California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
JOSEPH WILSON — Two of the first names identified with the beginning of civilization in the San Bernardino Valley were Wilson and Van Levven. A representative of both families was the late Joseph Wilson, who was born at Richmond. Ohio, March 18, 1837, and died in San Bernardino County October 26, 1899. He married Rhoda Van Lewen who was born in Camden, Ontario, Canada, December 24, 1838, and died in California November 21, 1918.
Bushrod Washington Wilson, father of Joseph, was reared in the faith of the Mormons and was selected for missionary work. He spent a period in England and on returning found that Brigham Young had led his followers out of Missouri to Salt Lake. Going to Utah he became disgusted with the polygamous practice instituted by Young and burned his tracts and books secretly, disavowing Mormonism, and after securing food and an outfit drove with ox teams into California, running the risk of death from Mormons as well as Indians. It was in April 1855, that Bushrod W. Wilson made this journey from Salt Lake. He had trouble with the Indians, his cousin, a doctor in the party, being shot and wounded. A daughter died of the cholera and there was untold suffering to all the surviving members of the company. The year preceding the arrival of the Wilson family Benjamin Van Levven with many others of the Mormon Church crossed the plains with ox teams in 1853, spending one year at Salt Lake to raise grain and food for their further journey, and thus continuing with wagons over the deserts and mountains to California. Mrs. Van Levven while driving a wagon ahead of the rest of the party was attacked by Indians, but two of her nephews came to her rescue. They traveled day and night until the stock was exhausted and reached California in 1854. It is said that Rhoda Van Levven as the party came out of the desert through Cajon Pass and stood by her father looking over the green valley of San Bernardino exclaimed that it was her wish to live and die in the beautiful region and she had her wish granted.
Joseph Wilson and Rhoda Van Levven were married January 1, 1857, and at once began housekeeping in Old San Bernardino near the Mission. Joseph had ten acres and his wife twenty acres given her by her father. This land was on the old Mission Road in what is now the West Redlands District. The ten acre homestead is just east of the Mission school. This land was improved through the planting of fruits and grapes, and the dried fruit was readily sold to the passing traders and miners. The Wilsons also raised alfalfa and grain, another profitable crop in pioneer times. Joseph Wilson increased his land holdings from year to year and was one of the very successful men of the valley. He was also a freighter, using teams of six or eight mules in hauling groceries and other supplies from Los Angeles to San Bernardino. This was before the first railroad was built, and his oldest daughter Catherine has a vivid recollection of the first train that came into the valley over the newly constructed Southern Pacific line. She was at that time in school and the teacher took all the scholars to witness the coming of the first train, consisting of an engine and flat cars. They were permitted to get aboard and rode to Colton and back 'home.
Joseph Wilson and wife were the parents of seven children. The oldest, Catherine, born October 25, 1857, was married February 12, 1882, to Horace J. Roberts and he died March 6, 1918. Of her four children Horace Leslie, born November 24, 1884, spent two years after leaving high school at Nome, Alaska, and is now farming at Beaumont, California. He married Margaret English and their two children are Horace Leslie Jr. and Dorothy. Carrie Roberts, the second child, was born September 21, 1886, and died June 24, 1899. Joseph Ernest Roberts was born April 22, 1888, is a salesman for the Union Oil Company at Beaumont, married Edna E. Sewell and has three children named Doris Josephine, Catherine Augusta and Edna Mae. Rhoda Irene Roberts, born June 5, 1891, is the wife of Royal T. C. Roberts, an electrician at Coalinga, California, and had four living children, Marion, Edith, who died November 12, 1919, and Jewell who died at the age of sixteen months, and Royal Thomas.
Benjamin Wilson, the second child of Joseph Wilson was born June 12, 1859, and died October 6, 1867.
Caroline, third of the family, born March 12, 1861, is the wife of M. L. Frink, a prominent orange grower on the Mission Road, and she has five children: Lena, Watkins, Amy Murphy, Milton J. Frink, and Howard L. Frink.
Delbert Wilson, born June 1, 1866, died in infancy.
Zilpha Wilson, born August 13, 1867, is the wife of J. J. Curtis, a prominent orange grower at Redlands, and has two daughters, Mrs. Alice Hill and Mrs. Mabel Seavey.
Anna Wilson, born January 29, 1871, married B. G. Simons of Nevada Street, Redlands, and has one daughter.
The youngest of the family Rhoda Wilson, born April 15, 1878, is the wife of Gordon Smith, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, and a fruit grower at Redlands.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011