Biography of Hon. James Wilson Sr.

Hon. James Wilson, Sr., the oldest son of Robert, was born in Peter borough, August 16, 1766. His opportunities for an education were very limited in his native town. He remembered the alarm given at his fathers house April 19, 1775, and the great stir among the farmers as they were getting their weapons ready to march to the scene of action. He remained at home, working with his parents, until the close of the Revolution. His mother -as a lady who appreciated the importance of a good education, and she finally prevailed upon he somewhat reluctant husband to allow their promising son to attend the Phillips academy, Andover, Mass., where he fitted for college. He entered Harvard university in 1785, and graduated in 1789. Among his classmates were Charles Cutts, afterwards a representative in congress, Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Thayer and Rev. Dr. John Thornton Kirkland, afterwards president of the same university. President John Quincy Adams was two classes ahead of him and knew him well. Mr, Wilson maintained an intimate friendship with all these gentlemen. Sixty years after his graduation, when his son James was introduced on the floor of congress, to Ex-President J. Q. Adams, the latter said, ” Your father was the best wrestler in college.” He was, as Mr. Adams said, the best wrestler, and was a strong, well-developed, muscular young man. He received from Harvard the degree of A. M., in course, and Dartmouth conferred the same degree upon him in 1850. Immediately after graduation, he entered the law office of Judge Lincoln, of Worcester, as a student. The death of his father, December 25, 1790, called him home. He was united with his mother in the settlement of his fathers estate. He decided not to return to Worcester, and entered the law office of judge Smith at Peterborough. Judge Smith was shortly after elected to congress, in 1791, and on leaving congress, settled in Exeter. This left a field for young Wilson in Peterborough; and he resolved to settle in that town. He was admitted to the bar in 1792, and continued to practice in Peterborough until 1815, when he removed to Keene, and purchased the stately mansion on Main street, which has ever since been known as the “Squire Wilson house.” Mr. Wilson was an able lawyer and understood the science of law. He was a man of good judgment, and of a quick, clear perception. He prepared his cases with great care and managed them ably in the courts. As an advocate, he had few if any superiors in the state. He had an extensive practice in both Hillsborough and Cheshire counties, and was usually retained upon one side or the other of almost every case. He also did a large business in the justice courts in both counties. Many young men who afterwards became good lawyers were his students. In Peterborough, he was moderator of the town-meeting for five years, and a representative to the general court most of the time from 1803 to 1815. He was a member of congress from the Hillsborough district from 5809 to 1851. He was a firm believer in the policy of Alexander Hamilton, and was a firm Federalist of the old school. The whole of the New Hampshire delegation in the eleventh congress was of the Federal party; but all this was changed in the next congress, and Mr. Wilson was not returned. He did not practice his profession after 1823, after his son was admitted to the bar and had succeeded to his business. He was one of the founders of the Unitarian church and society in Keene, when the secession from the old society took place. He ever bore in mind the two grand tenets of his church, “The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” He observed the precepts of the golden rule, and may be safely judged by the precious fruits of his life. He died January 4, 1839.



Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Cheshire and Sullivan counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis. 1886.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top