Richland County

Biography - Edward S. Wilson

It will invariably be found, if an examination be made into the life records of self-made men, that untiring industry forms the basis of their success. It is true that many other elements enter in, such as fortitude, perseverance, keen discernment and honesty of purpose, which enables one to recognize business opportunities, but the foundation of all worthy achievements in earnest, persistent labor. The gentlemen whose name forms the caption of this article recognized this fact early in life and did not seek to gain any short or magical method to the goal of prosperity. On the contrary, he began to work earnestly and diligently in order to advance himself along laudable lines and from a humble beginning he has become one of the prominent men of the great Prairie state. As a lawyer, Hon. Edward S. Wilson had few equals in Southern Illinois for upwards of half a century. He was for years a leading member of the bar in Olney and is one of the old and highly esteemed citizens of this place, now living in quiet retirement, enjoying the respite due a long and strenuous career. Finding him in a retrospective and reminiscent mood we quote from an interview with this distinguished character as follows:

"My grandfather, James Wilson, migrated from Hardy county, Virginia, to South Bend, Indiana, in the year 1813, and the next year removed to Palestine, Crawford county, Illinois, bringing with him a numerous family of sons and daughters, among them my father, Isaac N. Wilson, who was born July 21, 1804. On October 13, 1829, he married Hannah H. Decken, who was born December 13, 1810, at the town of Vincennes, Indiana, to which place her father moved from Romney, Virginia, in 1808 or 1809, from whence he soon moved to a farm three miles north of Palestine. There were nine boys and two daughters born to my father and mother. Three of us still survive. I was born June 25, 1839. I was educated in the common schools of Palestine, and was always of a reading rather than of a studious disposition. Any book of history or romance could attract my attention from more serious study. So my mind is a hotch-potch of useless lumber. I know a great amount of worthless things and nothing well.

"I can distinctly remember the pioneer days of Illinois when the flax and cotton with which we were largely clothed were raised by the farmers of Crawford county, which were spun and woven by the mothers and daughters of the farmers who were entirely from the Southern States, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. The wheels of the wagons consisted of sections sawn off a log, usually a sycamore. Oxen were more common than horses.

"The principal amusements in those days were bear basting, horse racing, and last, but not least, fist fighting. Residents of the county would gather at Palestine every Saturday and most of them would fill up on old Monongahela whisky and by noon the fighting would begin. I have seen sixty fights in progress at one time. When the fight was over, there was no malice nor desire for revenge, and the victor was the best man until at a later date the fight could be repeated, if the conquered was not satisfied, when frequently the outcome was reversed. I was eighteen years of age before I saw a railroad or a train of cars.

"When about eighteen years old I began the study of law in the office of James C. Allen, of Palestine, then a member of Congress from the Tenth District from Illinois. I was admitted to the bar in 1861, and commenced the practice of law at Robinson, Crawford county, Illinois. In 1864, I remove to Olney, Richland county, where I still reside. I practiced in the courts of this and adjoining counties until 1890, at which time I was nominated by the Democratic party for State Treasurer and was elected to that office. For many years my hearing had been defective and it grew worse, and after retiring from the office of State Treasurer I never resumed practice on account of my hearing. Since that time I have lived the life of a farmer and man of leisure, reading much, but only for entertainment. I have pursued no settled line, but have read everything from theology to the flimsiest romance, but I have spent more time on history than any other line and would be a good historian if I had been a student instead of a mere reader.

"On June 17, 1867, I married Ann C. Rowland, daughter of Townsend and Eliza S. Rowland, of Olney, Illinois. To us have been born four sons, three living, and one daughter, who died leaving one son. One son died in infancy. My wife is still living, and divides with me the burden of reading all the latest works, historical and fiction."

Agriculture, horticulture and stock raising have occupied Mr. Wilson's attention of late years. He owns about one thousand acres of valuable land in Richland county, a part of which is devoted to the propagation of fruit for commercial purposes. Part of the farm is in the city limits of Olney where he has a modern and commodious residence, surround by beautiful grounds, extensive and carefully kept. His home is one of the most pretentious in the county. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are widely known for their hospitality and their home is often the gathering place for their numerous friends and admirers where good cheer is always to be found. For a number of years Mr. Wilson paid considerable attention to the breeding of Clydesdale horses and Shetland ponies, and he produced some fine specimens, which were prize winners at state fairs. The subject was largely instrumental in securing the state fair for Olney for two years, 1887 and 1888. Mr. Wilson is the founder and principal stockholder of the ice plant at Olney, where large quantities of artificial ice are manufactured in connection with a cold storage packing industry, etc.

Mr. Wilson has always been a staunch Democrat and active politically. He has always been interested in whatever tended to promote the interests of his city and county. For twenty years he was Master in Chancery. Because of his public-spirit, his honesty of purpose, genuine worth and congenial disposition, no man is better or more favorably known in Southern Illinois than he.

Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 167-169.

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