Biographies: Reuben Wilson

The Town of Wilson in Niagara County is named after this pioneer settler.

Reuben Wilson was born 19 Apr 1777, in Spencer, Worcester, MA and died 10 Mar 1862 in Wilson, Niagara, NY. He was married 3 times, but all his children were from his first marriage with Esther Parkman Oliver, by whom he had 14 children. They were married in 1797. She was born 14 Apr 1779 in Worcester county, MA and died on 22 Mary 1831 in Wilson, Niagara, NY. They are both buried in Greenwood cemetery in Wilson. He was married second to Chleo Byrne Shepherd and third to Elizabeth Oliver Pettit on 4 Jul 1839. Elizabeth was a sister of Esther's. She outlived Reuben.

Children of Reuben and Esther Parkman Oliver Wilson:
1. Luther Wilson, b. 18 Dec 1798, Broadalbin, Montgomery, NY, d. 18 Mar 1890, Wilson, Niagara, NY
2. Calvin Wilson, b. 17 Jul 1800, Northville, Montgomery (now Fulton), NY, d. 24 May 1877, Wilson, Niagara, NY
3. Oliver Wilson, b. 14 Dec 1801, Otsego county, NY, d. 9 Dec 1884
4. Alexander Wilson, b. 14 Apr 1803, Richfield, Otsego, NY, d. 4 Jan 1831
5. Zeriah Lerush Wilson, b. 17 Oct 1804, Richfield, Otsego, NY, d. 6 Oct 1806, Richfield, Otsego, NY
6. Anna Wilson, b. 8 Sep 1807, Hamilton, Northumberland, Ontario, Canada, d. 6 Jun 1825, Wilson, Niagara, NY, m. Luman Case
7. Orson Wilson, b. 9 Mar 1809, Canada, d. same day
8. Elizabeth Wilson, b. 30 Apr 1810, Canada, d. same day
9. Orrin Wilson, b. 3 Jun 1811, Cambria, Niagara, NY, 8 Dec 1896, Wilson, Niagara, NY, m. Sibyle Hurlburt
10. Charlotte Wilson, b. 29 Aug 1814, Porter, Niagara, NY, d. 9 mar 1831, Wilson, Niagara, NY
11. Lucinda Wilson, b. 7 Jun 1816, Porter, Niagara, NY, d. 6 Aug 1843, Wilson, Niagara, NY, m. Orin H. Cole
12. Caroline Wilson, b. 17 Mar 1818, Porter, Niagara, NY, d. 17 Dec 1819, Wilson, Niagara, NY
13. Luron D. Wilson, b. 21 Nov 1819, now Wilson, Niagara, NY, d. 9 Dec 1893, Lockport, Niagara, NY
14. Esther, b. 25 Feb 1823, Wilson, Niagara, NY, d. 9 Aug 1836


 

Deposition given in 1854:

Reuben Wilson, of the town of Wilson, in the county of Niagara, being duly sworn, deposes and says, that he was a resident of the town of Porter during the war of 1812-'13; that a few days after the taking of Fort Niagara by the enemy, a party of the enemy were detached from the fort, to proceed down the lake to the Eighteen mile creek, to burn the tenements of the inhabitants; the party came down as far as the house of this deponent and took him a prisoner, but left him at home until the next day, when a guard from the party returned, and then took him, with other prisoners, back to the fort. He was acquainted with the mills of James Van Horn, and knows they were burned by the party; while a prisoner in the fort (one week) he heard the party who went down say they had burned the mills. This deponent was acquainted with the grist-mill; thinks it was about thirty five feet square, and worth twenty-five hundred dollars or more; knew the log house, and thinks it was worth two hundred dollars; does not know how much wheat and flour there was in the mill. The log-house, as mentioned, was properly a timber house, being made of squared timber and fitted close together. And further this deponent saith not. - Reuben Wilson

Subscribed and sworn to, this 3d day of January, 1854, before me, Henry Eshbaugh, Justice of the Peace.


