The Wilson Family

September 25, 2022 at 4:52 pm , by Alyce Wilson

To see all of the documents that support this write-up, visit my public tree on Ancestry, starting with the immigrant James Wilson.


For most of my life, I believed that my paternal grandfather, John Omer Wilson, was the son of William Stuart Wilson. However, in late 2015, my father informed me about the family story that John O. Wilson was the son of a man named Eutsler, who owned a lumber mill in his home town of Grottoes. Once I began looking into the records, I realized this was a likely story, given that William S. Wilson died three years before my grandfather was born. Through research and Ancestry DNA results, I’ve identified the most likely candidate for my biological great-grandfather, George W. Eutsler. I’ve written about his family in another document.

In this document, I’ll trace the family lineage of William Stuart Wilson, because although he’s not my direct ancestor, he is the father of my grandfather’s half-sisters, Lee Frances (Wilson) Rudolph (1889-1972) and Hattie Walker (Wilson) Wagner (1890-1963).  And of course, he was the only husband my great-grandmother, Susan Frances Virginia “Fannie” (Weaver) Wilson ever had, given that she never married John’s father.


Matthew Wilson (?) (Abt. 1694-1720) m. (?) (?-1720)

Born in about 1694 in Ulster, Ireland, the head of this paternal line appears in many online family trees as Matthew Wilson. However, I have not found any definitive proof that that is, indeed, the name of the father of James and Moses. All we know for certain is that he, along with his wife, died in a fiery shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of France while heading for the United States, leaving behind two sons, James and Moses, who survived.

  1. Moses, b. Abt. 1715, Ireland.
  2. James, b. 1715 in Ireland; d. May 6, 1801 in Brownsburg, Rockbridge County, Va.; m. 1750 in Virginia, Rebekah Wilson. Children: William, John, Moses, Elizabeth, Samuel, Sarah, Thomas, James, David, Matthew, Robert, Andrew and Rachel.


James Wilson (1715-1801) m. Rebekah Willson (1728-1820)

James Wilson was born in 1715 in Ireland, and he emigrated very young to Philadelphia, Pa. He then relocated to Rockbridge County, Virginia. He married Rebekah Wilson, a cousin, in about 1750 in Virginia. He died on May 6, 1801, in Brownsburg, Rockbridge County, Va. This date is according to his tombstone, as listed on, but other sources say he died nearly a decade later, in 1809. Rebekah outlived him either way, dying on February 15, 1820.

James’ wife. Rebekah Wilson, was born in 1728, either in Ireland or Pennsylvania. Her parents were Thomas Wilson and Elizabeth Dinwiddie. Her father was born in Ireland in 1692 and was living in Rockbridge when he died in 1773. Some sources say she and her husband are second cousins, while others say they were first cousins, sharing the grandparents Robert and Janet (Anderson) Wilson, but I have found no conclusive proof of this relationship.

Col. John Wilson (1702-1773) and his wife Martha (1695-1755) lived in Staunton, Va. and were Rebekah’s uncle and aunt, as John was the brother of Thomas. For Rebekah to be a first cousin, that would mean that Thomas and John were brothers to James’s father, but I’ve encountered no proof to this effect.

Another cousin of James, William Wilson (b. 1698 or 1700, d. 1795) married Barbara Kane in Dublin and emigrated in 1720 to the Forks of the Brandywine, Chester County, Pa.; moving in 1747 to near New Providence Church, Augusta County, Georgia.

Let’s get back to James and his arrival in the U.S. In an oft-repeated story, he and his brother’s immigration was marred by tragedy. Here’s the account as related in “A History of Adams County, Ohio” by Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers (E.B. Stivers, West Union, Ohio, 1900):

“As young boys, James and his brother Moses, were travelling with their mother, father, and a maid on a boat along the coast of France. The ship wrecked and the mother and maid were floating with the boys in the water. They were picked up by another ship with a captain named Wilson. The mother died immediately and the maid shortly, but the maid was able to give the history of the family and what happened. Which were proved by their personal effects found. The captain of the rescuing ship brought the boys to America where they grew up, married and spent their lives.”

Once in the U.S., some sources say James was raised by his uncles and that his grandparents were also in America. According to “Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families,” (Press of Marshall & Bruce Co., Nashville, Tenn., 1911) by Margaret Campbell Pilcher, the brothers lived in Philadelphia at least until 1730, “when James was converted” — presumably to Presbyterian — “under the Rev. George Whitefield, at the age of 15 years.”

