Augustus Wilson 1 2
- Born: 10 May 1842, West Sonora, Preble County, Ohio
- Marriage (1): Sarah Catherine Niswonger on 19 Sep 1867 in Winchester, OH
transcribed from Frazer Wilson's History of Darke County, v. 2, 1914, pp 96-102.
AUGUSTUS N. WILSON AND SARAH C. WILSON.
Augustus N. Wilson is the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Leas) Wilson and was born near West Sonora, Preble County, Ohio, May 10, 1842. His grandfather was a carpenter and a resident of Bucks county, Pennsylvania, whose ancestors seem to have been among the early Quaker settlers of the Delaware valley--probably settling there shortly prior to 1700. As near as is now known his forebears were mostly carpenters and farmers who intermarried with some of the best families of the Friends and lived the humble, frugal and industrious life characteristic of these stalwart people.
Mr. Wilson's grandfather fell from a building on which he was working in Philadelphia, Pa., and died as a result of the fall. His son Thomas was reared in the home of his brother-in-law, Abner Hibbs, and appears to have learned the hatter's trade in Philadelphia when a young man. Later, probably between 1820 and 1825, Thomas came to Ohio, walking from Philadelphia to the home of his brother Eli in Zanesville, Ohio. Shortly afterward he piloted a flat boat of merchandise from Cincinnati to New Orleans and returned afoot. He finally settled near West Sonora, Preble County, Ohio, where he taught school and became a justice of the peace. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Leas of near Lewisburg, Preble county, and became the father of eight children, viz.: Lydia, who married William Werts; William M.; John L.; Eli; Theodore; F. J.; Augustus N., and Jane, who married Silas Laird. Of these, five sons and one daughter still survive at an average age of about seventy-five years.
From their mother these children, apparently, inherited that business acumen characteristic of the Leas family, which has made the men successful in financial and business enterprises. From the father, who was a voracious reader and student of current affairs, probably came the desire to acquire an education and a certain ability to frame and compose papers of literary merit.
Thomas Wilson was born October 14, 1803, and died December 21, 1877, and his wife, Elizabeth, was born September 5, 1805 and died February 5, 1887. Their remains are buried in the cemetery at Lewisburg, Ohio.
From Quaker ancestry Augustus Wilson probably inherited the qualities of moral integrity, firmness, frugality, industry, determination, frankness, hatred of shams, together with plainness of speech and simplicity in dress which are marked characteristics of his disposition.
He acquired the rudiments of an education in a country school and, when about fourteen years of age, went to work on the farm of a neighbor at six dollars per month.
In the fall of 1861 he commenced to teach school, but in a few weeks laid aside his books and responded to the call of his country, enlisting as a private in Company E, Sixty-ninth regiment, Ohio volunteer infantry, for a period of three years. At the termination of this period he re-enlisted and soon thereafter was appointed hospital steward of the regiment, which position he held until mustered out after the close of the war. He was with the regiment during this entire period with the exception of about two weeks and participated in Sherman's famous march to the sea, taking part in the following engagements: Gallatin, Nashville, Stone River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge, Tenn.; Dug Gap. Buzzard's Roost, Dalton, Resaca, Pumpkin Vine Creek, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Chattahoochie River, Peach Tree Creek, Siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro and Siege of Savannah, Ga.; Bentonville, Goldsboro and Raleigh, N. C., and was
present at Johnson's surrender.
During the first winter after the war, he taught below Ithaca. The spring found him with some seven hundred dollars, which he had saved by soldiering and teaching and with this little sum he entered into partnership with his uncle, Jesse Tillman, and conducted a small dry goods and grocery store in the hamlet of Jaysville, Darke County, Ohio. In about a year he sold out his interest and formed a partnership with his brother William, who conducted a store at Winchester, Preble County, Ohio. In the spring of 1867 he went to Dallas (now Ansonia), Ohio, and entered into partnership with his brother John. Here he remained a little over five years, during most of which time he served as postmaster of the village. On September 19, 1867, he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah C., daughter of George and Elizabeth (Frazer) Niswonger at Winchester, Ohio. In February, 1873, the family, then including three children, moved to Greenville, Ohio, where Mr. Wilson formed a partnership with Mr. William Kelly and conducted a dry goods store in the building now occupied by the Advocate office and press room on Broadway, near the public square. This partnership lasted about two years, when Mr. Kelly was elected county auditor and retired from the firm. Mr. Wilson soon moved into the Miller room, a few doors to the south, and in about two years formed a partnership with William H. Hart, which lasted some twelve years. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hart were complementary in disposition, the former having excellent judgment of the quality and value of merchandise, indomitable energy and good executive qualities, while the latter was sociable, diplomatic and urbane in manner and winning in personality, thus forming an ideal partnership which commanded the confidence and won the patronage of the community.
