WILSON, BLUFORD. - The family of which Bluford Wilson is a member has been prominently identified with Illinois since territorial days. The father and great-grandfather of Mr. Wilson bore an honorable part in military history, the latter, Isaac Wilson, of Virginia, having served three years as Sergeant of the Second Virginia State Line, under Captain Augustine Tabb, during the Revolution. At the close of the war he moved from Virginia to Fayette County, Ky., His son Alexander, grandfather of Bluford Wilson, was one of the earliest settlers of the Territory of Illinois, coming there from Union County, Ky., in 1808, and locating at Shawneetown in Gallatin County. Alexander Wilson became a man of prominence and influence and took an important part in the development of his locality and was greatly honored and esteemed by his fellows. He was a personal friend of Governor Edwards and Governor Ford. He was sent to the First Territorial Legislature held at Kaskaskia, for a short time the capital, serving as Chairman of important committees and as Speaker of the House, thus serving with ability and distinction in determining public policy in that day. He died in January, 1814, and as a memorial to his life and services to the Territory, the Legislature soon afterward passed an act granting the privilege of ferry franchise at Shawneetown to his heirs, and they have since held this privilege.
Harrison Wilson, the father of Bluford, was born in Culpepper County, Va., and was an Ensign in the War of 1812 and a Captain in the Black Hawk War. Later he was Colonel in the Fourth Illinois Militia. His wife, Catherine Schneider, was born at Gambskeim near Strasburg, Alsace, daughter of Augustus Schneider, and came to America with her father. One son of Harrison Wilson, James Harrison Wilson, was a graduate of West Point and greatly distinguished his name by his valuable service during the Civil War, being identified with the engineering department, and was Lieut.-Colonel and Inspector General, Army of the Tennessee, on Grants' Staff. Later, in the Department of the Mississippi, he performed such valuable services that he was made Brigadier General in 1863 and Major-General of Volunteers, April 20, 1865. July 28 of the following year at the close of the war and on the reorganization of the army, he became Lieutenant-Colonel of the thirty-fifth United States Infantry, and was also breveted Major-General in the regular army. After his return to civil life he became well-known as an author, also engaging in railroad and engineering operations in Southern Illinois. Another son, Henry S. Wilson served as Adjutant, Captain and Major in the Eighteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Bluford Wilson also served in the Civil War. Thus this family furnished three sons (all there were) who acquitted themselves most honorably in that struggle.
Bluford Wilson was born near Shawneetown, Ill., November 30, 1841, and began his education there. In conducting the ferry which was in the possession of the family, and in various other ways he earned and saved money with which to gain higher education, and in 1859 entered McKendree College. Later he entered the University of Michigan, in the desire to fit himself for the profession of law, but his studies there were broken by his patriotic desire to fight for the cause of the Union, and he enlisted, n 1862, in the One Hundred Twentieth Illinois, under Captain P. B. Pillow. Soon afterward he was given the rank of Adjutant, and in May, 1863, was promoted to rank of Captain. He became Assistant Adjutant General on the staff of Brigadier General Michael K. Lawler, taking part in the battles of Champion Hills, Black River and the siege of Vicksburg. He served on the staff of Generals Dana and Eugene A. Carr, in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, and during the Red River Campaign was Adjutant General of the Thirteenth Corps, under the command of General Lawler. He was breveted Major for his services in connection with the siege of Spanish fort. He served on the staff of General Carr to the close of the War, then having won a military record of which he might well be proud.
After the close of the war Mr. Wilson resumed his studies in the University of Michigan, and in 1867 was admitted to the Bar in Shawneetown. In 1869, at the age of twenty-seven years, he received the appointment, by President Grant, to the post of United States District Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, which he held until, during Grant's second term, he was made solicitor of the United States Treasury. While serving in this responsible office, Mr. Wilson performed his duties with ability and distinction, and became known throughout the country for his valuable work in connection with the "Whisky Ring" prosecutions, as a result of which the ringleaders of this infamous combine were convicted and sent to the penitentiary. Having become interested with his brother, James H. Wilson, in development of railroads in southern Illinois and other States, Bluford Wilson resigned his official position in 1876 and since then has been a resident of the city of Springfield, gaining signal honor and distinction as a member of the Bar there. The two brothers played a most vital part in the upbuilding of central and southern Illinois in their construction of three important railroads, which at first necessitated the outlay of a large amount of capital with very small returns. These roads have since developed into large and paying enterprises, which have made possible the rapid progress of the localities through which they passed. Among the lines in which the Wilsons were interested were: the St. Louis & Southeastern, from East St. Louis to Shawneetown, and to Evansville, Ind., now part of the Louisville and Nashville, the line afterward extending to Nashville, Tenn.; the Cairo and Vincennes, part of the Big Four System; and the Louisville, Evansville & St. Louis Railroad, now the St. Louis branch of the Southern Railway System.
Mr. Wilson is best known as a corporation lawyer and a practitioner in the United States Courts, and is now the general solicitor for the Illinois Southern Railway company; Vice President and counsel for the Springfield Consolidated Street Railway Company, in which he is a stockholder. He is a member of the firm of Wilson, Warren and child, Mr. Philip Barton Warren, of the firm, being his son-in-law. In his private practice Mr. Wilson has been very successful, combining a thorough knowledge of the law with special study of the details of each case in hand, and showing remarkably clear insight into the intricacies of any question. He is an eloquent speaker, and while his arguments are delivered with vigor and earnestness, he never loses his dignified bearing, and always maintains his professional courtesy and fairness towards his opponents.
At the time of the Spanish-American War, Mr. Wilson offered his services to the Governor of the State, and although for various reasons the militia organizations were given preference in being sent to the front, he had ready to his call from 1,500 to 3,000 men for service, and was duly commissioned by Governor Tanner as colonel. He is a member of Mendel Post No. 45, G.A.R., and has served as its Commander. He is also identified with the Illinois Commandry Loyal Legin. In political affiliations Mr. Wilson has been closely identified with the interests of the Republican party since its inception, with the exception of his difference in opinion in the year 1892, when he ast his ballot for Grover Cleveland.
July 3, 1865, Mr. Wilson was married to Miss Alice Warren Mather, a daughter of Captain James Mather, of Louisville, Ky., and five children blessed this union: Harry died in infancy; Jessie married Phillip Barton Warren; Lucy, wife of Ralph Vance Dickerman; Bluford, who died during his senior year at Yale, was a great athlete, the champion wrestler and wing shot, a fine student and a young man of great promise. Arthur Harrison, who graduated at West Point, is now First Lieutenant Sixth United States Cavalry and won great honor in battle in the Philippines where he was desperately wounded. Mr. Wilson and his family attend Christ Church (Protestant Episcopal), which he helped organize in 1888, and of which he has since served as Senior Warden. He is a member of the standing committee of the diocese and of the Board of Trustees, and has served as delegate to the general conventions held in Washington in 1898, in San Francisco, in 1901, at Richmond, 1904, and Cincinnati, 1910. Mr. Wilson has always manifested a strong interest in the welfare and progress of Springfield, by whose citizens he is regarded with pride and esteem.