Sunday, May 3, 2020

2020 Prompt - Where There's a Will - John Deck Wilson

52 Ancestors 2020
Week 17 - Prompt - Where There’s a Will
John Deck Wilson – 1860-1891
My - great-great uncle

Nancy Simmons to
            Paul Simmons to
                        June Putman to
                                    Cora Wilson to her brother
                                                John Deck Wilson

Researching in Salt Lake City several years ago, I discovered the will of John D. Wilson in the Vermilion County, Illinois probate records. The will was written June 13, 1890[1] and I wondered if this could possibly be a relative. As I read the will, I discovered that John's sister was my great grandmother, Cora Elizabeth Wilson.

There was no wife or children mentioned in the will and after he stated to pay his debts and settle his accounts Cora is mentioned to receive one bedstead, bed and bedding, my bureau, rocking chair, cupboard and all my dishes.[2] Sister Flora Belle was to receive one bedstead, bed and bedding, my singer sewing machine, all my silverware and my library. He mentioned a third sister and then wills his two brothers his farming equipment. Who was this person? And why was he giving his sisters and brothers all his possessions? Most wills are written late in life and bequest usually went to a spouse and children.

Will of John D. Wilson signed 13 June 1890

The will of John Deck Wilson, my great grandmother's oldest brother, or my great-great uncle revealed a sad story.  John Deck Wilson was the oldest child of William and Catherine Deck Wilson born October 26, 1860 in Vermilion Co., Illinois[3] 10 months after his parents married.  Shortly before his 2nd birthday his father enlists in the Civil War with the 125th Illinois[4] Volunteers on September 1862 and he does not return until John is four in September 1864.

After John's father returns from the war the family lives in the small town of Bismarck where six siblings are born into the family.  My grandmother, Cora Elizabeth Wilson, was the fourth child and first girl born to William and Catherine. 

Marriage Record of John D Wilson, Father - Wm R. Wilson, Mother -Catherine Deck

Marriage Record of Emma Jane Collings, Father - James W. Collings, Mother - Arean Moore

John Deck Wilson married at the age of 23 to Emma Jane Collings on April 8, 1884.[5]  On June 5, 1885[6] a baby girl named Winnie Wilson is born but eight months later Feb 4, 1886[7] her mother, Emma Jane, dies from tuberculosis and a month later at nine months old baby Winnie died due to tuberculosis. Shortly after John's only child died his mother, Catherine Ellen Deck Wilson, succumbs to the disease on July 15, 1886.[8] One can only suspect that John's mother was helping with the care of his wife and child and caught the disease.  If this was not sad enough, five years later, January 22, 1891, John Deck Wilson[9] also dies due to the dreadful disease at the age of thirty.

Emma Jane Wife of John D. Wilson                           Catherine Wilson Mother of John D. Wilson        John D. Wilson    
All Died of Tuberculosis 1886, 1887, 1891

Knowing of his impending death, John writes his will June 13, 1890 and gifts all his possession to his five living siblings. He leaves his sisters Cora Elizabeth Wilson 19, Flora Belle Wilson 16, and Mary Edna 10 his household possessions and his two brothers, William Tecumseh Sherman Wilson 25, and Ulysses S. Grant Wilson 22 years old all his farming possessions.

My great grandmother lost her brother, sister-in-law, niece, and her mother to the number one cause of death in the late nineteenth century, tuberculosis, all within five years. So, when there’s a will there’s usually a story!

[2] Ibid.
[3] Find a Grave, database, Find a Grave ( : accessed 11 Nov 2015), memorial page for John Deck Wilson (1860-1891), Find A Grave Memorial no.2301264, <>
[4] Web: Illinois, Databases of Illinois Veterans Index, 1775-1995 Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Detail Report, Illinois State Archives, <>
[5] Vermilion County, IL marriage records, Vol C-D, 1-2, Image 390, page 241.
[6] Find a Grave, database, Find a Grave (; Winnie Wilson, Memorial # 23015995
[7] Find a Grave, database, Find a Grave (; Emma Jane Wilson, Memorial # 23012683
[8] Find a Grave, database, Find a Grave (; Catherine Ellen Wilson, Memorial # 23012611
[9] Find a Grave, database, Find a Grave (; John Deck Wilson, Memorial # 23012642

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