James was listed on the 1742 muster roll of the Augusta militia in Captain John Christian’s list. In 1748, he bought 200 acres of land in Beverley Manor for 15 pounds, and three years later added an adjacent 101 acres bought directly from Beverley.

He was wounded in battles with the Mohawks in 1777 and volunteered in several campaigns against the native people of America.  He furnished beef and horses for soldiers and rendered aid during the Revolutionary War, for which he’s acknowledged as a Revolutionary War patriot by the DAR.

James was an elder in New Providence Church. He was appointed in 1775 with Captain Charles Campbell by Hanover Presbytery to solicit funds to establish Augusta Academy, the germ of Washington and Lee University, on James Wilson’s lands on Mount Pleasant, afterwards inherited by his son, Moses Wilson.

Like his son after him, his will makes it clear that, sadly, he was a slave owner, bequeathing a female slave to his wife, along with “any of her issue” that should come later.

James and Rebekah had 16 children, of which 13 grew to adulthood.

  1. William, b. August 1, 1751; d. December 1, 1835; m. Abt. 1781, Elizabeth Poage. Children: Thomas, James and Nancy.
  2. John, b. 1753 in Rockbridge County; d. June 19, 1826 in Raphine, Rockbridge County, Va.; m. March 18, 1779, Rachel Downey. Children: John (stillborn), James Campbell, Samuel, and William.
  3. Moses, b. 1754 or 59; d. March 4, 1826 in Rockbridge County; m. Elizabeth Finley. Was a Revolutionary soldier at the siege of Yorktown, inherited part of father’s lands. Children: James Samuel, Matthew D., John Philander, Thomas, and William B. (physician).
  4. Elizabeth, b. Feb. 14, 1753 or 1758 in Augusta County, Va.; d. February 27, 1832 in Brown County, Ohio; m. William Campbell. Children: James William, Charles, John Wilson (U.S. Congressman), Joseph Newton, Samuel, and Sarah.
  5. Samuel, b. December 16, 1760; d. September 19, 1833 in Logan County, Kentucky; m. Margaret Edmiston. Children: Constant, Vesta LaGrande, Cyrus Wilson, Thomas Edmiston, Hiero Tennant, stillborn daughter, Franklin P., Eliza H., Virginia Augusta, Louisa Augusta, Maria T., and Margaret.
  6. Sarah, b. 1762 in Augusta County; d. 1829 in Augusta County, unmarried.
  7. Thomas, b. September 11, 1765; d. January 1, 1826; m. 1792 to Mary Belle “Polly” Poage. Was a judge and a member of Congress in 1868. Children: Rebecca, Alpheus Poage (lawyer and member of Virginia Senate), Catherine Sarah, Philander (died in infancy), Eugenius Marcus (lawyer), Narcissa (died in infancy), Edgar Campbell (member of Congress), Norval Thomas (a Methodist pastor), Agnes “Nancy” Poage, Louisa Ann (who married pastor James Lowrie and became a missionary, dying in India), George Washington, Julia A., Mary (died in infancy), and Richard (died young).
  8. James (a pastor), b. 1767; d. Abt. May 1801 in Kentucky; m. August 26, 1788, Agnes McKee. Child: John; m. (2) Margaret Whitaker in Kentucky. Child: James Whitaker.
  9. David, b. 1768; m. Phoebe Caruthers. Child: Phoebe Caruthers.
  10. Matthew, b. 1769; d. August 2, 1830 in Augusta County; m. Nancy Caruthers. Children: James Caruthers and Phoebe Ann.
  11. Robert, b. 1771/2; d. 1822; m. Elizabeth “Eliza” Harris. Was a Presbyterian pastor. Children: Elizabeth (died in infancy), Mary Ann, Martha and Robert W. (a pastor).
  12. Andrew, d. 1836, unmarried.
  13. Rachel or Rebecca; m. William Henderson.


Rev. William Wilson (1751-1835) m. Elizabeth Poage (1763-Bef. 1835)

Rev. William Wilson was born in Virginia on August 1, 1751. He married Elizabeth Poage in about 1781. He studied at the Mt. Pleasant Academy under Rev. John Brown, according to “The Descendants of John and Robert Poage” (1954), edited by Robert Bell Woodworth. He was then a teacher at the Washington-Henry Academy, Hanover County, was licensed by Hanover Presbyterian October 28, 1779, and was ordained on November 15, 1780.

