Robert Manton Wilson

from a 1936 article by R.C. Stuart in the Hope Star

  Squire Robert Manton Wilson came to Columbus and established a home in about 1840. He was a rigid Presbyterian and Orthodox in faith. He demanded strict obedience for his children an it is told that when he went deer hunting and took one his sons he would station him on a deer stand and if the boy shot at a deer and didn't kill it he would take the ramrod out of his gun and whip the boy. He said he took his son to shoot deer, not to shot at them.
  Every Sunday morning his horse and carriage was hitched at his front gate and he together with his children would climb in and the old horse would start out and go on until he came to the church at Washington where he would stop by force of habit. They would then hear a sermon by Dr. Samuel Williamson who resigned as President of Davidson College in North Carolina  and settled near Mound Prairie in the 40s. His address that he made his last graduating class is in the possession of his great grand-daughter, Mrs. Jim Wilson Jr of Columbus. Squire Robert Manton Wilson was the father of Mr. James S. Wilson

   Note: Robert Wilson (b. 1815) and wife Evelina Witherspoon Wilson are buried in the Presbyterian cemetery in Washington.  His farm is now owned by Richard Webb. His son James S. arrived in Columbus in 1856 from Mississippi, which is difficult to understand.  Mrs Jim Wilson Jr is Emma (my aunt)  and  their home was moved to Washington and renamed the Brunson House.  -JJ

James Stephenson Wilson

Hope Star article, 1936


This is the story of James Stephenson Wilson, Sr., who with 25 cents in his pocket rode a pony from the State of Mississippi to Columbus, Ark., in 1856 -- and who now, in his 93d year, is one of [t]he largest land owners and perhaps the best loved pioneer of Hempstead county.
 
I found Mr. Wilson at his general mercantile store in Columbus -- the same which he has owned continuously for 63 years.
 
It was Mr. Wilson who, when the latest panic swept over the land, assumed the assets of the Bank of Columbus and paid off its depositors in full.  That was in 1932.  He borrowed money personally -- something he never did on his own account -- to discharge this service to the community where he had spent his whole life; but he told this writer with gratification that it was not long before he managed to lift the last of this neighborhood debt.
Hale and Hearty
 
Famous for his robust life, he rode a horse on his daily tour of farmlands when he was past 90.
 
And last year, in his 92nd year, he displayed all the energy and adventure of a young man when he branched out into what was for him a brand new kind of farming __ running a turkey ranch.
 
"I started with 24 hens and several gobblers."  Mr. Wilson said.  "They had a big range on the back side of one of our farms __ hardly interfering with our other operations at all.  But at the close of the season New Orleans buyers took the entire crop -- and I found we had produced $220 worth of turkeys on about $50 expense.
 
He smiled slyly and remarked, "We are spreading out a bit this season."
 
A contemporary and close friend, John S. Gibson of Hope, watched the experiment all the way through, Mr. Wilson said -- and rejoiced with him at the success of a companion crop to cotton.
 
In his 63-year business career Mr. Wilson has seen good times and hard ones -- and over the whole period, he has seen economic changes which defy making any forecast of the future.
 
He put a critical finger on the World War period and the damage it did to the Cotton States.  "Dollar-cotton hurt this country,"  he said.  "Men went crazy.  They plunged into debt -- and they could not pay."  He had no opinion to give to future generations; only this --to keep out of debt, to accumulate worldly goods paying as you go.
Mr. Wilson was born October 3, 1843, at the place where Okolona, Miss. now is near Tupelo.
 
He came to Columbus in 1856, at the age of 13 -- and in 1861, at 18, he was a Confederate soldier in the ranks of the Hempstead Rifles, Company Two, commanded by Captain Jett.  Mr. Wilson served through all four years of the War Between the States.  After the war he went to school in Alabama, returning then to farming in Columbus.
 
But in 1872 he went to Mobile, Ala., and entered the cotton trade.  He saved up $2,100, and through his brother, Thomas Edward, set up the Wilson store at Columbus.  The store actually started in 1873 -- but it was 1876 before Mr. Wilson could liquidate his affairs at Mobile and join his brother again at Columbus.
 
In later years Mr. Wilson bought out the W.Y. Foster general mercantile store in Hope.  That was about 20 years ago, just before the World war.  But his brother died and Mr. Wilson found the task of managing two separate establishments very difficult.  He converted the Foster store to a stock company and sold it to K.G. McRae, who was a member of his Hope staff.
 
One of Mr. Wilson's fondest recollections is the journey of his wife and himself to Korea in March, 1925, where they spent four months visiting their son, Dr. R.M. Wilson, who is an important medical missionary in the Orient.  The Wilsons went to Korea by way of Canada, took ship to Japan, and there, because of their difficulty with the language, had to call on another son, Charles, who was then also with Dr. Wilson in Korea.  Charles rescued his parents' baggage from the Japanese -- and the family party continued happily to Korea.

The Oriental World
 
After four months Mr. and Mrs. Wilson returned home. Mr. Wilson said:
"I am always glad we took that trip.  Japan and the Orient are so much more worth-while seeing than Europe -- for in Europe an American would see only that which with he is already familiar.  But the Orient is different -- an entirely new world for the Westerner.
 
Today, nearly 93, Mr. Wilson looks out over broad acres in the rich blacklands of the Columbus section of Hempstead county.  His largest farm is 1,100 acres, but he has others also.
 
There are four sons, Joe, who runs one of the Wilson farms; Jim, who runs his own farm; Charles, who manages the store; and Manton -- the Dr. Wilson who is in Korea.
 
A daughter, Mamie, is married to R.E. Jackson, head of the Columbus school.
 
Mr. Wilson has a sister, Ella, living in California.
 
He is hale and hearty in his 93rd year, as is also Mrs. Wilson in her 76th year.
 
Their son, Dr. Wilson, who was home in 1929, is returning again in August this year -- and there will be a memorable family reunion.