This Wilson-Gray family has been in the United States for about 300 years. Most of our ancestors were farmers in South Carolina, North Carolina or Virginia in pre-Revolutionary War times. The most recent immigrant member of the family that I’m aware of is Lucy Granville Penn (1673-1719). Lucy was born in Gloucestershire in southwest England, near Wales. Lucy is the grandmother of John Penn, our cousin who signed the Declaration of Independence (see earlier post). Specifically:
Leona Mitchell Wilson (1868-1930), mother of brothers L.A., Frank, Roy and Willie, was the daughter of Albert Pierce Mitchell (1844-?), the son of Albert Washington Mitchell (1810-1881), the son of Nimrod Mitchell Jr (1779-1837), the son of Mary Elizabeth Penn Mitchell (1746-1818), the daughter of Joseph Penn (1717-1774), the son of Lucy Granville Penn (1673-1719). I don’t know when or how she came to Colonial America…yet.
If you are a member of this Wilson family you are related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, albeit a bit indirectly.
How are we related? It’s a long story:
I’ll begin with Wilson brothers L.A. (1890-1962), Roy (1894-1968) , Frank (1899-1981) and Willie (1902-1948).
Their mother was Leona A. Mitchell Wilson (1868-1930), pictured above.
Leona’s father was Confederate veteran Albert Pierce Mitchell (1844-?) of Attala County, MS.
Pierce’s father was Albert Washington Mitchell (1810-1881), born in Laurens District, SC.
Albert’s father was Nimrod Mitchell Jr. (1779-1837) of the Abbeville District, SC.
Nimrod’s mother was Mary Elizabeth Penn (1746-1818) of Caroline County, VA.
Mary Elizabeth’s father was Joseph Penn (1717-1774). Joseph’s brother Moses Penn (1712-1759) and wife Catherine Taylor Penn were the parents of John Penn (1740-1788), a representative to the Continental Congress for North Carolina.
[Source: Our Wilson Ancestors and Relatives, a typed document given to me by Roy L. Wilson, Jr. Author unknown although he wrote “From M.F. Gordon” on the corner.]
…When [the] Civil War came, Joel Fowler Wilson was 31 years old and the father of 7 children. Three more were born during the war. Ministers were exempt from military duty but many volunteered as soldiers, Chaplains, and hospital commissioners. Those who did not go to war had to support themselves by farming or teaching. Many were destitute but did what they could to minister to the sorrowful and suffering. Our ancestor was numbered with those who stayed at home and served in that capacity.
During the reconstruction years the Wilson family lived through a time of deprivation, hardship and struggle common to all of Mississippi and the south. By the year 1870 the population of the county of 14,776 persons. The farm census for then and for ten years later revealed that most farmers relied on oxen and mules as beasts of burden and the idea of a tractor has not as much as entered the mind. Little was known of erosion control, rotation of crops, or even fertilization so gradually the top soil washed away and the land became less and less profitable. Thus many people moved on to Texas looking for better opportunities, including some of the older children of Joel Fowler Wilson.
In about 1895, because of Ellender’s health [his wife, Ellender Caroline Coker Wilson], our ancestors also moved to Texas . the move proved to be an unfortunate one for Ellender had tuberculous (sic) and she did not improve. The following is the last letter she wrote to her daugher (sic) (this writer’s paternal grandmother), Victoria Wilson Patterson. [Transcribed as typed, except I added paragraph breaks for easier reading]
My dear child; I will try to answer your dear letter received yesterday. Oh Victory you dont know how glad I was to here from you but ______ you was not well. i never do feel a well hour. My health has ben so bad I could not write atall. i am so nervous at times i cant hold anything long at a time. I am alone. Your Pa [Joel Fowler Wilson] has ben preaching over three weeks. I am not able to go with him. He comes home twice a week to see how I am.
