Dr. John Wilson, Captain Thunderbolt

Dr. John Wilson, Captain Thunderbolt

Dr. John Wilson, Circa 1842 Daguerreotype, Former Highwayman Captain Thunderbolt.jpg

Dr. John Wilson

Highwayman "Thunderbolt And Lightfoot"

Daguerreotype Taken About 1842 By T. Covil

Dr. John Wilson's last patient was Royall Gladden, who suffered from the erysipelas. Gladden lived out the Bonnyvale Road in West Brattleboro. He was born in England in 1769. Gladden had often bid for, hired, and given shelter to town paupers.

The erysipelas epidemic, which had started in north Vermont in 1843, had progressed southerly during the succeeding three winters before reaching Brattleboro late in 1846. Royall Gladden, an elderly family man, died with Dr. John Wilson in attendance.

The cold winter night convinced Dr. Wilson to remain in West Brattleboro. The Gladden homestead was filled to capacity with grieving relations, so the physician slept in his last patient's death-bed. Antisepsis and germ theory were not widely accepted then. After suffering with acute erysipelas for four days, Dr. John Wilson died on March 22, 1847.

The Rev. Otis Warren, in Newfane, recorded in his Daily Journal for this day,

"Stormed all the past night -
fine hail this morning - wind Easterly - dark & dreary ...
chilly lowery day - but litle storm - cloudy".

The following day Otis observed the "dark cloudy - lowery - chilly day". Rev. Otis Warren would remember always that evening of March 2, 1842--five years before--when "Dr Wilson called in the evening to have writings made out with Mr Underwood".

Dr. John Wilson, Mortgage Discharge, March 2, 1842, To Asa Underwood, Jr.jpg

Dr. John Wilson was selling his Williamsville farm to Asa Underwood. By this time, Dr. Wilson had owned roughly ten different parcels of land throughout Windham County, especially in Newfane. This particular farm was directly east of the cemetery in Williamsville, lying on the north side of the road which leads easterly towards the West River.

Asa Underwood's note for $1,621.59 is recorded in Probate as still being part of Dr. John Wilson's estate as of April 20, 1847, and still drawing interest.

Dr. John Wilson, Probate, Administrator's Sale, May 1847.jpg

The Drown family, who kept the old Scottish customs, were well acquainted with Dr. Wilson and arrived for this auction. Charles Wheaton Drown purchased a wagon, which he drove as a peddler of hulled corn from his house in West Dummerston.

Dr. John Wilson, John Drown's Gig, October 1885.jpg

John Wilson Drown was probably named for the doctor who delivered him. The father Mason Wheaton Drown was an itinerant instructor in penmanship, and Dr. Wilson may have taken lessons from him.

Lucy Shaw, Mrs. Mason Drown, had two paternal uncles, Dr. Samuel Shaw and his younger brother Dr. Jonathan Shaw, who were both surgeons on the faculty at the Academy of Medicine at Castleton, Vermont. The Vermont medical biographer, Dr. Charles S. Caverly, claimed that Dr. John Wilson attended classes at Castleton.

Quite likely Dr. Wilson was encouraged by these two surgeons to pursue a medical career. His attendance at Castleton helped Dr. Wilson to acquire the practice of Dr. John Morse, who died in 1822. Dr. Jonathan Shaw in addition, had a life-long interest in medical springs and saw mill operations, another strong parallel to Dr. John Wilson's career throughout Windham County.

Dr. John Wilson attended Dr. John Morse in his final sickness. The day book ledger from the William H. Williams store, where Dr. Wilson held the account number 291 at that time, contains an entry for February 24, 1823---

John Wilson M. D.
By his acct renderd for
attendance & Medicine up
to Feby 15th 1822

By bill of allowance
vs. Dr. Morse Estate

The bill of allowance was for $15.00 and the account rendered by Dr. Wilson totalled $29.62, these two figures being recorded by the store clerk in the right hand column.

Dr. John Wilson's kin in Muirkirk, Ayrshire, Scotland, William Wilson, was on the list of physicians admitted to the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons for April 15, 1816 at the University of Edinburgh. Quite likely Dr. Wilson also studied there under his auspices as well, and later practiced surgery in his native Muirkirk until 1818.

