Life of Joseph Ruggles Wilson

Joseph Ruggles Wilson, the father of the 28th President was born in Steubenville, Ohio and it was here that he met his future wife, Janet Jesse Woodrow, in 1846.

Janet was a student at the Steubenville Female Seminary and was participating in a parade that passed the Wilson home on North Sixth Street. Joseph was working in the front yard of the Wilson mansion when he first noticed the young, attractive Janet Jessie Woodrow. Later, after making her acquaintance and courting her, Joseph and Janet were married in 1849.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson the third child of this marriage was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1856, where his father was a Presbyterian Minister. Joseph and Janet later moved to Augusta, Georgia where he was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church and during the War of the Rebellion, in 1863, he served on the General Staff as a Chaplain.

Janet Jesse Woodrow’s parents were the Reverend Thomas Woodrow and Marion Williamson. They were both born in Scotland and they came to America in 1835 settling in Chillicothe, Ohio.

The obituary of James Wilson, father of Joseph Ruggles Wilson and grandfather of the President, states that he died on October 17, 1850 of a virulent attack of cholera from drinking contaminated water. His burial took place in Union Cemetery as did the burial of his wife who died in 1863. The Steubenville Herald issue of October 18th, 1850 carried the following article on James Wilson’s death:

Our venerable fellow citizen, Judge James Wilson, is no more. He expired yesterday at 11 o’clock A.M.  after suffering 12 hours from a virulent attack of cholera morbus. The deceased had been about our streets on Wednesday apparently in his healthy and fine spirits.  His conversation was lively and his step as firm as has been his wont. Yet, hale and hardy as he was in the 64th year of his age, he fell to that grim destroyer…. Death.

Judge Wilson was one of the oldest and certainly one of the most distinguished men in this community.  In the year of 1815 he succeeded the Messers. Lowery and Miller as editor and proprietor of the  Steubenville Herald. It is needless to say that for a space of about 25 years he conducted this paper with signed ability. As a leading man in public affairs, he was esteemed far and wide.  As some friend, well qualified for the task, will soon write a fitting obituary notice for our paper, we will conclude with the expression of our condolence with the afflicted family, in this their great and unexpected bereavement.

After James Wilson’s death his wife, Ann, sold the spacious home on Sixth Street to James Collier and went to live with her son, Robert and his wife Harriet, in Columbiana County, Ohio where she passed away in 1863. None of the Wilson descendents remain in Jefferson County.

Compiled by JCHA Board Member

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