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A Lasting Love and Legacy:
Annie Missouri Flowers Wilson
by
Carolyn Hastings Dickinson


Annie Missouri Flowers Wilson.



         John Travis Wilson and Annie Missouri Flowers Wilson. - Click to Enlarge. Once upon a time, there was a young man named John Travis Wilson who met a young lady named Annie Missouri Flowers. One wonders how they met and exactly where they met. We can only surmise it was a chaperoned courtship considering it was the late nineteenth century and young people were closely chaperoned during that period in history. We do know they both had several brothers and sisters because three of the Wilson brothers married three of the Flowers sisters. John married Annie, Robert married Amanda, Obadiah married Susan, and we know they met across the river; the Perdido River between Escambia County, Florida and Escambia County, Alabama. John and Annie married on December 7, 1887 in High Pine, Alabama and began their family there. They later moved across the river to Blacksher in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Wilson Turpentine Still and Naval Store Company          John Travis Wilson established the Wilson Turpentine Still and Naval Store Company in Blacksher, Baldwin County, Alabama with his brother Robert.
The still on August 7, 1909. Left to right, Andrew Wilson, Hollis Wilson (little boy) Norville Wilson, Randolph Wilson, and William Wilson. Click to enlarge.


         With John T. traveling and establishing business accounts in the public relations aspect of the business and Robert running the financial aspect, they built a very lucrative business.

         John and Annie had a family of sixteen children, thirteen living to adulthood. They all became productive citizens in their own right. John T. provided his family with the best of everything, thereby spoiling Annie and the children. He took them on shopping trips to Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana.
John Travis Wilson in French Lick Springs, Indiana. - Click to enlarge.



Post Card of the Mezzanine in the Battle House, Mobile, Alabama.


         Battle House Hotel. While in Mobile, they would stay at the Battle House Hotel, one of the luxury hotels of the day. The girls of the family bought fancy hats, gold bracelets, diamond brooches, and stylish clothing of the era. The young men had three-piece suits, shiny black boots, hats, and fancy watch fobs. Minnie is shown in one of her portraits wearing a wide gold bangle bracelet. Hattie Mae was known for the fancy hats she enjoyed wearing. People could tell from a distance, that it was her coming even before they could see her face. In several photographs, all the girls are shown wearing hats, even the youngest girls.

Annie Missouri Flowers Wilson. - Click to Enlarge.
Annie Missouri Wilson
about 1900
Click to enlarge.
John Travis Wilson
about 1900
Click to enlarge.

         Grandma Annie had a bow-tie shaped diamond brooch given to her by John T. after she stopped “dipping snuff”. Evidently, she dipped snuff and he did not care for it, so he made her an offer that if she stopped “dipping”, he would buy her the brooch. I guess she wanted that diamond brooch, so she gave up “dipping”. Her granddaughter, Eva Mae Jordan, remembers finding Grandma Annie and her grandmother Jordan sitting on the back steps “dipping snuff” when she was a youngster!



John T. and Annie Wilson holding Ella about 1909.
Left to right children: John Jr., Gussie, Jay Tee, Hattie Mae, B.B. and Bosso Wilson.


         Like the typical man, John T. was apparently was up to date with the latest vehicles of the day. He owned the first Cadillac in Baldwin County, a 1912 Cadillac Touring Car. We have a picture of it with him in the driver’s seat with eight of his children parked in front of the Wilson home in Blacksher. Dr. Coghlan, the family doctor, bought one right after John T. did; they were very good friends.

John T. Wilson Family in Blacksher, Alabama, about 1914. John T. at the wheel, B.B.and John Jr. sitting, Back left to right- Minnie, Kate, Ella, Gussie, Hattie Mae, and Jay Tee. - Click to Enlarge.

         John T. also kept a car in Mobile to use when he made business or shopping trips over there. The older boys told of chauffeuring him around Mobile when his driver was not available. One story passed down through the family is that on a trip to Pensacola, Florida to purchase a new car, John T. pulled one of his sons away from the turpentine still to accompany him and did not give him time to change clothes. That evening , when it was to late to make the drive back to Baldwin County, the owner of the car dealership offered John T. a room in his home for the night, but said “Your 'boy' there will have to sleep in the barn”, to which John T. replied, “That’s not my 'boy', that’s my son”. They both slept in a comfortable bed that night; the man surely did not want to miss a sale.