Following Dr. John Wilson's death, lawyer Larkin G. Mead found "voluminous manuscripts containing notes of Medical Lectures and abstracts from medical authors" in his house, along with "letters from his father of that and subsequent dates", written to him at the University of Edinburgh beginning in February 1815.

Dr. John Wilson's apparent lack of a formal graduation, or medical license, reflects his desire to escape any professional public scrutiny. And yet, Dr. Cyrus Washburn of Vernon defended and praised his colleague---

Dr. Wilson, the famous "Thunderbolt," who lived in Brattleboro after a life as a highway robber, had not only the tolerance but the respect of Dr. Washburn. While other physicians would not recognize the man without his showing a certificate of some kind, Dr. Washburn recognized him by his ability to do good work. It is probable that the fugitive from justice was the ablest physician in the state at the time.

Dr. John L. Dickerman of Brattleboro also did not stand on ceremony, but readily consulted with Dr. John Wilson during March 1824 with his patient in West Dummerston, Captain Seth Briggs.


Dr. John Wilson, 1832, Receipt To David Charter.jpg

Receipt To David Charter

New Fane Vt. 23 Septr 1832

Received One Dollar from Mr David Charter
being in full of all demand, till this date

Dr Jno Wilson

David Charter lived in the northeastern reaches of Marlboro, Vermont. He suffered from epilepsy, which is eventually given as the cause of his death. And within three years after this receipt was signed, David Charter was excommunicated from the South Newfane Baptist Church "for his abuse to his wife and family". His daughter Sarah-Ann Charter married George Wilson Brown six years after Dr. John Wilson's death.

This receipt was tendered to George Wilson when he was still single and nineteen years old, in his third year in apprenticeship as a machinist to Hines & Newman in Brattleboro, this machine shop standing on the Whetstone Brook just north from Dr. Wilson's house on the Connecticut River---

Dr. John Wilson, August 8, 1842, Receipt To George W. Brown.jpg

a/c 4 00

Brattleboro Vt 8 Augt 1842

Received One dollar from Geo: Brown
being in full of all demand that he owes to me
till this date.

Dr Jno Wilson


The records in Probate for Dr. John Wilson indicate that $15.30 was allowed for funeral expenses. Lewis Henry, the friend since Dummerston days almost thirty years before, was allowed $5.25 for "Services in Sickness". Woodcock & Co was reimbursed $1.18 for "articles in last sickness". The Wilson estate paid Thurber Shaw $3.50 "for Changing beds".

The village sexton Eleazer Farnsworth---a cooper by trade, a neighbor---prepared the burial. Charles C. Frost is most likely the person indicated by the single initial "F." that appears at the end of the well-known published description of the wounds and scars which Dr. John Wilson carried to his death.

Dr. John Wilson, Mortgage Discharge, May 4, 1835, To Dexter Moore.jpg

Mortgage Discharge To Dexter Moore, May 4, 1835

One report describes Dr. John Wilson's son---John C. Wilson, possibly John Chamberlain Wilson---some reports indicate John R. Wilson, possibly John Robert Wilson---visiting Brattleboro over forty years after his father's death. He is said to have cleaned and repaired the physician's gravestone. This report has some passing credibility.

Abigail Chamberlain, Dr. John Wilson, Marriage.jpg

Dr. John Wilson and Abigail Chamberlain---the daughter of Selah Chamberlain, Sr.---were married in Dummerston on Sunday, April 13, 1834 by the Methodist minister from Dover and Newfane, Rev. William Henry Hodges. Their son John was born in 1835, but it was difficult---

Dr. John Wilson, Abigail Chamberlain, December 1, 1836.jpg

In the case of Wilson vs. Wilson, the lawyers Asa Keyes, Esq. and John Dorr Bradley represented Abigail in her petition for a Bill of Divorce, which was granted following an ex parte hearing in which Abigail claimed that Dr. John Wilson had "treated your Petitioner with intolerable severity". The Bill of Divorce was granted on February 14, 1838, with Marshall Miller, Clerk, officiating.

