Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


Samuel H. F. Wilson, one of the venerable citizens of Franklin township, was born in Moundsville, near Wheeling, W. Va., — then a part of Virginia, — June 30, 1827, and when a youth of eight years was brought to Iowa by his mother in 1835. He is a son of George and Rebecca (Parrott) Wilson. The father was born in the eastern part of West Virginia, and throughout his entire life followed the occupation of farming. His death, however, occurred in Virginia when he was thirty-two years of age, his son Samuel being at that time a young lad of seven summers. He was a member of the Methodist church, his life was honorable and upright, and in his business undertakings he prospered, being recognized as one of the enterprising and progressive agriculturists of his community. His political allegiance was given to the Whig party. His remains were interred at Moundsville, Va.

The following year the mother brought her family to Iowa. She was born in Berkley county, Virginia, and was educated in the common schools of her native State. Her parents were William and Susan (Turner) Parrott. Her father was a farmer and slave-owner of West Virginia, and a very prominent and influential man in that State, where his death occurred. Mrs. Parrott afterward came to Iowa. She had a family of nine children, all of whom accompanied her to this State in 1836. She brought the first slave into Burlington, and freed him here, and continued a resident of Burlington until her death. For a short time she conducted what was then called the Wisconsin Hotel, but the name was afterward changed to the Mansion House. It stood on the northeast corner of Columbia and Main Streets, and the location is now used as a restaurant. On disposing of the hotel business, Mrs. Parrott went to West Burlington, and her death occurred in 1851, when she had reached the advanced age of seventy years. She had three sons and six daughters, all of whom have now passed away, namely: Christopher C.; Lawson S.; William: Mrs. Rebecca Wilson; Mary Ann, who married Aaron Phillips; Martha, who became the wife of Thomas Baltzer; Isabella, the wife of William T. Johnson; Jane, the wife of Robert Chalfant: and Elizabeth, who married Shepherd Loeffler. All became residents of this county, and were prominent to a greater or less extent in business life and public interests, but all have now passed away. Mrs. Wilson, coming with her two sons to Des Moines county, located in Burlington, where she lived until her death.

For her second husband, Mrs. Wilson married Charles Madera, then a resident of Burlington, and one of the early settlers of the county, who became a man of marked prominence and influence in his community. For some years he served as judge of the probate court, and was afterward county treasurer, filling the latter position at the time of his death. He acted as probate judge from 1837 until 1842, and during that period had charge of every estate settled at that time. Various positions of trust and responsibility were conferred upon him, and he was widely known for his fidelity and reliability. He was recognized as a leader in political matters, and had the entire confidence of his fellow-men, even those who differed from him in political views respecting him for his honesty and worth. His business career was equally notable. He was engaged with Shepherd Loeffler in the dry-goods business at Burlington for a number of years, and built and owned the first saw-mill on Flint River. He passed away when about fifty years of age, and Mrs. Madera died at the age of fifty-one years in Burlington. She held membership in the Methodist church, in which she was an active and devoted worker. His fraternal relations were with the Odd Fellows Society, and in the lodge, in public life, and in his social relations he was esteemed for his genuine worth. By this marriage there were a daughter and four sons, but only one is now living.

Samuel H. F. Wilson and his only brother, Joseph A. Wilson, remained with their mother after her second marriage, making their home with Mr. and Mrs. Madera while they lived.

Mr. Wilson, of this review, was educated in the common schools of Burlington, and he and his brother were among the early pupils of Mrs. Sheldon, who taught one of the first schools in the city, and was well known as "Mother Sheldon." When sixteen years of age he entered upon his business career as a salesman in the dry-goods store of John R. Campbell & Company, with whom he remained for some years, and then began clerking for H. H. Scott & Company, in whose employ he continued until 1850. He next went to California, where he engaged in mining for some years, and he also carried on the stock business, buying and selling cattle and horses. He returned to Burlington in 1856, and after a short stay in that city, again made his way to the West. He was wagon-master for Majors Russell and Waddel during the Mormon war in Utah, continuing with the army throughout the Mormon troubles until 1860. He then engaged in freighting, transporting freight by ox-teams from Nebraska City to Denver, it requiring thirty days to make that trip. The winter of 1859; was spent in Denver, and the next spring he took a train of twenty-seven wagons and hauled lumber for the express company, the lumber being used in the building of stations along the express line for a distance of three hundred miles. In 1860 he returned to Iowa, where he remained until the following year.

When the country became engaged in the Civil War, Mr. Wilson, his patriotic spirit aroused, offered his services to the government, enlisting at Burlington in Company C, First Iowa Cavalry, with which he spent three years and four months, receiving an honorable discharge at Davenport, where he was also mustered out. He was stationed most of the time in Mississippi, and took part in a number of important battles and skirmishes. His only brother, Joseph, who was a harness maker by trade, was also in the army, and died at St. Louis, Mo. When the war was over he returned to Burlington, where he engaged in the feed and livery business for about two years, and then conducted a dairy and engaged in farming in Franklin township on the place where he now resides. He has made all of the improvements upon this farm. His original house was destroyed by a cyclone in 1890, and during the summer the family lived in tents until the new residence was erected. For the last forty years, Mr. Wilson has been engaged successfully and extensively in the breeding of Poland China hogs, and his stock has taken many premiums at the State and county fairs. He has one hundred and sixty acres in the home place, and the farm is valuable because of the care and labor which he has bestowed upon it and the practical and modern methods which he has followed.

Mr. Wilson was married in 1865 to Mrs. Lydia Upton, nee Eagle. Her mother has been three times married, her second husband being Levi Gridley, and her third husband, Hezekiah Archer. She is now more than ninety-eight years of age, and makes her home with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. By their marriage eight children have been born: George, who died in infancy; Dan, who resides upon the home farm; Fannie, the wife of Ernest Starbuck, a wood-turner of Peoria, Ill., by whom she has two children, Daisy W. and Julian B.; Susan, who died at the age of seventeen years; Nellie, who died at the age of two years; Sam, who is engaged in the hotel business in Kansas City; Fred, who is operating the home farm; and Daisy, the wife of E. H. Lutton, of Mediapolis, Iowa.

Mr. Wilson votes with the Republican party, which stood by the Union in the dark days of the Civil War, and has always been the party of reform and progress. In all matters of citizenship he is as loyal to his country as when he wore the blue uniform of the nation. He has never sought to figure prominently in public life, however, preferring to give his attention to his business interests, and as an agriculturist has won creditable success, becoming the owner of a valuable farm. His life history has been a varied one, and during his service on the plains and on the battle-fields of the South he has had many interesting and exciting experiences, which, if written in detail, would prove the old adage that "truth is stranger than fiction." He is now living amid comfortable surroundings, spending the evening of his days in quiet upon the home farm, and is one of the respected and worthy residents of Franklin township.

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