NOTE: This report contains much genealogical data about the J.J. Wilson family. We have only printed a portion of the data here. The complete report can be found at the DeSoto Library.










MoDOT Job No. J60876F

TRC Project #01700

Larry McKee, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Authored by:

Larry McKee, Jared Barrett and Ruth Nichols

April 2008

The J.J. Wilson site (23JE787) is located on a ridge top approximately 1 mile north of the city of Hillsboro, in the northeastern Ozarks region of Missouri. J.J. Wilson, Sr. purchased the property in 1867, and it served as home for himself, his wife, and their numerous children for more than forty years. The farm was never again occupied following the sale of the property out of the Wilson family in 1913.

Additional archival research carried out as part of the data recovery investigation discovered various additional documents pertaining to the family and the farm. These include J.J. Wilson’s estate probate inventory dating to 1900, an 1880 agricultural census listing the output and holdings of the farm, and additional data on the Wilson children’s occupations, marriages, and families. The documentary research found nothing of a more personal nature on the family, in terms of letters, diaries, or other written accounts by family members. The research also provided information on the family’s place in the social and economic network of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Jefferson County.

Initial fieldwork at the site included brush clearing, auger testing, and a metal detector survey. Focused excavation, using hand-dug test pits and backhoe trenching, took place at three areas of the site: around features thought to be associated with a barn, around the cellar and cistern thought to represent the main house location, and to the north of the house area, where clearing and augering had revealed surface artifact scatters and buried deposits.

Results of investigation at the possible barn area found little in the way of structural remains or artifact deposits. There was probably not a true barn here, but rather a set of smaller pens and lean-to shelters for the family’s limited livestock holdings.

Work at the house site concentrated on the cellar feature, the cistern, and the stone alignments that probably served as the pier foundation for the residence. All had been previously investigated during Phase II testing at the site carried out in 2002. The cellar proved to be a rich source of artifacts. Excavation of three units within and around the edge of the house footprint produced frustratingly minimal evidence of its structural detail. The cellar size and placement, the various surface stone alignments, and the location of the adjacent cistern suggest the house measured approximately 18 by 36 feet. The excavation found no evidence of a chimney base associated with the dwelling, suggesting the family depended on a free-standing stove or stoves for heating and cooking rather than open fireplace hearths. Excavation of seven backhoe trenches in areas surrounding the house revealed no signs of midden deposits, yard features, or outbuildings.

Investigation of the cistern in the house area showed it to be a remarkable feature, unusually large and well-built in comparison to other structural remains at the site. Backhoe trenching was used to dig a trench exposing a section of the exterior of the cistern and the related builder’s trench. The machine was also used to break through the top of the cistern to expose the construction details of its domed top. No readily datable artifacts were recovered from the builder’s trench around the feature, but the use of modern portland cement as the mortaring and coating agent for the cistern helps date its construction to sometime after 1890. This indicates the feature was a late addition to the farmstead.

The third area receiving substantial attention during Phase III fieldwork at the Wilson site is located to the north of the house area, across a dirt logging road. Test units and backhoe trenches excavated over the site of a notably heavy surface scatter of artifacts here found a second cellar (Feature 3) filled with domestic trash. The horizontal measurements of the feature are 5 x 2.5 m, and its maximum depth below surface is 1.5 m. No remains of an associated structure were found during the excavation.

The majority of artifacts recovered during the project came from Feature 1, the cellar in the house area, and Feature 3, the second cellar in the area north of the house. The large assemblages from these features are made up of a wide array of household artifacts, including ceramics, glass, metal, and personal objects. The artifact collections in these two cellars probably represent a “transitional” deposit associated with a major change in the household, probably during a perhaps never completed dwelling renovation in the first decade of the twentieth century.

No other midden or trash dumping areas were found away from the cellars and house footprint. Overall, the collection is notably lacking in artifacts dating to the early period of the site occupation, in the decades just after the Wilson family purchased the property in 1867. There are a variety of possible explanations for this absence of early artifacts, but it is most likely linked to the family’s relatively impoverished state during this time. The low quantities of recovered early-period artifacts prevented any intensive comparison between assemblages dating to different periods of the Wilson family’s occupation of the site.

The overall impression of the Wilson family’s life at this farm is that they lead an impoverished, hardscrabble existence during their first three decades of ownership, followed by some enhanced level of prosperity in the last decade of their presence on the property.


