JUDGE HENRY WILSON is the police magistrate of Herrin and has been connected with the city government in some capacity or other almost from the inception of the town. He came here while the townsite was yet responding to the toil of the husbandman and has watched its phenomenal growth and aided modestly in its development as an industrial center and as a competitor for metropolitan honors in Williamson county. Judge Wilson dates his advent in this locality from 1896. There was nothing on the site of the future Herrin but a depot and a few frame structures - stores scattered here and there. He built the first cottage that could be styled a home and established a saw-mill in the woods close by and for several years was engaged in cutting into lumber the limited quantity of timber adjacent to the town.
In 1902 Judge Wilson abandoned milling and devoted his attention to the office of justice of the peace, to which he had been elected. Ere this the town had spread over the country almost like a prairie fire and the free and open condition of it gave the local court much business from the unlawful element that gathers in numbers about a new and wideawake place. He was justice of the peace for three years, served also as one of the first aldermen, following incorporation, and was then elected mayor. During his first term the electric line was built in here and a new impetus given to an enthusiastic and strenuous populace.
As real estate began to boom Judge Wilson became a dealer in it, built a few houses as a speculator and as a developer and eventually erected his own home, one of the best residences in Herrin, the same occupying spacious grounds in the north end of the city. In 1908 he was elected as a candidate of the Labor party, to the police magistracy, although he is a Republican upon state and national issues.
Judge Wilson came into Williamson county from near Akin, Illinois, and he was born in Benton, this state, near the site of the Franklin county jail. His birth occurred December 23, 1858, and his father was Larkin Wilson, who came to Illinois from near Princeton, Gibson county, Indiana. Larkin Wilson was born in Indiana, was a farmer's son and married Louisa Martin, a daughter of Bailey Martin, one of the widely known citizens of Franklin county, Illinois. Mr. Martin was a farmer and stockman and formerly resided in Indiana. Larkin Wilson was a tanner both before and following his advent in Illinois, having been engaged in that business at Owensville, Indiana, and at Benton, Illinois. Abandoning that occupation, he moved to a farm and was identified with agricultural pursuits during the residue of his life. He was a stalwart Republican and was a supporter of church effort, although not a member of any religious denomination. He passed away in 1899 and his children were: William, who died unmarried; Judge Henry, of this review; Mary, who passed away in childhood; John 0., a resident of Big Lake, Washington; Charles, who maintains his home at Haniford, Illinois; Alice is Mrs. George Williamson, of Benton, Illinois.
The paternal grandfather of Judge Wilson died in Gibson county, Indiana. His children were: John, who reared a family in Gibson county, Indiana; Mary, who became the wife of Dr. Henry Wilson and died in Franklin county, Illinois; and Larkin, father of the subject of this sketch.
Henry Wilson, of this notice, was educated in the public schools of Franklin county and for a time he also attended school in Perry county, Illinois. As a farmer he was modestly identified with public matters in Eastern township, where he resided, having been township collector and assessor on different occasions. He left the farm to engage in the manufacture of lumber at Herrin and with the passage of time other matters developed to change the whole course of his life.
In November, 1881, Judge Wilson was married, in Franklin county, to Miss Nancy E. Akin, a daughter of Robert Akin, a leading member of the Scotch settlers who occupied a large portion of the country about Benton as refugees from the religious oppression of their native land. The Akins and McClains comprise a large citizenship of Benton community and are noted for their allegiance to church work and as members of the Missionary Baptist faith. These clans perpetuate the memory of their deliverance by occasional convocations where the Scotch dress of the olden time is brought out and the youth of today are made to feel the sacredness of the ties that once bound their forefathers to their native land. The Akin family, now of vast numbers in Illinois, is wont to hold family gatherings at Benton, and this practice has come to be somewhat historic, in view of the programs, the Scotch dress and the sentiment uttered upon the occasion for their forced exile from the hills and vales of the highlands.
Robert Akin married Lucretia Atchison, and their children were: James, a farmer near Miami, Oklahoma; Charles, special pension examiner in the United States service at Indianapolis, Indiana; Jane is the wife of Mandrake Summers, a farmer of Franklin county, Illinois; Miss Malinda is a resident of Franklin county; Nancy E. is the wife of Judge Wilson, as already set forth; Eveline married Whitfield Conover, of Franklin county;
Adeline is the widow of Samuel Shepherd, formerly of Franklin county; Robert is a farmer in Franklin county; Hiram is ex-county superintendent of Franklin county, where he resides; Milton is a resident of Thompsonville, Illinois; and Hannah died as Mrs. William Moore.
The children of Judge and Mrs. Wilson are: Ethel B., of Big Sandy, Montana, who, with a girl friend, braved the environment of the frontier, took a claim and is gaining title to a home in that locality; Charles is manager of the W. P. Rend store at Rend City, where he is likewise postmaster; and James A. is a student in the engineering department of the University of Illinois.
In his fraternal connections Judge Wilson is a valued and appreciative member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Modern Brotherhood of America. His family are devout members of the Missionary Baptist church, in the different departments of whose work they are active factors. Judge Wilson is genial in his associations, honorable and straightforward in his business dealings and a man of mark in all the relations of life. He is a valued citizen and an efficient public servitor.