Benjamin Wilson

Col. Ben Wilson Dead.

The Clarksburg Telegram., April 26, 1901

Benjamin Wilson Headstone

Col. Ben Wilson was stricken with paralysis at the home of his daughter Mrs. John W. Brown on Lee Street Tuesday evening, and lies in a critical condition. Since the attack siezed him he has been speechless and unable to make the slightest movements. Owing to his advanced age he is not expected to survive the attack and his friends, who are legion, are much alarmed. Col. Wilson has been in failing health for some months. He died at 3 o’clock this Friday morning.


Testator Leaves His Estate to be Distributed as the Law Directs.

The Clarksburg Telegram., May 03, 1901

Benjamin Wilson Portrait

The will of Col. Benjamin Wilson was filed for probate Thursday morning and reads as follows:

“I Benjamin Wilson of Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia, do hereby make this my last will and testament hereby revoking any other will or wills I may heretofore have made, as follows:

1st I appoint my friend, Right Rev. Daniel O’Connor, and my son-in-law John W. Brown, my executors.

2nd I do not desire that an inventory of my estate should be made.

3rd I hereby give to my said executors full power and authority to settle any matter or controversy by compromises and to execute any papers necessary to close up my estate, and I require them to file a specific statement of their settlement.

4th I require my funeral expenses and just debts to be first paid.

Written wholly by me, in my own proper hand, this 21 day of January 1899.

Benjamin Wilson.”

By the will no specific legacies are given, and the distribution of the estate will be equal among his heirs, as the law directs.


Obsequies Witnessed by a Large crowd of People–Sketch of his life.

The Clarksburg Telegram., May 03, 1901, pg. 2

Col. Benjamin Wilson’s funeral took place from the Catholic church at 3 o’clock last Sunday afternoon and interment was made in the family lot in the I. O. O. F. cemetery. The obsequies were conducted by Rev. Daniel O’Connor, who paid eloquent tributes to the intellect and character of the deceased and spoke words of condolence and sympathy to the bereft family. The funeral was largely attended.

Col. Wilson was born in this county April 30, 1825, and was a son of Col. Joseph Wilson, whose father was Col. Benjamin Wilson, Sr., a Revolutionary soldier. He received his education at the Northwestern Academy in this city attended law school at Staunton, Va., and was admitted to the bar in 1848.

Northwestern Academy

He served as Commonwealth’s attorney for Harrison County from 1852 to 1860, was a member of the convention held in Richmond, Va., in 1861 to determine whether or not the state should secede. In this convention he showed himself a loyal Union man and strongly advised and admonished against secession. He was a Presidential elector-at-large on the democratic ticket in 1868, a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention in Charleston in 1872, which framed the present constitution of the state, and a delegate-at-large to the democratic national convention in Baltimore in 1872 which nominated Horace Greeley for President of the United States. In 1874 he was elected to the Forty-Fourth congress over Nathan Goff, Jr., and began his congressional career in December 1875. He was again elected to congress in 1876 over Charles F. Scott, Republican, and re-elected in 1878 over John R. Hubbard and again in 1880 over John A. Hutchinson. His congressional career ended at the expiration of his term March 4, 1883.

Horace Greeley Campaign

Under President Cleveland’s administration he was appointed assistant United States Attorney in the Department of Justice until superseded in 1889, at which time he retired from public life, except for a short period when he was employed by the government as attorney in settling the French spoliation claims.

In public life Col. Wilson was not only true to his party and its principles but he was equally true to the best interests of his entire constituency irrespective of politics, as he saw them. He was conscientious in all his undertakings and official acts and was ever found at the post of duty. He let no opportunity pass to do his state good service. His rare intelligence, courteous, considerate manner, personal magnetism and splendid physique attracted to him leading statesmen and financial men of his day, with whom his words of wisdom had great weight.

Harrison County District Map

As a politician there have been few in the state more successful. None have known their constituency better than he did. The secret of his success in this was largely due to the fact that he cultivated a wide acquaintanceship and once he knew you it was forever. His capacity for work was limitless, his energy inexhaustible, his courage undaunted, his knowledge comprehensive and complete, his zeal boundless and his manipulation of his fellows infinitely superb. As an orator he ranked with the best. As a debater he was a giant, and as a reasoner most powerful, lucid and effective.

As a lawyer Col. Wilson’s record was no less brilliant. In early manhood he formed the habit of close application and work. As he grew older his mind developed into one of the foremost ever at the bar in West Virginia. In criminal law at one time in his life there was probably no one who could cope successfully with him. He retained in large measure that brilliancy of intellect, stability of character and strength of physique until almost the very last, notwithstanding his advanced age of 76 years, and had it not been for a defect in hearing his legal practice in recent years would doubtless have eclipsed that of any lawyer in the state.

Sketch of 19th Century Court

Col. Wilson was of a genial, companionable nature and possessed the trait of adapting himself to any grade of society into which he entered or was thrown, but it mattered not what the conditions or situation he was the same, courteous, jovial, sympathetic and generous Col. Wilson. He laughed with you. He cried with you. He shared your joys and took upon himself your sorrows. Once your friend always your friend, was his motto, and he was as true as steel to his friends.