The site studied during this project, 23JE787, was owned and occupied by one family, the Wilsons, from 1867 to 1913. The patriarch and matriarch of the family, J.J. Sr. and Ann Matlock, were both born in rural Tennessee and married there in 1852. J.J. Wilson Sr. fought with the Union during the Civil War, in a Missouri infantry brigade. At some point during his service he was wounded, and due to the resulting disability he received a partial government pension for the rest of his life.


After the Civil War, the family lived in St. Louis for a brief time. They bought and moved to the farm site in Jefferson County in 1867, when J.J., Sr. and Ann were already in their thirties. Beyond farming, J.J., Sr. worked in a variety of occupations, including merchant, assessor for Jefferson County, teacher, and possibly as a Methodist circuit-riding minister. Ann Wilson bore thirteen children, with only eight surviving childhood. She also played an important role as a midwife, “officiating” at numerous births throughout the community. J.J. Wilson, Sr. died at age 71 on July 16, 1900, and Ann Wilson died at age 76 on May 12, 1912. Wilson family offspring followed such careers as Navy sailor, homemaker, teacher, postal worker, and newspaper publisher. None chose to continue living and farming the family land after the death of their parents, and the property was sold out of the family in 1913.

According to Goodspeed’s history of Jefferson County, published in 1888, J.J. Wilson Sr. (J.J. Sr.) was born in Waynesboro (Wayne County), Tennessee in 1828, to Zaccheus and Naomi Gillespie Wilson (Goodspeed 1888:964). The 1900 census data available for J.J. Sr. indicates that both of his parents were from North Carolina (U.S. Census 1900, Volume 51, E.D. 50; Sheet 4; Line 92). Goodspeed indicates that Zaccheus and Naomi were born in Mecklenburg and Rowan Counties, North Carolina (respectively) and moved to Williamson County, Tennessee, prior to moving to western Tennessee (Goodspeed 1888:965). This confirms information from the 1820 census that lists Zaccheus Wilson as living near Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee (U.S. Census 1820, Series M33, Roll 125, Page 156).

J.J. Sr. attended Paris Academy in Henry County, Tennessee, where he graduated in March 1852 (Goodspeed 1888:964). Following graduation from Paris Academy, J.J. Sr. “engaged in merchandising for a few years” before becoming a teacher and farmer (Goodspeed 1888:964). It is assumed that J.J. Sr.’s interest in Missouri is linked to his service with Union forces based in the state during the Civil War. In 1862, he enlisted in Company D of the 31st Missouri Volunteer Infantry at Ironton, Missouri, participating in battles at Vicksburg and Arkansas Post. A “disability” (details unknown) forced J.J. Sr. to join Company I of the 23rd Veteran Reserve Corps, with which he participated until the end of the war “being honorably discharged in St. Louis [on] July 1, 1865” (Goodspeed 1888:964). Following the war, he joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the important union veteran organization (Goodspeed 1888:964). Phase II archaeological testing at the site recovered a button decorated with the GAR monogram (Powell and Bryant 2003:32), suggestive of Wilson’s active participation in the organization. J.J. Sr. and Ann Matlock were married in 1852 (Powell and Bryant 2003:6). After the war, the family lived in St. Louis for a brief time until moving to Jefferson County with J.J. Sr.’s mother, Naomi, in 1867. Apparently J.J. Sr.’s father died in 1857 in “western Tennessee” (probably Waynesboro), and Naomi died in Jefferson County in 1879 (Goodspeed 1888:964-965).

As noted above, the Wilson family moved from St. Louis to Jefferson County in 1867. This information is documented in several sources including Goodspeed’s history and a Jefferson County “historical atlas” published in 1876, which lists J.J. Sr. as living near Hillsboro (Goodspeed 1888:964; Brink, McDonough and Co. 1876:26). In addition, the St. Louis city directory published in 1866 identifies J.J. Wilson (occupation: schoolteacher) as living on North Ninth Street. There is no listing for Wilson in the 1867 city directory, additional supporting evidence of the family’s move from St. Louis to Jefferson County in that year ([Edwards, Greenough & Deved], 1866:843; 1867). Additional personal details on J.J. Sr. provided in Goodspeed’s history indicate that he served as the Jefferson County Assessor in 1879-1880. This is confirmed by census information from 1880 (Goodspeed 1888:964; U.S. Census data 1880, Volume 18; E.D. 193; Sheet 22; Line 30). Deed research indicates that the Wilson farm property was originally obtained as a land grant by Jerome B. Timmonds in 1858; sold to John L. Thomas by Timmonds’ heirs in 1867, at which time the larger area was subdivided and a portion sold to J.J. Wilson, Sr. (see Table 7) (Jefferson County Deed Books O: 487-488; X: 590-591; Y: 361-362).