Abigail subsequently married, second, John Plummer of West Brattleboro. His first wife was Abigail's sister Elvira, who died on March 29, 1844 at age thirty-six. Then Abigail died on April 1, 1845. The deaths of two daughters-in-law from the same Chamberlain family in rapid succession may have contributed to the demise of John Plummer, Jr., as recorded in the Vermont Phoenix for Thursday, September 25, 1845---

Mr. John Plummer, of West Brattleboro, committed suicide early last Sunday morning, by cutting his throat with a butcher's knife, which had been made very sharp. His intention to make way with himself had been for some time suspected---he had himself, indeed, previously told his friends to keep all edge tools away from his sight, saying that his mind was sometimes strangely inclined to do himself harm. The greatest possible care was therefore observed, and his nephew had slept in the room with him, in order to have a better opportunity to watch him. Mr. Plummer had been in the habit of rising early of mornings, and smoking. On Sunday morning he arose as usual, and had been out of the room but a moment, when his nephew heard a noise, as of water plashing upon the floor. He immediately got up, and proceeding to the spot where he thought he heard the noise, found his uncle just in the act of falling, his throat being cut from ear to ear with a terrible gash.

Mr. Plummer was 68 years of age, was a man of some property, and had been highly esteemed here as one of our best and most useful citizens.

Their son lived on the District No. 6 farm of Eben Putnam following Dr. Wilson's death, and moved at about the age of twenty to Cleveland, Ohio to live with wealthy relations---William Selah Chamberlain, the steamboat and railroad magnate. John Wilson went to the California gold fields, and died, leaving his family.

Son John Wilson inherited a property on the east side of Church Street, directly opposite the Wesselhoeft Water Cure and up the lane from the Lawrence Water Cure. Dr. John Wilson probably bought this land when he became aware that the first railroad to arrive in Brattleboro would take his house on the Vernon Road.

Dr. Wilson named his long-time great friend Gardner C. Hall as his son's guardian.


Gardner C. Hall

Son John married Mary D. Worden, who lived in South Newfane. She was the daughter of Asa Worden, Jr. Their life together was short. When the grand-daughter of Dr. John Wilson was born, John R. Wilson was living in California---reportedly attracted by gold.

Ellen C. Wilson---"Nellie"---was this grand-daughter. The middle initial "C" stands for Cordelia, a memory for the faithful daughter to King Lear in Shakespeare's play by that name. Nellie lived for years in a house on Elm Street in Brattleboro with her husband, Henry Franklin Brown, who hailed from East Dover. They both died in 1916.

Mrs. Nellie Brown had a son---Stuart Henry Brown. And a grand-daughter---Marjorie M. Brown, who was eighteen years old when she attended her uncle Charles F. Brown's funeral in Brattleboro in 1932. Marjorie was still living in West Haven, Connecticut the following year.

Dr. John Wilson, Shingle Machine, March 9, 1835.jpg

Vermont Phoenix, March 27, 1835.

Dr. John Wilson's brother Robert was a Boston slate importer, with his main office in Court Street, near the haberdashery of John Morrison. His business connections with the Lion Tavern were announced in the Boston Daily Advertiser for August 1, 1823---

Robert Wilson, Lion Tavern, Boston Daily Advertiser, August 1, 1823, Slating.jpg

The Lion Tavern adjoined the Lamb Tavern along Washington Street near West Street. The stables for the Lamb were in Hog Alley, off West Street. In this engraving by John Ritto Penniman and Abel Brown, the large building behind the Lamb Tavern is a dining hall and ballroom annext built in 1822---

The Lamb Tavern, John Ritto Penniman, Abel Bowen, Lion Tavern, Washington Street.jpg

This architectural play on "and the lion shall lie down with the lamb" was no doubt appreciated by Michael Martin, alias Lightfoot, who was a guest at the Lamb Tavern in 1821.

John Morrison was born in Lanark, Scotland on July 29, 1805 and came to Boston about 1819. Morrison proved to be a life-long friend to Dr. John Wilson until his death in New York City on November 23, 1876. He was a haberdasher, with a private residence on Myrtle Street, just beyond the rise of Beacon Hill, and an easy stroll from the Lion Tavern.

Thunderbolt Examiner, October, 1847 Brattleboro.jpg

The editor of the Thunderbolt Examiner, job printer John B. Miner, was a rare publisher, to reprint John Morrison's letter to the Boston Post's editor Charles Gordon Greene, which was first printed on Saturday morning, August 28, 1847.

