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Wilson, Francis A. (1790–1867)

William E. Smith Biography Entry

Francis (Frank) A. Wilson, an early Methodist circuit rider in Texas, was born in Augusta County, Virginia (now West Virginia), on August 1, 1790, to Robert Wilson and Agnes (Nancy) Oliver. He had little schooling and often suffered poor health, including a kind of palsy so severe in his later years that he could not travel alone. In 1810 he became a licensed "exhorter" and in 1819 received his first appointment as circuit rider for the Kentucky District (Ohio Conference) of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Wilson was ordained a deacon in 1822 and an elder in 1824. He continued to hold appointments in the Kentucky District when it became a conference and in the Ohio Conference. By 1832 ill health forced him to retire temporarily. Wilson returned to circuit riding in the Ohio Conference in 1837. In 1839 he decided to move to Texas, despite the protests of his wife. He applied for a transfer, was refused, and then moved at his own expense. He and his family set out for Texas in November 1839. The next month he received an appointment to the Nacogdoches circuit of the San Augustine District of the Texas Mission, arrived in the republic, and began work in Nashville (now Shelbyville). A year later Wilson was appointed to the San Augustine circuit of the San Augustine District by the newly organized Texas Conference. In December 1841 he was elevated to presiding elder of the district, and he held this position until 1846. During this period he traveled and lectured on behalf of Wesleyan Male and Female College in San Augustine, also speaking in favor of the annexation of Texas. In February 1846 Wilson was delegated as "missionary to the people of color" in the Eastern Texas Conference, and the following year he was officially designated an agent of Wesleyan College. But from December 1847 to December 1850 he held no appointments, apparently again because of ill health. Wilson renewed his evangelical activities with an appointment to the Bastrop Colored Mission in the Austin District in December 1850 and was appointed to the Austin and Bastrop circuit the following year. Age and poor health soon forced him to retire, however, and his name disappeared from active circuit-riding rosters after 1851. By his own estimate, he had traveled a total of 150,000 miles and delivered 7,000 sermons. Wilson retired to his home at Belgrade in Newton County, where he was active in the local church for about fourteen years. He was also active in business on the Sabine River. He subsequently moved to Louisiana, where he died in October 1867. He and his wife, Elizabeth Kountz, had ten children, five of whom lived to adulthood and raised families in East Texas.

George L. Crocket, Two Centuries in East Texas (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; facsimile reprod. 1962). Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Vols. 1–3. William E. Smith, ed., Memoirs of a Methodist Circuit Rider: Francis Wilson (Austin, 1983). Francis Wilson Papers, Stephen F. Austin State University.


  • Religion
  • Methodist

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William E. Smith, “Wilson, Francis A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.