JOHN WILKINSON AND FAMILY

 

John Wilkinson was born August 23, 1813, in Bingley, Yorkshire, England. At the age of four years he was brought to America when his parents immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Soon afterward the family moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and later he became apprenticed to the shop building trade in New Albany, Indiana.

In 1835 He built a riverboat which was named “Laurel”. This was owned in major part by John and his father. It represented his total earnings up to that time.

The “Laurel” made one successful trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Alton, Illinois; however, on the second trip it met with misfortune and was sunk in the Mississippi River a few miles up river from what is now known as Seventysix, Missouri. Having lost all his possessions, he decided to settle near the site of his disaster and recoup his fortune.

A shanty was constructed from the wreckage of the “Laurel” and he immediately became a dealer in cordwood, the sole fuel then used by river craft. At first he was obliged to cut the wood and haul it to the river bank in wheelbarrow and sled, but the business soon became so good that he employed between forty and fifty men, some of whom were Negro slaves, and at the end of twenty years he had command of the largest cordwood business on the river. As a result of the high water from the overflows of 1844-51 and 1858, he sustained some heavy losses, but he continued in this very profitable business until the beginning of the war.

During this time he acquired several thousand acres of land in Missouri, Illinois and Texas (he was the largest single tax payer in Perry County, Missouri). His circular saw was the first constructed and used in southern Missouri. He also erected a water power mill near Altenberg, which was later operated by his son W.R. Wilkinson.

John Wilkinson was a Presbyterian, and served in several positions in Masonry. He was thrice married, and when he died in 1876, he left a large estate to Amelia, William and Martha Jane, the only survivors of a large family. He died of congestive chill while on a trip to Texas.

His first wife was Ann Hay. From this union came seven children, of whom only one, Amelia survived him. His second marriage was to Elizabeth Littleton, whose maiden name was Lawson, and who had one son, Thomas Littleton. Four children were born to this union, two of whom (William and Martha Jane) survived their father.

In 1860 a new home was erected on the river bank, and after they had moved into the house, before it was entirely finished, his wife Elizabeth died in the prime of life (31 years old) and just as she was about to be put into a new and enjoyable environment. The planning of the new home was to be for another.

The third wife, Louise Adams, nee McPike raised the three living children but had none of her own. The old homestead, symbol of regained fortune, was burned September 20, 1934, after having served as a river landmark for more than seventy years. It had become known as “The White House”. It will be noted that this old Colonial type of house was fitted with a cupola resembling a pilot house, and its windows commanded a view down river for about fifteen miles.

Martha Jane, the second child of the second marriage, was married to James Henry McPike at the “White House” in 1877. This was the event of a double wedding, her cousin Eliza Littleton being married to George Lawson. A riverboat tied in front of the house, and the boat’s steward and waiters served the wedding dinner in the house. Afterward James and his bride, Martha, boarded the boat and traveled to Alton, Illinois, where he was engaged in the real estate business.

He lived only three years, being stricken with typhoid fever, leaving besides his widow two baby daughters, Birdie and Gertrude. She immediately returned to the “White House” and later to Brazeau, Missouri where she met and five years later married George S. Hatch. He was known as Professor Hatch, and was teaching in the Brazeau High School.

To this union came five children; Alonzo, George, Sanford, Harriet and Genevieve. George and Sanford (Junior) died at the ages of one and three years respectively.

Shortly after their wedding, a home was built on the heights above Seventysix landing. This was a square two-story frame building with a wide veranda completely encircling it. This veranda was a wonderful racecourse for the children, either afoot or on tricycles.

The business at this river point was shared by two landings, Hager’s landing and Seventysix landing. Mr. Hatch opened a store and became the Postmaster of Seventysix. He also turned the large acreage of timberland into fruit orchards, and pioneered the fruit industry in this locality. Fruit grown on the northerly slopes developed a firmness and flavor equal to that grown in the more northern districts. The landing business continued fairly good until 1903, when the Frisco system built a railroad along the river and made river traffic less and less lucrative.

On Friday, February 16, 19??, Mr. Hatch was just about to be discharged from the hospital at Cape Girardeau (he had an operation for hernias) when word came that his home had been burned. Apparently an overheated flue had started the fire which made such headway in the dry framework that very little of the furniture from the first floor could be salvaged, and practically everything on the second floor, including nearly all their clothing was lost. Another river landmark had been wiped out.

During the construction of the railroad above mentioned, one of the construction engineers from Pennsylvania (Clarence McPike) met the family, in fact roomed and boarded with them for several months. He became so well acquainted with Birdie (McPike) that he married her on August 19, 1903, and took her to Cleveland, Ohio. Two children were born to this union; James Leonard and Melvin McPike, the former an engineer in Niagara Falls, New York, and the latter a medical student in Harvard Medical School. James was married to Ruth Ann Barns of Niagara Falls, August 4, 1934.

Gertrude McPike, after leaving State Normal School in Cape Girardeau, taught school in Joplin, where she met a young lawyer, Preston M. Gardner. They were married September 20, 1905. Two children (Virginia and Marion) were born. Gertrude contracted tuberculosis and died in El Paso, Texas on November 11, 1911.

Virginia Gardner was married to Richard Wyonan Grigg of Los Angeles, February 2, 1933. They have one daughter, Robin Ann.

Marion Gardner was married to Lt. William Rowell Caruthers, and has one daughter, Marion Rowell.

Alonzo, the first born of the second marriage, married Stella Barber and lives in Hatch, New Mexico. They have four children, Ruby, George, Alonzo Jr., and Patsy Ann. Ruby and George are students in the New Mexico State College.

Harriet also attended school at Cape Girardeau, and later married George Klobe of Perry County. They were married on May 23, 1929, and have three children, Jerry, Dale and Patricia. They live at Seventysix, in a new home constructed on the hilltop on the site of the burned Hatch house.

Genevieve was in school at Cape Girardeau at the same time with Harriet. She married J.F.D. Howell of St. Louis, where they now reside. Both George Klobe and J.F.D. Howell are World War veterans, having served overseas.


Mrs. George Lawson of St. Louis advises that after the double wedding of Martha Jane Wilkinson to J.H. McPike and Eliza Littleton to George Lawson, they journeyed up river on the “Emma C. Elicott” commanded by Captain Lightner. Two cakes as large as barrels were furnished at a cost of eighteen dollars each. They were furnished by Louise Wilkinson, the stepmother of Martha and aunt of Eliza.