Goodspeed’s history provides substantial information about J.J. Wilson, Jr. (J.J. Jr.), the eldest of the Wilson children. Apparently J.J. Jr. was born in Carroll County, Tennessee in 1853 and “reared on a farm, receiving a limited common-school education” (Goodspeed 1888:964-965). Like his father, J.J. Jr. taught school (for eight years) prior to working in 1884 as a bookkeeper and “chief shed clerk” for the Crystal Plate Glass Company in Crystal City (Goodspeed 1888:965). In 1885, J.J. Jr. began a newspaper in Crystal City with Dr. T.B. Taylor, the Crystal Mirror. Dr. Taylor retired in 1886, at which time J.J. Jr. moved the newspaper to Hillsboro, changed the newspaper’s name to Jefferson County Crystal Mirror, and expanded the publication’s format. (See additional information on “Newspapers” provided within this report). J.J. Jr. married Mary E. Wilkinson of Washington County, Missouri, in 1880. By 1888, the couple had three children: Horace Bates, Arthur Jasper, and Henrietta Ann (Goodspeed 1888:965). J.J. Jr. compiled a Jefferson County City Directory for 1907 in conjunction with John F. Maness, the latter of whom served as Jefferson County Assessor in 1905 (Maness & Wilson; State of Missouri Official Manual, 1905:135). According to census records, by 1900 J.J. Jr. and his family had moved to St. Louis County and resided in the Webster Groves community (see Table 5) (U.S. Census, 1900, Volume 83, E.D. 115; Sheet 18; Line 70).

Based on census information from 1880, J.J. Sr.’s occupation was listed as “Assessor of Jefferson County” (noted previously); his wife, Ann, was a “housekeeper,” and George, their 14-year-old son, worked on the farm. Other children living at home that year were Anne B, Anne E., Josephine, William, and Gray Clay (U.S. Census data, 1880).

The 1910 census indicates that Ann Wilson bore 13 children in the 27 years from 1853 to 1880, of which eight appear to have survived to adulthood (U.S. Census, 1910, Ref # 054 0030 0108). It is possible that some of the Wilson children who died young (perhaps in infancy) are buried at Hillsboro Cemetery, established circa 1840-1850. The area of the cemetery near the marked Wilson graves (including Naomi, J. J. Sr. and Ann) is also the location of additional small unlettered limestone markers. These probably mark Wilson infant burials.

J.J. Wilson Sr. died at age 71 on July 16, 1900 at home with Ann and all of his children, except Gray, in attendance (Powell and Bryant 2003:10). At the time, Gray was apparently serving military duty in the Philippines. Although one source (his father’s obituary) states that Gray was associated with the army, deed research indicates that he was a member of the U.S. Navy (Jefferson County Deed Book 74; page 480).


J.J. Wilson, Sr’s obituary provides some poignant commentary on his life and family:

WILSON James J. Wilson died at his residence near Hillsboro, July 16, 1900, after a lingering illness, aged 71 years, 7 months and 9 days. Mr. Wilson was a native of Tennessee, and in 1852 was married to Miss Ann Matlock, who is still living. To them, thirteen children were born, eight of whom are living, and all were present at the time of his death but one son, Gray, who is in the U. S. army in the Philippines.

Mr. Wilson moved his family to Missouri in about 1865 and settled near this town and has resided here ever since. During the late war he was a member of the 31st Missouri volunteers, commanded by ex-Governor Fletcher, as colonel. He came out of the army disabled to some extent and has been drawing a pension for years, but never to the amount to which his disabilities entitled him. During his residence here he has been a quiet, peaceful citizen. For years he taught in the public schools, and filled one term in the office of assessor of the county. He had been a professor of Christian religion for many years; was part of the time a member of the Presbyterian church and part of the time of the Methodist church, his church affiliations being controlled to some extent by surrounding conveniences. In all departments of life he attempted to do his duty faithfully as he saw it, and we have no doubt that he is now enjoying the rewards of a well spent life.

