S. J. HARRY WILSON has been superintendent of the public schools of Pinckneyville for the past five years. At the age of twenty he entered the profession of teaching, and his interest in and enthusiasm for the work would not permit him to stand still.
Pinckneyville is his native town, and here he was born December 6, 1877. His first school experience was at the "Brick School," two miles south of the town. Later he attended the city schools, and was always a close student and a wide reader, and possessed of a remarkably retentive memory. The home of his boyhood was well supplied with the best books. His father was the late William Gill Wilson, who was prominently identified with the building up of Pinckneyville in the capacity of carpenter and builder. He was born three miles south of Pinckneyville October 17, 1841. His father was James Steele Wilson, who, with his father, Alexander Wilson, migrated about 1830 from Dickson county, Tennessee, to this state, and passed his life here as a farmer dying in 1880 at the age of sixty-five. This James S. Wilson was a pillar in society. His wife was Anna Lucinda Chambers, who died in 1879. They were the parents of seven children, of whom William G. was the eldest. The others were Samuel B., who served in the Union army during the Civil war as a sergeant of Company D, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers, and died in Perry county in 1881 at that time being a school teacher and farmer. Emma married W. C. Milligan, and passed away in Perry county in 1901, Mary became the wife of William Johnson, and died in 1887. Tirza, Mrs. John A. Kimzey, and tbey removed to Evans, Colorado. Lucinda is Mrs. John N. Hughey, of Kearney, Nebraska. James died just as he had reached maturity.
William G. Wilson in his youth was ambitous and determined to succeed in his chosen occupation, and would have enjoyed nothing better than a technical education had circumstances permitted but hard times and the outbreak of the war between the states put an end to all such dreams. He did, however, receive a very good common-school education, but at the age of nineteen he cast aside all thoughts of work (for he was just beginning to learn the carpenter's trade) and enlisted in Company A, of the Thirty-first Illinois Infantry,
commanded by Colonel John A. Logan. The young soldier took part in many battles, the first among them being those of Fort Henry, the attack on Fort Donelson, and the battles of Champion Hills. He was in the Vicksburg campaign, and was wounded at the above named battle of Champion Hills. However, he was not long out of his place in the ranks, but was discharged from the hospital in time to join the army and take his share in the fighting at Big Shanty and Kenesaw Mountain, and to march with the boys in blue towards Atlanta. After he had participated in the battle of Atlanta his term of enlistment expired and he was discharged and returned to Pinckneyville. He soon became an active builder, and received many large contracts, among which were the old Murphy-Wall & Company Bank building, the Court House, the public school building and the United Presbyterian church (of which organization he was a staunch member). Many of the best residences in the city and in the surrounding country are also monuments of his skill and fidelity to his business. As a veteran, he took a great interest in the affairs of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was one of the most active members of the organization. In politics he was a Republican. His death occurred January 9, 1905. In this he left as his widow Sarah J., a daughter of a prominent citzen, Samuel M. Woodside, M. D. Their wedded life had extended from March 8, 1866.
This Dr. Woodside came to Pinckneyville from Princeton, Kentucky, in 1832. He served as major in the State Militia, practiced medicine for many years, and was a pioneer in fruit culture and one of the founders of the old Perry County Agricultural Society, whose first county fair was held in the Court House in 1857. He died in 1885, aged seventy-one years. Mrs. Woodside was formerly Miss Eliza Pyle, and Mrs. Wilson was one of a family of seven children, of whose ancestry some were patriots of the American Revolution. Mrs. Wilson survived her husband half a dozen years, dying June 17, 1911. Three children survive. Of these Gilbert A. is a mechanic, following in the path of his father, and lives in Pinekneyville; Belle R., who is the wife of James F. Richmond, of Cutler, Illinois, and the subject of this sketch.
A desire to know_it did not matter upon what subject, filled the mind of this youngest of the Wilson children from his earliest days, and when he was graduated from the high school in his home town in 1896 he was bent on pursuing his studies still further. He therefore went to the Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale, where he remained for two years. On his return home he began at once to teach in the grades of the school in which his boyhood lessons had been learned. He continued in this work two years and then returned to Carbondale, where he graduated in 1902. During 1902 and 1903 he was principal of the schools of Tamaroa, and the next year he returned to Pinckneyville and served as principal of the High School three years. He was not an applicant for another term, and through the fickleness of politics was compelled to teach away from home one year. He was elected principal of the Safford School of Cairo, Illinois, and taught there during the school year 1906-1907, when he again came back to his present positon as Superintendent of his home school. The course of study here is graded, covering a period of four years, a year of advanced work having been added by Mr. Wilson, The school has grown in numbers since Mr. Wilson took charge, the enrollment in 1912 being six hundred and fifty-three. To take care of these pupils a corps of fourteen teachers is required.
As an educator, Mr. Wilson is greatly interested in the work of
the various professional associations of which he is a member, believing in the advantages of organization. He is a member of the State Teachers' Association, and also of the Southern Illinois Teachers' Association. He is also very active in religious matters, a member and a deacon of the First Baptist church of Pinckneyville, also the treasurer of the church and a teacher in the Sunday-school.
On the 28th of March, 1907, he was married in Pinckneyville to Elsie Smith, a daughter of Rev. W. S. D. Smith, a prominent citizen, whose family is mentioned elsewhere in this volume. One daughter, Lorraine, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson on the 14th day of February, 1909.