George Wilson

History of George Wilson

PART ONE

Submitted by Betty Webb

Lawrence County History
R.C. Hall Ph.D
The Ironton (O.) Sunday Tribune
Sunday 7 Aug. 1938


Editor’s Note: This is the first of three articles on Theodore [George] Wilson, colored, whose life became so much a part of this section of the country that it is aptly included in the History of Lawrence County which Mr. R.C. Hall has been preparing for The Tribune. The second article will appear next Sunday.


George Wilson was a native of Virginia, having been born in the year 1827. He was born in slavery and was owned for a time by a man named Bailey who lived in the eastern part of the state. But when he was about eight years of age, he was sold to Mr. Fredrick Beuhring, who lived in Cabell County in what is now West Virginia. That of course was long before the division of the “Old Dominion” and Virginia extended to the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers.
It was then quite customary, at least in certain localities, for the slaves to take the name of their master and so Mr. Wilson became commonly known as George Beuhring. He went by this name until after the Civil War or at least until he secured his freedom just previous to that war.

It appears that slavery did not press as heavily upon its subjects in Virginia as it did in the far south. Particularly was this true of western Virginia which later became West Virginia. And it appears that Mr. Wilson led as happy a life as could be expected for one not entirely a free man. But no matter how paternalistic and philanthropic servitude may be it is still servitude and few people who have ever experienced it that did not embrace the first opportunity to free themselves. So it was with Mr. Wilson. Meanwhile, however he had taken on the responsibilities of a wife and family and naturally he was as anxious – even more anxious perhaps – to provide for their future freedom and happiness than he was for his own. George Wilson married Dorcas Franklin, who had been in the western part of Virginia, i.e., what is now West Virginia, and like her husband was a slave. The following children were born to this union: Selena, Louisa, Albert, Arthur, Benjamin, Georgia, Theodore, Marcellus, Jonathan, Julias, Charlotte, and Nancy. Of these, five boys and three girls experienced slavery.

Mr. Beuhring must have been a farsighted businessman, and perhaps a more humane one too than the average slaveholder of his day. He probably realized it was better for himself and his slaves to permit them a certain amount of freedom of action. It not only contributed to their contentment but to his financial gain as well. So he permitted Mr. Wilson to have some time to work for himself and even permitted him to receive pay for his labor for others. In this way Mr. Wilson was able to lay aside a little cash for the comfort of his family and in preparation for the day of freedom which he doubtless saw ahead.

The farsightedness of Mr. Beuhring was further shown by a proposition he made to Mr. Wilson just before the outbreak of the Civil War. That was the chance he gave to the latter to secure his freedom by purchase. In other words, he offered Mr. Wilson the opportunity to ” buy himself ” as was the expression descriptive of an agreement between master and slave by which the latter was to receive his or her freedom upon the performance of a certain amount of work or the paying of a certain amount of money to be earned by working for the owner some one else. In this case, Mr. Beuhring agreed to manumit, i.e., make out papers of freedom for Mr. Wilson upon the latter’s payment of six hundred dollars. Or rather Mr. Wilson was to pay three hundred dollars in cash and the rest when and if he became financially able to do so. However, he gave his note for the deferred payment and set about to earn the money necessary to meet it. He earned a large part of the amount he paid by working on the construction of the old suspension bridge over the Guyandotte River at Guyandotte, West Virginia.

The Civil War came on, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and all the slaves were freed by these acts the constitutional amendments following in their wake. Naturally the things freed Mr. Wilson of his legal obligation to complete his payment for his freedom. But George Wilson was a man of his word. He believed that a contract was a contract and morally binding on those who made it and so he insisted on paying the rest of the amount – every cent he had agreed to pay. Such was the high standard of Christian character, morality and honesty set by George Wilson and carefully followed by his descendants.

