ALBERT L. WILSON. It is vastly important to the continued welfare of any city that the leading spirits in its financial institutions and activities shall be men of sterling worth and essentially sound business principles. In Albert L. Wilson the city of Sparta, Illinois, has a man who fulfills to the last detail every requirement in the way of careful, conservative and yet progressive finance. For forty years Mr. Wilson has figured in banking circles in Southern Illinois, his early experience in that business being gained in Sparta, and there he has lived for the past ten years, as cashier of the Merchants Exchange Bank of Sparta for five years, holding the same responsible position with the organization which succeeded it, the First National Bank of Sparta, and is now vice-president of the First National.
Albert L. Wilson is a representative of one of the oldest families of Randolph county, established there in the beginning of the nineteenth century. He comes of southern ancestry, and the family was founded here in 1806 by his paternal grandfather, George Wilson, who came from Abbeville district, South Carolina, and settled upon land where the town of Baldwin now stands. He farmed the land to some extent, and upon it was built a rude fort in which the scattered settlers were wont to gather at such times as protection from the hostile Indians was necessary. There, amid the many privations and difficulties of early frontier life, he lived and reared a family of sturdy boys and girls; there he died and was buried at the old home place. His wife survived him a number of years, finally leaving their six children, George, James, William L., Andrew, Mrs. Jennie Nelson and Mrs. McDonald, to mourn her departure.
Andrew Wilson, the father of Albert L. Wilson, of whom we write, was born at Baldwin about 1827. He was brought up amid the strenuous conditions of pioneer life on the frontier, and, consistent with the times, his education was extremely limited. He became a farmer on arriving at years of young manhood, but a few years previous to the opening of the Civil war he gave up rural life and went to Sparta, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. With the breaking out of the war he immediately enlisted for service in the Federal army, and was commissioned captain of Company G, of the Eightieth Illinois Infantry, with Colonel Rogers, of Alton, in command, as a part of the corps of General Thomas. After a preliminary service of two years his corps became a part of Sherman's army. He was captured at Rome, Georgia, and imprisoned in the old Libby prison at Richmond for almost one year after which he was transferred to the Confederate prison at Columbia, South Carolina, and variously at other places until near the close of the war, when his twenty-two months of prison life ended in exchange. After the war he resumed business again in Sparta, where he took an active part in politics as a Republican and was appointed postmaster and died in office in 1882. He was affiliated with both the Masonic and Odd Fellows fraternities, and was a consistent member of the Presbyterian church. Andrew Wilson early in life married Mary J. Hill, a daughter of Samuel Hill, also a pioneer of Southern Illinois. When Sparta was originally platted Mr. Hill bought the first lot sold by the town, paying six dollars for the property. His wife was Miss Elizabeth Thompson, and they were the parents of a family of twelve children, three sons and nine daughters. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were the parents of a goodly family of children, their names being as follows: Elizabeth, the wife of Edward J. Murphy, warden of the penitentiary at Joliet, Illinois; Albert L., of Sparta; Dr. Dora S. Wilson, of Collins, Montana; Mrs. Amma M. Gemmell, of Sparta; Ulysses G., of East St. Louis; and Mrs. H. T. Matthews, of Fortress Monroe, Virginia, her husband being
a captain in the regular army stationed at that point. Mrs. Wilson passed away at the family home in Sparta.
Albert L. Wilson received a fair education in the schools of Sparta, and following his training thus received he entered the office of the Sparta Plaindealer, where he was employed for about two years. His energy and careful application to his duties did not pass unnoticed, however, and at the end of his two years service in the printing office he was offered a vacancy in a bank in Sparta, and, beginning the duties of a clerk, he was carefully grounded in every detail of the banking business under the able tuition of one of its officers. In 1875 Mr. Wilson had so far mastered the intricacies of the business that he went to Red Bud, Illinois, where he proceeded to organize a private bank. He was chosen a member of its board and an officer of the institution as well. In its organization Mr. Wilson included many of the best German and other settlers of that locality, and of the original organizatlon he and one Herman Schrieber alone remain, all the others being deceased. In 1892 Mr. Wilson returned to Sparta and organized the Merchants Exchange Bank, with a capital stock of twenty-five thousand dollars, with E. B. McGuire as president and himself as cashier. This was succeeded in 1897 by the First National Bank, chartered in that year with a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars, and the same officers were chosen to preside over the new institution: W. J. Brown, vice-president, W. F. Clendenin, cashier, and the board of directors is composed of Messrs. McGuire, Wilson, Brown, R. D. Granslet and Matt Sproul, The bank now has a surplus of twenty thousand dollars with deposits aggregating four hundred thousand dollars.
On June 28, 1877, Albert L. Wilson was married in Sparta, Illinois, to Miss Amy Stevenson, a daughter of the late Captain John Stevenson, one of the old merchants of Eden, Illinois. He was born at Paisley, Scotland, famous as being the producer of the now practically extinct Paisley shawls, and he served in the Civil war, first with the rank of lieutenant of a company of the Tenth Missouri Infantry and later commissioned a captain of an Illinois regiment. Mrs. Albert Wilson, one of the five children of her parents, was born in Randolph county, Illinois, and she and her husband are the parents and grandparents of a fine family. Their children are: Prentiss S., cashier of the Bank of Steeleville; he is married to Bessie Barker and they have two children, Margaret and Albert. E. Jerome Wilson is a merchant in Stafford, Kansas. He married Lucile Lovitt, of Saline, Kansas. Evangeline Wilson is the wife of Dr. W. F. Weir, of Sparta, Illinois, and the youngest child, Miss Ruth, is a student at the University of Illinois at this writing.
Albert L. Wilson has passed through life thus far without evincing any political ambition. Like his father, he is a Republican in his convictions, but his interest in those matters is only sufficient to impel him to exercise his right of franchise at intervals when important matters are at issue. He is also an adherent to the religious faith of the Wilson family, occupying a position of some importance in the direction and management of affairs of the Presbyterian church of Sparta.