It was last fall when I received a telephone call from C.F. Marley of Nokomis with the news that he, along with his son, Bob, and Bob’s wife, Pat, had found a death certificate for William Wilson in the records of Fayette County.
This man was C.F.’s long-lost great uncle, for whom the Marleys had spent years searching. C.F.’s father, the late Bernard Marley, often spoke of two uncles who fought at Vicksburg, where "blood ran down the hill." These uncles were brothers to Bernard’s mother, Lydia Wilson Marley.
Later, as C.F. and his sister, Theresa, began their family search, they learned that their father’s uncles, William and Joseph Wilson, were not on the roster of Union forces, but rather, both had enlisted in Company C of the Fourth Missouri Infantry, at Howell County, Mo., on Feb. 8, 1862, Confederate States of America.
The Wilson family has a long imprint on Fayette and Montgomery counties, arriving here in 1828 from Rowan County, N.C.
John and Ruth Wilburn Wilson were parents of 15 children. Many of the children remained in Illinois, while others, like son Jacob Wilburn Wilson, moved to Fulton County, Ark., settling in Bennett’s Bayou.
When the war question came up, Jacob identified with the Southern cause, and joined with Sapp’s Band of Guerillas, while his brother, Joshua, of Coffeen, was a strong Unionist.
In December 1863, Jacob was captured in Phelps County, Mo., and was incarcerated at the federal prison at Springfield, Mo., charged with murder, robbery and general disloyalty.
Word reached his brother, Joshua Wilson, who came to his brother’s aid and helped to pay his bond of $2,000. Jacob signed an "Oath of Allegiance" to the Union, swearing, in part, that “I will discourage discountenance and forever oppose secession, rebellion and the disintegration of the federal Union,” and was released to his brother.
While Joshua returned to his family at Coffeen, Jacob Wilburn got on his horse and headed south. He was arrested twice more by the provost marshal. It may have been about this time that Martha, Jacob’s second wife, moved to Montgomery County by ox cart, bringing with her the younger children, including Lydia Wilson.
He later joined them and lived out his life near Coffeen.
On Feb. 8, 1862, Jacob’s sons, 16-year-old William and his brother, Joseph, who was 18, along with eight or 10 cousins, traveled to Howell County, Mo., and enlisted in Company C., Fourth Missouri Infantry, Confederate Forces.
The Wilson boys served together at Farmington and in the Iuka and Corinth campaigns, where Joseph was wounded and captured. He was paroled and according to his papers “went home.” William fought on to Hatchie Bridge, the final battle for Vicksburg, when his one-year enlistment was up.
After the war, William moved to Coffeen and married in Fayette County, Jane Browning on Dec. 21, 1870. She was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Neathery Browning. They were parents of four children: Christopher Columbus, William H., Margaret and Mary J. Wilson, who was born in March 1880, a few months before her father’s death.
From information on the death certificate that the Marleys found in the Fayette County death records, William died on July 8, 1880, from a carbuncle. He was treated by Dr. Moses Haynes and burial was in Browning Cemetery.
With this document and proof of his enlistment in the Fourth Missouri Infantry, the Marley family could now order a veteran’s marker for William to be placed in Browning Cemetery.
The stone has been set, the cannons are at the ready and on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m., William Wilson’s veteran marker will be dedicated.
Joining with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various re-enactor units, the family invites all interested persons and family members to attend. Please bring lawn chairs.
Following the ceremony, a reception with light refreshments will be held in the Bethel Baptist Church fellowship hall.