Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Wilson Family

Wilson Family History Part 1 – ‘Sweet Corn’ Wilson

This month’s family history features the Wilson family, which has a special connection to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. It was William Wilson who lived in the Taylor Cabin on the Museum’s property and we will look at a branch of his family, beginning with Uriah Wilson Sr. (1767-1852). Before we begin, we first would like to thank Debora Woods Wynn for providing photographs and information on her ancestors. Uriah married Mary Polly Newkirk of Owen, Kentucky. Their son Uriah Wilson Jr. (1805-1880) married Elizabeth House and the couple arrived in Amherstburg circa 1850-1851, coming from Kentucky with their eight children. Of the eight, we can name seven of their children: Washington, Elizabeth, Mary Jane, Sarah, James Richard, William and Martha Frances.

Washington was born circa 1823 in Bath, Kentucky and he is listed as a resident of Malden Township by 1851. Washington married Mary Elnora Starks, the daughter of Wesley and Louisiana Starks, and lived in Amherstburg until roughly 1870, when they moved to Windsor and later Washtenaw County, Michigan, circa 1900. The couple had at least eleven children: Elizabeth, Victoria, Anna, Charles, William, Samuel, Albert, Sabra, Mary Elnora, John Wesley and Walter. Several of their children married and lived in Washtenaw County. Before discussing Washington and Mary Elnora’s children, there is a bit more to share about Washington. According to his death record, Washington was a gardener. His August 1900 obituary from the Essex Free Press adds to this by saying “For years he raised watermelons and sweet corn on the old crick ground on Church street in the city. He was known to everybody as ‘Sweet Corn’ Wilson.”

Now it is time to share information about Washington and Mary Elnora’s children: Elizabeth, Victoria, Anna, Charles, William, Samuel, Albert, Sabra, Mary Elnora, John Wesley and Walter. If you look at the 1861 Census for the Township of Malden, Elizabeth is listed as “Elizabeth Preston” with her parents and siblings, but her husband Pres Preston also appears in the household. Elizabeth and Preston had at least four children: Anna M., James W., Victoria and Ida. According to her marriage record, Anna M. married Herbert Jasper Lanchie, son of Milton Lanchie (mother not listed), on June 20, 1903 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, Michigan. At the time, Herbert was a Labourer and Anna was a Cook.

Anna’s brother James W. married twice. His first marriage was to Minnie Bowles, the daughter of John Bowles. The couple married on March 19, 1890 in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan. James’ second marriage was to Nettie Lewis, the daughter of William Lewis and Margaret Smith. The couple married on June 4, 1902 in Montgomery, Ohio, and, at the time, James worked as a Clerk. James’ sister Victoria is next. According to her death record, Victoria married a man with the last name Bennett, but his first name is not listed. This record also says that she was born on December 13, 1874. She passed away on July 31, 1942 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, Michigan. At the time she was 67 years old and a widow. Victoria’s sister Ida appears on the 1894 Michigan State Census (for Lodi, Washtenaw, Michigan) with her mother Elizabeth Preston who is listed as 48 years old and a widow.

We will now move on to discuss Elizabeth Wilson Preston’s sister Victoria who was born circa 1855. Victoria’s sister Anna was born on June 5, 1857 in Amherstburg and on her August 23, 1937 death record she is listed as Anna Walker Western and living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Several sources list her husband’s last name of Western, but her husband’s first name is not listed. At the time of Anna’s passing she was 80 years old and a widow.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.

Wilson Family History Part 2 – There and Back Again

Anna’s brother Charles was born circa 1859 and he married Agnes Frances Watson. Charles, just like his sister Anna, lived in Ann Arbor for a time. Charles’ brother William was born circa 1861 in Essex County, but no other information was available for him. Significantly more information was found for his brother Samuel W. who was born on October 7, 1863 in Amherstburg. He married twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Williams Anderson on February 11, 1884 in Detroit. At that time Samuel was 22, a cook, and living in Windsor, while Elizabeth was 21 and living in Sandwich. Samuel and Elizabeth had at least nine children: Charles, Elizabeth (born October 10, 1886 in Sandwich), Mary (born Feb 6, 1888 in Sandwich), Samuel Jr. (born April 16, 1889 in Sandwich), Clifford Stanley (born October 5, 1889), Alfred (born August 1, 1892 in Sandwich), William Spencer (born October 16, 1893 in Sandwich), Joseph (born February 5, 1894 in Sandwich and died on April 7, 1913 in Sarnia), and Walter (born July 5, 1898 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, Michigan).

