Wilson is another name of great popularity. Apparently, this maternal side of my mother’s family was from Scotland, although I am not totally certain of the fact. My first cousin, Horace Dunlap Wilson, did a historic manuscript of the family, but it ended with a William Wilson, born in 1795 in Delaware. He was married to a woman named Susan. This Wilson died in about 1865. But you can see with so many William Wilsons about I have not been able to verify who came earlier.
The surname Wilson apparently came from Vikings who settled in Scotland during the Middle Ages. My DNA does contain Scandinavia traces.
What is absolutely certain is that my great great grandfather, William Frederick Wilson I, married Esther Helen Bicking;
although, not so certain is the date of the wedding. Esther Bicking's family immigrated from Winterburg, Westphalia, Germany sometime in the mid-1700s. Her father, Frederick, managed one of the several paper mills started by the family in and around Milltown, Pennsylvania, which later became known as Downingtown. The family continued in the paper business through several generations not ending until the retirement of Frank Park Bicking in 1992. Frank was the great-grandson of S. Austin Bicking, who sold his share in the Dorlan’s Mill to open the first paper mill in Downingtown in 1880. (On the right is Ronald Tipton standing by the ruins of the Dorlan’s Mill in 2004, my photo.)
William and Esther begat six children and here lines began to entangle. Their third child was a daughter named Emma Bicking Wilson. In 1866 Emma married Benjamin Franklin Meredith I. Benjamin and Emma are my Great, Great Grandparents on my father’s side.
William and Esther’s fourth child, Emma’s brother William II, married Anna Margaret Dunlap on March 25, 1879. Anna was the third child of James Evans Dunlap and Rachel Supplee Boyer (James is pictured on the left; Rachel is pictured on right). William and Anna are my Great Grandparents on my mother’s side.
This means William II is also my Great Uncle and Emma is my Great Aunt. My mother and father are Second Cousins.6
William Frederick Wilson II went by the name Fred (He is the middle rider in the photo.). He was a busy fellow. He owned a great deal of land in Uwchlan Township, which he called Marchwood, where he farmed and raised dairy cattle. He sold the milk in Philadelphia where he gained a reputation for honesty. He also was an auctioneer and the proprietor of the Brandywine Hotel that existed once above Coatesville.
William II, as did his father, had six children, the three eldest boys and the three youngest girls. William Frederick Wilson III, known as Billy, and Samuel Heber (who went by Heber) were long time farmers in Chester County. The middle of the three sons wasJames Evans (who went by Evans, pictured on left). He was also a farmer, but died in 1931 bringing hay to the barn. He slipped off the wagon and its wheels ran over his head. James left behind two young children, Mildred and Robert (Bob).
Robert was to later own a number of local
hotels, including The Eagle Tavern (left) in Eagle and The Swan Hotel (right) in Downingtown.7
The oldest of the three daughters also died young. Her name was Helen (pictured on right) and she taught school. Her sister, Clara (pictured left) and she married two brothers, Joel Ellsworth Downing and Herford Evans Downing, direct descendants of Thomas Downing, who founded Downingtown. Clara had seven children with Ellsworth. However, Helen died from complications in the birth of her second child, Emily Margaret. Helen was 29 years old
The family was to experience a schism some years later from this sad death. As is often the case it was a trifling matter. When Helen died, her oldest brother Billy and his wife Lizzie adopted Emily Margaret Downing. Herford kept his son; Herford Jr. Herford Sr. remarried a year after Helen’s demise.
In my youth I attended the annual Wilson Family reunions. I always enjoyed being with my Cousin Audrey June White. She attended with her mother, Beulah Downing White and grandmother Sadie Guest, who was a sweet elderly lady. I was to learn through my research that Audrey was not my cousin. Sadie Guest was the second wife of Herford Downing Sr. after Helen’s death. Beulah had then been Sadie’s child by Herford and thus not blood kin. 8
For whatever reason, the wife of Herford Jr. resented SadieGuest being invited to the reunions and made a “them or us” proclamation. The family elected to continue inviting Sadie, Beulah and Aubrey and so Ruth and her family boycotted the reunions for a number of years. (Pictured on right are the combatants, Sadie Guest Downing and Ruth Downing.)
William and Anna’s sixth child was Esther, born in 1899 (pictured left at age 12). She is my Grandmother. You may notice that my Grandmother Esther and my Aunt Helen were named in honor of their grandmother, Esther Helen Bicking.
(The picture captioned Our Family is from left to right standing: Heber, Clara, Evans, Billy and Helen; seated is William Frederick [Fred] Wilson II and Anna Margaret Dunlap Wilson holding baby Esther, 1899)
My Great Grandmother Anna Wilson was a Dunlap (shown on right in 1890). She died in 1934, 7 years before I was born, so I really never met the Dunlaps, save one. They lived in Honeybrook, Pennsylvania.
Anna had siblings, a brother and
three sisters.The brother, I believe his name was James, same as his father, went west to man his fortune and then went down to South America and disappeared. No one ever heard from him again. The oldest of the sisters was the only one to marry, she is the one in the center sitting on the rock. On the left was Belle, who I know very little about. Both she and the oldest girl died in 1940. Perched up on the right, holding a dog is Harriett, better known as Hattie for the elaborate hats she would often wear.
As I said, only the oldest daughter ever married. Her name wasMary Elizabeth Lily Dunlap (she went by Lilly). She married Elias David Dague and they had three children to help run their farm. Pictured left to right are Jonathan Graham, Mary Jane, Aunt Lily and Uncle Elias.
The “1 missing” in the photo was the oldest son, Oscar David Elias Dague (pictured on left here). The photos of the Dagues were taken in 1902.
The Dunlap I knew was Harriett, Aunt Hattie. I was always alittle afraid of her. You must remember she was 71 when I was born and I was only 11 or 12 when she died. We sometimes visited her and at that time she lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia along Baltimore Avenue, about a block away from where I would live in the 1960s. I remember her place as being small and dark with a musty smell.
Aunt Hattie was a fiercely independent woman, who seemed to know a number of smart and influential people. She may have frightened me as a boy, but I see a lot of her nature and strength in my middle daughter Noelle, whom the younger Harriett (left) bore a physical resemblance.
by Horace Wilson (pictured right)
7. Chester and Delaware County Families
Chester County Historical Society Library
Email Concerning Downing family
August 6, 1999