History of George Wilson, part
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
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
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
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.