All of his children but one are grown, and all respected and honored him in life and will revere his memory. His faithful wife, who has shared his trials for so many years and who was his constant attendant and faithful nurse during his long sickness, is entitled to and will receive a large share of sympathy from all her neighbors and friends. (Jefferson Democrat 1900)

Several elements of this obituary are worth noting. First is the mention of his war-related injury and lifelong disability, which apparently worsened in his last years to the point that it required his wife’s “constant” attendance and nursing. Attempts to find his military pension record files with the National Archives failed, so the actual nature and extent of his injuries and the amount of his pension have not been documented.

A second important observation about the obituary is that it makes no reference to Wilson as a farmer, but instead lists his occupation as a school teacher. The obituary also refers to his “residence” rather than calling his homeplace a farm. This may be a casual omission, a matter of not needing to state the obvious. Alternatively, it was perhaps a sign that the minimal size and output of the Wilson agricultural operation by the time of his death fell below the accepted local definition of what constituted a farm.


The obituary mentions his membership at times in both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. A 1970 locally-published county history states that Wilson was a Methodist circuit rider (or traveling minister) (Rutledge 1970:46), but if this was the case it is unlikely the obituary would not have mentioned it. The 1970 source may have it wrong, perhaps confusing this James J. Wilson with another with the same or similar name.

In comparison to her husband and eldest son, little is known about Ann Matlock Wilson. A history of the county published in 1970 states that “Ann Matlock Wilson, wife of the Methodist circuit rider, Reverend James J. Wilson, was called to officiate at countless births in the Belews Creek neighborhood, northwest of Hillsboro. She gave unstintingly of her time and skill, for which she charged nothing” (Rutledge 1970:46). Ann died on May 12, 1912 and as noted previously, was buried in Hillsboro Cemetery “along with several of [her] children and other close relatives” (“Jefferson County Missouri Marriages 1910 – 1915; Deaths from Jefferson County Newspapers 1866 – 1920, Vol. 1 & 2”: 66; Powell & Bryant 2003:10).

The names of the Wilson children that have been verified include the following: James Jr. (born 1853); George N. (born 1865); Fannie Bell (born 1867); Anne B. (born 1868 or 1869); Anne Eliza (born 1871); Josephine (born 1873); William S. (born 1875); Gray Clay (born 1877 or 1878); and Laura H. (born 1880). Although most information available relates to the eldest, James Jr., limited information is also available for George and Fannie Bell. Research indicates that George was married at least twice. Both marriages were to women by the last name of Miller, and these women were sisters. The first wife’s given name is not known. George was married to his second wife, Deborah Miller, on April 26, 1893. Deborah’s obituary indicates that both women died shortly after childbirth of “puerperal fever.” Deborah was aged 23 at the time of her death. Both her child (Ruth) and a child from George’s previous marriage (Olive) survived. Olive had a twin, perhaps Mary Ada, who died immediately after birth (Jefferson County Historical Society: “Missouri Marriages 1910 – 1915; Deaths from Jefferson County Newspapers 1866 – 1920, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2”: 66).

Fannie Bell married H. Sam Lanham and the couple resided in DeSoto. The 1907 Jefferson County directory lists “H. Lanham,” a carpenter, living on Third Street in DeSoto (Maness and Wilson 1907:86). Fannie and her husband sold the family farm in 1913 to Barney Ochs of St. Louis (see Table 7) shortly after acquiring the property from her brother, Clay (Jefferson County Deed Book 74; Page 480; Book 76; Page 20). Fannie and her husband are buried at Hillsboro Cemetery, having died in 1931 and 1934, respectively.

According to the 1907 Jefferson County directory, William S. Wilson, mail carrier, is noted as residing one mile north of Hillsboro, which could be the family farm; although there is no verification of whether this is the same “William” born to J.J. Sr. and Ann (Maness and Wilson 1907:482). William S. Wilson is also listed in census records as living in Hillsboro in 1910, married to Laura, and having a son, Stanley. Laura Wilson is living on the family farm with her mother, Ann, in 1910, as is Laura’s husband, Joseph G. Urizen and their daughter, Hazel, who is one year of age (U.S. Census, 1910, Ref #054 0029 0024). Nothing else is known about the remaining children of J.J. Sr. and Ann.


Two grandchildren, Ruth and Olive, are both daughters of George (as noted previously). Ruth lived with J.J. Sr. and Ann on the family farm. She was born in 1894 and was the child from George’s second marriage to Deborah. George’s eldest daughter, Olive, was two years older than Ruth and lived with her maternal grandparents, Samuel and Sarah Miller in the Central Township of Jefferson County (see Table 5) (U.S. Census, 1900; Volume 51, E.D. 53; Sheet 14; Line 72; Series T623; Roll 867; Page 28). A school photograph for Hillsboro Public School dated 1900-1901 includes Ruth and appears in several local publications (see Rutledge 1970:76; [City of Hillsboro] Hillsboro Sesquicentennial 1989:62).

