Dr William Berry Wilson: 'No voice of help has been ignored'

Dr William Berry Wilson: ‘No voice of help has been ignored’

A popular Cape Girardeau physician, William Wilson was born near Old Appleton on January 12, 1831. He bravely served as a physician during the cholera epidemic and the Civil War. He was also a devoted leader of the Cape Girardeau Masonic Lodge, founding the Wilson Chapter of the Royal Arch of Masons in 1872.

Photo courtesy of descendant, Charles “Chip” D. Wilson of Cape Girardeau

As a young boy, William Wilson was raised in nearby Old Appleton, the son of carpenter Benjamin Wilson and his wife Jenne. Education for him was the rural schools until a family friend, Dr. Moses S. Harris of Perry County, Missouri, suggested he might tutor William in preparation for the medicine School. Eager to enter medicine, William attended and graduated from Bellevue College Medical School in New York.

Shortly after returning to Cape Girardeau County, 21-year-old Dr. Wilson volunteered to treat victims of the great cholera epidemic of 1852 that ravished Jackson, leaving 123 recorded deaths. Following the illness, he organized the old Southeastern Missouri Medical Society where doctors pooled their knowledge to better help the citizens of the county.

He married Anna Eliza Juden in 1853 and established their home at 344 N. Ellis and opened a pharmacy at 111 N. Main.

Always up for a challenge, Dr. Wilson was a young doctor who ministered to the needs of the afflicted during the Civil War. The Union Marshal of Cape Girardeau gave the doctor a permit for unrestricted passage across Union and Confederate lines.

During the war there was much excitement around their farm on the corner of North Ellis Street, just east of Fort B (the present location of the university).

After six children were born into the family, the Wilsons decided to move “into town” near the river, where they had more room for visitors and family. The three-story stuccoed brick was nestled in front of the cliffs of Fort A, facing the river. Each of the many rooms had high vaulted ceilings trimmed in walnut and poplar woodwork. Beautiful carved rosewood furniture and marble topped tables adorned the rooms at Riverview.

Dr. Wilson’s gold watch fob is engraved with the words “Dr. William B. Wilson”.

Photo courtesy of descendant, Charles “Chip” D. Wilson of Cape Girardeau

After Ann’s death in 1886, the doctor was married to Louisa Giboney by the Baptist minister, the Reverend JC Maple of Cape Girardeau.

With the patients and the pharmacy, the doctor, known as the oldest practicing doctor in 1888, has remained busy. However, he always found time to stay involved in the community. He served early on a normal school board, serving as president of the Southeastern Missouri District Agricultural Society and the Cape Girardeau-Jackson Gravel Road Co. In addition, he has held high positions in Masonic circles and was instrumental in maintaining the Masonic Lodge. living during the civil war.

After several years of declining health, Dr. Wilson, 69, died on October 18, 1900 at his home. His will allowed Louisa to remain in their “property with all the furniture, pictures, silver and gold tableware, china, clock, stables…and a mare Elsie”. His son, J. Maple, won the right to purchase the original house at Ellis and North Streets for $2,000. He and his wife, Emma, ​​rebuilt a Queen Anne-style home that today stands next to Centennial United Methodist Church.

The Masonic Lodge was in charge of Wilson Services at New Lorimier Cemetery. The ceremonies were attended by a large number of citizens of the region from all walks of life.

The Water Street house was razed in the 1930s.

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