     Annie Wilson in Blacksher, Baldwin County, Alabama, circa 1915. - Click to enlarge.


     John T. Wilson in Blacksher, Baldwin County, Alabama, circa 1915. - Click to enlarge.

         Later, Annie also ventured into the car buying business when she bought a 1919 model Buick in Mobile, Alabama and had it ferried over to the Fairhope landing. Her son, Bosso, would later be seen “Driving through town in his new car”, per the Baldwin Times newspaper column. I found a “mortgage” for it recorded at the Baldwin County Probate Office. Again, before she moved to Silverhill in 1926, she purchased a new Whippet car. “Jack” said she would just decide on a moment’s notice to make a trip to Laurel, Mississippi, where Minnie and Kate lived. He would have to stop whatever he was doing, everyone that could would load up in the car, and off they would go.



Wilson Children at the Blacksher Sunday School
and School House


Click each photo to enlarge.


Blacksher Sunday School Class, circa 1910.

Blacksher School about 1914. Wilson, Cumbie, and Boone Children.

School in Blacksher, AL 1914-1915, Wilson Children. B.B. John T. Jr., Kate, Minnie, Ella, JayTee Wilson.


         John and Annie instilled a strong sense of education in their children also. The Wilson family provided room and board for the schoolteacher for the Blacksher School and actually built the school building on their property. In fact, one of the teachers, Helena Maude Rost, married Arnold Travis “Jack” Wilson, the second eldest son in 1917.


Bosso McKinley Wilson, UMS School, 1915.

Braxton Bragg Comer Wilson circa 1921, Graduation Daphne Normal School.

         The oldest children were fortunate to be sent to some of the finest institutions of higher learning across the country. Dolan was sent to Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee; Cora Lee, Arnold Travis, and Minnie were sent to Highland Home College which operated from 1889-1915 in Highland Home, Alabama; Bosso to UMS in Mobile, Alabama where he played football and then on to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky; Gussie to the University of Montevallo, as well as Hattie Mae and Jay Tee. The younger boys were sent to local Baldwin County Schools; John T. Jr. to Bay Minette and B.B. to the Daphne Normal School. B.B. graduated from the seventh grade on May 6, 1921. I have his certificate framed and hanging on my wall. By this time, John T. had died and Annie had lost her fortune in the Stock Market Crash of 1929.


     Dolan and Estelle Wilson's Wedding Day in 1915 at Montgomery Hill Church. - Click to enlarge.

     Left to right are Ella Ruth, John T. Wilson, and Ila Katherine (Kate) Wilson, circa 1915.

         Grandma Annie Grandma Annie had also made some investments that caused her to lose the money she had made from the sale of the property in Blacksher, Alabama. One of these was investing in a hydroelectric plant on Fish River right off of Highway 104 going west out of Silverhill; some of the infrastructure remains today on the southeast bank right beside the bridge. When the trees shed their leaves in the winter it is more visible. As more people wanted to have electricity brought to their homes, three men in Silverhill began plans to build this dam and generating plant. The three men, needing financial backing, began the Silverhill Power Company, and began to sell stocks in October of 1929. The Great Depression began and the power company could not raise the funds it needed to continue building. Grandma Annie, like so many others, received only cents on the dollar on the money she had in the Bank of Silverhill. Most of her stocks and bonds were totally lost. I have a letterhead from the Bank of Silverhill with the description of some of the property she owned.

Letterhead from the Bank of Silverhill          Another failed venture she invested in on the advice of her older sons was a welding school at Brookley Field in Mobile County, Alabama. This was during World War One and was thought to be a good venture considering the need for welders to support the war effort. But Uncle Sam apparently trained the military's own people.

Grandma Annie          The Daphne Normal School was also a training school for teachers and this is where several of the Wilson school teachers were hired from, one of them being Miss Bessie Newell Hall from Mobile, Alabama. She lived with the Wilson family for nine months during the 1909 school year. We have copies of three wonderful photos she had in her possession in 1982 when she was ninety-six years old; ones of John T., Hattie Mae, and the turpentine still from 1909. This is also where Helena Maude Rost, who later married “Jack”, received her education.