Deed Research

The Wilson property is situated in Township 41N, Range 4E, Sections 33 and 34 and consisted of roughly 81 acres. Deeds and atlases slightly vary in their description of exact acreage. An 1876 atlas of Jefferson County indicates that the Wilson property was served by post offices in Hillsboro, Grubville, and Morse Mill (Brink, McDonough, & Co. 1876:26).

According to deeds on file at the Jefferson County Tax Assessor’s Office in Hillsboro, the following transactions occurred in reference to the Wilson farm property which is described in the deeds as a “parcel of land situated in . . . the southeastern quarter of the northeast quarter of Section No. thirty-three (33) Township forty-one (41) of the Range Four (4) East containing (40) [sic] acres and SW ¼ of NW ¼ Section 34, Township 41, Range 4 East containing forty-one 30/100 (41 30/100) acres all in Township forty-one (41) Range Four (4) East.” (Jefferson County Warranty Deed Book Y: 361-362).

Probate Information

The original estate probate inventory for J.J. Wilson, Sr. is located at Jefferson College in Hillsboro (Record # 2759). The document, dated 10 August 1900, is identified as the “Inventory, Certificate and Affidavit Inventory for Real and Personal Estate of James J. Wilson, deceased, late of Jefferson County, Missouri, describing the quantity, situation and title of the Real Estate, the books and papers, the debts due to the said deceased, the names of the debtors, the dates of the contracts, the amount of interest due, and the rate of interest thereon, and all personal property of whatsoever character.” The property associated with the probate record includes “all of the southeast quarter of northeast quarter of Section 33 Township 41 Range 4 East containing 40 acres. Also the southwest of the northwest quarter of Section 4 Township 41 Range 4 East containing 40 acres as shown on file in [the] Recorders Office in Record Book and at Page 361 of said record of Jefferson County Missouri.”

Heirs listed in the probate include J.J. Wilson Jr., George N. Wilson, Fannie Bell Lanham, Josephine Wilson, William S. Wilson, Gray C. Wilson, and Laura W. Wilson, all of Jefferson County. According to the record, James Sr. died on July 16, 1900 without a will. Executors of the estate were William S. Wilson, William Morris, and W.A. Hill. Ann Wilson is identified as the administrator of the estate. The following is the list of property and values assigned per the probate record.

Wilson Homestead / Property Information

The 1876 Historical Atlas published by Brink, McDonough, & Co. illustrates the Wilson parcel that, in comparison to most property ownership for this region, is smaller than the average farm (indicated as two tracts of 40 and 41.25 acres respectively)(Figure 3). A “farm house” is illustrated on the map, located slightly south of the parcel’s center point. An unnamed road is located northeast of the Wilson farm site but does not adjoin the farmstead. Surrounding the Wilson parcel are sites owned by John Mattock (northeast), J.L. Thomas (east), Mary F. Spilker (south), M. Simen (southwest), and H.S. Huskey (west and northwest) (Brink, McDonough, & Co., 1876:41). A list of the county’s landowners from the 1876 atlas indicates that the “Jas. J. Wilson” farm site (two parcels) included one building and an orchard. No mention is made of outbuildings, and total land ownership for both parcels is 81.25 acres (Hallemann 1998:A120).

The Wilson Family and Their Neighbors

At the time of its occupation, the Wilson farm was on the edge of a loose-knit and widely dispersed rural community locally known as Huskey Town. The name was derived from the numerous members of the Huskey family and their kin-by-marriage living in the vicinity. The founders of this local “dynasty” moved to the area around 1810, following short interludes in South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and southern Illinois (Browman 1995:24). The family settled and established several prosperous farms on the bottomlands of Belew Creek, to the west of the Wilson site. An 1876 atlas of Jefferson County shows the numerous tracts owned by Huskeys to the northwest of the Wilson farm, including one directly bordering their holding.


The Wilsons did have a peripheral connection by marriage to the Huskeys, by way of the union of Fannie Bell Wilson (b. 1868) to H. Sam Lanham. The Lanhams, also shown as landowners in the vicinity in the 1876 county atlas, provided marriage partners to at least one Huskey family member and to two other families with considerable ties to Huskey Town, the Fraziers and the Eaves (Browman 1995:17).