WILLIAM A. WILSON
is a noble illustration of what independence, self-faith and persistency can accomplish in America. He is a self-made man in the most significant sense of the word, for no one helped him in a financial way and he is self educated. As a youth he was strong, vigorous and self-reliant. He trusted in his own ability and did things singlehanded and alone. Today he stands supreme as a successful business man and a loyal and public-spirited citizen. Most of his attention has been devoted to mining enterprises and at the present time he is general manager of the Wilson Brothers Coal Company, of Sparta. He is a very religious man and for three years was wholly engaged in evangelistic work in Iowa, and then for about three years in his native land of Scotland.
In Lanarkshire, Scotland, on the 9th of June, 1863, occurred the birth of William A. Wilson, whose father, John Wilson, was a coal miner by occupation. Early representatives of the Wilson family were from Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Allans, maternal ancestors of the subject of this review, hailed from near Edinburgh. John Wilson died in Scotland, and after his demise his widow followed her children to America. Mrs. Wilson died in Whatcheer, Iowa, and she is survived by five children, concerning whom the following brief data are here incorporated, —John is a member of the company of Wilson Brothers, as is also William A., to whom this sketch is dedicated; Agnes is the wife of William Dalziel, of Albia, Iowa; George A., is the third member of the firm of Wilson Brothers, at Sparta; and Ann is now Mrs. Lewis Jones, of Renton, Washington.
William A. Wilson's early education was not even of the high school kind. His services as a contributor to the family larder were necessary from childhood and he entered the works about the mines where his father had been employed at an early age. He left Scotland in 1880, on the ship Anchoria, going from Glasgow to New York city, from which latter place he proceeded at once to the Carbon Run mines in Bradford county, Pennsylvania. He remained in the old Keystone state of the Union as a miner for several months and eventually removed west to Iowa. He was an integral part of the mining fraternity about Whatcheer, Iowa, for the ensuing ten years and he also spent two years at Forbush, Iowa. During his stay in Iowa he spent five terms in Oskaloosa College and one summer term taking private lessons in Greek. He took an irregular course, but his thirst to read the Bible in Greek kept him at that study all the time. Leaving that commonwealth, he also left the craft for some three years and returned to his native land as an evangelist, here carrying on a spiritual crusade among his fellow workmen in the cause of the gospel. Almost immediately after his return to America he went to Kansas City, Missouri, where he was superintendent of the Baker & Lockwood Tent & Awning Company for a time, and in Kansas City he also attended Brown's Business College at nights for some time. From there he removed to Sparta in 1899. He has been connected in some capacity with the coal-mining industry here since his advent in Illinois and was official mine inspector of Randolph county, in which position he served two years. While so doing he was invited to make an inspection report to the president of the Eden Mine Company. This report resulted in his leasing
and putting the Eden mine property in shape for operation, its ultimate sale to the Willis Coal & Mining Company and subsequent lease from them to the Wilson Brothers to operate the mine.
Although this is one of the leading properties in this region of coal mining, and while Mr. Wilson and his brothers have been identified with its operation since 1906, he opened Mine No. 4 for the Illinois Fuel Company and also opened the Moffat mine of Sparta. The mining of coal has been Mr. Wilson's lot from childhood and few years of his career since attaining his majority has he devoted himself to other work.
Mr. Wilson was married in Whatcheer, Iowa, in November, 1890, to Miss Christina Moffat, a daughter of John Moffat, also from Scotland. The issue of this marriage are: Christine, a graduate of the Sparta high school and a teacher in the public schools of Randolph county; and Elizabeth, Frank, William and John, all of whom remain at the parental home.
Mr. Wilson's life, as already seen, has been devoted to industry and few matters outside of those affecting his family or his craft have attracted him. His politics are severely independent and his public service has consisted alone in his work as a member of the Sparta council one term, during which the saloons made their exit from the community. He is one of the congregation of Gospel Hall and occasionally supplies the pulpit there. Since returning from his evangelistic work in Scotland Mr. Wilson's activity as a minister has been only occasional when he takes a holiday. He is a man of broad and noble principle and his life has been exemplary in every respect.
Since coming to Sparta he pursued a course in mining in the I. C. Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania. At the urgent request of a St. Louis company, he went to Arkansas to manage its property, but returned broken in health. John Mitchel, when president of the U. M. W. of A., sent a special delegate from the Indianapolis convention requesting him to work for the U. M. W. of A., either in West Virginia or Illinois, saying: “We get more out of the operators when they recognize our man to be fair minded.” Mr. Wilson loves home too much to enter on such work, and refused the very liberal offer. He formed this resolution early in life, “Never be idle,” and when not engaged manually, he is mentally.