Samuel Wilson, my grandfather’s grandfather, was an Indian Agent in Nebraska. Or so I was told.
And I’d heard the story that Indians had tried to steal one of his sons. Sam found him in a wagon between two Indians and ordered them to let him down. They did.
But how much of this was true?
Thanks to the 1887 Biographical and Historical Record of Green and Carroll Counties, Iowa, published while Sam Wilson was still living, the stories start to become real.
Sam Wilson was born in 1819. When he was nine years old, his father–an Irish immigrant–died in Sandusky County, Ohio. Young Sam was apprenticed to a blacksmith. The smith’s wife was so cruel to him that he escaped to the woods and joined some Indians. Senecas and Tuscaroras lived in the area at that time.
He traveled with them as he grew up, coming to Fort Dearborn about 1932 (now Chicago) with them.
He married Emily Huyck in Illinois in 1846, the same year that Iowa became a State and Neptune was discovered. Four years later, Sam Wilson was elected Justice of the Peace at Huyck’s Grove, Wilton Center, Will County, Illinois.
Sam and Emily, along with four children (ages seven to an infant) homesteaded in Iowa in 1854. Baby Hannah died the next year, the first Wilson buried in the Coon Rapids cemetery. Sam Wilson eventually settled on a farm just east of Coon Rapids.
Sam and Emily Wilson had ten children, six of whom grew to adulthood: Alonzo, Richard, Lillie, twins George and Daniel Ross, and Emma.
The oldest was Alonzo (Lon) Wilson. I believe that he and wife Lucy Jane were the original owners of what is now Whiterock Conservancy. (A great grandson, Daniel Keith Wilson, was a 1970 casualty of the Vietnam War.)
Richard Wilson, born 1856, learned to walk on the reservation at Ft. Omaha. Aha! The old history also says that he had located among Indians in Nebraska with whom he had spent his early life, but nothing about being an Indian agent.
Daniel Ross Wilson (who once got $2000 for a hog, “a famous one among the red hog men“). Dan and Georgia Ann Wilson were the parents of Claiborne Daniel. When Clabe Wilson was a boy, he would ice skate up the Middle Raccoon River from near Panora during the winter to his grandparents’ home at Coon Rapids.
“Spending so much time with the Indians, Mr. Wilson’s education was extremely limited. His book knowledge was all obtained later in life, which was sufficient to enable him to become well informed on the topics of the day. Previous to the War he was an Abolitionist, but later became a Republican, being an uncompromising Union man during the war. He had no affinity for any person that sympathized with the Rebellion to any extent whatever. Mr. Wilson is a worthy representative of the early pioneer element of Carroll County.”
One of the oldest settlers in the area, Samuel Wilson died Coon Rapids in 1897. He had donated a stained glass window to his church.
I was also told that these Wilsons descended from Betsy Ross. THE Betsy Ross. That’s why someone in each generation still carries the name Ross. But Betsy and her first husband, John Ross, had no children. (A daughter of her third husband did marry a Wilson, not part of this branch that I could find.)
But there is some truth in some of the Indian stories, enough to make Samuel Wilson a memorable ancestor.