Hyatt.) After marriage he bought a part of his grandfather Wilson's farm of forty-eight acres, and still owns the tract. On this farm he raises grain of all kinds, and has a fine variety of stock. He has a beautiful home and first-class farm buildings. His wife died in 1881, at the age of fifty-nine years, leaving him indeed alone; for no children were born to their marriage. He still resides on the old farm.
Various offices in the gift of the Democrats, of which party he is a stanch
supporter, have been held by Mr. Wilson, among others that of Justice of the Peace for several terms. He is a member of the Baptist church, and is a prominent and thoroughly respected gentleman of the town of Fenner. Age has touched him but slightly, and he is as agile and vivacious to-day as in his youth. He is a great reader, and keeps abreast with the times in literature and civil affairs; and his wonderful memory makes him a delightful conversationalist, especially when he tells of the early struggles and adventures of his boyhood days. He remembers distinctly having met General Lafayette when he himself was but eight years of age, and carries .the shuddering recollection of having seen the celebrated criminal, Abram Antone, on the day he was captured, in 1823. By the labor and thrift of his hands he has accumulated a nice fortune, and is able to
spend the evening of his days in comfort and prosperity.
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