 

Source: Pioneer History of the Holland Purchas of Western New York, published by Jewett, Thomas & Co.: Geo. H. Derby & Co., Buffalo, 1849

The venerable Reuben Wilson, of the town of Wilson, is one of the few survivors of the early pioneers of Niagara. Identified with almost the entire history of the county; taking for a long series of years an active part in its concerns; his memory of events distinct and retentive; the author has derived from him a narrative which he prefers to give the reader pretty much in the language and manner of the narrator:—

"Emigrating from Massachusetts, I first settled in Canada, near Toronto, but remained there but three years. In April, 1810, I embarked with my family, consisting of a wife and five children, in company with John Eastman and his family, in a batteau, crossed the lake, and landed at the mouth of the Twelve Mile creek. Making a short stop at Niagara, I bought a few necessary articles, in all amounting to fifty cents; but small as was the outlay, it was my entire cash capital. Two cows that had been driven around the head of the lake, a few articles of household furniture, and a few farming tools, constituted the bulk of my worldly wealth. I took up one hundred and seventy acres of land, at $2.50 per acre, paying nothing down, but agreeing to pay five per cent in a few months [see footnote]. There had come into this neighborhood a short time previous, (in what is now Wilson,) Stephen Sheldon, Robert Edmonds, and Dexter P. Sprague, (who afterwards went to Hartland,) and Robert Waterhouse. Several families of the Mays and Finches, were in before the war. [Mr. Wilson mentions the names of the settlers along on lake shore, some of whom, have already been noticed. Those that have not, who were settlers previous to the war, were the families of the Wisners and Albrights, since widely known as enterprising and successful farmers; James M'Kenney, Zebulon Coates, Benjamin Halsted, Joseph Pease, Samuel Crossman, John Brewer. Geo. Ash, Jr. Peter Hopkins, David Porter.]

When I came in, there was scarcely an acre of ground cleared in what is now Wilson. There was no road up and down the lake. In the fall of 1811, there was a road opened from fort Niagara to Somerset; it was generally along the lake shore, though deviating at the streams; at its termination, a foot path continued on to Johnson's creek on Ridge Road.

In 1811, I was honored with the office of Constable, of the town of Cambria. It was a very easy station, no precept being put into my hands during the year. The first year after I came in, I had my provisions to procure from Canada; the second year, I raised my own; at the end of two years, had fifteen acres of improvement. When I first began to raise grain, I had to go across to Port Hope and Hamilton for my grinding. Even after mills were built upon the Purchase, it was easier to go across the lake, than to travel the new roads. My first seventy acres of improvement was made pretty much with my own hands; after that, my sons were old enough to assist me.

Previous to the war, myself and neighbors did our trading at Niagara. Dr. Alvord, and Dr. Smith, of Lewiston, were our early physicians. We had no meetings or schools previous to the war; after it, and up to 1820, we had but occasional preaching in the neighborhood, by missionaries. We organized a school in 1815; built a log school house; Dr. Warner was our first teacher. He was both school teacher and physician. Our school commenced with only 12 or 15 scholars. A saw mill was built in 1815, at the mouth of the Twelve, by Daniel Sheldon and Joshua Williams. I purchased the property in 1816, and built a grist mill in 1825. The first saw mill north of the Ridge, in Niagara, was built by Judge Van Horn, in 1811, and he built the first grist mill in the same year.

The war created a demand for any product we had to sell, while it continued. In 1816 and '17, the seasons were unpropitious. In 1818 we had good crops, and the courage of the new settlers was revived, after a long period of gloom and depression, of struggling against formidable difficulties. When we began to have surplus produce, it was mostly needed by the new settlers that came in. For any thing we had to send on, Montreal was our market until the Erie Canal was finished. There was in all this region, a stop put to settlement and improvement during the war; more left the country, by far, than came in."

The remainder of the narrative that Mr. Wilson has furnished the author, has reference principally to the events of the war of 1812, and will be used in that connection. The town, (as will be inferred,) takes its name from the early and enterprising pioneer. He was its Supervisor, on its first organization, and continued to be, for eighteen years. He is now 71 years old, but so little broken with age and a life of toil, that he is often in his fields, laboring at whatever his hands find to do. He has been the father of fourteen children, but five of whom survive; they are sons, and heads of families; all residing in Wilson. His son Luther Wilson, Esq. is the patroon of the rural and flourishing village of Wilson, has been for many years, prominently connected with lake commerce; a miller and a merchant; and one of the principal founders of a successful and flourishing literary institution — the Wilson Collegiate Institute.

Footnote: This condition, it is presumed, was waived, as in numerous other instances. There is an entry upon the contract book, dated Jan. 10th, 1811, in which it is noted that Mr. Wilson had a house built and ten acres cleared. Such an earnest of permanent settlement as this was, usually obviated any failure to meet payments.