The 1891 Census for Sandwich West lists Samuel, his wife Elizabeth, and four of their children: Charles, Elizabeth, Mary, and Samuel. The Census shows that Samuel (a cook) and his family moved from Sandwich to different locations including Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, Michigan, as is shown in the 1900 Census. In the 1900 Census Samuel and Elizabeth’s children Elizabeth, E. Mary, Joseph, Walter and Clifford are included, in addition to Charles Anderson who is listed as Samuel’s stepson. Charles Anderson was the son of Samuel’s first wife Elizabeth Williams Anderson Wilson. The family moved again to Sarnia, Ontario, as is shown in the 1911 Census for Sarnia, Lambton, which lists Samuel and Elizabeth with Joseph, Walter and Clifford. The death record for Sarah Elizabeth Wilson states that she was living in Sarnia and that her father’s last name was Williams and her mother’s name was Sarah. A further note about Sarah is that the birth record for Joseph Wilson, son of Elizabeth and Samuel, lists Sarah Coleman as the informant who is the child’s grandmother. This means that Sarah Coleman is Elizabeth’s mother.

Samuel’s wife Elizabeth passed away on April 11, 1920 and the following year, the records show that Samuel was married to his second wife, Elmira Saunders, the daughter of Docus Flowers. The couple was married on February 10, 1921 in Washtenaw, Michigan. At that time Samuel was 58 and a cook and Elmira was 60 and a Housekeeper. Their marriage record also states that both Samuel and Elmira were previously married. According to Samuel W. Wilson’s death record from May 30, 1945, he was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 81 years old and a widower.

Samuel’s brother, Albert, is the next child of Washington and Mary Elnora (Starks) Wilson, but because there is substantial information on Albert, we will discuss his siblings first and return to discuss him. Albert’s sister Sabra was born December 26, 1867 in Amherstburg. She married Joseph Marshall Williams on January 22, 1890 in Windsor. Joseph was the son of Robert and Sarah Williams. Sabra and Joseph eventually moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, but not before their first child was born. They had at least two children: Loyal Llewellin and Eldridge. Loyal Llewellin was born on April 29, 1899 in Windsor, although his draft registration card states that he was born on April 9, 1900. This record also states that he worked as a Truck Driver for American Car and Foundry. All that could be found for Loyal Llewellin’s brother Eldridge was his death record which states that he passed at the young age of 17 on July 17, 1911 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time he was single and worked as a Drayman.

Sabra’s sister Mary Elnora was born on January 1, 1870 in Sandwich. She married James Edward Brown, the son of James and Susan Brown, on June 28, 1893 in Windsor. Mary Elnora’s brother Albert’s 1932 obituary also lists Mary as Mrs. Mary Robinson of Ypsilanti, meaning she married more than once. Her death record confirms this by listing her as Mary Robinson, the daughter of Washington Wilson and Elenore (Elnora) Stark. At the time, Mary Elnora was 75 years old, widowed and living in Pittsfield, Washtenaw, Michigan.

Mary Elnora’s brother John Wesley is up next. He was born on February 20, 1871 in Windsor. According to his marriage record, he married Marie Kersey on September 14, 1897 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Marie was the daughter of George Kersey and a woman with the last Jones. At the time John worked as a Porter and Marie was a Domestic. According to his death record, John Wesley was born on February 20, 1871 in Windsor and passed on March 3, 1935 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At the time he was widowed and 63 years old. According to a page from the Museum’s collection, John Wesley’s brother Walter was born circa 1878, but nothing further was found for him.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3.

