Shown is the Wilson monument in the Tranquility Cemetery. On the back of the monument is inscribed the following about Wilson; his wife Hadassah, who died at age 30; and his son, Spencer, a Civil War casualty: “He loved his God, his country, and the people; Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; and He gave his life for his country.”
Wilson's legacy lives on in county after death The article below is part of a series of reprints of author Stephen Kelley's Defender column "Lore, Legends & Landmarks of Old Adams" in preparation for John T. Wilson Heritage Day. The event, to be held Oct. 20, will celebrate not only the enduring philanthropy of Wilson, an Adams County resident in the 1800s, but also the completion of the restoration of his historic home overlooking the community of Tranquility in northern Adams County.
By Stephen Kelley
John T. Wilson died on Oct. 6, 1891 at the age of 80. Although almost a century has passed since that time, Wilson's legacy and beneficence to the citizens of Adams County lives on. As mentioned last week, the children's home that is still in use today was the gift to the people of Adams County from this man. And, upon his death, he willed an additional thirty-five thousand dollars to the continuing operation of the home. He also left three income-producing monies farms to generate operating monies for the home. Unfortunately, these farms were eventually sold, and the money received is long gone.
Wilson also willed the princely sum of one-hundred fifty thousand dollars to the county to be used for the benefit of "the worthy poor." This was a type of privately financed welfare program somewhat unique for rural areas such as ours. This fund was terribly mismanaged in the early part of this century and almost lost altogether when much of it was invested in unseen real estate in the South which proved to be swamplands. Fortunately, what remained of the money was finally placed in responsible hands and the "Wilson Worth Poor Fund" is still with us today in an amount greater than Wilson originally bequeathed the county.
Upon Wilson's death, William A. Blair of Tranquility, a long time friend and business partner of Wilson, was named executor of the will. The Wilson estate was described as "the largest ... ever left for settlement in Adams County." It was therefore under the watchful eye of Blair that the Wilson Soldiers' Monument was erected in front of the Wilson Children's Home and that the cash and farms mentioned above were transferred to the home.
It was also under Blair's supervision that a massive monument to mark Wilson's grave site was ordered and shipped to Tranquility. Specially built road wagons had to be used to transport the multi-ton headstone from the Seaman Depot to the Tranquility Cemetery beside the United Presbyterian Church. The monument remains today, the largest privately purchased gravestone in the county. The monument, which marks the graves of John T., his wife, Hadassah, and their son, Spencer, sits only a few hundred feet south of the old Wilson mansion which continues to stand guard over the George's Creek valley.