Pieces of the Wilson Family
By David G. Johnston
Online Research by Ken Hofstad
Conversations with My Mother Comeal Johnston, Brother Ron Johnston, Sister Peggy Baker, and Uncle Luke Wilson
Some facts Shared by Cousins Bob & Dianne Wilson, Gloria Wilson, Max Wilson, Betty Wilson-Shelton, Steven Wilson-St. James
Pictures Provided By Comeal Johnston and Luke Wilson
This information is only a sketch of our Wilson family history and I hope to add much more to it in the future. My intention is to preserve as much about our family as I can. Who are they? Where did they come from? What were their lives like in the time that they lived? I want to share this with the present and future generations before it all becomes lost in time.
My apologies for any errors in this and if brought to my attention, I will gladly make corrections. David G. Johnston
The story began with the birth of John W. Wilson about 1825 somewhere in Georgia. John appears in Georgia in 1850, living with wife Francis Greenway, no children, next to her relative Alexander Greenway's place in Hall County. In the 1860 census, he is farming in the first district of Cherokee County, Alabama not far and east of Gadsden Town. Wife Francis is there too, with son William and daughter Samantha. In the 1866 Alabama State census the family of six shows up in Centre Township between Gadsden and Gainesville. Son Elbert D. Wilson was born July 11, 1866 in Cherokee County. Alabama. The district in Cherokee County where the family lived during the Civil War is directly in the path of General Sherman in his march to Atlanta. One might speculate that John's family left their devastated region after the war and moved West.
In the 1880 census he and Francis are living in Poland Twp., Greene County AR with Mary and Daniel. We are not sure why Elbert does not show up in the census with his parents. None of the family can be located in the 1870s census. Elbert does not appear in the 1880 census with his parents. In 1885 on August 30, Elbert married Cora J. Hiatt in Greene County AR near Paragould where his son William Grover (Pat) was born in 1893. In 1900 he and the family are living in Jonesboro, AR. There were nine children altogether. Eva A., Charles Wesley, Sanford, William Grover (Pat), Marvin Homer (Dick), Garland Jennings (Kink), Daniel Jefferson (Dutch), Lewis M., and Herschel R. (Pug). Cora died August 18, 1908 in Greene County, Arkansas and was buried in Clark Chapel Cemetery near Paragould.
In 1910 Elbert appears in Blytheville with his second wife Pearl, the children Charley, Sanford, Grover, Marvin, Garland, Jeff, Lewis, and Herschel. He is renting and his occupation is house builder. His last residence was Dell, where he died February 12, 1917 but he was buried with his first wife Cora and son Sanford at Clark Chapel Cemetery between Paragould and Jonesboro. Dr. Ferguson of Blytheville signed the death certificate. Cause of death listed as gastritis.
Isaac Richard Hilliard was born in May 1856 in Illinois. His father was from Tennessee and mother also probably from Tennessee. Apparently known as Richard in later years, he is with his mother and stepfather in Williamson County, Illinois in the 1870s census. In 1880 he is single and working as a farm laborer in crab Orchard Township, Williamson, Illinois with his brother Thomas. Their farm is directly next door to that of his mother and stepfather. On November 17, 1881 he married Cynthia McGowan. Both sets of parents homesteaded land in Crab Orchard Township, Illinois in the mid-1850s and were neighbors so both Isaac (Richard) and Cynthia must have known each other as children. In 1900 he is listed as Isaac and is renting a farm in LaFant Township, New Madrid County, Missouri with his wife and four children. In 1910 he and wife Cynthia and children Bess and Clara are in Little River Township, Pemiscot County, Missouri where he rents and is a wagon team handler.
After 1910 he and Cynthia with daughters Bess and Clara moved to a farm near Dell and the owner built the house they lived in specifically for them. The plantation was later purchased by B. S. Simmons probably in the late 20s or early 30s.
Isaac (Richard) left Cynthia for a woman with the surname Ragsdall or Ragsdale probably from the Dell area sometime between 1915 and 1920. He was still alive at least through the early 1920s. It has been reported that he came to visit his daughter Bess shortly after her first child Avon was born and that is the only grandchild of daughter Bess that he ever saw. I have not been able to document Isaac Richard or Cynthia in the 1920 census. He died sometime before 1930.
After Isaac left Cynthia she moved to Conran, Missouri to live with her son Jim Hilliard and his family until his death around 1934. When her daughter Bess and husband Pat Wilson came to the funeral in Conran Missouri, they brought her back to Dell, Arkansas to live with them on the farm they worked on for B. S. Simmons. Cynthia died on the farm and Dell in 1936 and was buried at the Elmwood Cemetery in Blytheville, Arkansas.