John Morrison defended his friend at length during the months following his death on March 22, 1847, and in the process refers to Dr. Wilson's daughter Maria Wilson, whose existence was not previously suspected in Brattleboro. Maria was born illegitimate in 1809, and her mother was Janet Latta of Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Maria Wilson married Hugh McKerrow Begg, a master blacksmith, lived in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, and raised eight children. Janet Begg, born December 3, 1842, was named for her grandmother, and John Wilson Begg, born December 1, 1844, was named for his grandfather and lived until March 15, 1897.

Janet Latta married John Hunter in 1812, and John Wilson departed for the College of Glasgow.

"Captain Thunderbolt."

To the Editor of the Boston Post

Dear Sir:---

As you have been instrumental, unintentionally I presume, in giving publicity to what I am convinced are some very erroneous charges in relation to my late friend Dr. John Wilson, of Brattleboro, Vermont, will you therefore do me the favor, as well as an act of justice to the memory of Dr. W. and his relatives and friends who survive him, to publish the following statement; for I think you will be satisfied that Mr. W.'s conduct has been grossly misrepresented, and his character aspersed.

I became acquainted with him in 1818, after his arrival at Boston. His brother Robert was then in Boston, a respectable man and a slater. Dr. W. was in the habit of visiting at my house and store up to December, 1819, when I removed to N. York. After he removed to Newfane, Vermont, we corresponded to within a few years of his death, and never heard any thing to his discredit until a paper was sent me which contaiined the vile charges that have been heaped on his character since his decease.

The following extracts are from a letter from his son-in-law, Hugh Begg, dated at East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland, July 29, 1847:

"The very day that I received your letter, I saw the same story (meaning the story about Captain Thunderbolt, &c.,) in the Glasgow Herald. When I read your letter to my wife she was like to go distracted. I think this a notorious lie.---When he left Muirkirk, (his native place) to go to his brother at Boston, he was loved by every person that knew him, he was so clever. The lame leg he had was burned in the Muirkirk Iron Works, when he was a boy, and he had to go on crutches for many months. If ever he has behaved badly it must have been after he went to America, for he was well brought up. His father was a respectable, religfious man. My wife is much respected, when she goes to Muirkirk, for her father's sake."

This much from Dr. W.'s son-in-law, as to what he has heard said about him, for he did not know him personally. Mr. Begg refers me to Mr Adam McCall, Post Master at Muirkirk, as he knew Dr. W. all his life time up to the time that he left for Boston, if I desire further information.

I am authorized by John Boyd, who is well known as the keeper of an Oyster Saloon, &c., in South street, Baltimore, to say, that he was at school with John Wilson, in Muirkirk, when they were about 8 or 9 years old, and that Wilson was then lame, and that he never, till now, heard any thing to his discredit.

I am likewise authorized, by Dr. D. G. Watson, No. 26 South 13th street, Philadelphia, to say, that they were at the College in Glasgow, from 1812 to 1815, and that Wilson was then lame and walked on the point of his toes with one of his feet, and that he has never heard any thing to his disparagement till now.

In 1820 Dr. W. came to New York, took passage for Liverpool, purchased a cargo of slates for his brother, and took them to Boston. I might enumerate more cases as regards my knowledge of Dr. W., but do not wish to be tedious, or take up more than enough of your paper to vindicate the character and rebut the slanders that have been so widely circulated, to the injury of his memory and the great grief of his relatives and friends.

I now ask, is his lameness when a child not triumphantly accounted for. Is not his whereabouts fully accounted for up to 1815? And notwithstanding, I have no minute account of where he was from 1815 to '18, excepting that he was attending the Medical School, Lectures, &c., in Edinburg, is it fair to presume, or reasonable to suppose, that in that time he committed the crimes that are laid to his charge under the cognomen of Captain Thunderbolt? The idea is absurd and preposterous. At the time the crimes were committed, Wilson could only have been about 23 years old.

The stories that have been circulated about his desiring to be buried in his clothes, jewelry, dirks, pistols, &c., has been disproved by Mr. L. G. Mead, who took possession of Mr. Wilson's papers, &c., after his death. If Dr. Wilson was the notorious outlaw, highwayman, &c., which he has been said to be, is it at all presumable that he would have gone to England deliberately, as he did in 1820, thereby subjecting himself to exposure and capture for his crimes, knowing that an enormous price had been set on his head by the Government of Britain?