After securing his freedom, he came to Lawrence County, Ohio, crossing the Ohio River at what is now Tenth Street, Huntington, West Virginia. and going to Fayette Township, then to Union, and finally settling near Rome in Rome Township. After coming to Rome Township Mr. Wilson rented seven acres of land from Mr. L.D. Morrison and established his house near the settlement known as Rome. He was a hard working and accommodating man and soon, found plenty of work to do. He began to garden his small tract of land and particularly raise melons, but during the winter and his spare time he added to his small income by handling coal for various persons in the community. By this time all his children had succeeded in getting out of Dixie, as the country south of the Ohio River was generally known to such folks, and their father was anxious that they gain an education. In fact he himself lamented the fact that he had had no such opportunity and determined to remedy that defect. He did learn to read and spell but writing proved to be to much for one of his years and disposition. But he wanted so much to learn to sign his name that he even began to go to school with his children. However he could stand it but a few days and relinquished the matter of education to his children.

After some time at Rome George Wilson bought the seven acres of Mr. Morrison and then added to it by purchasing two and twenty – two hundredths of an acres from what was known as the T. A. Walton tract. He also bought fourteen acres from the Kimble tract, as it was then known. This gave him a nice tract of land for the purposes of small farming and market gardening. Mr. George Wilson was not only a man of thrift and industry but religious as well, and many evidences of his fine Christian character were recognized by his white neighbors. As he was of the Methodist persuasion and had no church of his own in the neighborhood, he was taken under the watch care of the old Rome Methodist Episcopal Church of which he became a faithful attendant. We have heard older folks tell many times how he used to sit in the rear of the church and listening attentively to the services and on Communion Day, after the regular members had taken the Sacrament, the minister would extend the invitation to others and he would reverently advance to the altar for the Sacrament. After the Ebenezer church was established at Huntington, West Virginia he moved his membership there. His wife passed away in 1868, after which he married Mrs. Laura Wyatt. They had two children, Elmer and Ellsworth.

Part Two

Submitted by Martha J. Kounse
The Ironton Tribune
July 28, 1938

After this narrative, Mr. SLOAN said to him, “I have a log house down on the creek (Indian Guyan), move there and clear up some ground and I will do what I can for you!” Father, with a glad heart, rode back to the cabin where he had left us. On reaching the cabin on the DILLON farm, the Ku Klux had been there again, and left word for him to move out. Mr. DILLON placed a guard over the house. Mother prepared supper, father took the old George horse, a quilt and an arm load of horse weeds and went up to a cliff near by and slept there all night.

The next morning, he loaded us all in the one horse wagon and drove to Mr. SLOAN’S farm. On reaching the place, we moved into the little cabin, with its dirt floor. Making a long story short, we began life.

The Ku Klux tried to run us off from there, but Mr. SLOAN gave them to understand they had to let us alone. After four years on the farm of Mr. SLOAN, we moved to Rome. Father rented seven acres of land from L.D. MORRISON.”

We have quoted the above several paragraphs from some notes we asked Mr. WILSON to prepare on his experiences. As they may tell so vividly of that portion of his life and show so well his ability, even after all these years, to relate the events in which he participated.

After his father got settled at Rome, he looked about for means to educate his children. In this he was assisted by the farseeing and philanthropic citizens of Quaker Bottom who made arrangements to provide a school for colored as well as white students. And it was not long before The Board of Education of Rome Township and also that of Union Township was offering schooling facilities for the colored folks. The WILSON children attended some in both townships and had to trudge a long distance through the snow
and cold of winter to avail themselves of this opportunity. But Mr. WILSON says that they liked it and the result, in his case speaks for itself. For by the year 1876, he was able to secure his teacher’s certificate.

Thus, at the age of nineteen years, Theodore WILSON, entered the
profession of teaching. He secured a school in Huntington, WV, which was just then beginning to show signs of the great city into which it was destined to so quickly develop. And one of those first signs was the progressive attitude taken by its leading business and professional men on the question of education. Moreover, their wisdom was further shown by their sponsorship of schools for the colored citizens such as that to which Mr. WILSON was called. It is interesting to note that this, his first school, was located within four city blocks of his birthplace, namely at the corner of Third Avenue and Twelfth Street, Huntington, WV. His immediate and continued success as a teacher is indicated by the fact that he taught in Huntington for thirteen years.

