Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2022 Prompt - Favorite Find - William Rice Wilson

Prompt - Favorite Find 
Picture of William Rice Wilson 
My great-great-grandfather 

William Rice Wilson
Summer 2011 - Iliana Genealogist, Volume 47, Issue 2, page 54

I have made amazing family discoveries over the years, but my favorite must be the picture of my great-great-grandfather, William Rice Wilson, in his Civil War uniform. I had researched him for years and knew his siblings, all his children, his two wives, and his involvement in the Civil War. I had one photo of him as an elderly gentleman given to me by a cousin years ago. 

William Rice Wilson 

It was on a research trip to Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne Indiana that I found the picture of William in his Union uniform. I was with the Louisville Genealogical Society researching and one of my goals that week was to learn to use a tool called PERSI to find genealogy articles in historical and genealogical quarterlies and journals. In the periodical, Illiana Genealogist, Volume 47, issue #2, I found an article about William Rice Wilson written by Kenneth Walker, William R. Wilson's great-grandchild, and my 2nd cousin. As I read the article, and to my amazement, there was William in his uniform embedded in the article! I had never seen this photo. 

1st Lt. William Rice Wilson
125th Illinois Infantry Regiment

 I had researched William R. Wilson and knew he was born December 13, 1834, in Guernsey County, Ohio to John and Elizabeth Rice Wilson. He was the oldest of four children and before he had his tenth birthday his father and seven-year-old brother, Christopher Columbus Wilson, had died. At the age of twenty-one, in 1856, William walked about 340 miles from Guernsey County, Ohio to Vermilion County, Illinois where his grandfather, Amos Wilson, had settled. He married Catherine Ellen Deck in Bismarck, Illinois on January 4, 1860, and nine months later October 26, 1860, his son, John Deck Wilson was born. 
William R. Wilson and his wife Catherine Deck

Six months later April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumpter. A year later, in the summer of 1862, President Lincoln called out to Illinois for infantry units and William enlisted in the 125th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry and received the rank of 1st Lieutenant. In my research, I had discovered William's military history but had never found a picture of him in uniform. 

Book by Robert M. Rogers

 The 125th Illinois Infantry organized in Danville, Illinois, and mustered in for three years of service, under the command of Colonel Oscar F. Harmon. By September, the 125th was in Covington, Kentucky in pursuit of Confederate General Braxton Bragg. They were engaged in the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky and then marched to Nashville where they served till the end of June 1863. They moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and, were engaged in the Battle of Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, and the Chattanooga-Ringgold Champaign. 

On June 27, 1864, the 125th was engaged in a fierce battle at Kenesaw Mountain where Col. O. F. Harmon, who enlisted with William, was killed in action. While on picket duty in March 1864 near McAfee Church in Georgia, William contracted a cold that developed into chronic lung problems and was honorable discharged September 10, 1864. He returned home to Bismarck, Illinois where he has lost everything and due to health issues, William returned to teaching in the Bismarck area. William was immensely proud of his uniform and staunch supporter of the defense of the Union. He served as a Justice of the Peace for several years and was a member of the GAR Post in Georgetown, Illinois. 

William's patriotism is evident as his family expanded. On July 7, 1865, William and Catherine had their second son, who they name William Tecumseh Sherman Wilson, and their third son was born July 22, 1868, and named Ulysses Simpson Grant Wilson. William and Catherine have three more children that are daughters, Cora Elizabeth, my great grandmother, Flora Belle, and Mary Edna. Seven years after the last child is born William's wife, Catherine, and their oldest son, John, died from tuberculosis. William married his second wife, Phebe Ann Elliott, on October 9, 1888, in Covington, Kentucky. Could it be that William admired the city of Covington from his tour of duty in 1862? William and Phebe have a son Donald Harrison Wilson born in Bismarck, on August 31, 1891. 

William R. Wilson and Phoebe Elliott's Marriage Certificate
9th day of October 1888
Covington, Kenton, Kentucky

William and Phebe resided in Newell Township in Vermilion County for about 15 years. Sometime in 1903, William and Phebe purchased a home in Catlin, a small town in the southern part of Vermilion County where they spent the remaining years of William's life. William died August 10, 1918, in the Catlin home and was buried in Rose Cemetery, Bismarck, Illinois. Phebe lived in the home until her health failed in 1939 when she moved to Wisconsin to live with her son. Phebe died May 11, 1939, at the home of her son.  This home is purchased by the Catlin Historical Society and is now a historical museum.

Son, Donald, William and, his wife Phoebe about 1903
House in Catlin, Illinois

In May 2012, I am packing my suitcase to make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris to visit my sister and we planned to leave on June 4th. Mid-May I get a phone call from my cousin Beverly Simmons asking if I could meet her and her father in Danville on May 31 to visit cemeteries and visit cousins. So, on May 30th I drop everything and drive three hours to the Hampton Inn to meet my cousin and Uncle. I called the Catlin Museum and asked if they could pull any family files on my great-great-grandfather, William Rice Wilson. When we arrive at the Museum we walk in the front door and there was the photo of William in full Union uniform. 

Portrait of William Rice Wilson
In the front hallway of the Catlin Historical Museum

My uncle was amazed, to say the least. This was his great-grandfather. The museum had a family folder on William Rice Wilson with letters William wrote during the Civil War. Another great find! 
So, no matter how detailed your research is there seem to be new discoveries and finds around the corner. This is one of my favorite finds! 

Tombstone of William R. Wilson and Phebe A. Wilson
Rose Cemetery, Bismarck, Illinois

 NOTE: In March of 1988, the Catlin Historical Society purchased the house and grounds that William and Phebe Wilson owned from 1903-1939 from the Ingram family.

Catlin Historical Museum
Catlin, Illinois

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