This distinguished lawyer, statesman, politician, and citizen was twice married. His first wife was Susan Marsh, mother of Mrs. John W. Brown and Mrs. George Feeney, deceased.

His second wife was Savilla Rittenhouse, daughter of Bennett Rittenhouse, deceased. She was the mother of his other children, namely Joseph living in Texas, Mathew residing in Mexico, and Stonewall and Virginia, both dead.


The Bar of Harrison County Meets and Passes Resolutions of Respect.

The Clarksburg Telegram., May 03, 1901, pg. 2

The members of the Harrison County Circuit Court Bar met Saturday afternoon and adopted suitable resolutions in memory of Col. Benjamin WIlson, deceased. C. W. Lynch called the meeting to order and named John J. Davis as chairman. L. C. Crile was made secretary. Upon motion of W. Scott a committee consisting of Judge T. W. Harrison, John Bassel, W. Scott, A. C. Moore, and M. G. Sperry, was appointed to draft suitable resolutions. H. F. Smith, John W. Davis and C. W. Lynch were appointed to furnish the county papers and the bereft family copies of the resolutions and see that a copy is spread on the proper records in the offices of the circuit and county courts. The bar decided to attend the funeral in a body.

The resolutions adopted are given below.

Death having removed from the ranks of the Bar of Harrison County on the morning of the 26th day of April, 1901, our distinguished friend and Brother, the Hon. Benjamin Wilson, who for so many years held an honorable and conspicuous position at the bar as one of its ablest and most successful practitioners, and who filled many important offices in the service of his State and Country, the members of the Bar of Harrison County assembled to give expression to their sense of loss in the death of Col. Wilson, and to pay tribute of respect to his memory, adopt the following in token of their regard for their deceased Brother:

Resolved, That we have heard with profound sorrow and regret of the sudden sorrow and regret of the sudden and unexpected death of Hon. Benjamin Wilson, one of the oldest and most honored members of the profession.

Resolved, That in the death of Col. Wilson, who for so many years was a successful and eminent practitioner of the Bar in Harrison County, the profession has lost one of its ablest and most distinguished members, and the county of Harrison and the State, one its most honored and useful citizens.

Resolved, That as a mark of respect to the deceased we will attend his funeral in a body, and wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.

Resolved, That we tender to his family and friends our heart-felt sympathy and condolence in their sad bereavement.

Col. Ben Wilson, the Commoner.

The Clarksburg Telegram., May 03, 1901 pg. 4

On every hand the news of the death of Col. Benjamin Wilson was received with deep regret. The city and county feel that they have lost one of their noblest sons. Colonel Wilson was a commoner in the true sense. He knew no class distinctions and was a friend of all mankind. All who enjoyed his acquaintance counted him their friend. He possessed the happy faculty of getting in close touch with everyone and made one’s contact with him not only a pleasure but a source of edification. He was possibly the greatest mixer of his day and succeeded, without apparent effort, in acquiring personal acquaintanceship with a greater number of people than any other politician in West Virginia, an acquaintanceship in which his memory served him well, as he seldom forgot faces or names. His genial, courteous manner, his sympathetic nature, his amiability, his unpretentious life all won him legions of friends, wherever he went. He knew to personal enemies as his liberality of mind, magnanimity of soul and self-abnegation of desire drove every bitter thought from his heart and converted him into a man of charity for his fellows.

The spirit of the commoner entered largely into his political and public life, too. As a politician bitter prejudices were unknown to his bosom; hatreds he had none; and all his differences were honest. He fought and crushed his political foes with deferential consideration of them and, when all was over, they bore him no ill because of any acrimony indulged in as is so frequent.

As a democrat he differed materially from his party on the tariff question, which was that party’s paramount issue so many years. He, like the great leaders of his party and democrats who hold principle above mere party success, was not a warm advocate of free silver, democracy’s latest craze. His actions, however, in these matters could not condemn him with his own party, as he exercised a judicious neutrality between the warring elements in the party, with the fond hope that those who had gone astray might soon see the error of their way and redeem themselves.

As a public official he became the servant of the people and served all alike with admirable integrity of purpose. The welfare of the common wealth he represented was the burden of his heart and again he showed himself to be a commoner, a man of the people.

Possibly no man in the state, and but few, if any, in the United States, ever enjoyed the friendship of as many members of an opposing political party as did Colonel Wilson. Doubtless, hundreds of republicans, who detested the principles of his party, cast their ballot for him at the polls. His magnetic personality, the ardor of his friendship and genially of his nature were largely responsible for this and that rare faculty of winning and retaining the affections of men worked like a charm.

The career of this distinguished lawyer, politician, statesman and citizen is worthy of study by every young man. From a farmer boy he climbed rung by rung the ladder of fame until he stood at the top, by the exercise of his talents, which in early life were not conspicuously brilliant, but which under constant cultivation developed into an illumination that shed its rays broadcast and attracted the admiration of the intellectual giants of the land. His was a career to encourage and stimulate the humblest of men in an ambition to succeed and incites an effort in attaining the highest pinnacle of fame.

The present generation will fondly cherish his memory and future generations will read the biography of this great commoner with patriotic pride.

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