i was very sorry Walter [Victoria’s oldest son] was suffering so bad with risings [boils]. Jimmie [James Bennett Wilson, who later married and was divorced from his brother William’s widow Leona] and family has ben here and staid two weeks. Lelia’s [Jimmie’s wife] is some better than it was. Willie [William Ransom Wilson] and Leona and Alvy Griffin [possibly Albert, son of Isabella Wilson Griffin] is gone to Fannin County. Ben gone too weeks. Went through the country about one hundred and twenty miles. They went to Sister Nancy. Alvy has not stade with me any. He has been working with the boy on the farm. We didn’t have anything for him to do.
i can get someone every night to stay with me. Sometimes the children comes but they have a bad chance. Bobby [Robert Best] was here yesterday, said Sue [Susan Ann] was coming one day this week. i don’t think they will ever go back to Mississippi. Bob did get dissatisfied a while. It rained so much they lost all their oats and part of their cotton. It ruined them. It made them all feel bad. They say there never was more corn maid and cotton is a great deal better than they expected and they are all getting along very well.
I got a letter from Lizzy [Elizabeth Vashti Wilson] last week. They was all well except Pearl. Her health is not good and has not been all the year. i hope to get better now. i have a new medicine that has helpt me more than anything i have taken but Victory nothing will ever cure me. i have the worse cough you ever saw anyone in your life have.
Well you asked me if Pa was coming back to Mississippi. He cat leave me and my health is so bad i cant go. i will let you know if i get worse off. Some of the children will write to you. Tell Walter to write to me. You write often. Fairwell dear child.
Ellender Coker Wilson died in Joshua, Texas on April 11, 1896 and was buried in the Caddo Cemetary (sic). Following is a copy of her obituary written by her son, Rev. Dixon Lewis Wilson — Kosciusko Star Herald, April 20, 1896. [See photo below]
…After his wife’s death Joel Fowler Wilson returned to Attala County, Mississippi where he remained active in church live until a short while before his death. He died on May 24, 1898 at the age of 68.
MANY thanks to my now-deceased second cousin Roy L. Wilson Jr. for sharing his work on the Wilson family history with me.
Joel Fowler Wilson and his wife Ellender Coker Wilson begat many children, one of his younger children being my great-grandfather William Ransom Wilson. Joel lived in Attala County, Mississippi (Kosciusko) but ventured west to Joshua, Texas (south of DFW) to visit his son Isom. His beloved wife died and is buried there. Click on photos to see them larger.
This is the text of his obituary in the May 27, 1898 issue of the Mississippi Farmer (page and article image at bottom):
- All that was mortal of this grand man was laid to rest in the city cemetery here Wednesday after the funeral service at the Baptist Church by Rev. W.H.H. Fancher of French Camp. Joel Wilson was born in Georgia 18??, married in Yellowbusha (Yalobusha) co 18??, ordained as a Baptist minister 1856. He had long resided in this county, and few men were better known and he was universally like by all denomination and people who knew him. Not only (to?) the Baptists was he a faithful minister, but the county a useful citizen. He moved to Texas a few years ago and his beloved wife was called to her heavenly home. He returned to Attala county last year and resided with his son Rev. Dixon L. Wilson near Sardis where he died Monday, May 23, 18??.
[Photo and obituary courtesy of Roy L. Wilson, Jr., 1921-2008]
Frank Mitchell Wilson and his bride Ruby Dobbins were married in Richton, MS on Sunday, October 17, 1920. They had been married 60 years when he died of emphysema in 1981.
Frank’s parents were newspaperman William Ransom Wilson (b. July 23, 1867, d. March 12, 1912) and Leona A. Mitchell Wilson (b. May 1, 1867, d. 1930). He was their 7th child (of 8). Frank grew up with four brothers: older brothers L.A. and Roy, and younger brother Willie. Four other siblings died before the age of 3: Hattie, Pierce, Claudie and Earl.
What do you remember about Frank & Ruby? I’d love to know.