WILSON, WILLIAM REID
WILSON, WILLIAM REID (1839–1897). William Reid Wilson, doctor, was born at Wheatland Plantation, Mecklenberg County, Virginia, on February 22, 1839, to Margaret Cabell (Reid) and Dr. Goodridge Wilson II. In 1857 the family moved to Granville County, North Carolina, where Dr. Wilson started a medical practice and established Somerset Plantation near the little town of Townsville. The young William Wilson began medical school at the University of Virginia in 1858 at age nineteen and obtained his MD in July 1860. He probably returned to Somerset and practiced with his father until he went into the Confederate Army on April 30, 1861. On August 1, 1861, he became a surgeon of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers. He spent the war in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and his regiment participated in the Seven Days Battle, Second Bull Run, the Siege of Harper's Ferry, Antietam, Bolivar Heights, Petersburg Crater, and numerous other actions. On April 9, 1865, his regiment surrendered at Appomattox. Dr. Wilson joined his family in North Carolina and practiced rural medicine with his father until he moved shortly thereafter a few miles to Townsville. On May 15, 1862, he married Josephine Scott Morton of Richmond. They had nine children of which six lived to maturity. Wilson had a rural medical practice which he served by horseback. In 1885 he moved his family, including his parents and sister, to Dallas, Texas, where he had friends, one of whom was Alfred Horatio Belo of the Dallas Morning News. On arrival in Dallas they occupied a small house on Commerce Street.
Wilson bought a house on Ross Avenue and established a medical practice. During his first year in Dallas his wife, their baby, and his father died, leaving Wilson with a grown daughter, two teenagers, and three small children. He married Bettie Thomas of Williamsboro, North Carolina, on January 9, 1889. They had four children of their own. Wilson became an elder of the First Presbyterian Church on January 31, 1886, and was an active leader for the next twelve years. He was on the Pulpit Supply Committee and in 1895 persuaded William Anderson of Jackson, Tennessee, to fill the pastorate. Wilson was also active in establishing churches in West Texas. He served as Dallas city health officer in 1890. The salary was $100 a month. Dallas still did not have a city-wide water system, and most homes had a well or wooden cistern that caught rain water off the roof. These were open at the top and consequently served as a breeding place for mosquitos. To control yellow fever, Wilson began a campaign to get these covered but ran into opposition because of the expense. For this project he eventually succeeded in getting the city council's approval. Small pox was a feared disease and was epidemic in Houston. The Dallas City Council sent Wilson to Houston to survey the problem. He returned and persuaded the city council to vaccinate all school children. This was opposed by some citizens but was upheld by the state superintendent of education, the attorney general, and the governor. Wilson put in effect a free vaccination program for the public. Several thousand people were vaccinated. The total cost to the city of Wilson's vaccination program was $2,678.05. He reluctantly resigned as health officer as "he could not afford the time to devote to the office." In his final report to the city council, he laid out a comprehensive health plan for the city that included building a modern hospital for all citizens, laying a pipe system to supply safe and sanitary water to the entire city, the elimination of all privies and cesspools, and the construction of a city-wide sewer system. All of it was put into effect.
In the late 1890s Wilson was a member of a committee of three doctors appointed by the Medical Association to secure Dallas's first private hospital. As a member of the committee, he traveled to New Orleans and negotiated with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who founded St. Paul's Hospital. Wilson was serving on the school board when he died of pneumonia on December 8, 1897. The school board declared a holiday and closed the schools on the day of his funeral. William Anderson conducted the service.
Dallas Morning News, December 9, 1897. A History of Greater Dallas and Vicinity, Vol. 1, by Philip Lindsley; Vol. 2, Selected Biography and Memoirs, ed. L. B. Hill (Chicago: Lewis, 1909). WPA Texas Writers' Project, Dallas: Guide and History (1940).