Placer County









            The life record of William J. Wilson, Sr., has not been one of unvaried monotony; circumscribed by the limits of some narrow community where habits of thought and life largely remain unchanged as the years pass by.  He has traveled extensively over the face of the globe and has that knowledge and culture which only travel can bring.  His experiences have been varied and interesting, and if written in detail would contain many an exciting chapter.

            William Joseph Wilson, Sr., was born near Lurgen, county Armagh, Ireland, on the 15th of August, 1828, and is a son of Oliver Wilson, an officer in the British Army.  His wife died at the birth of their first-born, the subject of this sketch, and there was a second marriage and another family of children.  The father attained the age of seventy-two years.  Mr. Wilson of this review was educated in his native county and served as an apprentice on board the British ship Thetis for four years.  He left that vessel at Quebec and became a member of the crew of the Arabia, of Belfast, on which he sailed until 1854, receiving one hundred dollars per month.  In that year he rounded Cape Horn as one of the crew on the Thomas Watson.  He also served as quartermaster on the vessel Uncle Sam, acting in that capacity during two of the voyages of that steamship, while during the two succeeding years he was boatswain and finally promoted to third mate.  He was on the vessel at the time the cholera broke out.  It was a never-to-be forgotten trip, nine hundred people on board the ship dying of that dread disease!

            Mr. Wilson also sailed from Philadelphia on board the ship Westmoreland, bound for Liverpool.  After they had been out for a few days they picked up the crew of the ship May T. Sterrit, of Maine, which had been dismantled.  They then had to scuttle ship, as it was in the track of other vessels.  The many voyages which Mr. Wilson has made have brought many experiences into his life unknown to most people.  He has touched at many ports, leaning much of the different countries and their inhabitants.  For a time he served on the Sonora as quartermaster, and while discharging his duties on that ship he became acquainted with Miss Mary O’Malley, who gave him her hand in marriage on the 4th of November, 1856.  Three children have been born unto them, two of whom are living, namely:  William J., who is now a prominent fruit buyer and shipper of Newcastle; and Mary Jane, the wife of J. F. Madden, of Newcastle.  Mrs. Wilson departed this life on the 31st of August, 1891.  She was a faithful wife and a kind of loving mother, and her loss was deeply mourned by her family and numerous friends.  In 1893 Mr. Wilson married the lady who now bears his name, and who in her maidenhood was Miss Mary Ann Agnes Shepherd.  Their only child died in infancy.

            When Mr. Wilson decided to make California his place of residence he located in Newcastle.  He made considerable money there, but owing to the continued illness in his family this money was rapidly expended.  When he came to Newcastle in 1865 he had only about two hundred dollars.  His first work in that town was for the noble pioneer, John H. Mitchell.  He continued to engage in mining for nine years, but in the meantime he became the possessor of a home and an acre of ground in the town, and on his land he planted fruit trees which soon brought him an excellent return, his fruit sales amounting to one thousand dollars per year.  His success in this venture led to look for more land, and for two years he bought fruit from his neighbors, paying cash, and packed it on his shoulders and wheeled it on a wheelbarrow for over a mile, as he was not able to purchase a horse and wagon.  This he did to keep the trade, as he had much opposition, the neighbors seeing that he was making a success of the business.  At length he purchased eighty acres of fruit ground which he now owns, built thereon a nice frame residence and planted a large orchard, which is now producing.  He was among the first to engage in shipping fruit in this locality, and to him is due the credit of making the first shipment of a car-load of fruit that left Newcastle.  It was sent to Mrs. Astretta, of Denver, and the freight on it was nine hundred dollars!  The first boxes of fruit that were sent out of the town went to V. Elliott, of Virginia, Nevada.  Following an honorable and reliable business course, he has built up a large trade, and his increasing business necessitated the building of a packing house in Newcastle.  For a number of years the business was carried on under the firm name of William J. Wilson, Sr., and Son, but more recently Mr. Wilson has given up the shipping business to his son, while he devotes his entire attention to his farm.  He has made a splendid record as an industrious and indefatigable worker, a successful fruit grower and an honorable businessman.  He is now the possessor of a good property, does not owe a dollar, and rightly deserves the prosperity which his industry and ability have brought to him.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 698-699. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.




Placer County Biographies

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