Wilson Jones was born on June 13, 1815 in Onondaga County, New York, the son of Thomas and Lucy (Gunn).
Wilson left New York sometime in the early 1840s and moved westward. He was possibly living in Illinois when he married New York native Elizabeth (1823-1898) on January 1, 1843, in Chicago, and they had at least four children: Helen (b. 1843), William H. (b. 1846), Charles W. (b. 1852), Eugene W. (b. 1856), Elizabeth (b. 1861) and Mary (b. 1864).
In any case, Wilson eventually settled in Grand Rapids sometime in 1843 shortly after he and Elizabeth were married. By 1850 they were living in Grand Rapids where Wilson worked as a carpenter. In the summer of 1855 Wilson joined the newly formed “Grand Rapids Artillery,” a local militia company, as a sergeant.
By 1859-60 Wilson was working as a carpenter and residing on the southwest corner of Scribner and First Streets, on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. In 1860 he was a carpenter living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids, Fourth Ward. Living with and/or working for him was Allen Foote, who would also enlist Company B. Next door lived David Northrup and his family; David too would join Company B in 1861. And two doors from David lived Baker Borden who would command Company B when the Third Michigan was first organized in the spring of 1861.
Wilson stood 6’0” with black eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 46 years old when he enlisted in Company B on November 18, 1861, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered on December 23 at Detroit. (Company B was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, in particular the Grand Rapids Artillery, under Captain Baker Borden, who would also command Company B.) According to Dr. James Grove, Regimental Surgeon, he contracted hepatitis on or about May 23, 1862, “two or three days after the march of the Regiment from Cumberland Landing to Baltimore Crossroads” and was in the Regimental hospital when he was listed as a bugler and missing in action on July 1, 1862, at White Oak Swamp, Virginia.
In fact Wilson had been taken prisoner at Baltimore crossroads, Virginia, on June 29, probably while a patient in Kearny’s Division hospital. According to one report Jones had been “Among the prisoners at the hospital on the York River, held by the rebels” and “the New York Herald says that the joy of the poor wounded soldiers at their anticipated release was very great, but when they were informed that they must return to the hospital again and be held there as prisoners, their grief was indescribable, especially among those who were sick. The scene was heartrending.”
Wilson was interned briefly in Libby prison, paroled on July 11 at Talleysville, Virginia, and sent to Fortress Monroe, where he arrived at Old Point, Virginia, near Fortress Monroe, on the John Tucker, on the afternoon of July 11. From Virginia he was sent on to Camp Parole in Annapolis, Maryland where he arrived on July 13, and he remained at Camp Parole until returned to the Regiment on December 20 at Camp Pitcher, Virginia. According to Captain Fred Stowe of Company B, Jones was suffering from general debility when he rejoined the Regiment, and was discharged for chronic hepatitis and general debility on January 14, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia.
Following his discharge Wilson returned to Grand Rapids where he lived the rest of his life, and for many years worked as a carpenter. In 1867-68 he was residing at 11 Lincoln Street.
He was probably the same Wilson Jones who, according to a story in the Eagle of September 9, 1871, accused one Watson Parrish “with having insulted him (Jones) in a manner to grievous to be borne with patience, and so Wilson J. attempted to prove such charge in a court of law. Six ‘good and true yeomen’, however, decided that Watson had not so wronged Wilson, and Jones had his own costs to pay, a matter of $13.52. He is not as fond of the law business as he was formerly.” Three days later the Grand Rapids Eagle reported that
In justice to the parties concerned it is right that a more comprehensive statement should be made of the case Wilson Jones vs. Watson Parrish, mentioned in our police report the other day. Mr. Jones has been an orderly c of the place for a quarter of a century. He made complaint against Watson Parrish, a constable of Walker, under the ordinance which declares the wanton use of disrespectful, immoral, insulting or abusive language by one person toward another in the streets to be disorderly conduct rendering the use of such language liable to a fine. Mr. Jones has a natural defect in his eyes; one of the being turned inward, and this is the fact that gives point to the particular language complained of, which was that the defendant, while passing him in the street called him a ‘d___d cock-eye.’ In the trial by jury before Justice Budington, the complainant testified that Parrish used this language publicly, and this was corroborated by others; Jones also testified that on several occasions the defendant had insulted him on the streets, without provocation, by the use of that or similar language. Parrish was sworn and admitted the use of the language, but asserted that it was addressed to a third person and was not intended for the plaintiff’s ear. There was the testimony and there the ordinance, and there the jury who, with both before them, brought in a verdict of ‘no cause of action’, thus saddling the costs upon the complainant, who says he is now in doubt as to whether they considered such vile language from such a source insulting and abusive or not. It was certainly such as no gent would use touching the misfortunes or natural deformities of another.
He was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and five children in Grand Rapids’ Seventh Ward in 1880.
Wilson was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids and of the Old Residents’ Association.
In 1892 he applied for and received a pension (no. 634220), drawing $12 per month by 1901.
He was a widower when he died of “senile decay” at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday July 6, 1901, at his home at 104 Washington Street in Grand Rapids. The funeral was held from his home at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, July 8, and he was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: block B lot 42.
“As a citizen,” wrote the Grand Rapids Herald, “he was a gentleman of the old school, upright, honest, industrious, in all things a fitting example for the young. His death was typical of his life -- quiet and peaceful.”