On account of the rapid increase in the volume of their business Wilson and Hart were forced to seek new quarters, and, in 1879, began the erection of a substantial three-story brick building, 40x85 feet in size, on the west side of Broadway just south of Third street. This building was, at that time, considered too far south of the trading center, but trade followed the store and in a short time it was considered one of the most centrally located business rooms in the city. It was completed in 1880 and was by far the most modern and substantial business room in the city, being finely finished and equipped, well proportioned and excellently lighted. On account of failing health, Mr. Hart retired from the business and moved to Chattanooga, Tenn.
In 1892, Mr. Wilson formed a partnership with his sons Osborn and Frazer and his son-in-law, Mr. William H. Mann. In the spring of 1895 the new firm closed out their business in Greenville and opened up a store on South Main Street, near Fifth Street, Dayton, Ohio, where they conducted business until July 1908. In the meantime, the partnership had been dissolved and Mr. Wilson now returned to Greenville where he reopened in the Winner block, having disposed of the building, which he formerly owned upon moving to Dayton. On July 1, 1906, he again moved into the latter building, and on March 11, 1907, formed a new partnership with his sons, Osborn, Frazer and Carl. Osborn withdrew in September to accept a position in the Greenville postoffice where he is now employed as assistant mailing clerk. The business has continued since that time under the firm name of A. N. Wilson & Sons, and now requires the use of the entire three floors of the Wilson & Hart block to properly house their large stock of dry goods, notions and floor coverings.
By having his sons to share the responsibilities of the business Mr. Wilson has been able to devote some time to public affairs, and in January, 1902, became a member of the board of trustees of the Dayton State Hospital for the Insane by appointment of Governor Nash. This position he held for three successive terms and until the board was finally abolished by a new State law which centralized the control of the State charitable institutions in April 1911. For some time Mr. Wilson was president of the board and was associated during his incumbency with Hons. H. L. Morey, George Sohngen of Hamilton, 0.; C. R. Gilmore of Eaton, 0.; T. F. Linn, of Columbus, 0.; George Little and Judge C. C. Scherer of Xenia, 0.
In the fall of 1903, Mr. Wilson was elected Mayor of Greenville on the Republican ticket, overcoming a natural Democratic majority of over one hundred and fifty. During his term of office, he won the confidence of the moral and law abiding element in the population by his rigid and impartial enforcement of the laws.
In November 1905, he was a candidate for re-election against Thomas C. Maher, the Democratic candidate, with whom he tied, each receiving 825 votes. To determine who should serve, the candidates cast lot and Mr. Wilson won, but Mr. Maher soon filed contest proceedings in court, alleging irregularity in respect to four or five votes, and secured a verdict in his favor.
Mr. Wilson also served the public in other capacities, being a member of the board of education, about 1890, and a member of the committee, with Hon. C. M. Anderson, Judge Jas. I. Allread and Judge John C. Clark, appointed to wait upon the committee on public buildings at Washington, D. C., and present Greenville's claims for a government building. Hon. Harvey C. Garver was a member of Congress at that time and with his vigorous co-operation an appropriation of some $35,000 was secured with which the colonial style postoffice building on the public square was soon built.
He has been a member of the Odd Fellows for over forty years and is also a member of the G. A. R.
With all his interest in public affairs, Mr. Wilson never neglected his business. Being especially interested in the selling and making up of carpets, he invented a clamp for holding together strips of carpet, which were to be sewed. This clamp was patented under date of August 5, 1890, and proved to be a practical invention, being sold to progressive merchants in various sections of the United States.
In disposition Mr. Wilson is firm, aggressive, industrious, persevering and faithful and has that determined spirit which scarcely knows defeat. He has raised a large family, carried on an extensive business, served the public, and today, at the age of seventy-two years, is more active than many men at fifty, taking an active and very important part in the necessary details and routine incident to a successful business.
For relaxation he enjoyed his annual hunt of two or three weeks in the forests of Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine or some of the southern States, not missing a season for a period of thirty years or more.
Mrs. Wilson was born in Euphemia, Preble County, Ohio, June 23, 1847. Her father's father was David Niswonger, who was born in Virginia in 1770 and died in 1844. He was of German descent and married in the Gunder family. George Niswonger, the father of Mrs. Wilson, was born in Preble county, March 9, 1817, and died at Greenville, Ohio, March 9, 1884. He married Miss Elizabeth Ducker Frazer. October 1, 1843, and they became the parents of Sarah Catharine (Wilson); John N. Niswonger, born December 19, 1852, died April 24, 1895; Jas. A. B. Niswonger, born July 19, 1851, died March 22, 1899.