Naturally his success was due in part to the support given him by the
leading white citizens of the city, and no one could show greater gratitude for this support than Mr. WILSON himself. Of his own accord he has listed for us the names of the following gentlemen who he says were his “ardent supporters” during the thirteen years of his work there: Gen. J.H. OLEY; Col. D.W. EMMONS; Foster STEWARD; D.I. SMITH; George F. MILLER; J. Hooe RUSSELL; Sam GIDEORN; B.T. DAVIS; Dr. BUFFINGTON; W.H. HOLESWADE; Taylor WELLINGTON; B.H. TRACKSTON; W.O. JAMES; J.M. JASPER; Wm. MORGAN and Thomas WELKINS.

Meanwhile, young WILSON had been severely and dangerously injured in playing what was even then perhaps considered as “the great American game”, baseball. Somehow, during a hard game, he had the misfortune to turn one limb in such a way that the hip was dislocated. Such an injury is perhaps always serious, but in those days of comparatively limited surgical skill, it presented a permanent cripple, so far as that one limb was concerned. But even this did not prevent him from continuing his education and his work. After three years of hobbling about on a crutch, he was able to dispense with this assistance and to walk unaided although with a limp, as the accident left him with that limb slightly shorter that the other.

After teaching in Huntington, Mr. WILSON returned to Ohio and was employed to teach at what is known locally as Red Hill. That is the community just over the hill, on the Jackson Road, about a mile north of Proctorville. A half century and more ago, it was essentially a colored community and the Proctorville Board of Education maintained a special school there for the colored folks of that district. The well known colored Baptist church known as Mount Pisgah still stands in that community, but the school, was generally known as the Red Hill School. After a successful tenure as teacher at this school, Mr. WILSON returned to the West Virginia schools
and secured a position as teacher at Guyandotte.

Meanwhile, this progressive and able young man had found knowledge and skill both by study and formal school as well as by experience. Oberlin College at Oberlin, OH, then offered the best and most available means for a young colored person to secure a college education. Accordingly, Mr. WILSON finally succeeded in being able to attend that great institution.

That was in the year 1884. After studying for a time at Oberlin, Mr.
WILSON returned home and again took up his work.

Another one of the leading colored schools of Cabell County, WV, at that time was located at Barboursville and Mr. WILSON taught there for a while and the secured a position at Wayne County Court House, as the county seat of Wayne County was then called. After that, he taught in KY, both at Louisa and Blaine. Thus it will be seen that he had a wide and varied experience as a school teacher in three states.

But teaching has been, and was a boisterously poorly paid profession. That is, teachers themselves were poorly paid so far as actual money was concerned although the satisfaction coming to a really interested teacher is something not to be measured in dollars and cents. However, Mr. WILSON wished to establish his permanent home in his boyhood neighborhood and returned to the old homestead to look for a place of his own. He had the opportunity to buy a small tract of land and although he lacked the necessary cash, his reputation for honesty, industry and thrift was such that he had no difficulty in securing the financial backing of Mr. O.A. ASH, who still is a neighbor to him and the late C.H. HALL, of Huntington, this writer’s uncle, that he was able to purchase the farm on which he
still lives. The century naturally was a success and now for many years the Theodore WILSON home has been one of the landmarks, so to speak, of theRome community in Quaker Bottom, OH.

Mr. WILSON’S first wife didn’t not survive long after their marriage and his life was further saddened by the passing of their son, Kelso Lee WILSON, who was born on 21 September 1882 and passed away in the year 1890.

On 16 July 1897, Mr. WILSON was united in marriage with Miss Emma LAYNE. They had one son, H.C. WILSON, who was born on 15 March 1897. He was but slightly younger that this writer. We were boys together in the same community. We, for a short time, attended the same school, and as our gathers were at times associated with each other in farming ventures, we boys played together. He was a likable boy and grew up to be a bright young man, full of promise and of course dearly beloved by his parents.

But he was stricken ill in the year 1917, and passed away while just on the verge of manhood.

We have just referred to Mr. WILSON’S association with our father in farming and so perhaps should explain, that by that time, which was about thirty-five years ago, Theodore WILSON had become one of the leading gardeners of Quaker Bottom and frequently, in addition to farming, or gardening, his own land, he rented land of neighboring farmers and marketed their produce for them. Thus, for a number of seasons he marketed the strawberry crop produced on our home farm and preformed other services for our family. He had the reputation of being able to handle such crops with the least loss and to sell them for the best prices of any of the hucksters of the community. And our folks found this to be so true that they secured his services, year after year.