I who knew him, and was with him when he sailed for Liverpool, do not believe he was such a fool. Neither do I believe he was a rogue, or guilty of the crimes laid to his charge, but believe that he was more honest than his calumniators. For this reason I stand forth to redeem his memory from unmerited cunsure and condemnation. 'As ye would that others should do unto you,' &c.

John Morrison.

135 Chatham street, New York; and from 1813 to 1824, of the firm of Leach & Morrison, Court Street, Boston.

Dr. Gavin Watson was born in Pettinain, Lanarkshire, Scotland on June 20, 1796 and studied medicine for a year before taking a four year course at the University of Glasgow during 1813-1817. He then practiced in his native Lanarkshire at Stonehouse, before emigrating to Philadelphia in 1823, where he died on October 28, 1858.

John Boyd conducted his oyster saloon, bar, and coffee house at 9 South Street in Baltimore. During March 1846, Edgar Allen Poe was broke but borrowing in Boyd's establishment, taking two drinks of whiskey and speaking with newspapermen, nervous, downcast, then turned to the printer Robert DeUnger and advised on the joys and sorrows in marriage.

Robert Wilson purchased the slate quarry that is located in the extreme north-east corner of Guilford, in the present Fort Dummer State Park, in 1812 and sold it finally in 1824, when he removed to New Haven, and eventually to Woodbridge, Connecticut.

Beginning in 1819 and until his departure for Connecticut, Robert Wilson was a strong supporter of the Baptist Foreign Mission Society. He slated the roof on the brick house owned by his friend and fellow Baptist Lewis Hersey.

Robert Wilson Family, Circa 1860, Woodbridge, Connecticut.jpg

Robert Wilson's Family, About 1860

Photograph By A. S. Gear

Robert Wilson married Elizabeth McHoggan on December 7, 1831 in New Haven. Their children were Rebecca, Amaryllis, Elizabeth, Robert, Ellen, Sereno Davis, Ira, and David. Dr. John Wilson visited his brother in Woodbridge, and lived to see all his nieces and nephews, with the single exception of David. Robert Wilson died in 1852.

Capt. William S. Brooks most likely brought Dr. Wilson from the West Indies to Boston, Massachusetts in 1818, and thence to Dummerston by stagecoach through Chesterfield, New Hampshire, accompanied by the merchant and future closest friend in Brattleboro---Gardner C. Hall.

Robert Wilson placed his fugitive brother John with his associate in the slate business, the blacksmith Peter Willard of East Dummerston. John Wilson lived at the Peter Willard Tavern for several years. He built a new brick blacksmith shop for Willard which stood slightly to the south from the tavern. This brick shop later served as Samuel Wheeler's cider-house.

Dr. John Wilson, Autographed Flyleaf, February 3, 1819 Boston, Loaned To Asa Miller.jpg

Harry R. Lawrence, a Brattleboro antique dealer and collector of Dr. Wilson memorabilia, made this notation in the brown leather scrapbook that he entrusted to the Brattleboro Free Library, that was destroyed during "restoration" by a library "mentor" about twenty years ago---

This leaf with John Wilson's autograph was in a book which he loaned to Asa Miller. Mrs. Cyrene Bemis found the book among a lot of things she purchased at Miller's auction; it was well worn out, binding torn and shaky. Herbert C. Pratt gave her 25 cts. for it, tore out the autograph leaf and destroyed the book. Pratt sold to George C. Bardwell in 1885, and he to H. R. Lawrence in 1907.

The John Wilson publishing firm in Boston stood along Washington Street, not far north from the Lion Tavern, and Dr. Wilson could easily have purchased this book with its later disengaged flyleaf there.

In 1820 Dr. Wilson went to New York City and booked passage for Liverpool, where he purchased a cargo of slate for his brother Robert, along with an excellent Paterak over-and-under tap action flintlock pistol, and returned with it all to Boston. Slate was excellent for ships' ballast, especially when sailing freighted with extremely light cotton.

Dr. John Wilson, Captain Thunderbolt, House, Saw Mill, Vernon Road, Brattleboro, Vermont.jpg

Dr. John Wilson's House And Saw Mill On The Old Vernon Road

View Toward The Southwest

This house, saw, and shingle mill were on a lot with 495 feet fronting the east side of the Vernon Road, with a picket fence running the entire length. The lot was eighty-two feet wide. In the following year 1835, Dr. Wilson purchased three more adjoining lots.