Wilson Family History Part 3 – “Amherstburg’s Strongest Men”

As mentioned, there was substantial information available for Albert Wilson, son of Washington and Mary Elnora, so to avoid confusion he will be discussed last. Albert was born May 6, 1863. According to Milo Johnson’s book New Canaan, Freedom Land, “Albert was very popular in town [Amherstburg] and was known as having a quiet lifestyle and for being the strongest man in the town.”

In an article from February 7, 1936, titled “Amherstburg’s Strongest Men,” is gives further details, saying “You’ve heard the saga of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox that performed feats of strength which only the imaginative French-Canadian mind could devise. Amherstburg has had its own Paul Bunyan, only he wasn’t a mythical character, albeit he did things that hardly seemed possible for one man. That was the late Al Wilson, who bore the title of the strongest man in town, past or present. He was a muscular … man who had 275 pounds distributed over a commanding stature. He got a lot of fun out of demonstrating his strength, not boastingly, but because of the surprise his actions caused. Now a barrel of salt to an ordinary man is a hefty as well as an awkward article to handle. But Al tossed barrels of salt (they weighed over 300 pounds) about like an empty keg. He could grasp one by the ends and toss it on a wagon without apparent effort while the eyes of the strangers popped. He was always a handy man to have around because he could take the place of a block and tackle or lever. Threshing gangs have seen Al lift one end of a threshing machine, and that’s a big lift. He used to do a little lumber jacking now and then, too, and at times when men struggled with logs Al would step and move them around as though they were match sticks.”

Albert’s 1932 obituary also mentions that Albert “was for twenty years employed by the Mullen Coal Company, and as gardener and handyman around the Mullen home. Then was foreman of labor on Bois Blanc Island for thirteen years. He was a splendid florist and an expert tree surgeon, and saved many fine shade trees in this community by means of tree surgery. He was a man of very quiet life and habits; was a member of the First Baptist Church.” On March 21, 1913, the Amherstburg Echo also published an article about Albert’s skill as a tree surgeon, writing “Albert Wilson gave a demonstration in arboreal surgery at the rear of the Lake View House Friday, the outcome of which will be watched with interest. He skimmed off all the decay from a large scar on the side of a tree, cleaned out the wound thoroughly, gave it antiseptic treatment and then applied a coat of cement, over which he expects the bark to grow within a few years, just as it was before the wound was received. He has treated trees in a similar manner with great success on Bois Blanc.”

Albert married Margaret Hulbert, who was born in Colchester on March 9, 1865 and was the daughter of John Boyd and Rebecca Hulbert-Boyd. Impressively, Albert’s wife Margaret lived to be 100 years old and, at the time of her passing, had 55 grandchildren and 300 or more great grandchildren. According to their marriage record, Albert and Margaret were married on August 9, 1880 in Detroit. The couple moved to Amherstburg and lived in a house on George Street which has since been torn down and replaced by a modern structure. According to the Amherstburg Echo Albert Wilson purchased a house which stood on the corner of Ramsey and Gore since 1812. Circa 1917, the house was dismantled and moved. The house “was built of square logs dovetailed to a centre post and at the corners. Every piece of timber is sound.”

Albert and Margaret had twelve children: Lillian (1881), Grace (1884), Albert (1884), Rebecca (1887), William (1889), Simon Peter (1890), Cornelius (Neil) (1892), Norman (1894), Arkard, Ira Laird (1897), Washington, and Norval (1909). Albert Sr.’s obituary also mentions two additional children, Margaret and Isabel, who were deceased at the time of Albert’s passing on May 1, 1932 in Amherstburg.

According to the marriage record for Lillian Wilson, daughter of Albert and Margaret Wilson, she married a farmer named Andrew Boyd who was born on May 7, 1872 in Colchester and was the son of John Boyd and Ellen/Eleanor Nolan (see Nolan Family History ) on July 28, 1901 in Amherstburg. According to the 1911 Census, Andrew and Lillie had at least four children: Marguerite (born February 13, 1902 in Amherstburg), John T. (born March 8, 1903 in Amherstburg), Andrew (born February 11, 1906 in Amherstburg) and Joseph (born January 7, 1909 in Amherstburg). There is also a death record for an Esther Valeein Boyd, who is listed as the child of Andrew and Lillian Boyd. She passed on March 4, 1914 in Amherstburg and was under the age of 2.

