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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Tenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 17, 1880.

 p98  George Wilson
No. 621. Class of 1830.
Died, March 3, 1880, at Lexington, Missouri, aged 71.

Captain George Wilson was born, January 20th, 1809, at Steubenville, Ohio. His father held a responsible office under the United States Government; and his maternal grandfather — Colonel Thomas Stokely — a man of great wealth and tenacity of purpose, equipped a regiment for the Revolution at his own expense. In consideration of the latter's meritorious services, his grandson was appointed a Cadet of the United States Military Academy, which he entered July 1st, 1825, and was graduated therefrom, July 1st, 1830. Upon his promotion to a Brevet Second Lieutenancy, he was assigned to the 1st Infantry, then commanded by Colonel Zachary Taylor, so distinguished in the Mexican War, and who subsequently became President of the United States. Lieut. Wilson was ordered at once, to Fort Crawford, Wisconsin, where, two years later, he became an active participant in the Black Hawk War against the Sac Indians, being engaged in the battle of Bad Axe River, August 2d, 1832. In this campaign he had, besides doing much hard fighting, to endure terrible suffering from over fatigue and the rigors of a Wisconsin winter. Till he left the military service, Dec. 31st, 1837, he was stationed at Forts Crawford and Armstrong, on the Mississippi river, both frontier posts in the wilderness, amid wild savages and lawless adventurers, the monotony of garrison life being varied only by escorting surveyors or expelling squatters. On one of these occasions, when the miners invaded the Indian lands at Dubuque, to obtain ore, Wilson was sent to drive them out and burn their cabins, which, in the storms of a Northern winter, simply meant death to the women and children of the intruders' families. Wilson being a very humane man, did not think any one had a right to command him to do such deeds, consequently he disobeyed the Secretary of War's order, trusting to the tender mercies of a court-martial, which was never convened. On another occasion, when officer of the guard at Fort Armstrong, he interposed with his drawn sword in a personal affray between two officials, and saved the life of one about to be run through by the sword‑cane of his antagonist, who was the owner of the after celebrated slave — Dred Scott — known at the post as "Old Dreadful."

 p99  Wilson, after resigning from the army, became a private citizen at Agency City, Wapello County, Iowa, and was elected soon after to represent his district in the State Legislature. In 1839‑40, he was appointed Indian Agent for the Winnebagoes, but declined the office to secure it for the Minister who had married him to the daughter of General Street, the former Indian Agent.​a Sometimes he diversified his farming with the practice of civil engineering and surveying public lands, and, in 1840‑43, indulged in his old military tastes by becoming Adjutant of Iowa militia.

General Taylor, when the President of the United States, remembered his faithful Lieutenant of the 1st Infantry, and in 1849, appointed Wilson the Register of United States Lands, at Fairfield, Iowa, where he continued until September, 1851. His decisions in disputed cases, when referred to the General Land Office, at Washington, were never reversed. One of them, arising out of an attempt to dispossess the widow of a man whose claim was not completed at his death, was decided in her favor by Register Wilson, after which he was a great favorite with the settlers.

Wilson, in 1851, went into the banking business at Lexington, Missouri, in which he continued till his death, March 3d, 1880, the last nine years of his life he being the President of the Lafayette County Bank, a position won by his spotless reputation and high financial ability.

On the outbreak of the Rebellion, Wilson was over the usual age for active military service; besides his widely extended business required his constant care. Notwithstanding, he was appointed Captain of a company of Missouri Volunteers, which, after it had been thoroughly drilled and disciplined, broke up, its members not agreeing whether their allegiance was due to the Union or to the border slave State of Missouri.

Captain Wilson was a spare, yet muscular man, unweakened by self-indulgence in any form of vice; was capable of great indurance, unusually expert in the use of arms, and skillful in athletic exercises; and gave strong promise of attaining a vigorous, green old age. He, however, had lived long enough to prove himself a true gentleman; polite and kind to all; ever humane and considerate, even to the humblest; and by his deeds to merit the respect and admiration of all his associates. As  p100 a soldier, he was brave, generous, and chivalrous; as a civilian, was honest, useful, and thoroughly trustworthy; as a companion, was frank, genial, and instructive; as a Christian, was charitable, devout, and obedient to his Maker's will; and in his family was loving and exemplary in every relation of husband and parent.

(Brevet Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George W. Cullum.)

Thayer's Note:

a The younger sister of Capt. Wilson's wife, Gen. Street's second daughter, married Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Beach, another Indian Agent and another decent man, whose obituary, also onsite, was inserted in the AOG Reports by Capt. Wilson.

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