The former long-time Brattleboro Town Clerk Stephen Greenleaf, Jr. wrote a letter to family in Ohio in 1836, describing the "sawmill, put in motion by steam power, and supplied with logs from the river, drawn to the mill-carriage by the same power". Apparently chains with grappling hooks lifted the logs from the channel that lay between the shore and Root's Island.

Samuel Root sold this one lot to Dr. John Wilson on January 7, 1834. During the following month, Dr. Wilson purchased two shearing machines for his saw mill from Francis Goodhue. The house he then built is an early timber frame structure. Overlapping planks formed the house eaves, and shingles from his own mill protected its roof. Dr. Wilson's neighbors in 1834 were the Thomas, Woodcock & Co. blacksmith shop, and an iron foundry.

Dr. John Wilson, Custom Logs, October 13, 1836.jpg

Samuel Root sold more lots to Dr. Wilson on February 7, 1835, expanding the holdings to the west and south, including the garden formerly belonging to David Burt, just across the road from John Wilson's house. An early plank road ran by the house, and Dr. Wilson and his business partler Thomas Arnold were each paid $10.37 on May 13, 1837 by the Town of Brattleboro for providing the planks for it---

Dr. John Wilson, Plank Road, 1837.jpg

Dr. John Wilson, Letter To Capt. James A. Chase.jpg

Dr. John Wilson's Letter To Capt. James A. Chase

Captn Jas. A. Chase

Dear sir

Though loathe I am oblidged
to call on you for $40: to help me in the payment of
the $40. note Capt B: to Genl J. Hunt which is due about
the middle of the month --- I should not have made
this call were it not for the above circumstance--which you
are already acquainted with -- also the scarsity of money
which hangs at present over us all.

I am Dear sir yours
most Respectfully
Dr Jno Wilson

This letter was found in January 1940 in a house on Spruce Street that had been built by James A. Chase. His daughter, Harriet S. Chase, Mrs. Horace Erastus Bixby, remembered being treated by Dr. Wilson with hot griddle cakes on her chest for a childhood case of pneumonia.

Horace E. Bixby was a child himself when Dr. Wilson wrote this medical receipt for Lincoln Bixby's records---

Dr. John Wilson, Lincoln Bixby April 16, 1828 Medical Receipt.jpg

Received from Mr Lincoln Bixby One
Dollar being in full of all demands
that he owes me up till this date 16th
April 1828 Dr Jno Wilson New Fane Vt

Henry Burnham records that this steam saw mill failed because "The old-fashioned cylinder boilers required so much fuel, to create the needful power, the mill proved an unprofitable investment. Arnold disappeared, and the mill for several years was useless property on the hands of the Doctor."

Dr. John Wilson, Steam Saw Mill, February 1, 1838.jpg

Abby E. Estey, Mrs. Levi K. Fuller, recollected Dr. John Wilson in her 1912 address---

. . . was called Bridle-path. It began on Hudson Street and went through my grandfather's yard down a rather steep hill, which was always green both sides of the path, and ended in Vernon Road. I have seen men on horseback ride down the path; I remember asking my grandmother why people rode through her yard, and she said they had a right to it as it was a legally laid out path. I saw Dr. Wilson pass by one day on his way to his home at the foot of the hill, and I also remember my grandma lifting me up to look into the window of the kitchen of his home, after his death, before any one ever thought of his being "Thunderbolt"---a good doctor and a kind man. My grandma said that she would show resentment if anyone said that he was the noted robber.

Dr. John Wilson, David J. Weld's Kentucky Rifle, Abby Estey Fuller's Flintlock Pistols, Henry G. Clark's Canes.jpg

Owned By Dr. John Wilson

David J. Weld's Kentucky Rifle

Abby Estey Fuller's Flintlock Pistols

Henry G. Clark's Canes

Harry R. Lawrence described the opened cane pictured here, formerly owned by Henry Clark, in a letter dated May 24, 1920 to Miss Adelia Barrows of Hinsdale, as an "ivory top, bamboo cane, square blade stamped Solingen, Germy, a beautiful yet terrible weapon . . ."

Dr. John Wilson had many patients in both Vermont and New Hampshire, among the accident-prone slate and granite quarry workers.

