James T. Wilson, one of the well-known pioneers of Center township, Hancock County, Indiana, was born in Rush county, this state, December 29, 1834. He is the son of Holbert and Amanda (Fry) Wilson, the parents both natives of Bourbon county, Kentucky. Holbert Wilson was left an orphan at an early age, but was most kindly reared by Abraham Fry. When sixteen years old, with remarkable courage and determination for so young a lad, he went out from home in search of fortune. He went to Rush county, Indiana, where he learned the cabinetmakers trade, at which he was employed for five years. He also bought in that county forty acres of wild land and resided upon it for some time. He removed from there to Hancock County, settling in Brandywine township, where he purchased an eighty-acre tract of land and still later another eighty acres. This was at that time all wild and unimproved, was heavily covered with timber and wild game was in great abundance. He erected here a one-roomed round-log cabin, sixteen feet square, cleared all the land and made it his home the remainder of his life. He died in 1876, his wife in 1850. He was a stanch Democrat, but never aspired to public office being content with the exercise of his franchise. He was a member of the Presbyterian church and led a consistent Christian life. Their children were seven in number and are mentioned as follows: James T.; William F. is successfully engaged in agricultural pursuits in Brandywine township, this county; Benjamin F. is mentioned elsewhere in this volume; Sarah Jane, deceased was twice married, first to David Service and, second, to John Q. White, who is now residing in Brandywine township and whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume; John W. married Mary Sylvester, but both are now deceased; Mary Isabelle, deceased, was the wife of John Kelly, who now lives in Hancock county; Jemima Ann, deceased, was the wife of William P. White, who now resides in Greenfield. These children were all given such educations as was afforded in the old-fashioned log schoolhouse of that period and their mental training was consequently not as complete as is that of the youths of the present day. However notwithstanding this handicap, the subject has by wide reading and close observation of men and events become a very well-informed mind and takes an intelligent interest in all questions of the day. In his early youth he had to work hard. His mother was for several years an invalid, and it became necessary for him to care for her and at the same time attend to the housework. He faithfully remained at home until he was twenty-one years old and then worked for others as farm laborer. The first year at this work he earned thirty dollars and part of this was earned by cutting cord wood at twenty-five cents a cord. As a young man he was very active and muscular and could endure a great amount of hard labor. From 1859 to 1861 he was in Platte county, Missouri, engaged in farming and woodcutting. Afterward he came to Philadelphia, Hancock county, and, in partnership with Rufus Black, ran a sawmill there for twelve years. In 1863 he bought eighty acres of land in section 12, Center township, which was all wild and unimproved, and has since added to this from time to time until his real estate holdings now aggregate two hundred and forty acres, all well improved and one hundred and ninety acres of it under the plow. To properly drain this land Mr. Wilson has been compelled to lay over two thousand, five hundred rods of tile, but his labor and expense has been well rewarded, as he has now one of the best tracts of farming land in his township. He carries on a general line of farming, raising all kinds of grain, and also gives considerable attention to live stock, having some fine hogs and cattle. One remarkable fact concerning Mr. Wilsons farming experience is that during forty0seve years he has owned but seven horses and in twenty years has had but three different hired men. One man who hired for but one day, remained for sixteen years. When he left Mr. Wilson paid him $3,100. In his earlier days he was a splendid rifle shot and enjoyed quite a reputation as a hunger, but of late years, because of poor eyesight, he has not participated much in the chase.
Mr. Wilson was married on the 29th of September, 1877 to Miss Eliza Shephard, born in Miamisburg, Ohio. Her parents were John and Nellie (Gephart) Shephard, the former a native of New Jersey and the latter of Ohio. This worthy couple were early pioneers of Hancock county, having located on section 1, Center township, in 1837. Here John Shephard owned one hundred and twenty acres of land, nearly all of which he succeeded in clearing. He was widely known and highly respected among the early settlers of this section. He and his wife were the parents of fourteen children, of whom ten grew to maturity as follows: Andrew, deceased; Ida, deceased; Ellen is the wife of Joshua Harris, of Charlottesville, Indiana; Catherine is the wife of John McGrew,, of Greencastle; Ephis Ann is the wife of John Hawkins, of Indianapolis; Martha is deceased; Sarah is the wife of Fenton Strahl; Elizabeth became the wife of William Smock, a brick-moulder, who died in 1883, and she now makes her home with the subject and his wife; Augusta became the wife of Lewis J. Ramsey and they reside in Kokomo, Indiana. To James T. Wilson and wife was born one child, Clara, but the ruthless hand of death entered their household and removed her at the age of twelve years. The subject and wife have out of kindness of their hearts reared a young man, Julian Strahl, of Center township. The latter upon reaching maturity married Miss Fannie Coleman, and they have a son, Edward. Julian Strahl has ever been as an own son to the subject and wife and fully appreciates the love and care which they bestowed upon him
Mr. Wilson has always maintained a firm allegiance to the Democratic party the party of Jefferson, of Tilden and of Bryan, but has never aspired to hold office, being content with the casting of his ballot. However, he keeps in close touch with the leading issues of the day and is always ready to act intelligently upon all questions which come before the people. He and his wife have long held a warm place in the hearts of those who know them and are deservedly popular in their community.
Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 392-394.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI Sept. 22, 2003.
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