On an October day in 1840, they were auctioning off the personal property of the Edward Wilson estate. Marcus Snow was among the bidders at the three-day sale. The auction took place at the Wilson home located near where the Salt Kettle Rest Area on Interstate 74 is now.
Snow was buying muslin. The cotton cloth was probably purchased for his wife Annis to make into clothes. Snow and Annis Butler were reportedly the first couple to wed in Vermilion County when their wedding took place on January 27, 1825.
Edward Wilson, the Irish immigrant who came to America in 1802 at the age of 17, had died the previous month and was interred in what is now the Pioneer Cemetery near the Rest Area. Prior to coming to Vermilion County, he fought in the Battle of North Point where Francis Scott Key composed the words for the National Anthem.
Wilson had prospered after arriving in Vermilion County and his estate sale of personal property reflected this fact. There were numerous books among the items auctioned. Books were an indication of prosperity and literacy on the frontier. Many of them sold for 50 cents each.
Numerous lots of muslin, calico, gingham, velvet, lace, coarse cloth, vesting, padding, silk, bearskin cloth, buttons and sticks of braid were auctioned. A roll of bearskin cloth sold for $35 at the sale. The coarse, shaggy, woolen material was used to make overcoats. Materials for making clothing were sought after in 1840.
Former state Senator John W. Vance was at the auction and he was among those who purchased muslin. It was Vance who expanded the salt works located on the Middle Fork River not far from where the auction took place. The five men working at the salt works in 1840 produced 3,000 bushels of salt.
Wilson’s widow Caroline purchased numerous items at her husband's estate sale. Among them were slates, encyclopedias, medicine and scales. She was more than 20 years younger than Wilson when they married in 1835 and she signed a prenuptial agreement relinquishing “all right of dower or other provision which the common law or laws of the state of Illinois makes in her behalf.” Wilson did provide for her in his will.
The sale held under the hardwood trees decorated with Mother Nature’s autumn paint brush lasted three days. Hogs, cattle, horses and farm implements were sold under the auctioneer’s gavel. Many of the leading citizens of the sparsely settled county were at the sale.
After Wilson’s estate was settled his widow went east to live with her family for several years. She never remarried and when she died in 1867, she was laid to rest next to Edward in the Pioneer Cemetery.
Donald Richter’s column appears every other week in the Commercial-News. He is a member of the Vermilion County Museum Board.