He was the second pastor of Augusta Church, serving from 1780 to 1814. According to “Ann Arbor’s First Lady: Events in the Life of Ann I. Allen” (University of Michigan, 1935), William “was described by Joseph A. Waddell in his ‘Annals of Augusta County’ as ‘an admirable classical scholar and an attractive preacher.'”

A story is recounted in several texts, including “Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families” (1911) by Margaret Campbell Pilcher, that “Upon recovering from an illness at one time, he had wholly forgotten his native language, but his knowledge of Latin and Greek remained. Gradually, he recovered his English.”

In addition, he was a trustee of Liberty Hall Academy and Washington College from 1782 to 1807.

He was a strong advocate of the Revolutionary War.

The reverend was listed as a planter in the 1810 census, and sadly, given the time period and his location in Virginia, this meant he was a slaveholder. The 1820 census listed him as having 12 slaves. His will, written a decade later, mentions 13 slaves by name, whom he bequeathed to his widow and to his son Thomas P. Wilson, as well as to various grandchildren. The one bequeathed to his wife, called Suckey, he freed in an appendix, as Elizabeth had requested on her death bed to release Suckey from her servitude.

His son, Dr. James Wilson, having predeceased him, Rev. Wilson stated in his will that the doctor’s land would be equally divided among grandchildren Phebe, Elizabeth and Robert Kenney Wilson, with Col. John Kenney assigned as their curator. He further set aside $1,000 for Robert in order to “aid in giving him a liberal education if he should discover capacity and inclination for this purpose,” entrusting Col. Kennedy to help assess his “literary progress and propriety of keeping him in learning.” In addition, he entreated his son Thomas and daughter Elizabeth to “cherish and train the orphans — so helpless — so dependent, and by divine Providence cast on your protection, Bare lightly on their patrimony — and promote their welfare as though the same were your own children by the orphans I mean Phebe and Robert, also Elizabeth should she be deprived of her present home.” He also noted that, should his claims of Kentucky and Morgantown lands should be recovered, one half would go to his son Thomas and the other half to his grandchildren.

Also in his will, he deeded to Augusta Stone Church the land for the contiguous graveyard.

The reverend died on December 1, 1835, aged 86, in Mt. Airy, Pittsylvania County, Va.

As with many other records relating to the family, we have John Omer’s sister, Lee Frances (Wilson) Rudolph, to thank for preserving this document, as she published this will, along with other wills from family members, in “Copies of Wills of Early Settlers in August County, Virginia” (Daughters of the American Revolution, 1950). She was also the one who made a complete record of the stones in the Cross Keys Cemetery in 1952.

  1. Thomas Poage, b. 1786; d. 1856, Augusta County, Va.; m. January 12, 1827 in Augusta County, Hannah Miller. Children: William Miller, Elizabeth Lewis.
  2. James Wilson, b. May 11, 1788 on Mt. Airy Farm, Fort Defiance, Augusta County, Va.; d. 1830, Fort Defiance; m. April 6, 1819 in Augusta County, Elizabeth Kennedy, who d. November 4, 1834 in Augusta County. Children: Phoebe/Phebe, Elizabeth, and Robert Kenney.
  3. Nancy, b. 1790 in Augusta County, Va.; d. after 1850 in Rockingham County, Va.; m. May 21, 1805 Samuel Davies Crawford. Children: George, James Wilson, Thomas Poage, Samuel Davis, Agnes (died young), and Flora.


 Dr. James Wilson (1778-1830) m. Elizabeth Kenney (1788-1834)

James Wilson was born May 11, 1788 on Mt. Airy Farm in Fort Defiance, Augusta County, Va., the son of Rev. William and Elizabeth (Poage) Wilson, sometimes spelled Willson. On April 6, 1819, he married Elizabeth Kenney, the daughter of Capt. Robert and Phoebe (Huston) Kenney of Augusta County, Va. Robert Kenney was a captain in the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth died on October 25, 1828, while giving birth to the couple’s third child.

Dr. Wilson was educated at Liberty Hall Academy and Washington College in Lexington, Va. He then graduated from the Baltimore (Md.) Medical College and was a surgeon in the War of 1812.