Lillian’s sister Grace is the next child of Albert and Margaret Wilson that we will discuss. According to her marriage record, Grace married Earnest Boyd on December 9, 1900 in Amherstburg. Earnest was the son of Ellen and John Boyd. According to her obituary, Grace moved to Detroit in 1900 and she and Earnest (who is listed as William) had one son named Ernest.

Grace’s brother Albert Tobias is next. We would first like to thank Albert’s great granddaughter Debora who shared information and photographs of the Wilson family. Albert married Ella Gains, daughter of Frank Gains and Sarah Daley, on August 9, 1905 in Windsor. Albert and Ella had at least two children: William Albert and Cornelius. William Albert was born July 1, 1906 in Windsor, while Cornelius’ birth record states he was born on January 29, 1911 in Amherstburg.

An interesting account of a shipwreck, found in the Amherstburg Echo, mentions Albert and says “A November 13th blizzard brings death and destruction to three million dollars worth of shipping on the Great Lakes. Shores from Lake Superior to Lake Erie strewn with wreckage and drowned sailors. The steamer J.T. Hutchinson in command of Capt. Walter Lawler was blown ashore near Iroquois Point and was a total wreck. Among his crew were mate Herman Cornwall and chefs James Kirtley and Albert Wilson Jr. all of Amherstburg.”

Albert’s sister Rebecca married twice. A marriage record for October 19, 1908 states that Rebecca married a lawyer named William B. Hughes, the son of S.C. Hughes and Hannah Binga, in Windsor. Rebecca’s obituary also states that she married Albert Kersey and was mother of Wilbert who lived in Chicago.

The next child of Albert and Margaret has a special connection to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Their son William lived in the Taylor log cabin that is on the Museum’s property. William married Azalia Thompson, the daughter of Emma Taylor and Thomas Thompson. Before we move forward, here is a bit more about Azalia and her family. Azalia’s mother Emma was the daughter of George Taylor and Mary Ann Brooker. Interestingly, the Taylor cabin on the Museum’s property is named after George Taylor. According to George, Emma was born on July 25, 1880. In 1901, she married Thomas Thompson, a Mason, when she was 21, and following their marriage Thomas, who was 24, moved into the Taylor Cabin. In Emma’s 1926 obituary it states that “She was a hard working woman, a devoted wife, a loving mother and sister, ever ready to do an act of kindness, a devote member of Nazrey A.M.E. church and of the Women’s Guild Society.”

William Wilson’s wife Azalia, was born in 1895 in Anderdon Township and she lived her entire life in the Amherstburg district. William was a Mason, just like Thomas, and Azalia was a school teacher and active member of the First Baptist Church in Amherstburg. According to the Church statistics for the Amherstburg Regular Baptist Association (ARMBA), Azalia also acted as a Clerk for the First Baptist Church from 1932 to 1944. Azalia, just like her mother, was also involved in the Women’s Guild in Amherstburg. In a 1931 edition of the Amherstburg Echo, it records that the Women’s Guild hosted a Home Coming at the First Baptist Church, which included dinner and entertainment from Windsor’s B.M.E. choir and a solo performance by Azalia Wilson. She is listed as the secretary for this organization as well. Singing was not an uncommon practice for Azalia, who in October of 1909, also sang at the town’s Harvest Home Concert and Social in the A.M.E. Church. In October of the following year, the Echo writes that she also sang a solo “Seek ye first the kingdom” in the A.M.E. junior choir and her performance was described as “very acceptably rendered.”

William and Azalia had at least five children: Harold, Marwood, Grenville, Marian and William. Marion went on to marry William Henry Vincent, son of Ernest Vincent, on April 10, 1943. They were married in the First Baptist Church in Amherstburg by the Reverend. I.H. Edwards and resided in Detroit. Billy and Marwood, a labourer, remained in Amherstburg, but a tragic end met William and Azalia’s son Private Harold Wilson who was killed in action in North Africa on July 17, 1943, while serving in the US Army. He was married to Marjorie Sopher (m. 1939) with two children: Harold Jr. and Beverly.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 4.

