HON. SILAS WILSON, Atlantic, Iowa, well deserves mention in this volume as a type of those who, notwithstanding adverse circumstances, make their way in this world, and by virtue of their strong character and earnest determination, win success and honors from their fellow men. He is a native of West Virginia, born in Marshall county, May 16, 1846.
His father, Samuel Wilson, was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1803, and very early in life removed to St. Clairsville, Belmont county, Ohio, where he grew to manhood and learned the trade of carpenter, which occupation he followed the greater part of his life in connection with farming. His father, the grandfather of our subject, is supposed to have been a native of Scotland, who emigrated to this country shortly after the close of the Revolutionary war and settled in Pennsylvania, where his death subsequently occurred. Samuel Wilson married Charlotte McTyra, a native of Ohio, born about 1806, and supposed to be of English descent. They were the parents of twelve children, ten of whom grew to maturity. The father died at the age of eighty-four years, and the mother when eighty-six years old.
The subject of this sketch was the eleventh child in the family of twelve children, and grew to manhood in his native State, receiving but a limited education in the common schools. West Virginia, then a part of Virginia, was a slave State, and those not possessed of wealth and the owner of slaves had no social position; so it can be conceived that the boyhood and youth of our subject was not one of roses without the thorns. Like his father, he had to work for a living. But a change was rapidly approaching. The dark war-clouds that had been hovering over the country had broken and the states were in deadly conflict. When the first blow was struck, our subject was yet under fifteen years of age -- too young to enlist. That part of Virginia, now West Virginia, was loyal to the Union, and the patriotic heart of young Wilson was stirred within him. In August, 1862, when barely sixteen years of age, he enlisted as a private in Company A., Seventh West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, and, with his regiment, was actively engaged until nearly the close of the war, participating in a number of engagements. At the battle of Hatcher's Run he was struck by a minie ball, which passed through his right ankle. He was at once carried from the field to an improvised hospital in the Baptist church in the neighborhood, and subsequently removed to the hospital at Alexandria, and in March, 1865, to Grafton hospital, West Virginia, where he remained until July, of that year, when he was mustered out and honorably discharged.
Returning home Mr. Wilson remained there until September following, when he removed to Washington county, Iowa, where he worked on a farm by the month for a year and a half, and then, in the spring of 1867, he went to Madison county, Iowa, locating at Patterson, where he purchased four acres of land and engaged in the nursery business. He had no previous experience in this line, but he determined to master it, and the success which has since followed justifies his choice of business. He remained at Patterson until the spring of 1871, when he sold out and came to Atlantic and purchased land, which he set out in nursery stock. From time to time he increased his possessions until he has at the present time a nursery of 200 acres. He has made the business a study since he embarked in it and is to-day one of the best posted men in his line and is [an] authority upon horticultural matters. In June, 1885, he was elected president of the American Association of Nurserymen at Indianapolis, Indiana. He was president and treasurer of the Iowa State Horticultural Society for four years.
In politics, Mr. Wilson is a Republican, with which party he has acted during his entire life. He was elected by that party a member of the Twenty-first, Twenty-second and Twenty-third General Assemblies, representing Cass county. He was proffered the nomination for the fourth time, but refused to accept the nomination.
In 1875, Mr. Wilson was united in marriage with Miss Edna Aylesworth, a native of Lake county, Illinois. They have two sons, Alfred and Willie H. Fraternally, Mr. Wilson is a member of General Sam Rice Post, No. 6, G. A. R. Religiously he is a member of the United Presbyterian Church and is a member of the Session. In all church and benevolent work he is greatly interested and contributes much of his time and means for the building up of the Lord's cause and the amelioration of the human race.
From A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa, Volume I, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1896, pp. 112-113. Transcribed July, 2015 by Cheryl Siebrass.