Monday, June 26, 2006


Robert Nicholas Joseph Wilson, was born April 5, 1828, in Madison county, Ala. He grew up on the farm, and was inured to work. He early developed a fondness for tools, and displayed wonderful ingenuity in manufacturing articles of utility connected with the household. My father complimented and encouraged him his work. On father's going one day to the shop he found intensely studying a singularly looking machine he had made, filled with wheels, springs and pullies. When asked, "What are you making?" He promptly replied, "Pa, I am going to discover perpetual motion." "What put such an idea in your head, my son?" asked my father, as he walked away in deep thought. The boy had been reading some man's effort in the same direction, and an idea entered his young head that he might be the happy inventor, and he was working out that idea. The incident throws a remarkably inquisitive and ingenious mind in one so young. He found an old clock that had not kept time for years, and took it all to pieces, and worked on it for two or three days, and then tried to put it together, but to his astonishment he had more wheels than he could find places for. After worrying over it for hours, he put it together, leaving out two or three wheels. When he set it up, and started the pendulum, to his delight, the old clock went to work in earnest, and kept on running. This feat made him famous among the children. Pretty soon he began to draw curious designs upon paper, and we began to wonder what was coming next. He began to put together a curiously-shaped machine, something like a huge bird. When questionad by my older brother, he gravely answered, "I am making a flying machine." They began to laugh and twit him, and finally got him angry and crying, and that was the end of the flying machine. But say or think what you will, that boy was a genius. He was sixty years ahead of his age. And if he was living to-day, there might be a successful "aerial ship" at the St. Louis Fair." At any rate he might be classed among the scientists. His early education was in the home, and progressed considerably before he ever attended school. Before he was sixteen years old he was a member of the church and was so grave and quiet, and such an uncommon Bible student, that he was marked as the coming preacher of the family. As a schoolboy, he was noted for his proficiency in mathematics, and his great love of the classics and poets. At the age of twenty-two, he entered the sophomore class in the State university, Oxford, Miss., where he remained three years, graduating with second honors in his class. The reports sent home by the Faculty during these years were so flattering that we became proud of our collegian. And when graduation day arrived, I was sent over to enjoy the exercises, and bring my distinguished brother home. It was my first visit to the University, and I was old enough to enjoy everything I saw and heard. The last exercises of the occasion was an "Oratorical Contest" by the two literary societies of the College, "Phi Sigma and Hermean." Two orators from each. My brother was one, chosen by his society, Hermean, and I found his name last on the beautiful programme, lavishly distributed through the audience. I remember only the subject of my brother's oration. The others, I have long since forgotten. It was this: "The Gardens of Thought and the Wilds of Imagination." A splendid subject for a young collegian, you see, to get rid of his gas. When we reached his room I asked him to let me see his oration. Said he, "It will take you sometime to read it. Wait a little while and we will walk out into the woods, and I will recite it for you." As we walked along, he said, "I know they will applaud me to-night, and I am afraid it will put me out." The rehearsal was perfect, and I suppose it was a fine oration for such an occasion, and I told him by no means to let the applause disconcert him, just to stop. use his pocket handkerchief, or take a sip of water, and start again.

Night came at last, and when we reached the auditorium, it was filled with the elite of Oxford, and the State. Every student had his girl, and all had come to enjoy themselves on this last night of the commencement exercises. The 8 o-clock bell struck; there was a lull in the general conversation, and the first orator came forward on the stage and commenced his oration. He was listened to attentively for a short while, and received some applause, but before he was half through his oration, the hum of conversation commenced in the rear, and on the outskirts, and only those in front could hear the orator. The second oration was listened to with much less attention, and not one in twenty (without the programme), could tell what the student was talking about. It was even worse during the third, and when my brother's turn came, the confusion was so great, that an old, white-haired gentleman, arose, and begged the audience to keep order. I felt thankful.

My brother commenced, and waded through his oration, presenting many rare and fragrant flowers, but he failed to arouse that hilarious crowd of young people to even one slight hand-clapping, all his sweetness wasted, all of his beautiful flowers unappreciated. I was filled with wrath, and heartily disgusted with commencement exercises.

Soon after graduation, my brother commenced reading law, in Hernando, Desoto county, Miss., and teaching in the town high school or college. Thus was he engaged when the Civil War came on, and upset all our "best-laid schemes," and blasted our brightest prospects.

Just before enlisting in the C. S. Army, in 1862, he was united in marriage to Miss Emma Deloach, of Collierville, Tenn., a lady of education and refinement, who made him a faithful and loving wife.

