Robert A. Wilson

As published in
"The City of Kenosha and Kenosha County Wisconsin: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement"
by Frank H. Lyman Vol. 2, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1916.




Robert A. Wilson deserves much credit for his contribution to Kenosha's upbuilding and improvement. When he turned his attention to the contracting business in 1893, the west side of the city, known as Snakeville, was little more than a swamp. He began buying lots and exploiting the interests and advantages of the west side, and today one of the attractive and substantial business and residence districts of the city is a monument to his enterprise, business ability and public spirit. He is one of the foremost real estate men not only of Kenosha, but of this part of the state, and the most envious cannot grudge him his success, so worthily has it been won.

Mr. Wilson was born in New Brunswick, Gloucester County, Canada, on the 25th of December, 1866 his parents being Andrew and Phoebe (Chason) Wilson. The mother was of French descent, her ancestors, however, having settled in New Brunswick more than three hundred years ago. The paternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson, came from Aberdeen, Scotland to the new world just after his marriage. His son and namesake, Andrew Wilson, Jr., became a sailor and was captain of ocean going ships for a quarter of a century.

Robert A. Wilson grew up with his father and sailed on the seas through the period of his boyhood and youth. In 1886 he came to Kenosha and afterward sailed upon the lakes for nine years, becoming first mate of the vessel "Gilbert Kupp." He had been a resident of Kenosha only a few months when he was joined by his parents, who spent their remaining days here.

For seven years after coming to Kenosha, Robert A. Wilson continued to sail on the lakes and then turned his attention to other pursuits, in the year 1893 beginning work as a carpenter and contractor. His attention was attracted to the western part of the city. In 1890 his parents had removed to the corner of Grover and Pomeroy streets, and in 1893 Robert A. Wilson established his home at No. 852 Dayton street, which places were on the west side of the town, then known as Snakeville, being little more than a swamp. Mr. Wilson, however, believed that there was excellent opportunity for the development of this section and began buying lots and exploiting his property. In 1904 he erected a business block two stories in height, forty-five by fifty feet, at No. 500 Howland Avenue. This stands on a lot one hundred and nine and a half feet, one hundred and fifty-two and a half feet on Elizabeth Street with one hundred and eighty-eight feet on Salem avenue, being a triangle block. In 1905 he built another large building so as to cover the whole triangle lot. The entire building is two stories in height and contains four stores. Mr. Wilson also owns the property at the southeast corner of Howland Avenue and Elizabeth Street, which will soon be improved. In addition to handling city property he buys and sells farms, owning several, and he is likewise a large dealer in other real estate. His efforts have been the most potent element in the development of the part of the city in which he has operated and not only have promoted his success, but have greatly enhanced property values throughout that section of the city.

On the 6th of September 1893 Mr. Wilson was married to Miss Minnie McDonald, a daughter of John A. and Mary (Riley) McDonald, the latter a daughter of James Riley, who was owner of the first boot shop at Kenosha. Mr. McDonald was a detective. He was born in Brighton Township, Kenosha County, and his father was one of the early settlers of this part of the state, having arrived here from New York. He afterward returned to the Empire state and later became a resident of Chicago, where he served with distinction in connection with detective work and on the police force. He was the son of James McDonald, who was born in New York, but became one of the early residents of Kenosha, where he lived until he returned to New York, there passing away February 9, 1869. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have one son, Chester Robert, who was born July 26, 1898, and is now a sophomore in the Kenosha High School.

The family are members of St. Thomas Catholic church. Mr. Wilson does not adhere to any political party but maintains an independent attitude and as opportunity offers indorses those plans and measures which he believes will prove of greatest value in the upbuilding of the city and the promotion of its municipal interests. He is a wide-awake, alert and energetic business man, whose determination enables him to overcome difficulties and obstacles. His business methods will bear close investigation and scrutiny, his advancement being due to his marked enterprise, his keen discrimination and his sound judgment.

Typed by: Michelle Laycock



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