Today’s birthday girl is another one of those life stories that begins in East Perry County, but evidence points to her not living here for very long. Only a baptism record is found in our German Family Tree. A baby girl named Martha Agnes Thekla Ross was born on March 27, 1898, making today her 125th birthday. Martha was the daughter of Henry and Anna (Thauwald) Ross. Her baptism took place at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. An image of her baptism record is shown here.
Martha is found in the 1900 census at the age of 2. Her father was a farmer in the Union Township. This would be the only census entry in which Martha is found living in Perry County.
By the time of the 1910 census, the Ross family had relocated to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In that census entry, Martha was 12 years old, and this time her father was a teamster for a furniture company. Another daughter had been born into this family. That daugther does not have her baptism record in our German Family Tree.
I failed to find Martha in the 1920 census. I know she was not included in her parents’ household in Cape Girardeau. I also know that she was later married in Maplewood, which is found in the St. Louis area, and she married a man from Indiana. I looked for Martha’s 1920 census entry in all those locations, but was unsuccessful. So, I will now take a look at the early life of Martha’s husband. His name was James Alvin Wilson, who was born on January 24, 1896. James was the son of John and Sarah Jane (Hall) Wilson. Based on an obituary that I found for James’s father, it looks as if James was raised in a Baptist family. He was born in Folsomville, Indiana. James is found in his first census in 1900 in the Owen Township of Warrick County, which is where Folsomville is located. James was 4 years old, and his father was a farmer.
When the 1910 census was taken, the Wilson’s were living in Boonville, Indiana, another larger town in Warrick County. It is located just east of Evansville. His father was still a farmer.
James Wilson had gotten married to another woman prior to marrying Martha Ross. On April 16, 1917, James married Elizabeth Taylor. I am not going to go into great detail about her early life. She was the daughter of a farmer in Warrick County, Indiana (and therefore, not a famous actress). We can take a look at a transcription of an Indiana marriage record for James and Elizabeth.
Later in 1917, James had a World War I draft registration completed. He is given a Boonville address, and he was working for the Flusher Tobacco Company. It says he was a foreman. This document also states that James had some sort of physical disability.
A child named Irma was born to James and Elizabeth in 1918. Then, in 1919, Elizabeth died at the age of 23, leaving James with a very young child. I located an Indiana death certificate for Elizabeth.
I had failed to find Martha in the 1920 census, and at this point in my research, I also failed to find James Wilson in the 1920 census. So, I lost track of James between the time of his wife’s death in 1918 and his marriage to Martha which took place in 1927. I figure it must have been a difficult time for James, who was a widower with a very young child.
James Wilson married Martha Ross in 1927, probably in August. That wedding took place in Maplewood, Missouri. An application for a marriage license was completed on August 16, 1927. It says that James was from Boonville, Indiana. I have no idea whether James and Martha became acquainted with each other in the St. Louis area or in Boonville.
This couple appears in the 1930 census living in Boonville where James was a coal miner. Irma, the daughter from James’s previous marriage, was in their household at the age of 11.
Next, we find the Wilson’s in the 1940 census. Irma is no longer listed, but a newborn son, another James Wilson, was in this household. This time, James is called a truck driver for an oil company.
In 1942, James had a World War II draft card completed. His employer on this form is the Sinclair Oil and Refining Company in Boonville.
The last census we can view is the one taken in 1950. Both James and Martha were working at a grocery. The son, now 10 years old, is called James Ray Wilson.
Martha Wilson died in 1979 at the age of 81. Apparently, the state of Indiana has made death certificates public for later dates than we experience here in Missouri, because we can take a look at the one for Martha.
James Wilson died in 1985 at the age of 89. I was not able to find his death certificate, even though I did find one for his daughter, Irma, who died in a more recent year. James Wilson, along with both of his wives, Elizabeth and Martha, are buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Boonville.
Today’s tale is yet another one to add to the list of those which beg the big question, “How did the bride and groom from two distant places get to know one another?” In the case of James Wilson, at least it is not hard to understand how he came to know Elizabeth Taylor, his first wife. And he didn’t travel to Hollywood, California to find her.