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William R. Wilson


Posted By: Ruth McDowell (email)
Date: 5/7/2010 at 17:47:26

From "History of Union County, Iowa - From the Earliest Historic Times to 1908" by George A. Ide, pp. 428-434.

The Grand Prairie stock farm, of which William R. Wilson is proprietor, is one of the valuable properties in Sand Creek township and the business which is there carried on annually is represented by a large figure. The owner is a progressive, wide-awake man, who carefully manages his business affairs and through well directed labor has reached his present gratifying success. His place is pleasantly located on section 17, Sand Creek township, and is equipped with all of the accessories and conveniences of a model farm of the twentieth century. Here Mr. Wilson has lived since 1870, taking up his abode in the county on the 28th of August of that year.

He is a native of North Carolina, his birth having occurred in Ash county, amid the picturesque scenery furnished by the Blue Ridge mountains. His natal day was February 19, 1840. His father, Eli Wilson, was a native of West Virginia but was married in North Carolina to Miss Charity Hardin, who was born in that state. Eli Wilson followed the occupation of farming as a life work and remained a resident of the south until 1851, when he removed westward to Indiana, settling in Lawrence county, where he followed farming. For some time he conducted the county poor farm. The year 1856 witnessed his removal to Stark county, Illinois, and he made his home at Toulon until 1867. He then came to Union county, Iowa, settling in Afton.

William R. Wilson, of this review, was the second in order of birth in a family of nine children,who reached adult age. He was reared in Illinois and is largely self-educated as well as self-made man. Early in life heavy responsibilities devolved upon him. It was necessary that he become the manager of the home farm, which he carried on until after he had reached his majority.

As a companion and helpmate for life's journey Mr. Wilson chose Miss Lois Sweet, whom he wedded on the 23d of September, 1860. She was a native of New York, but was reared in Illinois, to which state she went in 1840 with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Sweet. Her father was a soldier of the war of 1812. After his marriage Mr. Wilson rented land and engaged in farming and in raising and feeding stock in Illinois until his removal to Iowa in 1870. His identification with the business interests of Union county began with the purchase of one hundred and sixty acres of land to which he afterward added a tract of eighty acres. He has since, however, sold ten acres of this to the town site of Arispe. After coming to this county he at once began farming and his labors were soon manifest in the excellent appearance of his place. He built a story and a half house, sixteen by twenty-four feet, which he has since converted into a two-story structure and has greatly enlarged, making it one of the finest homes of the county. It was rebuilt in the fall of 1906. He has also a large barn and other substantial outbuildings, planted a grove, set out an orchard and made the farm attractive in appearance by the many improvements which he placed upon it. The nature of his business is plainly indicated by the name of his place - the Grand Prairie stock farm. He began raising stock here with full blooded shorthorn cattle, having one of the first herds in the county, each animal being registered. Since 1894 he has also engaged in raising Percheron horses and had the first imported stallion in the county. He now has two stallions on his farm and is raising several. In fact he raises from six to eight each year, handling only full blooded stock. His stock-raising interests have been the principal branch of his business and he is largely regarded as authority on matters connected with its development and activity. Aside from his farming and stock-raising intertests Mr. Wilson is identified with financial affairs as a director in the Citizens bank of Afton.

Unto Mr.and Mrs. Wilson have been born seven children, three sons and four daughters, but Walter died in 1895, at the age of twenty-one years, while William died at the age of eight months. Mary, who died in 1903, at the age of forty-four years, was the wife of Samuel Nichols, a resident farmer of Alberta, Canada. Ida is the wife of James D. Berry, a farmer of Sand Creek township. Cynthia married Frank Wilson and lives upon part of old home place. Almira J. is the wife of Edward Cox, now deceased. George R. married Elizabeth Davis and lives upon the old homestead.

In his fraternal relations Mr. Wilson is a Mason, belonging to the blue lodge at Afton. He is also connected with the Evangelical church, his mermbership being with Bethel, and he has served on its official board. He was reared in the faith of the democracy but later became a populist and is now independent of party ties. He served for several years as justice of the peace and his decisions are strictly fair and impartial. He was also road supervisor for several terms and school director for a number of years. Any interest that he believes will benefit the community receives his endorsement and cooperation and his aid is always counted upon to further progressive measures. He is one of the best known men in southwestern Iowa and the regard in which he is uniformly held is indicated by the fact that he is widely spoken of as Uncle Billy - a term which at once expresses confidence and friendship. Since the incorporation of the village of Arispe his residence has been within the town limits and the Grand Prairie stock farm adjoins the village. It is today one of the best improved properties in this part of the state and is the tangible evidence of a life in which energy and laudable ambitions have been the directing force.


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