Wilson Family History Part 4 – “chef on a big Steel Trust steamer”

Now that we have discussed Lillian, Grace, Albert T., Rebecca and William, we will move forward with Simon Peter, Cornelius, Norman, Ira, Washington, Arkard, and Norval. Simon Peter married Arabella Adams, daughter of William H. and Laura Adams, on December 23, 1911 in Amherstburg. According to the Amherstburg Echo “A pretty wedding took place at the Baptist parsonage Saturday evening, December 23rd, when Miss Belle Adams, fourth daughter of William Adams, and Simon Wilson, third son of Albert Wilson, were made man and wife, the Rev. Allen Peavey officiating. The happy couple have taken up housekeeping on King Street. They received many beautiful presents. Mr. Wilson is chef on a big Steel Trust steamer.” The 1921 Census lists Simon and Arabella with their daughter Lena.

Simon Peter’s brother Cornelius (Neil) married Viola Nettie Bowe and lived in Amherstburg, then Colchester Township. Cornelius purchased land on the 4th Concession and Drummond Road. According to Cornelius’ obituary, he and Viola’s children included “Lawrence, Carter of Amherstburg; Earl, Windsor; Ellwood, Carl, Harrow; Waunetta Townes [sic] of Amherstburg; Grace Baylis, Hazel Baylis, Nettie Taylor, Naomi Ennis, Gwendolyn Manners of Harrow; Dorothy Esenault of Windsor; Mable Price of Pontiac. Predeceased by Orville (1920); Rhoda (1953), Floyd (1970). Step Father of Bev, Brenda, Vernetta, Audrey, Elwin Wilson, Kenneth and Robert Day, all of Windsor.”

The next child of Albert and Margaret Wilson is Norman George who was born on January 22, 1894 in Amherstburg. Norman married Ethel McDowell. According to the 1901 Census, Ethel was the daughter of Sim (Simeon) and Emma McDowell. The 1891 and 1901 Censuses also list Ethel’s siblings: Myrtle, Alonzo, John, Benjamin, Simion, Emma Jane, Raymond and Samuel. The 1921 Census for Norman and Ethel lists their children Alva, Margaret, Marietta, Arnold and Herman. Also found was a death record for June, the daughter of Norman and Ethel, who sadly passed at 9 months old on January 19, 1926 in Toronto.

Norman’s brother Arkard married Lillian Bow and the 1921 Census for Amherstburg lists Arkard and Lillian with their children Elmer, Frederick, and Norvell. Arkard’s brother Ira married Vera Byron, the daughter of John Henry Byron and Rosa Taylor, on November 9, 1927. According to their marriage record, Ira worked as a Mason and Vera was a Domestic. Additionally, Vera was born on October 7, 1909 in Colchester. Ira and Vera had at least fourteen children. According to the book New Canaan “Ira was a very well-liked and active resident of Colchester and often attended council meetings to further the position of farmers’ concerns about drainage in the area. He and his wife were faithful members of, first Mount Calvary C.O.G.I.C., and later St. Mark’s Church of Colchester.”

There was no information for Ira’s brother Washington, but there were several available documents for Norval. According to records from the Museum’s family history collection, Norval married Doris Goode, the daughter of Frank Elwood Goode and Lenora May DeBaptiste. According to the October 1986 obituary for Doris Iona Wilson, her husband, the Reverend Norval Wilson passed in 1974. It also states that Doris was the “Beloved mother of Mrs. Velma Warren, Detroit; Mrs. Janet Harris, Mrs. Lenora Mulder, Norvel Wilson Jr., Paul E. Wilson, Mrs. Nancy Cox, Duane Wilson, all of Windsor; Harold Wilson of Harrow; and Philip of Coombs, B.C.; Mrs. Cheryl Shelby, Windsor. 33 grandchildren & 13 great-grandchildren. Foster mother of the Howard Mulder Sr. family of Harrow. Mrs. Wilson was a member of the Harrison Memorial Church of God in Christ.”

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week where we will celebrate another amazing family.