         Aunt Helena was best friends with Louise Westerlund (Lundberg), who also graduated in 1915 from the Daphne Normal School in Daphne, Alabama. In addition to teaching they both had a love for music. Aunt Helena taught piano lessons in Robertsdale for years; children for miles around benefited from her gift of music. Just a note, not long ago one of my elderly patients was talking about genealogy research and somehow, Aunt Helena’s name came up. This lady’s children had taken piano lessons from Aunt Helena; small world. Of course, anyone with any knowledge of Silverhill or Baldwin County knows of Mrs. Lundberg’s legacy. Aunt Helena was maid of honor at Louise Westerlund’s wedding to George Lundberg. (Papa George, as she called him) Aunt Helena and Mrs. Lundberg remained friends for life.

         John T., along with Annie, saw to the religious needs of the family. He built a church building for the Church of Christ just northwest of the Blacksher home on the Wilson property. He also provided room and board for the visiting preachers as they passed through the area. His brother, Andrew Wilson, also preached at times.


Four young boys (Wilson cousins) on right front: Willard Wilson, Jack Sharett, Frank Burnett, and Glen Mancill in hat, in 1944.

Robertsdale Church of Christ, in 1944.

         Later, in 1930, Annie would donate the building to the Robertsdale Church of Christ and the men of the congregation dismantled the building and moved it to Robertsdale. It was used until 1959, when a larger brick building was built. Daughter, Gussie, told her children that Grandma Annie rarely got to go out to church because she was always “with child” and could not be seen in public, which was the custom of the time.

         Before he built the little wood frame church, they traveled to the Montgomery Hill Church right down the road in Tensaw, Alabama to worship; he also carried the blacks that worked for him along with the family. They would sit up in the balcony, the former slave seating area. That historical church exists today with the original rough plank benches up in the balcony.

         As devastating as it was to the family and community, John Travis Wilson died in May of 1916 at the young age of only fifty years. He suffered from a ruptured appendix and sought medical attention in Mobile too late. He left a wife and thirteen children, the youngest daughter, Marjorie Etheline, only a babe in arms at seven months of age.
John Travis Wilson
1915
Click to enlarge.


         He was buried at the little Wilson Family Cemetery located by Highway 59 in Blacksher, Alabama. Later in circa 1926, Annie had his body moved to the Silverhill Cemetery in southern Baldwin County. The large concrete pedestal that held his tall Masonic tombstone is the only evidence remaining of his burial in Blacksher, Alabama. Should his body have been left interred there as a monument of his service to the community of Blacksher; some are of the opinion, yes. Different individuals have varying thoughts.

John Travis Wilson
tombstone.



John T. Wilson Will Probated June 16, 1916.

1908 Will of John T. Wilson to Annie Wilson.
Click to Enlarge.


Annie Wilson


        
So, Annie tried to keep the Wilson Naval Store Company operational, but Robert, “Uncle Bob”, also died in December of 1916, only seven months after John T. passed away. That period of history did not favor women in business, plus she still had a house full of children to rear.





John Travis Wilson home in Blacksher in 1925. - Click to enlarge.

John Travis Wilson home in Blacksher about 1970. - Click to enlarge.




         By the year 1925, Annie Wilson, with the advice of the older children, made the decision to make the move to southern Baldwin County, namely the Silverhill area. A couple of the older children had previously settled in this area. Helena Rost, Jack’s wife was from Summerdale, Alabama and Elliott Mancill, Cora Lee’s husband was preaching and farming in this area.
Easter at the Wilson Home in Silverhill, circa 1938. - Click to enlarge.

         By 1925 she only had five children left at home and John T. Jr. and B.B. were about ready to leave home, leaving her with just the three youngest daughters in the house. She bought forty acres and built a large, three bedroom home on the southwest corner of the land. The home had a similar look and floor plan of the Blacksher home. They both still stand today.



Wilson Home in Silverhill


    Wilson Home in Silverhill, Alabama on Highway 55. Pictured on the right is Alton Comer Wilson. - Click to enlarge.





Silverhill Farm in 1948, Annie Wilson and Twelve Children. - Click to enlarge.

Silverhill Farm in 1948, Twelve Siblings. - Click to enlarge.


         Annie would eventually sell, for one dollar and with love and affection, twenty acres to John Travis Jr. and another seven acres to Braxton Bragg Comer “B.B.”; her two youngest sons in 1928-1930. By the early 1950’s and with her advancing years into her eighties, she sold the remainder of the property and house and moved to Robertsdale, Alabama.