By David G. Johnston
August 3rd 2009
July 9 The United States enters WW I. William Grover (Pat) Wilson and Brother Garland (Kink) Wilson register for the draft.
November WWI ends.
March 22 Avon Wilson is born at Half Moon, Arkansas.
Census records show William Grover, Bessie Wilson and son Avon renting a farm north of the JLC and E Railroad (Jonesboro, Lake City, and Eastern Railroad also known as the Moose train that ran between Blytheville and Jonesboro) and north of Dell, Arkansas, which would be the Half Moon, Arkansas area.
January 22 Comeal Wilson is born at Half Moon, Arkansas.
February 26 Raymond Wilson is born at Half Moon, Arkansas. While Raymond was still a baby, on a cold day and by wagon, the family moves to a house on Lilly Street in Blytheville, Arkansas and Pat works as a carpenter.
January 31 Claude Wilson is born in Blytheville, Arkansas in the house on Lilly Street.
May 9 A large tornado hits Poplar Bluff, Missouri, killing 60 people and injuring over 300. The heart of the town is in ruins.
Prior to May the family moves from the house on Lilly Street to a three room house off Franklin Street and down the railroad track for a short time. Pat goes to work temporarily in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, after the big tornado of 1927 to help clean up and rebuild the city.
The family moves from the three room house to a house on the corner of S. Franklin St. and next to the railroad track. There is a little slump block store building across the street. The now empty store building still stands as of June 2009.
September Comeal starts first grade at the J. C. Sudbury School on Franklin Street were older brother Avon is already attending. Times are good and the family owns a car, is accumulating nice furnishings, and Bess even has a pump organ.
The big stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression began.
July 1 Louis Denton Wilson is born in Blytheville, Arkansas in a house they lived in at 638 S. Lake St.
Census shows they are still living at 638 S. Lake Street and Bess’s mother Cynthia McGowan-Hilliard is also with them temporarily on a visit from Conran, Missouri where she lives with son Jim. Pat is working as a carpenter.
|Back row L-R-Cousin Maxine Holland, Comeal, Avon; Middle row-JL & GW Holland; Front row-Claude, doll, Raymond|
April 7 Nelson Wilson is born in Blytheville in the house at 638 S. Lake Street. The family lived in this house for three-four years.
January. The Big Dust Storm from the Dust Bowl era reached a mile high in the Midwest and spanned all the way to New York City.
Pat, Bess and the six children all moved to a house on the B. S. Simmons farm in Dell, Arkansas for work. They first lived in a house with two large rooms and later moved to the house that was originally built for Isaac Richard Hilliard and Cynthia, Bess's parents, by the previous owner of the Simmons farm on the road out past the wooden bridge. This may be the house across from the Brinn’s. Jim Hilliard dies in Conran, Missouri and Cynthia comes to live with Pat and Bess.
Grandma Cynthia McGowan-Hilliard dies on the farm in Dell. I believe it was a house across from the Brinn’s. She was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
This is the most significant year ever for the movie industry with the premiere of Gone With the Wind and the Wizard of Oz along with several other great classics.
September 8 William Grover Wilson dies of pulmonary tuberculosis diagnosed that July by Dr. J. L. Tidwell. At that time the family was living in a two-story house on the Simmons farm. He was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Blytheville, Arkansas.
|Back row-Raymond, Avon, Bess, Comeal, Luke, Claude; Front row-Nelson & William Grover (Pat) Wilson, 1939|
Comeal Wilson goes to work as a store clerk for Taylor Freeman in his dry goods store in Dell with the stipulation that she have Tuesdays off to help her widowed mother Bess with the laundry. This was in the days when doing laundry involved boiling water in an iron pot out in the yard and scrubbing the clothes on the porch by hand using a washtub and rub board. Her five brothers all worked on the Simmons farm. Her future husband Willis Cayce Johnston is already working as a butcher in the Freeman store.
Raymond Wilson graduates high school at the Dell school and goes to Poplar Bluff to live with his uncle Homer (Dick) Wilson. This leaves Claude, Louis, and Nelson at home and they continue to work for B. S. Simmons on his farm.
December 7 Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese and the United States enters WWII.
September 2 Avon is drafted into the Army.