He died in 1830 in Mt. Sidney, Va., predeceasing his father, as affirmed by the Rev. Wilson’s will. He left behind three children, who were orphaned and mentioned by name several times in his father’s will, who found it very important to provide for them.

  1. Phebe, b. 1822 in Augusta County, Va.; d. in Texas Abt. 1850; m. Charles Augustus Stuart, who d. July 4, 1888 in Greenbrier County, W. Va. Children: Elizabeth, James Wilson, Lewis (died in infancy), and Sarah (died in infancy).
  2. Elizabeth, b. January 15, 1824 in Augusta County, Va.; d. July 6, 1908 in Fort Defiance, Augusta County, Va.; m. on May 20, 1842 Thomas McCue. Children: Ann Isabella, Bettie Kenney, Margaret Jane, William, Phoebe Wilson, James Andrew, Mary Arney, Edward McKim and Ruth Lee.
  3. Robert Kenney, b. October 25, 1828 in Augusta County, Va; d. 1898 in Fort Defiance, Augusta County, Va; m. May 3, 1827, Annie Frame — no children; m. (2) Feb. 12, 1853 Elizabeth Jane Hooke, who d. July 23, 1887. Children: William Stuart Wilson, Sarah Margaret, and Mary Walker.


Robert Kenney Wilson (1829-1898) m. Elizabeth Jane Hooke (1823-1887)

Robert Kenney Wilson was born October 25, 1829 in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Dr. James and Elizabeth (Kenney) Wilson. First, he married Annie Frame, born on May 3, 1827, and who died on May 21, 1851, without any children. On February 12, 1853, he married Elizabeth Jane Hooke, the daughter of Capt. Robert and Elizabeth (Walker) Hooke of Augusta County, Va. She was the descendant of a patriot who fought during the American Revolution.

Elizabeth died on July 23, 1887. He died on November 2, 1898 and was buried in Massanutten Cross Keys Cemetery, Cross Keys, Rockingham County, Va., next to his wife. According to a death notice in “The Washington Times,” published on November 8, 1898, he had served in the Confederate army. The death notice reads, “Mr. Robert Kenney Wilson, of Augusta County, a Confederate veteran, died last week. He lost his right arm at the battle of Chancellorsville not long before Stonewall Jackson was wounded.”

Based on the information in this newspaper notice, it’s likely that he was the Robert K. Wilson who served in the 10th Regiment, Virginia Infantry. According to the National Park Service:

OVERVIEW: 10th Infantry Regiment was assembled at Harper’s Ferry during the late spring of 1861. Four companies of the 4th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, a militia unit, were united with other volunteer companies to make up the regiment. An eleventh company was added to the command in April, 1862. Its men were raised in the counties of Shenandoah, Rockingham, Page, and Madison. During the war it was attached to Elzey’s, Taliaferro’s, Fulkerson’s, Colston’s, Steuart’s, and W. Terry’s Brigade. After fighting at First Manassas and McDowell, it was active in Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The 10th participated in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Cold Harbor except when it was on detached duty during the Battle of Sharpsburg. It was involved in Early’s Shenandoah Valley operations and later the Appomattox Campaign. This unit reported 16 casualties at First Manassas, 21 at McDowell, 43 at Cedar Mountain, 32 at Second Manassas, and 157 at Chancellorsville. Of the 276 engaged at Gettysburg more than twenty-five percent were disabled. On April 9, 1865, it surrendered with 2 officers and 43 men. The field officers wer Colonels Simeon B. Gibbons and Edward T.H. Warren, Lieutenant Colonels Dorilas H.L. Martz and Samuel T. Walker, and Majors Isaac G. Coffman and Joshua Stover.

This unit designation was confirmed by his listing in “The Descendants of Robert and John Poage: Pioneer Settlers in Augusta County, Va.: A Genealogy Based on the Manuscript Collections of Prof. Andrew Woods Williamson, Henry Martyn Williamson, and John Guy Bishop” (independently printed, 1954), edited by Robert Bell Woodworth, which says about him, “ROBERT KENNEY WILSON, farmer, Cross Keys, Rockingham County; b. Mount Sidney Oc. 25, 1829, d. Fort Defiance Nov. 2 98, soldier 10th Va Infantry, CSA, lost an arm at Chancellorsville, May 63; m. Annie Frame — no children; m. (2) Feb 17, 52 Elizabeth Jane Hooks who predeceased him — three or more children, three only reported.”

