Early Etowah County pioneer Joseph Wilson

By Danny By Danny "The Vagabond" Crownover

A boy and girl romance that started in Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the late 1830’s ended in Etowah County in 1840 when Joseph Wilson married Celia Edwards, daughter of Thomas C. Edwards, and a direct descendant of Jonathon Edwards of New York.
    Young Joseph Wilson had followed the Edwards family to Etowah County from North Carolina. He bought a farm on Lookout Mountain near Noccalula Falls, but later purchased acreage in Owls Valley between Shinbone Ridge and Lookout Mountain in the area now known as Turkeytown. The area is about eight miles northeast of Gadsden, and Wilson built a yeoman-type log home near a fine spring known as Wilson’s Spring. Legend has it that the spring was the headquarters for Chief Turkey of the Cherokee tribe, and that the area known as Turkeytown got its name from him. Also, the family has said that this was where many of the Indians were gathered to go on the Trail of Tears.
    Joseph and Celia had several children, one of whom was William Pickney Wilson. When he was about 12 years old, Union raiders under the command of Col. A.D. Streight camped at the spring. The next day, Streight was captured at Cedar Bluff by Gen. N.B. Forrest. While in the area, the Union soldiers turned on the water at a card mill on Turkey Creek with the hope of wrecking it. After they left, William Pickney cut the water off and saved the mill.
    On Oct. 25, 1864, a battle was fought between the Union 15th Army Corps under the command of Major General P. J. Osterhaus and Confederate forces being driven to the south. About 10,000 troops were camped in the vicinity of the Wilson home.
    Joseph Wilson was a pi-oneer in the lumber business in Etowah County and donated the lumber to build the First Methodist Church in 1845. He died at his home in Owls Valley on Dec. 17, 1888.
    When William Pickney Wilson came to maturity, he became a prominent businessman in Gadsden. He served one term as sheriff and founded the Etowah Warehouse Company, one of the larger cotton warehouses in the state, in 1888.
    At his death in 1913, his son, William Mason Wilson, operated it until his death in 1964. His son, William D. Wilson, kept the warehouse open until about 1972.
    Subsequently, the office building was donated to the City of Gadsden and moved to Noccalula Falls Park and curently is being used as a museum.
    The legend of Chief Turkey and his headquarters at the Wilson Spring appears to be reasonable. The spring is known for miles around for its fine water, and many Indian relics have been found on the Wilson land.
    In the old days, the warehouse was a meeting place for cotton farmers around the country.
    The warehouse maintained horse and mule stalls and wagon sheds in connection with the cotton storage area, and many farmers would drive in on Saturdays with their cotton and spend the night on the site.

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