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John O. C. Wilson

WILSON, John O. C. (deceased), one of the earliest residents of Macomb, Ill., as he was one of the worthiest, and the first of its citizens to perform the functions of Mayor, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., July 12, 1805, and died in Macomb, March 18, 1880. He was a son of Robert and Elizabeth (O'Connor) Wilson, natives of Ireland. An ancestor of his mother, also named John O'Connor, was supposed to be akin to the royal blood of Ireland. The O'Connor castle still stands. Both of his parents were very young when they came to the United States. His mother, when a little child, came to Philadelphia with her brother, who died six months after their arrival, leaving her without kindred. By occupation his father was a shoemaker. Although the subject of this sketch enjoyed but meager facilities for school instruction in his youth, he contrived, by dint of close application to his studies, to secure a fair common-school education. After his school days were over he learned the trade of a hatter, at which he worked from place to place. He was fond of visiting new scenes, and, with this inclination, traveled over a greater part of the country, tarrying briefly in one town and then journeying to another which attracted his attention. After his marriage in Kentucky he came to Illinois in 1833, buying a farm on which he lived eighteen months, and which is now owned by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Hettie Wilson.

On May 12, 1829, Mr. Wilson was united in marriage, at Lebanon, Ky., with Adeline L. Purdy. Her grandfather came from Ireland to the United States at an early period. He purchased a farm for each of his six sons, and presented each one with a slave. Some of these farms were situated on the site of the present city of Lebanon. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson became the parents of ten children, four of whom died, unnamed, in infancy. The others are as follows: Cincinnatus, deceased; Elizabeth Ann (Mrs. Clark), deceased; Cornelia, who lives with her mother; Dr. Robert Henry, a dentist in Kentucky; Samuel P., deceased: and Charles, who died at the age of one year. The mother of this family, commonly called "Grandma Wilson," was born January 28, 1810. She lives in Macomb, does her own work, and is as sprightly and interesting as many persons at a much younger age. In her ninety-sixth year, her mind is clear and her memory retentive.

Politically, Mr. Wilson was in early life a Whig. After the Civil War, he espoused the cause of the Democratic party. He served as Assessor of his township, filled the office of Deputy Sheriff, under "Dan" Campbell, was School Commissioner and School Superintendent, and was elected the first Mayor of Macomb. Fraternally, he was affiliated with the A. F. & A. M. Religiously, he became a member of the Presbyterian Church about six years before his death. John O'Connor Wilson was a man of keen intellect, broad information and strong force of character. He was. withal, a person of kindly nature and cordial sentiment. He possessed in a large measure the precise qualities essential to a civic official in the pioneer period, and left the lasting impress of his life on the early history of Macomb.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1046-1047, extracted 26 Oct 2020 by Norma Hass.

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