Mrs. Wilson's mother's father was Jas. A. B. Frazer, son of William Frazer, who came from Scotland, claiming direct descent from Sir Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat). The Frasers (sometimes spelt Frazer or Frazier), were of Norman French descent and settled in Scotland at an early date, becoming one of the most prominent families in the isle whose descendants are found scattered in the United States and the British colonies generally. The present seat of the family in Scotland is Invernessshire and the City of Inverness, where they form a large per cent of the population.
James A. B. Frazer was born in 1791 and learned the trade of a miller, probably from his father, who, it seems, operated a mill near Baltimore, Md. He came to western Ohio about 1820, where he engaged in milling at Lucas's mill on Brown's run in the northern part of Butler county. He also taught school in the Heck neighborhood near this place, where in September, 1823, he married Catharine Heck, whose parents also came from Maryland. While living at Brown's Run, a daughter, Elizabeth D. (mother of Mrs. A. N. Wilson), was born August 14, 1824. The family soon moved to the neighborhood of Georgetown, Preble County, where Mr. Frazer taught school for a while. In 1827, he leased a mill of John Lock on Twin Creek, just above Euphemia and in 1828, he bought the property, which then consisted of an old mill and saw mill. This mill had been built by Jesse Swisher in 1817, and had three run of burrs--one French, one Raccoon and a corn burr made from a gray-head stone, with a capacity of about twenty-seven barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. A distillery was added to this with a capacity of about twenty bushels per day with mashing done by hand. Later horse power was installed to do the mashing and pumping, thus increasing the capacity to thirty bushels per day. In 1838, Mr. Frazer built a stone mill just west of the old mill from limestone quarried along the creek nearby. This mill was about one hundred feet long and was considered one of the substantial buildings of the State at that early date. It cost some S12,000 to $14,000 in addition to $3,000 which Mr. Frazer had paid for the old mill with one hundred and forty acres of land and the water right extending from west of his dam to the national road east of Euphemia. When the new mill was completed, he was offered $28,000 for the entire property and water right, with the provision that he would not build another mill within the bounds of the customs of said mill. He refused this offer, but a few years proved his mistak e as he went into bankruptcy in 1844 and died August 20, 1849, grieving his loss and failure. His estimable wife, who was known for her benevolent disposition, lost the sight of both eyes about the time of her husband's failure, probably from paralysis of the optic nerve, and died at the home of her daughter in Richmond, Ind., from apoplexy, March 27, 1854. Their children were Elizabeth D., Henry, John, Nelson and Daniel, all of whom are now dead, except Henry, who is eighty-nine years of age.
Elizabeth D. Frazer was a woman of exceptional mental powers, with strong moral convictions, sane piety and a very industrious disposition. In spite of many discouraging experiences along the road of life she bore up bravely and won for herself an enviable reputation. After the death of her husband, George Niswonger, in 1854, she made her home mostly with her daughter, Mrs. A. N. Wilson, in Greenville, Ohio, where she died September 29, 1901, at the age of seventy-seven years.
Sarah Catharine (Niswonger) Wilson inherited many of the characteristics of her grandmother Frazer, whom she resembled in outward form, being inclined to stoutness, and enjoying good living. She was a woman of large heart and mind, a tender, yielding disposition and optimistic tendencies. She thought well of mankind, caring but little for distinctions of creed, color or mere outward circumstance and was charitable almost to a fault with the unfortunate. The family circle was the center of her affections, but she was sociable to all and exceedingly hospitable to her friends. So-called society made no appeal to her and she disliked its posings, affections and shams to a marked degree. Being of a lively and active disposition she enjoyed life and expected others to do likewise. Although disabled by partial paralysis during the last five years of her life she bore her affliction with patience and fortitude and passed to her reward April 7, 1914, mourned by a host of friends and admirers.
Her remains, together with those of her parents and brother James, and son George are buried in the Wilson lot in the Greenville cemetery.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were the parents of eight children, of whom seven still survive, as follows: Gertrude, who married Mr. William H. Mann; Osborn, who married Miss Lillian Harrison, and is now a mailing clerk in the Greenville postoffice; Frazer E., who married Miss Pearle Larimer (see sketch in this work); Bessie, now at home; Carlton F., author of musical ballads, now member of firm of A. N. Wilson & Sons; Grace A., who married J. L. Ewing, now living at Erie, Pa.; Frank G., musician and musical composer, now with Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. The grandchildren are Kathryn, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Mann; John Larimer, Wayne Alden and Miriam, children of Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Wilson; Harrison Augustus, son of Mr. and Mrs. Osborn Wilson.
Augustus married Sarah Catherine Niswonger, daughter of George Niswonger and Elizabeth Ducker Frazer, on 19 Sep 1867 in Winchester, OH. (Sarah Catherine Niswonger was born on 23 Jul 1847 in Euphemia, Preble County, Ohio, died on 7 Apr 1914 and was buried in Wilson Lot In The Greenville Cemetery.)