Monday, June 26, 2006


Le Grand J. Wilson, the youngest son, and the last branch of the parent tree, was born, as previously stated, in Lincoln county, Tenn., April 8, 1836. He was reared from childhood in Marshall county, Miss. As a boy he was noted for his great love of the Bible and history, and his memory. He read the entire bible before he was twelve years old, which very much pleased his father, who often called him his “Concordance,” to encourage him in reading and studying, he supposes.

I received my academic education in “Union Academy,” Marshall county, Miss., under the tutelage of the Rev. Samuel I. Reid, an alumnus of Washington College, Penn., who came South early in life, soon after finishing his theological course. His first pastorate was the Oxford Church, afterwards he was pastor for years of the Chulahoma (Wilson) Church, and was so intimately connected with the family for four years, as tutor, pastor, and friend, baptising the children, marrying the young people, and burying the dead, that he is entitled to this page in the family history. I was under him for four years in “Union Academy,” and then commenced teaching, reading medicine under Dr. Geo. A. Wilson, and William M. Compton. I taught school for five months, only, but closely studied the medical text-books for two years. I then attended my first course of lectures in the University of Nashville, Tenn., returning in the spring of 1857, I commenced the practice of medicine one month before I was twenty-one years old. I had four established physicians living around me, none of them more than six or eight miles from my office. And they told the people they would give me all the aid and counsel needed “free of cost.” This launched the boy doctor, instanter, into an active practice. These eighteen months of active service under the eyes of experienced men, were of incalculable value to me. In fact, of really more value than the same time spent in a city hospital. In September, 1858, I matriculated in Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and passed a successful examination about the last of March next. In one hour after receiving my notice, I started home to my mother, not waiting for “commencement” to receive my diploma. I found her much weaker, health rapidly failing, and I determined never to leave her again. So I remained at home and gave up my old location, where I had made some reputation as a young physician, and made a new start in the practice of medicine. I regretted this very much but I could not leave my mother for the sake of making money; and as my history proves, this was the best thing for me.

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends.”

On the 28th of February, 1860, I was married to Miss Elizabeth Carey Skipwith, of Memphis, Tenn. Six or seven years before we had been schoolmates in “Union Academy.” She, a girl of twelve, I, a boy of fifteen. The male and female departments were about a quarter of a mile apart, but not too far apart to keep us from meeting frequently, for boys and girls will meet, however hard you may try to prevent it. Soon the boys and girls began to accuse us of being “sweethearts.” This continued about a year, and the childish reports began to reach ears of the “old folks.”

An old aunt with whom Miss Betty was residing, dreamed, I supposed she dreamed it, that we were going to run off and get married, something that had never entered our childish heads. At any rate, when school “was out” her sire came and carried his daughter off to the State Capital, 200 miles away, and put her in school, and the old aunt’s mind became calm and serene, and I was left to sing:

“The years creep slowly by, Lorena,
Since last I held thy and in mine.”

But there was not a particle of truth in the tender couplet, for I had never held her hand in mine, and the years were not creeping by slowly either, for seven had passed, and the schoolboy had developed into the hard-working physician. Enchanted with his practice, and on his way one evening to visit a very sick patient, called by his brother’s to seek advice in regard to said patient. On entering the family room, there knelt my little “sweetheart” of seven years ago, her beautiful hair falling over her shoulders, developed into a handsome, lovely woman, bathing the head and face of my sister, who was scorching with fever.

“A ministering angel thou.” I suddenly felt something! It must have been one of Cupid’s heaviest darts, for my heart was slightly dislocated, and it has never gotten back into its right place. “Where did you come from? When did you come?” were questions rapidly asked and answered. “How long will you be at your uncle’s?” “One week,” she answered. “May I visit you to-morrow evening?” “If you desire to.” “I will be there at 1:30 o’clock. Good-bye!”