No doubt, many people who frequented the Huntington market and groceries in days gone by will remember Mr. WILSON distinctly. He kept a spic and span delivery service, on the side of which was painted in bright letters “Lizzie B”, which was the name of the spirited horse which drew the conveyance. In those days it was necessary for a Quaker Bottom gardener to start with his produce for the market the night before the day of the sale. That is, and was necessary, if he expected to sell his produce for the best prices.

In addition to the many other services Mr. WILSON has rendered, the community in which he lives, he acted for many years as caretaker of Rome Chapel and as Sexton of the Proctorville-Rome Cemetery.

In Christian work, Mr. WILSON has long been a member of the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church in Huntington, WV, having joined under the pastorate of Rev. S.M. JEFFERSON.

He is also a charter member of the A.F. & A.M. Lodge of Masons of Huntington, WV. A charter member of his lodge of Odd Fellows and a member of the Order of Galliean Fishermen.

And now, after some 80 years of life well spent, Mr. WILSON, in a recent communication to the writer, expressed his contentment and peace of mind by simply saying that he is “waiting the call.” However, his many friends on this side cannot help hoping devotedly that “the call” will be long deferred

PART THREE
Submitted by Betty Webb
Lawrence County History
R.C. Hall Ph.D
The Ironton (O.) Sunday Tribune
Sunday 7 Aug. 1938


Editor’s Note: This concludes three articles prepared by Mr. R. C. Hall Ph.D. on the life of Theodore Wilson, outstanding colored man, whose life is identified with Lawrence County, and who now after 80 active years is ” waiting for the call. ” The sketch of the Wilson family has been a part of Mr. Hall’s Lawrence County History, a Tribune Sunday feature.

Naturally his success was due in part to the support given him by the leading white citizens of the city, and no one could show greater gratitude for this support than Mr. Wilson himself. Of his own accord he has listed for us the names of the following gentlemen whom he says were his “ardent supporters” during the thirteen years of his work there: Gen. J.H. Oley, Col. D.W. Emmons, Foster Steward, D. I. Smith, George F. Miller, J. Hooe Russell, Sam Gideorn, B.T. Davis, Dr. Buffington, W.H. Holeswade, Taylor Wellington, B.H. Trackson, W. O. James, J. M. Jasper, Wm. Morgan, and James Welkins.

Meanwhile young Wilson had been severely and dangerously injured in playing what was even then perhaps considered as ” the great American game,” baseball. Somehow, during a hard game, he had the misfortune to turn one limb in such a way that the hip was dislocated. Such an injury is perhaps always serious, but in those days of comparatively limited surgical skill, it presented a problem often baffling indeed. In this case, although the patient recovered, he was rendered a permanent cripple, so far as that one limb was concerned. But even this did not prevent him from continuing his education and his work. After three years of hobbling about on a crutch, he was able to dispense with this assistance and to walk unaided although with a limp, as that accident left him with that limb slightly shorter than the other.

After teaching in Huntington, Mr. Wilson returned to Ohio and was employed to teach at what is known locally as Red Hill. That is the community just over the hill, on the Jackson road, About a mile north of Proctorville. A half century and more ago, it was essentially a community and the Proctorville Board of Education maintained a special school there for the colored folks of the district. The well-known colored Baptist church of Mount Pisgah still stands in that community, but the school was generally known as the Red Hill school. After a successful tenure at this school, Mr. Wilson returned to the West Virginia schools and secured a position as a teacher at Guyandotte.

Meanwhile, this progressive and able young man had found time to improve his knowledge and skill both by reading and formal school as well as experience. Oberlin College at Oberlin, Ohio, then offered the best and most available means for a young colored person to secure a college education. Accordingly, Mr. Wilson finally succeeded in being able to attend that great institution. That was the year 1885. After studying for a time at Oberlin, Mr. Wilson returned home again and took up his work.

