Elisha's father, Rice Wilson, was born in Russell County, Kentucky, in 1840, and moved with his family to Indiana at the age of 81. In 1859, he married Charlotte Jane Madden, an Indiana native. Rice and Charlotte were just 18 and 15, respectively, when they married. Rice Wilson was a wheat farmer; his family's farm was one mile north of Boonville. A history text of the area2 states that Rice gradually increased his holdings during his life, eventually owning 220 acres of farmland. He was also "a breeder of fine cattle". In 1875 he was elected Recorder of Warrick County, Indiana, at which time he moved to Boonville. He served two four-year terms as Recorder, then returned to his farm. He retired from farming in 1901, at the age of 61, at which time he and Charlotte moved back to Boonville, to a home across the street from Elisha's home, at the corner of Fifth and Sycamore streets.
Elisha Wilson was born on July 27, 1867, the third of three children of Rice Wilson and Charlotte Madden Wilson. His early childhood was on the Rice Wilson farm, but from age 8 lived for a few years in Boonville proper, when his father was Recorder.
On graduation from Boonville High School in 1884, Elisha worked on and helped manage the family farm until age 19, when he married Nannie Gough on December 30, 1866. He established his own farm, on which he worked for three years, then left farming to work for two years in the local coalmines, probably with his father-in-law, Robert Gough.
In 1893, Elisha and his brother, John Wilson, established a successful dry goods business on the northeast corner of the town square where the Warrick County Courthouse sat. Their story is told elsewhere on this site, at the Indiana icon. The family also kept a cow for milk, as well as chickens and other animals. When John died in 1924, Elisha assumed individual control of the prosperous business, but he soon admitted William L. Roth to partnership, which was known after that time as Wilson & Roth.
Elisha and John's oldest brother, James Riley Wilson (1864-1926), was a prominent attorney in Boonville.
Nannie Alice Gough
Nannie Gough was first-generation American: her father, Robert Gough, was born in Manchester, England, 30 miles south of Barrowford3. Robert was a collier, or coal miner, as was his father and grandfather. Nannie's mother, Elizabeth Brown, was born in Barrowford, England. Barrowford was a center of the cotton trade in England in the early 19th century. The family lived on Lloyd Street in Manchester. Elizabeth worked for a while in a silk factory.
Robert Gough and Elizabeth Brown were both 20 years old when they were married in the Manchester Cathedral, in Manchester, Lancashire County, England, on July 15, 1842 (then known as the "Owd Church")4. The couple remained in England for about 12 more years before emigrating to this country5. Robert and Elizabeth had 12 children, some born in England, and some in this country. Unfortunately they lost several children in childhood; only five lived into adulthood.
The Gough family left England from Liverpool on the ship Lone Star, and arrived in Philadelphia on June 13, 1854, after a difficult voyage across the Atlantic. They traveled with their oldest son, Edward, then 8 years old, and an infant who later died. Their daughter, Anna, age 5, did not accompany them on the voyage. She may have traveled later with Robert's half-brother Edward. After Robert and family arrived in the United States, they settled first in Livingston County, Kentucky, and moved to Boonville in 1858. Nancy "Nannie" Alice Gough was their youngest child, born on May 6, 1866.
Robert Gough wrote a letter from Kentucky in 1856 to his parents and siblings back in England6. He talks about the hard life of coal mining in Kentucky, how dependent he is on the river to transport the coal he digs from the ground: if the water is too low, or frozen, he is without work. Still, he says that food and drink are much more readily available here than in the old country, and expresses that he, and especially Betty, are committed to staying in the U.S.
Robert also writes about news he has heard about his brother, George Gough, who had just returned to England from a tour of duty with the British military during the Crimean War (1856-1858). He writes that his brother was fortunate enough to be stationed in Malta, which served as a staging area for supply and military missions to the Black Sea, and was fairly peaceful. Robert says he hopes that George has satisfied his desire for military duty, and that "we hope that he will be like the song says let those that make the quarrells be the only men to fight."
Robert Gough was one of the earliest developers of coalmines in Warrick County. The first small mine was in the woods pasture at his sister Mary Gough Nester's house. The men would dig into the ground with picks and shovels to uncover a shallow vein of coal, making small tunnels, and hauling the coal out with a mule drawn cart. As the mines were abandoned they became little grassy knolls that the children recall were fun places to play.
Robert and Elizabeth Gough's oldest child was Edward Gough (1846-1928). Edward became a schoolteacher in Warrick County at age 20 the year that Nannie was born. A history of the Warrick County School system notes that he was a second grade teacher in 1870-1871. He was also our only relative in Boonville for whom we have confirmed Civil War military service: he served in the Indiana 136th Infantry Regiment7 (Union Army), formed in Indianapolis on May 21, 1864. This regiment was ordered to Tennessee to serve as Railroad Guard in Tennessee and Alabama. It was in existence only for 100 days, mustered out on September 2, 1864. The regiment lost 8 men during this time from disease, but none from hostile action. These were typical statistics for Civil War regiments: there were often more deaths from disease than from battle.
Boonville did not suffer any physical damage during the Civil War. In fact there was only one battle in the entire state of Indiana during the war, at Corydon, on July 9, 1863, about 60 miles east of Boonville.
At some point after 1871, Edward Gough became a judge of the Warrick County circuit court. He is noted to have made a number of speeches in Boonville over the years, including one on Saturday, April 13, 1917, on the occasion of a patriotic parade and ceremony marking this country's entry into the war in Europe.
Elisha Wilson lived until 1937; Nannie died at age 87 in 1953. The couple had three children, two living into adulthood. Mary Helen was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis at age 17. The family traveled to Florida for the fall and winter, pulling Ruth out of her freshman year in high school, but to no avail. Helen died on Good Friday, March 30, 1907.
The couple's children were:
Robert Wilson (1888-1930) m. Ida Roth (1888-1963)
Mary Helen Wilson (1890-1907)
Ruth Gough Wilson (1892-1996) m. Thomas C. Mullins (1885-1954)
1) "Rice Wilson", from: History of Warrick, Spencer and Perry Counties, Indiana. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, 1965, pp. 183-184
3) "Robert Gough", from: History of Warrick, Spencer and Perry Counties, Indiana. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, 1885, pp. 152-153
4) Robert Gough & Elizabeth Brown marriage record. Records of Manchester Cathedral, Manchester England, St. Mary St. Deny's and St. George, Apr-Jun 1842
5) History of Warrick…, op. cit., p. 153
6) Robert Gough, Letter from 1856. Private collection.
7) U.S., Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [Database online]. www.ancestry.com