We lived sixteen miles from the railroad and the trains came out late in the evening and returned early next morning to Memphis. That night her brother came out for this sister. Her aunt’s little son was accidentally killed on the railroad, and she was prostrated with grief, and sent for her niece. They were compelled to start by 3 A. M. to reach the morning train, so when I called at 3 P. M. as appointed, I was sadly disappointed. Owing to the grief of the family for little Frank, professional labors, and my sick mother, we did not meet for six long weeks. Then we had our interview. Then the wooing was done! And in short order, the day—a memorable day in our lives—was appointed, and I returned home happier than I had ever been before. When the baby of the family reached home with his young bride, there was great rejoicing, but in a very quiet way.

She was personally known to every member of the family, and there was none of the embarrassment that would have been felt had she been a stranger.

Brothers, sisters, and a goodly number of young people, some of them her own schoolmates, were there to welcome us, and it was an enjoyable reception. A few parties and dinings were given the young couple, and the happy event passed into history. The young couple settled down to the duties of life. The wife to make herself useful, and a joy to the old people. The husband o the duties of his profession. Those were happy days, and they passed swiftly by! Yea, and like earthly joys, generally, they were of short duration. Mother was rapidly failing, and the end drawing nearer, but she was permitted to take into her arms the first born son of her “baby boy,” and nestle him in her bosom. This great sorrow past, another quickly followed. The bugle note of freedom was sounding throughout the South, and her sons are called upon to defend her soil. Wives must give up their husbands, mothers their sons. Fathers must buckle on their swords and lead their sons in battle. Terrible test of the patriotism of the South! They made the sacrifice, and I trust that some day soon, a monument will be raised to commemorate the loyalty, devotion, and patriotism of Southern wives and mothers! These were dark days of trial, and I could see that my young wife was suffering intensely. One day I told her I was ashamed to stay at home any longer. She said with firm, but trembling voice, “Husband, if you think it is your duty to go into the army now, go. You must discharge your duty!”

It was bravely spoken! But what I might have expected from a lineal descendant of a Revolutionary sire, for she is a great-granddaughter of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, and the blood of the patriot was in her veins.

In one month my company was ready, and offered to the Governor, and in a few days I was ordered to repair to Iuka, Miss., to enter Camp of Instruction.

My history for four years as a Confederate soldier, can be found in a small volume, entitled "The Confederate Soldier," written in 1901, at the request of some of the boys I had the honor of enlisting and commanding in the great struggle, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Reunion in Memphis, Tenn., in May, 1901. Forty years had passed and the boys were gray-headed, and most of them grandfathers. Time had wrought great changes in us, but our hearts were as warm and loyal as when we parted at Appomattox in 1865. I will only state here that I served through the contest, first as an officer of the line, then as surgeon of the Forty-second Mississippi Regiment to the close of the struggle. To say I was thankful to get home would not express my feelings. And when I tell you, that no death had occurred in the family, either white or black, during these years of trial, you can appreciate what debt of praise I and gratitude we owed to our covenant-keeping God! After the very natural rejoicing and congratulations were over, a very difficult problem presented itself for solution, namely, How am I to make a living for my little family? It was too late to think of farming; I had no medicine nor instruments to commence the practice of surgery and medicine; I had no money! My sole dependence was a blind Canadian mare, that the Yankee Cavalry would not have, but she was a splendid saddler, and could be ridden in safety in daylight, and light nights. But how shall I do without medicine? I rode myself down trying to find some man who had money. My father, brother, and a half dozen men told me to find a man who had money, and they would get it for me. It is hard to understand the condition to-day. Those who had money, had kept it a profound secret so long they were still afraid of letting it be known; and the country also was poverty stricken. One evening, almost in despair, I turned my face homeward. I had hunted the country over for a week, and was disheartened and weary. As I neared home, I determined to look cheerful and not distress my wife, who met me at the gate with a letter in her hand. "Here is a letter a negro boy brought this evening." I tore it open and read:

"Dear Jim:-- I heard to-day that you were looking for money to enable you to commence the practice of your profession ; I haven't got a cent, but I have a bale of fine cotton, hid in the brush, that the Yanks didn't find. Send up and get it.

Thank God for friends! I never felt more like shouting in my life! The problem was solved!