Seeing as how he was severely injured at Chancellorsville, Robert would not have gone on to serve at Gettysburg. His injury also seems to have caused him to change his profession, as his profession in the 1800 census is listed as “teaches school.”

Ironically, my great-great-grandfather on my maternal line, Ethan Hampton, served in the 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry, which also fought at Chancellorsville. Fortunately, the two men managed not to kill each other, or my siblings and I wouldn’t exist.

Like his grandfather before him, Robert would outlive his son by several years, meaning he was still alive when his grandson, John Omer Wilson, was born. Perhaps this was one of the reasons that John’s mother opted not to marry John’s father, but to raise him with the surname Wilson.

  1. William Stuart, b. Dec. 23, 1856 in Virginia; d. April 20, 1892; m. December 5, 1888, Susan Frances Virginia Weaver, who was b. April 6, 1862 in Virginia and d. April 22, 1940 in Grottos, Va. Children: Lee Frances and Hattie Walker.
  2. Sarah “Sue” Margaret, b. Feb. 17, 1859 in Virginia; d. Feb. 12, 1882, never married.
  3. Mary Walker, b. April 26, 1861 in Virginia; d. 1939 in Montgomery County, Iowa; m. February 26, 1883 in Rockingham County, Va., Davis Monroe Altaffer, who was b. March 22, 1855 in Rockingham County and d. June 5, 1925 in Iowa. Children: Sallie W. and some stillborn infant sons.


William Stuart Wilson (1856-1892) m. Susan Frances Virginia (Weaver) (1862-1940)

William Stuart Wilson was born on December 23, 1856 in Virginia, the son of Robert Kenney and Elizabeth Jane (Hooke) Wilson. On December 5, 1888, he married Susan Frances “Fannie” Virginia Weaver, the daughter of John William and Sarah Catherine Montgomery (Buchanan) Weaver of Middle River, Augusta County, Va. I’ve previously written up the Buchanan and Weaver lines in separate documents.

According to the marriage license and to the 1880 census, William was a carpenter. He and Sarah had two daughters, Lee and Hattie. William died on April 20, 1892 and was buried in Massanutten Cross Keys Cemetery, Cross Keys, Rockingham County, Va.

Three years after his death, Fannie had another son, John Omer Wilson, listing her deceased husband as his father on all official papers.

  1. Lee Frances, b. September 29, 1889, in Virginia; d. September 25, 1972 in Falls Church, Fairfax County, Va.; m. October 1, 1921 in Alexandria County, Va., Corrie Fields Rudolph, who was b. May 24, 1887 and d. May 15, 1967 in Washington, District of Columbia. Children: Louis Robert.
  2. Hattie Walker, b. December 30, 1890 in Rockingham County, Va.; d. June 3, 1963 in St. Petersburg, Fla.; m. September 17, 1907 William Forsyth Wagner, who was b. January 18, 1886 in Rockingham County, Va. and d. September 1966 in Pinellas, Fla. Children: William Forsyth Jr., Sadie Eunice, Ernest Lyle.


Rumors of Relationships to Famous American Wilsons

Despite family lore to the contrary, I don’t believe this line to be provable cousins to the 28th president of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. His immigrant ancestor, his grandfather Judge James Wilson, was born in 1787 in Northern Ireland and was a newspaper publisher, Whig politician, successful businessman and abolitionist. He emigrated to Ohio, which is where Woodrow’s father was born.

Woodrow’s father, Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson Sr., relocated to Staunton, Va., which is where Woodrow was born. Rev. Joseph Wilson was a Presbyterian clergyman, so he most certainly may have known descendants of James Wilson, and particularly those who shared his profession, but there’s no provable indication that they shared a lineage back in Ireland. If they did, it would have had to have been about three or four generations back from Woodrow’s grandfather, or about five or six generations back from Woodrow Wilson.

There also does not seem to be any familial link with the Founding Father, James Wilson, who signed the Declaration of Independence and became a Supreme Court justice. He was born in 1742 in Scotland, the son of a William Wilson and Alison Landall. His father, in turn, was born in Scotland, not Ireland, so any link to this family is extremely distant, if it exists.

— September 25, 2022

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