John Wilson's father-in-law was Selah Chamberlain, Sr., who made a great fortune in providing Dummerston granite for the railroads in Vermont, New York, and Ohio. Chamberlain provided the granite for the Williston Block on Main Street in Brattleboro, and for the front steps to his own Centre Congregational Church.

Jennie Chamberlain, Lady Naylor Leyland.jpg

Selah Chamberlain, Sr. had a son, William Selah Chamberlain, whose daughter---Jennie Wilson Chamberlain---married in 1889 the Captain of the Second Life Guards, Sir Herbert Scarisbrick Naylor-Leyland, 1st Baronet. They lived in London's Hyde Park House, Albert Gate, and at their country seat at Lexden Park, Colchester.

Jennie was considered to be a great beauty in her day. Her wit helped to promote her husband's political career in Parliament, which ended suddenly with his death of laryngitis at the age of thirty-five in 1899.

The respected Keene, New Hampshire physician and medical historian Dr. Gardner C. Hill became interested in Dr. John Wilson through his patient Mary L. Norcross, a member of the Dummerston family that owned the "Norcross ferry" across the Connecticut River. When Dr. Wilson first arrived here in 1818, he crossed from Chesterfield to Brattleboro on the Norcross ferry. Mary L. Norcross (Black) lived for over one hundred years.

John Wilson was also a teacher for two terms during 1818-1819 at the District No. 3 schoolhouse---built by 1793--- which had been removed by oxen team the year before to just across the "Great Road" from the Peter Willard Tavern.


District No. 3 School House

East Dummerston, Vermont

John Wilson also taught a semester in District No. 1 in Dummerston Center, in a frame building built in 1801, which stood east of the brook on the Common. During these years Wilson was acquaited through the school system with Captain James A. Chase, and with Alvine Knapp, who had taught school in District No. 4 on Putney West Hill, and his wife Rinda Fuller.


Dr. Sewall Walker, 1821, Portrait By Dr. John Wilson.jpg

Dr. Sewall Walker In 1821

Silk, Gilt Paint, Ink Sketch

Wood Frame With Metal Ring Not Shown

Dr. John Wilson sketched Dr. Sewall Walker in 1821. Dr. Walker became a life-long physician in Dummerston. The sketch was inherited by Alexander Campbell Walker, the doctor's son and namesake of the Hon. Alexander Campbell, M. D. resident in Saxton's River---

Hon. Alexander Campbell, M. D.jpg

Alexander Campbell, M. D.

The sketch was kept by Alexander C. Walker's widow, Mary Miller, the daughter of Henry H. Miller of Dummerston until she donated it to the Historical Society of Windham County. Sewall Walker and John Wilson were probably apprentices in Putney, learning American medical practice.


Dr. Sewall Walker

Later Sketch After Dr. Wilson In Detail


While still boarding at the Willard tavern, John Wilson met his first American patient, Lucy Shaw, Mrs. Mason Drown.

Dr. Charles S. Caverly, the Rutland physician and member of the Vermont State Board of Health, wrote that Dr. John Wilson had attended classes at the Academy of Medicine at Castleton, Vermont. Dr. Wilson needed this in order to be allowed as a physician in Vermont.

From the records in Williamsville, it seems likely that Dr. Wilson acquired the practice which had been built up by Dr. John Morse in Newfane---and eventually sold his practice to Dr. Orville Poole Gilman, shortly before he removed to the Vernon Road, or, the River Road as it was then called, in Brattleboro.

Dr. Wilson advertised himself in an early Brattleboro directory as an "eclectic physician"---that is, one who follows the general precepts of the Eclectic School of medicine. He was praised by Dr. Cyrus Washburn of Vernon, and Dr. John L. Dickerman of Brattleboro once consulted with him in March 1824 in West Dummerston in the case of Captain Seth Briggs.

Mrs. Nellie Brown served on the Memorial Day Committee in Brattleboro, which was responsible for presenting the ceremonies honoring Civil War soldiers buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery. This lone and loyal grand-daughter likely tended the grave site for Dr. John Wilson, until her death years later.

Dr. Gardner C. Hill, George Norman Smith, Collections Display, Benjamin A. Crown Photograph.jpg

Benjamin A. Crown photographed this Thunderbolt board display. Dr. Gardner C. Hill of Keene, New Hampshire contributed the folding abscess lancet, the foreign body eye spud, and the horn shield fleam, which was later owned by John E. Gale. This medical historian named three former patients of Dr. Wilson---Mary L. Norcross, Harrison G. Wallen, and David Read.