I was afraid to go to Memphis, for I would have to swallow the infamous "Amnesty Oath," so my brother kindly proffered to carry my cotton into Memphis, and purchase my medical supplies. My bale brought me $154, and my supply of medicine came back packed in a candle-box. Quinine cost me only $15 per ounce, and a small pocket case of instruments $35. That is sufficient to remember we were paying for our treason!

On the 25th of June I rode down to my location, Tyro, Miss., with my precious stock of medicine and launched into practice.

The prospect was gloomy, indeed! The people were intensely poor, many of them stripped of everything. Provisions of every kind high and scarce. Everybody was making a new start in life, and scuffling for his daily bread. Nobody felt able to board me with my wife and child, and I began to look a place for the doctor and his horse, as I soon realized that I would have to be separated from wife and child. This was a hard pill to swallow. I finally secured board for myself and horse at $27 per month. In December, I rented a place on the outskirts of the village, and on the 15th moved down, and commenced housekeeping for the first time since our marriage. It was with thankful hearts that we knelt together that night and invoked the blessing of God upon us and our first home.

Christmas soon came, and many of our dear kindred and friends visited us, and brought many substantial presents of real value to the young housekeepers. Mount Paran, Presbyterian Church, in two miles of us, secured, about this time, a supply, and a sacramental meeting was announced for the first Sabbath of April. They had had but little preaching during the years of strife, and the Rev. James Naylor was coming to take charge of a group of famishing churches in the Presbytery. When the meeting day arrived, and an opportunity was given for reception of members, I walked up to the front seat, and, to my astonishment and delight, my wife came right after me. I stated that I was a member of Chulahoma Church, and had been for fifteen years; that my wife was a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tenn. We were cordially welcomed to the little flock. Two months later I was honored by being elected and installed a ruling elder in this little church, which I tried to serve faithfully for about fifteen years.

We have had seven children born to us. Frank Small, James Compton, Bourdon, Adrian Campbell, Clara Elizabeth and Peyton Rhea. The two last are living, James Compton and Bourdon died in infancy. Our first-born, Frank, in 1876, age fifteen. He was a precious, noble boy, had never given his parents any trouble, obedient, quiet, truthful, loved to attend church, always in his place at Sunday-school, and loved his Bible and read it daily. But I made the mistake of my life a common a common mistake of parents. I never talked with my boy of his soul's salvation, and I have only the Covenant promise of my God to comfort me, and I am devoutly thankful for that.

Adrian Campbell--named for my two nephews who were killed in battle, one at Gettysburg, the other on Missionary Ridge--was a noble son, and the darling of his mother's heart. He died away from home. He had been called to Senatobia, Miss., to take charge of a drug store, and we reluctantly let him go, believing the change would benefit his health, which had been bad for several months. About the time we were expecting a letter, a telegram came, calling me to his bedside. I shall never forget that long, horrid ride, nor the fervent prayers I offered in his behalf. God was gracious, and I reached him in time to hear from his own lips, a bright profession of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he had no fear of dying. Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! !

Our two living children, Clara E. and Peyton Rhea, are good children, and have never been separated from us for any length of time, and we hope never will. Both gave their hearts to the Saviour, early in life, about the age of fifteen. They are not so consecrated and Bible-loving as we would have them, but we feel assured that the Lord will perfect the good work in their young hearts.

In 1882, we bid adieu to old friends and associations in Mississippi and moved to Alma, Ark., and again engaged in the practice of my profession. We found a small congregation of Presbyterians, who had services twice a month, but no church building. In the winter of 1884, we began to talk up a church, and finding one of the elders favorably inclined, we went to work in earnest. And after purchasing a suitable lot, made a contract for $1,200, one-third to be paid when lumber was all on the ground, one-third when building was inclosed, and balance when completed.

It required a good deal of faith, but we put our necks to the yoke, and humbly and earnestly asking the Divine blessing and guidance, moved forward.

On the 15th of November, 1885, our handsome new church was dedicated, "free of debt," just forty years after my father's new church in Chulahoma, Miss., was dedicated, which was built pretty much in the same way. A great deal of faith in God, and honest, hard, persevering work prosecuted to a finish.--Amen !


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