Another one of the leading colored schools of Cabell County, West Virginia, at that time was located at Barboursville and Mr. Wilson taught there for awhile and then secured a position at Wayne Court House as the county seat of Wayne County was then called. After that he taught in Kentucky both at Louisa and Blaine. Thus it will be seen that he had a wide and varied experience as a teacher in three states, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

But teaching has been, and was especially a notoriously poorly paid profession. That is teachers themselves were poorly paid so far as actual money was concerned although the satisfaction coming to a to a really interested teacher is something not to be measured in dollars and cents. However Mr. Wilson wished to establish his permanent home in his boyhood neighborhood and returned to the old homestead to look for a place of his own. He had the opportunity to buy a small tract of land and, although he lacked the necessary cash, his reputation for honesty, industry and thrift was such that he had no difficulty securing the financial backing of white friends able to assist him. He says that it was the backing of Mr. A. O. Ash who still lives a neighbor to him and the late C. H. Hall of Huntington, this writer’s uncle, that he was able to purchase the farm on which he still lives. The venture was naturally a success and now for many years the Theodore Wilson home has been one of the landmarks, so to speak, of the Rome community in Quaker Bottom, Ohio.

Mr. Wilson’s first wife did not survive long after their marriage and his life was further saddened by the passing of their son, Kelso Lee Wilson, who was born on September 21st, 1882, and passed away in the year 1890. On July 16,1896, Mr. Wilson was united in marriage with Miss Emma Layne, They had one son H. C. Wilson, who was born on March 15, 1897. He was, but slightly younger than this writer. We were boys together in the same community. We for a short time attended the same school, and as at times our fathers were associated in farming ventures, we boys played together. He was a likable boy and grew up to be a bright young man, full of promise and of course dearly beloved by his parents. But he was stricken ill in the year 1917 and passed away while just on the verge of manhood.

We have just referred to Mr. Wilson’s association with our father in farming and so, perhaps should explain, that by that time, which was about thirty – years ago, Theodore Wilson had become one of the leading gardeners of Quaker Bottom and frequently, in addition to farming or gardening his own land, he rented land of neighboring farmers and marketed their produce for them. Thus for a number of seasons he marketed the strawberry crop produced on our home farm and preformed other services for our family. He had the reputation of being able to handle such crops with the least loss and sell them for the best prices of any of the hucksters in the community. And our folks found this to be so true that they secured his services year after year.

No doubt many people who frequented the Huntington market and groceries in days gone by will remember Mr. Wilson distinctly. He kept a spick and span delivery express, on the side of which was painted in bright letters “Lizzie B.,” which was the name of the spirited horse which drew the conveyance, which pulled the plow across the fields at home and which led him on the proverbial merry chase when her spirit was aroused. In those days it was necessary for a Quaker Bottom gardener to start with his produce for the market the night before the day of the sale. That is, it was necessary, if he expected to sell his produce for the best prices. Accordingly Mr. Wilson after a hard day in the field, a little sleep in the evening and the rest of the night spent on the wagon en route to market and under the river bank waiting his turn on the Proctorville ferry would proceed to Huntington, dispose of his produce, return home and perhaps catch a short nap before returning to the field again. Such was the life of a market gardener in Quaker Bottom thirty years ago. At least such was the life of those, who like Theodore Wilson who made a success of it. It is little wonder he succeeded where so many others failed.

Nor should we neglect to mention his faithful help and co-operation given to him by his devoted wife. For many years Mrs. Wilson not only faithfully preformed the duties of a wife and companion but assisted her husband in the field, in a small store which he operated on the premises and by serving a number of wealthy families in various capacities. Like her husband, she was an intelligent and well-educated person.

In addition to the many other services, Mr. Wilson has rendered the community in which he lives, he acted for many years as caretaker of Rome Chapel and as Sexton of the Proctorville- Rome Cemetery.

In Christian work, Mr. Wilson has long been a member of the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal in Huntington, W. Va., having joined under the pastorate of Rev. S. M. Jefferson.

He is also a charter member of the A. F. & A. M. Lodge of Masons of Huntington, a charter of his lodge of Odd Fellows and a member of the Order of Galilean Fishermen.

And now after over 80 years of life well spent, Mr. Wilson, in a recent communication to the writer expressed his contentment and peace of mind by simply saying that he is “waiting for the call.” However, his many friends on this side cannot help hoping devotedly that “the call” will be deferred.