Annie Wilson. - Click to enlarge.

Annie Wilson in 1952, with Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren. Second row left is Eloise Wilson Hastings holding Carolyn Hastings. - Click to enlarge.


         Annie Wilson and her daughter, Ella Ruth Wilson Lavender, opened the Robertsdale Fish Market. Ella, with her husband, Reggie and son, Bobby, lived in the back in an apartment. Grandma Annie had her own private sitting room and bedroom.


Cousins, Marjorie Swan and Eloise Wilson stand in front of the Wilson's Robertsdale Fish Market. - Click to enlarge.

Ella, Kate, Minnie, Jay Tee, Cora Lee, Gussie, B.B., Annie, Etheline, John T. Jr., Jack, Bosso, circa 1948 Robertsdale Fish Market.




         On February 1, 1957, Grandma Annie said she did not feel well and went to lie down for a while. Aunt Ella found her a little later. She died peacefully in her sleep; a gentle death for a gentle lady. She was laid to rest next to her husband, John Travis Wilson, in the Silverhill Cemetery.
Annie Wilson's Funeral 1957. - Click to enlarge.




Silverhill Cemetery ~ Wilson Plot

Click each photo to enlarge.


Silverhill Cemetery in 2007.

John T. Wilson Plot.

Jack Wilson Plot.

John T. Wilson, husband of Annie M. Wilson.

Annie M. Wilson wife of John T. Wilson.

Arnold T. Wilson, Sr. son of John and Annie Wilson.

Family plots of Jennie Wilson and husband Braxton B.B. Wilson, youngest son of John T. and Annie Wilson.

Braxton Bragg Comer Wilson (B.B.).

Jennie Barbara (Philips) Wilson, wife of B.B. Wilson.

Alton Comer Wilson, son of B.B. and Jennie Wilson.

Estell (Bradford) Wilson, wife of Alton C. Wilson.

Son of Alton and Estell Wilson, greatgrandson of John T. and Annie, James William Wilson, born premature during Hurricane Camille.

Marjorie Etheline (Wilson) Armstrong, the youngest daughter of John T. and Annie Wilson. Buried beside her husband, Joe Nathan Armstrong, in an unmarked grave, died 1987.

John T. Wilson Jr. husband of Blanche Wilson.

Blanche (Mikulecky) Wilson wife of John T. Wilson Jr.

Husband of Ella (Wilson) Lavender.

Daughter of John and Annie Wilson.

Jay T. Wilson Franklin, daughter of John and Annie Wilson.

Thomas Franklin, Husband of Jay Tee Wilson Franklin.


         Thanks to her legacy with the teaching and example she gave, the family has carried on her deep religious faith and service to their fellowman.

         Many descendants are active in their respective churches; as ministers, elders, deacons, song leaders, Sunday school teachers, and professors at Christian universities. I can think of two grandchildren right now who are actively involved in prison ministries. Service to our country through the armed forces has also played a big part in her descendant’s lives.
Wilson Family Reunion 2007. - Click to enlarge.




         There are others in various medical fields, school teachers, engineers, technological fields, computer software fields, carpenters, farmers, retail, and various and sundry other professions. So, my hope and prayer is that we continue to carry forward with her example leading the way in our lives; thereby enabling us to all meet again one day on that other shore.

Annie Wilson in 1952, with eleven of her adult children. - Click to enlarge.







         This history of my great-grandparents would not have come together without the wonderful sharing of stories and photographs by their grandchildren, down to us, their great-grandchildren. They were blessed to hear it from their parents who actually knew them, lived with them, and loved them. What a legacy we have to live up to and to teach the next generation and on and on. We are the story-tellers.

The Grandchildren of John Travis Wilson and his wife Annie Missouri Flowers Wilson who attended the Wilson Reunion in May 2007 in Bay Minette, Baldwin County, Alabama. From left to right they are: Louise Wilson Taylor, Flora Wilson Kearley, Willard Wilson, Eloise Wilson Hastings, LaVada Burnett Coon, and Dorothy Wilson Kempton. - Click to enlarge.


  


This Family History was contributed August/September 2007 by

Carolyn Hastings Dickinson.

Carolyn can be contacted at

21960 Second Street,
Silverhill, AL 36576
1-251-945-5307
and meemee@gulftel.com

Edited by Debbie Owen