Life in 1942 for the family at the Simmons farm house near Dell.
|Bess Wilson 1942|
|Claude & Comeal, 1942|
1942 CircaWillis Cayce Johnston divorces his first wife Grace King who also worked as a clerk and Taylor Freeman store. For a short time Cayce lived in a tiny trailer house park next to the Freeman store. He later rented a room from Mr. and Mrs. Brewsaugh but when Mr Brewsaugh died, Mrs. Brewsaugh asked him to move out because it was not proper for her as a widow to have a man in the same house. He then rented a room in one of the Simmons's farm houses out past the wooden bridge. This is the same house that was originally built for Isaac Richard Hilliard and Cynthia McGowan-Hilliard.
January 29 Raymond is drafted into the Army.
November 5 Cayce Johnston marries Comeal Wilson. It was a double ring ceremony and the other groom was his friend and ex-brother-in-law Raz King and his bride Joy.
December 7 Claude Wilson joins the army and retires as a major.
Cayce and Comeal first lived in a three room with back porch apartment/duplex on Main Street three doors up from the Baptist Church. It was owned by Taylor Freeman but they sublet it from the renter Bertha Smith while she went to live with her son C. A. Smith and his wife Juanita and their son. This is the same C. A. Smith that own the C. A. Smith Store in town. When Cayce and Comeal bought their furniture they moved to the other side of the duplex which had four rooms. Cayce's oldest daughter from his first marriage, 11-year-old Betty Jo, comes to live with them and stays between three and four years.
Cayce and Comeal go to St. Louis, Missouri in order to find work and live with his brother Mitchell Johnston and his wife Alene. Cayce works as a butcher in a meat company and Comeal gets hired as a waitress in a small restaurant but Cayce would not let her go to work. Cayce was in the process of being inducted into the Army and was stricken with spinal meningitis and almost died in the hospital. After his recovery they returned to Dell.
July 4 Raymond Wilson marries Katherine Guffey.
November 4 Ronald Gene Johnston is born of Willis Cayce Johnston and wife Comeal in the Blytheville hospital.
Cayce buys the restaurant business across from Dave Cranford's Barber shop on Main Street in Dell and leases the building owned by friends Tull Johnson and his wife Alice Freeman, granddaughter of Taylor Freeman. The wooden building was originally called the Dell Mercantile and was built circa 1900. Cayce added a lunch counter and meat counter and a small kitchen in back. It also had a few booths, a Hallmark card display case, and a pinball machine. Comeal says that business was good and the revenue from the pinball machine paid the rent on the building. The building has been razed since and a brick building was built on the site prior to June 2003 and is now called the Dell Café. Now that Cayce no longer works for Taylor Freeman (Comeal quit when they married) they are asked to vacate the duplex on Main Street that Freeman owns. They move to a country house out on the road before the wooden bridge owned by Earl Magers but later had to move to another house down the road because Earl Magers had a nephew that got married and Earl wanted the house for him. Both of these houses had electricity. During a storm the house they were living in got hit by lightning and burned out the motor in their brand-new refrigerator they had bought from Montgomery Wards.
February 1 Claude Wilson marries Ernestine Williams of Leachville, Mississippi County, Arkansas.
April 12 Gloria Ann Wilson is born of Raymond Wilson and wife Catherine and Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
December 4 Robert Allen Wilson is born of Claude Wilson and wife Ernestine at Fort Sill, Comanche, Oklahoma.
1947 -- 1940 8C or
Cayce and Comeal moved to a small white four room house in Dell on Wilson Street recently built and owned by Dave Cranford and wife Crystal (Kerbough) Cranford and lived there from 3 to 4 years.
July 26 David Glenn Johnston is born of Willis Cayce Johnston and wife Comeal in the Blytheville hospital.
November 5 Max Raymond Wilson is born of Raymond Wilson and wife Catherine at Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
1949 -- 1950 circa
Louis Wilson leaves his tractor driving job with B. S. Simmons and works for Billy Keener at his ESSO gas station on Highway 18 next to Dell. Nelson Wilson leaves his tractor driving job with Simmons and goes to work at the Texaco gas station for Buddy Armstrong. Bess, Lewis, and Nelson have to move off the Simmons farm to the house on Highway 18 by Dell.
The Korean War starts.
November 8 Betty Sue Wilson is born of Raymond Wilson and wife Catherine in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Avon Wilson marries Dora Lee Tharp.
Cayce sells the restaurant and buys a grocery store business across the street and down on the corner where the current post office parking lot is now.
