Wilson, George W. (1806–1889)

By: Micah Tucker

Type: Biography

Published: July 7, 2022

Updated: July 7, 2022

George W. Wilson, farmer and state legislator, was born to Thomas and Elizabeth (Gardner) Wilson in Buncombe County, North Carolina, on November 27, 1806. He had six siblings. The family moved to Tennessee in 1818, and Wilson married Elizabeth Jackson McCoy around 1824 near Nashville, where they then started a family. The couple had twelve children who survived to adulthood.

 Wilson and his family moved to Missouri in the mid-to-late 1830s and then to Red River County, Texas, by 1840. In 1840 Lamar County was created from Red River County, and in 1842 Wilson was appointed as one of the commissioners in charge of finding the geographical center of the county, identifying potential sites for the county seat, and holding an election for the location of the seat. The commissioners nominated Somerville and Mount Vernon, the latter of which became the temporary county seat. In early 1844 George W. Wright offered to donate fifty acres of land to locate the county seat at Paris, then known as Pin Hook. This offer was accepted by the commissioners and affirmed by the voters. In 1845 and 1846 Wilson served as a justice of the peace for Lamar County. He was said to have “participated in much Indian fighting” and served as a drill instructor and mustering officer in frontier organizations. He was commissioned as a colonel by Governor James Pinckney Henderson in March 1847 for service on the frontier during the Mexican War.

In 1848 Wilson and his family moved to Cedar Hill in Dallas County. In 1852 in Dallas County, he owned a 1,000-acre farm assessed at $3,338. His family owned more than 1,900 acres in 1858, and their taxable property had increased to $11,268. Wilson was politically active in the Democratic party at least since the 1840s, and in 1857 Dallas County Democrats sent him as one of their six delegates to the Democratic state convention. In 1858 he served as the foreman of the grand jury for Dallas County’s district court. In July 1858 Wilson’s candidacy for county commissioner was announced. He finished fifth in the August election and received 405 votes out of 2,828 votes cast.

Wilson was a highly progressive farmer, and one biographer noted that he “possessed an inquiring and inventive mind.” In December 1858 he was elected as a director of the Dallas County Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which sponsored Dallas County’s first agricultural fair in 1859. In 1859 the Dallas Herald praised Wilson for his peach yield and claimed that his harvest was the best of the season. Wilson also received notice for his invention of a gang plow and a seed sower, which he demonstrated and sold at the Agricultural and Mechanical Association’s second annual fair in 1860, as well as a windmill and a traveling thresher. His active involvement in his community garnered him popularity in the area, and one historian identified him as “among the foremost men of Dallas [C]ounty during his active life.”

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Wilson supported the Confederate war effort, although it is not known whether he supported secession. He does not appear to have owned any slaves. His name did not appear in the 1850 or 1860 slave schedules, nor were any slaves listed in his tax records for the 1850s or 1860s. In mid-1861 Wilson served as the captain of the Cedar Hill Company, a local volunteer company, before joining Company F of the Sixth Texas Cavalry in September. He was wounded in the regiment’s first engagement in the battle of Chustenahlah in Indian Territory. He recovered and continued to fight with the regiment until he was discharged in June 1862. In the fall of 1863 Wilson ran for representative of House District 44 (Dallas County) in the Texas legislature. The election, in which the district’s two seats went to the top two vote-earners, was tightly contested. Wilson came in first with 259 votes, Henry J. Moffatt placed second with 233 votes, and John C. McCoy finished third with 231 votes. McCoy challenged the election of Moffat, the seat was declared vacant, and McCoy won the special election for the seat in December 1863. Wilson served on the House committees on Contingent Expenses and Printing. During one regular session and two special sessions, he only introduced one bill, the legislation that authorized the special election in Dallas County, which resulted in the election of McCoy.

In 1866, following the Civil War, Wilson unsuccessfully sought re-election to the legislature. He stayed politically active, while continuing to manage his farm. In September 1866 he represented Dallas County at a railroad convention held at Tyler. Wilson also continued to be a director of the Agricultural and Mechanical Association and was part of some of the awarding committees for prizes at the association’s third fair in 1868. After 1870 the association ceased to sponsor the fair due to financial difficulties. In December 1871 Wilson was an incorporator of the North Texas Agricultural, Mechanical and Blood Stock Association, which briefly revived the annual fair. Wilson reported harvesting 3,000 bushels of wheat in 1860 and 750 bushels of wheat and 700 of oats in 1870. He did not report growing any corn either year, but he advertised the sale of 1,000 bushels of corn in 1866. He also raised livestock, primarily cattle and swine, and reported owning seventy-two cattle and sixty swine in 1870. Presumably as a result of his service to the Confederacy in the Tenth legislature, Wilson, according to the 1870 census, was denied voting rights during part of the period of Congressional Reconstruction. He remained a popular figure in the county and was elected on multiple occasions to represent his area for various conventions. On Christmas Day 1868 his house burned down due to a stove fire.

Wilson remained politically active in the 1870s. He was elected as a delegate representing Dallas County in the state’s Second Congressional District Democratic convention held in Dallas on July 4, 1871. That same year he co-drafted the resolutions to a Dallas County meeting, at which delegates were elected for the upcoming Tax-payers’ Convention in Austin, organized in opposition to Republican governor Edmund J. Davis. Dallas Democrats sent Wilson as a delegate to both the 1872 and 1876 state Democratic conventions. In 1875 he served on the executive committee of a Dallas County association created to provide a home and competency for Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, to live in Texas. In 1875 he and his wife became founding members of the Dallas County chapter of the Association of Soldiers of the Texas Revolution and Mexican War.

By the 1880s Wilson’s active participation in politics had come to an end. He remained an innovator in agriculture and received praise in an 1883 Dallas Weekly Herald story describing his successful technique for growing weed-free hay. Wilson was an active member in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1866 he was elected an officer of the Dallas County Pioneer Association. He was a Mason. George Wilson died at his home in Cedar Hill on February 28, 1889. He was buried in Little Bethel Memorial Park in Duncanville, Texas.

Austin State Gazette, May 16, 1857. John Henry Brown, History of Dallas County, Texas: From 1837 to 1887 (Dallas: Milligan, Cornett & Farnham, 1887). Evelyn M. Carrington, ed., Women in Early Texas (Austin: Jenkins, 1975). Clarksville Northern Standard, August 5, 1848. Dallas Daily Times-Herald, March 5, 1889. Dallas Herald, July 17, 1858; August 14, 1858; December 8, 1858; June 5, 1861; August 19, 1863; June 30, 1866; September 1, 1866; June 17, 1871; September 9, 1871; June 22, 1872. Dallas Weekly Herald, June 10, 1875; August 28, 1875; September 13, 1883. L. B. Hill, ed., A History of Greater Dallas and Vicinity, Vol. 2 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1909). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans, Vol. 3 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: George Wilson (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=5515), accessed June 30, 2022. John Carroll Power and Sarah A. Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield, Illinois: Edwin A. Wilson & Co., 1878).

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

Micah Tucker, “Wilson, George W.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wilson-george-w.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 7, 2022
July 7, 2022

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