by David Johnson
If the death certificate filed upon Charles’ death in 1910 is correct, he was born on 13 August 1831 in Louisville, St. Lawrence county, New York. His father was John Wilder Wilson yet his mother’s name is listed as unknown. He may well be the oldest child, or even the only child, from John Wilder’s first marriage. (The preceding profile explains the reasons for my belief that John W. was twice married.) By 1850 Charles Wilson was already living away from home. The federal census of that year lists him with the household of an innkeeper Charles Willard of Louisville. Remember, it was not at all unusual for teenagers to be working and residing outside of the home at this time. Ten years later, Charles was still in Louisville (a day laborer according to the census), married to Lucy Bridges Taylor and the father of one son, Wellington David Wilson. At this point we have been unable to learn if Charles Wilson fought in the Civil War. While he was certainly of an age to have done so, we still have no definitive proof of any service to the Union cause. And, it must be admitted, there is no family tradition attributing a Civil War service to Charles Wilson. In fact, I cannot help but see an irony in the fact that we have not to this date been able to verify any of our direct line ancestors as participants in the American Civil War despite the fact we can find numerous ancestors with service in the Revolutionary War.
As for Charles’ wife, Lucy Bridges Taylor, we know that like her husband she was born in St. Lawrence county, the Louisville area. Her parents were Loring and Caroline Taylor, both of Chester, Vermont. However, the date of her birth is considerably muddled by the fact that a different year is offered by virtually every census from 1850-1900. The 1850 federal census and 1885 Nebraska state census give 1837 as her year of birth. A reasonable guess might be the 1837 date as this appears twice and is the date offered by her parents (who should know the best) in the 1850 census when she still resided at home.
We do know that Charles and Lucy Wilson were residing in Fayette county, Iowa by 1866 as their son, Orric Edward or “Eddie,” was born there in that year. Another son, Samuel Warner, was born at West Union in the same county in 1873. For me personally, the most intriguing question regarding the family from this time period is one that we likely cannot answer: Why did they leave upstate New York for Iowa? After all, Charles’ father and grandfather had been in the region for sixty years. Had Charles “gone West” to take advantage of Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Homestead Act? Was it merely a lack of opportunity for a “day laborer” in upstate New York or the lure of a more adventurous life in the West? It would seem we’ll never know.
At some point after her husband’s death, Charles’ mother-in-law, Caroline Taylor, joined them in West Union, Iowa where she later died in 1887. It would seem she probably made this trip west with her sons Oric and Ozro Taylor who also appear in West Union at this time. The 1880 census finds her living in the home other son Oric who was employed as the deputy sheriff for West Union.
One document from 1879-80 shows that Charles and Lucy were perhaps a little more astute (or lucky?) than his grandfather John Willson, Jr. had been when it came to land deals. On 16 April 1879 Lucy acquired two town lots in West Union for $350 and then managed to sell these for $1500 a little over a year later, 16 October 1880. The 1880 census lists Charles as a “blacksmith” with a wife and two children in his household. His eldest son, Wellington David Wilson, was a 21 year old husband to Lucinda Blanche Davis. The young couple was then living in or near the settlement of Eden, Iowa, north and west of West Union.
Whatever the reasons, Charles moved his family to Knox county, Nebraska sometime after this 1880 census as he appears in the 1885 Nebraska state census as a farmer. Like so many others of the era, the Wilsons had a domestic servant living in the home too. Sometime around 1895 Charles and family relocated to Sisseton, Roberts county, South Dakota. Again the reasons for the move are unknown. Charles was still farming in 1900 and somewhat surprisingly both younger sons (Eddie, age 33 and Samuel, age 25) are still living at home. At some time between the 1900 and 1910 censuses, Charles’ wife passed away.
By 1910 the combination of the loss of his wife and his son Eddie (1909) and the general effects of old age forced Charles into the house of his son, Samuel, who was listed as the proprietor of a livery barn. Charles Wilson died 18 July 1910 in Sisseton, South Dakota. The newspaper obituary stated that he had “been in a feeble condition for some time.”