George Norman Smith of Hinsdale, New Hampshire loaned the spectacles, the tweezers-ear scoop combination instrument, the reading or surgical magnifying glass, and the daguerreotype of Dr. John Wilson taken by T. Covil.

George N. Smith's grandmother, Philena Bemis, the widow Lyman Read, and Mrs. Benjamin Smith, worked in Dr. John Wilson's house at the time of his death, "straightening things out", and obtained these items.

Amasa Buckman, Donkey Cart, Main Street, Before Charles A. Tripp's Jewelry Store.jpg

Amasa Buckman In His Cart With Mule

On Main Street In Front Of Charles A. Tripp's Jewelry Store

Dr. John Wilson gave this daguerreotype to Amasa Buckman, his printer's devil and probable farrier, who lived along South Main Street. Amasa was a fellow native Scotsman, and was told to keep the daguerreotype facing the wall.

Thomas St. John, this writer, purchased the George Norman Smith collection at a Northfield, Massachusetts public auction on the evening of November 6, 1995.

This extensive collection---which includes the letters of investigators recording early commentary, often antiques specialists---has been housed at the Newfane museum of the Historical Society of Windham County for almost twenty years.

John B. Miner, August 24, 1847 Advertisement For The Confessions Of Michael Martin, Captain Lightfoot.jpg

John B. Miner, Joseph Steen, Horace D. Brackett, George H. Salisbury

Dr. John Wilson, Signature, Letter To Captain James A. Chase.jpg

Dr. John Wilson, Prospect Hill Cemetery, After 1920.jpg

The Lamb Tavern.jpg

Lamb Tavern And Lion Tavern


Dr. John Wilson's Round Schoolhouse A pictorial and architectural history of the Brookline, Vermont tourist attraction.

Dr. John Wilson, Probate Records contains the names of creditors and debtors to Dr. Wilson's estate, often with the reason stated, as well as a complete inventory of hundreds of items remaining in the Vernon road house, saw mill, and barn.

Dr. John Wilson's House In Newfane in the village called Williamsville.

Dr. John Wilson, Captain Seth Briggs describes Dr. Wilson's treatments for Capt. Seth Briggs of West Dummerston, including electricity.

Dr. John Wilson, Descriptions, Commentary gathers together the scattered references to the Windham County country doctor.

Dr. John Wilson's Stray Horse concerns the six year old sorrel mare that was last seen at the Fort Bridgman farm in Vernon, owned by Col. Erastus Hubbard.

Dr. John Wilson's Remedy describes the doctor's treatment for Wilder Knight, his indigestion.


Rev. William Henry Hodges was son to Abiather Tabitha Hodges, who resided on the farm in Dover, Vermont. William was born May 6, 1794 and commenced the Methodist preaching when he was but twenty years old. Rev. Hodges helped to organize the church and gave liberally to the fund contributed by the Methodists towards the erection of the new meeting-house on the common in 1828.

Rev. William Hodges removed to Newfane in the fall of 1832, living there until his death on February 14, 1849. Hodges taught twenty-six terms of school, and during his ministry of thirty-five years he preached over seven thousand sermons, married over three hundred couples, and attended over four hundred funerals.


James Golder (1814 - 1875)
( ancestors James, William )

James was born 1, 2 on 14 Mar 1814 in Germany ( British subject ). He died 3 on 28 Apr 1875 in Flemington, Strathaven, Scotland and is buried with his brother "William" in Strathaven Old Cemetery. James was employed as a Handloom Weaver, Farmer.

James married 1 (1) Margaret Bell (1794 - 1862) daughter of Walter Bell and Jean Osborn on 17 Nov 1838 in Avondale, Lanark, Scotland. Margaret was born 2 on 26 Mar 1794 in Wellwood, Muirkirk, Ayrshire, Scotland. She was christened 3 on 6 Apr 1794 in Muirkirk, Ayr, Scotland. She died 4 on 13 Feb 1862 in Avondale, Lanark, Scotland.

James married 1 (2) Janet (Jessie) Speirs (1838 - 1909) daughter of John Speirs and Janet Nichol on 28 Nov 1862 in Govan, Lanark, Scotland.









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