CHARLES WILLSON, a retired and highly reputable citizen of Winchester, was born July 13, 1812, in Lycoming County, Pa. His father, Ezra Willson, was a native of New Jersey, and traced his ancestry as coming from Wales. In the days of Mr. Willson's youth it was a difficult matter to obtain proper schooling, but being of an aspiring nature, and fully realizing that without education he would go through the world handicapped, he successfully waded through difficulties that would seem to the modern youth insurmountable, and so, at the age of eighteen years, he was in the possession of a fair education, and going to Canada, he there learned the trade of a blacksmith. In the early part of 1836 he concluded to see more of his native country, and possessing little else beside hope and high resolves, he came West, landing at Jacksonville, this State, and in the following autumn came to Winchester. The greater portion of Illinois was at this time an almost trackless prairie, whose only inhabitants were savages and wild beasts; but the transformation has been complete. Beautiful cities, elegant homesteads, and peace and plenty are found on every hand. Here Mr. Wilson for twenty years carried on blacksmithing and accumulated a handsome competence, the result of industry and prudence. To aid a young man in whom he felt some interest, he furnished the capital and joined him in the grocery business, from which he withdrew at the end of three years, having placed his younger friend fairly on the road to prosperity. This matter of history fully illustrates one of the salient characteristics of Mr. Willson. In 1860 he retired from active business, and has lived comfortably upon an income honorably earned by the sweat of his brow.
Originally, a Whig, Mr. Willson merged readily into the Republican party, to which he gave hearty and undivided support until within the past few years; he is now an enthusiastic and consistent advocate of prohibition. At no time in his life an office-seeker, his devotion to party has been from principle - the only office he has ever held has been that of Alderman - and his advocacy of prohibition is but the offering of a sincere desire to see the greatest of all modern evils rectified; and he firmly believes that he will live to see his fond hopes realized.
Mr. Willson is a devoted member of the Baptist Church, and was for twenty-four years its Treasurer, retiring from that office only in 1888. He was married at Winchester in 1810, to Miss Nancy Scales, a native of New Hampshire and a daughter of one of the pioneers of this county - then Morgan. To this union no children have been born, but several nephews and nieces have been reared and educated by this worthy couple, who have gone forth in the world as most creditable examples of the influences of good breeding, careful training and moral precepts.