After the close of the Civil War, in which he served in the First Mississippi Calvary Regiment, Col. Pinson Jackson's brigade, Forrest's command, the happy couple, with their little son, Robert, settled on a farm near Collierville, Tenn., where they have ever lived.

The following letter received from his daughter, some time ago gives the full history of the family, which shows that the family has been remarkably blessed of God, and promises to become a fruitful one.

Following is the letter:

COLLIERVILLE, TENN., June 1st, 1905.
My dear Uncle Jim:
How often have I had it in my mind to write to you and remind you that your brother, Nicholas, has some descendants who would be so glad to know and love you for his dear sake. I presume you come to Memphis sometimes, and I wish you would remember us, and run out to spend several days. You probably do not know much about papa's family, so I'll begin with mamma and give our history. Since the children all married and deserted the home nest, mamma has kept house alone, and run the farm. Usually she had only a colored girl to sleep in the house for company, and we disliked to see her so alone in her old age, and have at last persuaded her to rent the farm and live with us. She calls our house home, and visits with the others as she pleases. She is hale and hearty and contemplates a trip to California this summer. Robert, her oldest son, lives here in Collierville. He has his second wife and four children, three by his first marriage. He has been in the mail service ever since he was grown, and through his own efforts, and with the property of his first wife, he is pretty well-to-do. His oldest daughter, just seventeen, is a very sweet, attractive girl. The others are boys, the youngest five years old. Ed. married Donnie Howze, you remember, and has been in California for five years. He is in railroad business, and is doing well. They have a niece in Berkeley, a suburb of San Francisco. Donnie and Ed. both spent last Christmas at home with us, and she remained till February.

Ed. is anxious for mamma to make them a visit. He can get her a pass from New Orleans. They have never had any children, and took a great fancy to my oldest boy, and kept him with them two years, to go to the splendid High School in Berkeley. They wanted him to make it his home, but I had to have him nearer than that.

Jim, named for you, married several years ago, and lived in Nashville until a year ago last January. He took the California fever, and sold his household goods, got passes from Ed. and left to make his home in the "Golden State." They were homesick, and never satisfied, and bent their efforts toward saving enough to move back on, which they did in February. They are back in Nashville now, "busted," but happy. Stenography is his profession. They have one child, James Adrian, Jr.

Bickham, the youngest boy, married three years ago. He lived with mamma a year, but found it so inconvenient to go back and forth to his "run" (for he also is in the mail service) that he moved to Memphis. They have had one child that died at its birth. His wife, a lovely woman in face and character, has no constitution, and no strength.

Now I will tell you about myself. In a few days I will have been married twenty years, and as I look back, they seem but a "tale that is told." These twenty years have been laden with happiness, and have brought only one deep grief—dear papa's death. I have seven children, all strong in body and mind, and all goodly to look upon. Bourdon, the oldest, graduated last summer from the Berkeley High School, Cal., and in the fall, took a position with N. C. Early & Co., in Memphis, wholesale grocers.

He was only eighteen, and began with a salary of fifty dollars a month, which showed that he had a little more ability than most boys of that age. He is a fine boy, and has brought us nothing but joy from the day of his birth. My next child, Ruth, is just home from school in Memphis. She stayed with Bick and attended St. Mary's Episcopal School. She is nearly as old as I was when I married—but I am glad to say she has no such notions in her head. She intends to go to school another year and then teach. Alfred, the third, is a handsome, bright boy, fourteen, much fonder of play than of books or work. He is witty and talkative, and very popular with men as well as boys. The next two are girls, Mary and Wilson, twelve and ten years. They both stand high in their classes. Wilson received a little gold medal from her teacher for the greatest number of headmarks. The last two, William seven and a half, and Adrian, four, are perfect treasures. Everything a body could wish two little boys to be.

Mr. Holden has been a merchant in this place for fourteen years. He has managed to keep his large family supplied with all the necessaries of life, with its comforts, and occasionally some of the luxuries.

Yours affectionately,

This branch of the family tree, one Episcopalian in faith, through the influence of the mother. My brother joined that church after marriage, and made an efficient vestryman during life. He was an industrious, hardworking farmer, and a painstaking educator in the public schools of his county, and was tutor of Greek in the High School of Collierville when he died. In 1893 he came to Alma, and spent three weeks or more with us. A visit we enjoyed, and which I shall never forget. We had separated for years, but I found him the same affectionate loving brother, the same man of prayer, the same humble, trusting Christian. When we parted at the depot, we shook hands for the last time, but we will meet again!


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