February Louis (Luke) Wilson is drafted into the army and is sent to Fort Lewis, Washington where he meets his future wife Annamae Lundgren and eventually settles there. He spent some time at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site while in the Army.
September Ronald Gene Johnston enters first grade at the Dell School.
February 4 Mary (Kay) Katherine Wilson is born of Avon Wilson and wife Dora Lee Tharp in Blytheville, Arkansas.
November 20 Claudia Elaine Wilson is born of Claude Wilson and wife Ernestine in Wurtzburg, Germany.
1951 -- 1950 Circa
Nelson Wilson is drafted into the army and goes into combat in Korea. After the war he takes a job at the Ford auto manufacturing plant in Flint, Michigan.
1952 January Cayce sells grocery store and takes a job as a fireman for Procter & Gamble and the family moved to Pantex, Texas along with four other families from Dell. A truck driver in Dell named Cummins finds out about the jobs from his brother-in-law and future boss Carol Holman that is married to his sister Evelyn and already lives in Pantex. He moves the five families including his own in his moving van to Pantex. The other families were Cayce and Comeal Johnston, Comeal’s Brother Avon Wilson and wife Dora Lee Tharp, Curtis and Virginia Downs, Junior Gillian and his wife Oleta. There is a whole separate story involving these five families that moved to Pantex Texas. Initially they lived in an old wooden fire station building that had been converted to apartments specifically for them due to a housing shortage at the time. This business called Procter & Gamble that is known as a soap manufacturing company was a cover up for a top-secret operation for the U. S. Government that was operating a bomb assembly plant. In the 1970s we see on the news that nuclear warheads are being shipped from Pantex, Texas to the nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Washington via the ‘White Train’. .. ..
March Adah Usry-Johnston, Cayce’s mother dies. She was living in the cottage on her sister Lilly Rectors property at 2121 W. Rose Street in Blytheville, Arkansas and became ill. Cayce and Comeal along with Ron and Dave drove nonstop from Pantex back to the Blytheville and got there shortly before she died. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Blytheville, Arkansas.
July 27 The Korean War ends.
Cayce and Comeal and the two boys moved to the new two-bedroom tract house at 2404 Oak Dr., Amarillo, TX. Cayce gets laid off from Procter & Gamble and he goes into business with another fireman and opens a truck stop restaurant out on Route 66 in Amarillo. That business location had rough clientele and Cayce sold his part and opened another restaurant in an old brownstone building in downtown Amarillo maybe on Fillmore Street.
June 21 Louis Wilson marries Annamae Lundgren born in Minnesota but living in Ballard, Washington at this time with her parents John and Vida.
October 2 Kenneth Avon is born of Avon Wilson and wife Dora Lee and Panhandle, Texas, near Pantex.
Cayce sells his café in Amarillo and takes a temporary job with the Borden Milk Company delivering milk. His route is near the border in Oklahoma and has to be away from his family during the week. He has been hired by the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington but is doing the milk delivery job while waiting for his son Jack to be born before moving the family to Seattle.
September David Glenn Johnston enters first grade at Robert E. Lee elementary school in Amarillo, Texas where Brother Ronald Gene is in the fourth grade.
October 9 Jacqueline Wilson is born of Claude Wilson and wife Ernestine at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia.
October 13 Jack Wayne Johnston is born of Willis Cayce Johnston and wife Comeal in Amarillo, Texas.
November Cayce and Comeal sell the Amarillo house, store their furniture and a few days before Thanksgiving set out for Seattle, Washington with the boys and towing a small rental trailer. Casey has taken a job there as a fireman for the Boeing Airplane Company. They move in temporarily with Comeal’s brother Luke Wilson and his wife Annamae in their tiny basement apartment at Ballard, Washington near Seattle.
April 21 Stephen Louis Wilson is born of Louis (Luke) Wilson and wife Annamae in Seattle Washington.
Nelson Wilson moves from Flint, Michigan to the Seattle area and lives with sister Comeal and husband Cayce and three sons in Tukwila Washington.
Nelson Wilson marries Ellen Willine Capa in Seattle, Washington.
March 6 Gregory Lee Wilson is born of Nelson Wilson and wife Ellen in Seattle, Washington.
October 24 Twins Patrick and Pamela Wilson are born of Claude Wilson and wife Ernestine at Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana.
April 15 Molly Joe Wilson is born of Nelson Wilson and wife Ellen in Seattle, Washington.
If you have questions for David or would like to contact him, please email at:
If you have questions for David or would like to contact him, please email at: