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Hiero Tennant Wilson

Merchant, entrepreneur. Born: September 2, 1806, near Russellville, Kentucky. Died: August 6, 1892, Fort Scott, Kansas.

Hiero Tennant Wilson was the son of Samuel Wilson, a Virginia veteran of the American Revolution. Hiero Wilson learned the mercantile trade as a clerk in Kentucky before joining his brother Thomas, the Fort Gibson post sutler, in the Cherokee Nation (now part of Oklahoma) in 1834. Soon after the U.S. Army established Fort Scott in 1842, Wilson relocated and partnered with its post sutler, John A. Bugg. Wilson was appointed postmaster in February 1849 and bought out Bugg’s sutler interest that same year. He held the sutler position until Fort Scott closed four years later.
By trading with local Indians, Wilson gained a level of competency with the Cherokee, Creek, and Osage languages. He married Elizabeth Clay Hogan, daughter of General David Hogan, on September 28, 1847, in Pettis County, Missouri. Three daughters (Virginia, Elizabeth, and Fannie) were born to this union. Having been allowed to remain on site when the U.S. Army departed Fort Scott, Wilson continued his trading operations and became a district commissioner when Kansas Territory opened for settlement in 1854. He purchased one of the former officers’ quarters when the post buildings were auctioned in 1855 and the civilian town of the same name was thus created; it was his home for the rest of his life. The 1855 territorial census notes that he owned seven slaves but he does not appear to have been outspoken on the issue during the “Bleeding Kansas” years. That he remained in Kansas as many pro-slavers left the territory on the eve of the Civil War perhaps demonstrates a degree of empathy cultivated through years of amiable relations with American Indians.

In 1858, Wilson established a mercantile partnership known as Wilson, Gordon & Ray that lasted until after the Civil War. He then turned his interests to real estate and insurance, having earlier served as secretary and treasurer of the Fort Scott Town Company. Actively promoting economic development, Wilson was a local bank director, and advocated for railroads in order to open new markets and spur regional growth. Having for decades made the area his home, Wilson fought against many absentee speculative practices that could harm those immigrating to southeast Kansas. Wilson was also an early director of the Kansas Historical Society.

Although he never lived there, Wilson County, Kansas, was named in his honor. Hiero Tennant Wilson, a true Kansas pioneer, was interred in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Scott.

Entry: Wilson, Hiero Tennant

Author: William E. Fischer, Jr.

Author information: Independent author.

Date Created: April 2015

Date Modified: April 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.