Search Southern Heritage 411




          Back to the main articles page.


'Uncle Bob', 112, Was Illinois' Oldest Vet


Elgin Daily Courier-News

ELGIN, Ill. (Monday, April 12, 1948) Robert (Uncle Bob) Wilson, Negro veteran of the Confederate army who observed his 112th birthday last January 13, died early yesterday morning in the veterans' hospital at the Elgin State hospital, where he had made his home for several years.

Dr. Sidney Klow, who had attended him, stated that Uncle Bob had had two previous sinking spells in the last few weeks. When the third came Saturday evening, he failed to rally, and died at 12:28 a.m.

Once Farmer, Preacher

The aged Negro was the state's oldest war veteran. War Department records show that he was born to slavery at Richmond, Va., on Jan. 13, 1836. He was in the crowd which witnessed the hanging of John Brown, the abolitionist, at Charles Town, Va., in 1859.

According to John T. Nelson, veterans' service officer, the records show that "Uncle Bob" took the name of the owner of the plantation on which he live. He enlisted as a private in Company H of the 16th regiment of Virginia Infantry on Oct. 9, 1862 and discharged May 31, 1863.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, Wilson engaged in farming and later took to preaching. He had been living in Chicago at the tine he was admitted to the Elgin State hospital Feb. 14, 1941. There he spent considerable time each day reading his Bible. When the weather permitted, he attended church services at the institution.

Gift from Governor

Besides a big cake and a party, the highlight of his 112th birthday last January was receiving a half-dollar from Governor Dwight Green.

The 50-cent piece was sent by the governor to replace a similar coin the governor gave, "Uncle Bob" during a visit to the state hospital November, 1941. The first coin was "for tobacco" but 'Uncle bob" refused to spend it. He proudly dislayed it to visitors and was very disconsolate when he lost it a few weeks before his last birthday.

A private funeral is being arranged by Service Officer Nelson for either today or tomorrow. Burial will be in the state hospital's cemetery.

On The Web: http://www.illinoishistory.com/unclebobdies.html