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William Sidney Wilkinson


Posted By: Judy Wight Branson (email)
Date: 10/14/2005 at 22:30:19

William Sidney Wilkinson was born in Pike county, Illinois, June 26, 1837. His father, John Wilkinson, was born in Ireland in 1803, and his mother, Clarissa Matthews, was born in North Carolina in 1806. The Wilkinson and Matthews families met near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, shortly after the War of 1812. In 1824 both families removed to Pike county, Illinois, and in 1826 John Wilkinson and Clarissa Matthews were married. They remained there till 1846 when they came to Iowa and first stopped in Polk county, south of Des Moines. Early the next year they came to Madison county, and settled on a claim in section 10 in Scott township, where a family of ten children were raised to maturity. They continued to own and operate this farm till the death of Mr. Wilkinson, which occurred in 1869. The family consisted of ten children, all of whom were born in Illinois, except the two youngest. They were as follows: Alfred, Thomas, Margaret, David, W. S, John, Matilda, Daniel, A. W. and Samuel Alfred died of the cholera in St. Louis. Thomas enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was severely wounded at the battle of Guntown; partially recovered from his wounds after a term in a Confederate prison; returned home and after a time went west, where he died in 1876. Margaret became Mrs. Fleener and lived in Winterset for a number of years, but afterwards removed to Kansas, where she died a few years ago. David removed to Kansas City, where he still resides John always lived in Madison county, and died a few years ago near Webster Center. Matilda is deceased. Daniel and Samuel reside m Kansas. A. W. is possibly one of the best known members of the family and resides in Winterset.

W. S. Wilkinson was about ten years old when he came to this county, just old enough to begin to show his natural traits of character and begin to help do the chores and lighter kind of farm work. As a boy he was industrious, quiet and studious, traits of character which distinguished him in after years. He was always observant of everything around him, talked little and read everything which came in his way. He first attended the rural school, but when he grew to maturity indulged his long cherished desire for more learning by attending the select schools of Winterset taught by J. S. Goshorn and H. W. Hardy. He then engaged in teaching school and was considered one of the best rural school teachers in the county.

In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company F of the Thirty-ninth Iowa Infantry. At the battle of Parkers Crossroads he was seriously wounded; he lay in the hospital at Corinth, Mississippi, for many weeks and at times his life was despaired of, but his physical vitality and will power finally triumphed and he so far recovered as to be about. An honorable discharge offered him was refused, and after a while he was able to rejoin his regiment, where he remained till the close of the war. He took part in the Atlanta campaign, went with Sherman on the march to the sea, and made one of the number at the Grand Review in Washington at the close of the war. One of the best proofs of his courage and fidelity is the fact that all of his company and regimental comrades always speak of his bravery, in addition to his upright character and warmheartedness.

When he returned home from the war, like a large majority of his comrades, he had an ambition to engage in some useful occupation, and chose farming as his life work. On February 20, 1873, he married Miss Mary Harris, an old schoolmate. He bought a small piece of ground near the paternal home and shortly afterwards traded this for a larger tract farther south. Two boys, Frank and Fred, came to gladden the home, but Frank died while still young. Mrs. Wilkinson died in 1882. He sold the farm the following year, and after residing in Winterset a short time bought of W. R. Mattox the beautiful suburban farm near Middle river, where he resided till the time of his death. He was married to Miss Lena Schoenenberger in 1885. She died May 4, 1900. During the years between 1882 and 1885 and again from the time of his second wife's death until he himself passed away, he and his son Fred were always together and there can be no earthly relation more deserving of admiration than the love and fidelity which the father and son always manifested to one another.

During his last years Mr. Wilkinson was so afflicted with rheumatism that he was unable to do much manual labor, but these years were made enjoyable and profitable by indulging in study and meditation. Although often alone because of his affliction he was never lonesome; he was always keeping company with the men and things with which he had come in contact during his long and happy life while he studied and wrote much. No other member of the historical society did as much as he to keep the society alive and store its rooms with interesting relics and valuable records. At nearly every annual meeting he prepared a paper on some salient feature of pioneer life. These papers were always prepared with great care and were listened to with unusual interest. These papers were all composed for the purpose of preserving the facts relating to the early history of the county. He always gladly entered upon this work whenever assigned to him by the officers of the society, and it is doubtful if there has been another stricken with an incurable malady, from the effects of which he died June 4, 1914.

Taken from the book, “The History of Madison County, Iowa, 1915,” by Herman Mueller.


Madison Biographies maintained by Kent Transier.
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