There is no citizen of Texas who deserves greater credit for what he has done for agricultural development and progress of the commonwealth than Oswald Wilson, who is now secretary of the National Cotton Association and statistical agent for the agricultural department at Washington with headquarters at Fort Worth. His life has been devoted largely to benefiting the agricultural classes of the state and often at a personal sacrifice. He has labored untiringly and persistently to bring before the people a knowledge of methods and of measures that would contribute to the welfare or promote the farming interests of this great section of the country. He has studied along practical and scientific lines and has perhaps broader knowledge of the needs and possibilities of Texas for agricultural development than any other one man.
Mr. Wilson was born at Grooversville, Brooks county, Georgia, October 27, 1860, his parents being Dr. A. H. and Sallie (Groover) Wilson. In 1865 the father with his family came to Texas and cast in his lot with the early settlers of Bryan, Brazos county. He was a native of Kentucky and was a physician by profession. In 1870 he returned to Georgia with his family where he lived for two years, remaining part of the time in Savannah and a part of the time at the old family homestead in that state, but in 1873 he again came to Texas and later established his home in Dallas, where he embarked in the drug business, conducting his store in addition to practicing his profession. His wife was also native of Georgia and both died in Texas.
Mr. Wilson acquired his education at Bryan and in one of the well-known preparatory schools at Savannah, Georgia. When not yet sixteen years of age he began teaching, holding sway over a little school that convened in a log cabin in Coryell county, Texas, his salary being twelve dollars per month. He afterward became connected with his father in the drug business in Texas. On the 23rd of July, 1884, he was united in marriage to Miss S. Eva Glascock of Hays county, Texas, a young lady whom he had met in Austin. Subsequent to his marriage he became connected with the Southwestern Telegraph & Telephone Company, and helped to obtain for that corporation a concession from the Mexican government to build a telephone line across the Rio Grande river into Mexican territory. When this was accomplished Mr. Wilson built the telephone exchange at Brownsville and the southern extremity of Texas, it being the first telephone line into that country. Later he located in Lampasas county, where his energies were devoted to agricultural pursuits and school teaching.
The greater part of his life, however, since he has attained manhood has been devoted to the work of promoting and organizing associations for the advancement of agriculture in the south, rendering distinguished service in that line. While he was teaching school in Parker county in 1879 the first Farmers’ Alliance in that was organized there on the 29th of July by Mr. Wilson’s associate in school work, W. T. Baggett. He became prominent in Texas in organizing farmers’ alliances and in May, 1887 he went to Georgia for the same purpose and subsequently extended his efforts into Florida. In October, 1887 he organized and was elected the first president and manager of the Florida State Farmers’ Alliance with headquarters at Jacksonville. In February, 1888, he returned temporarily to Texas and in connection with C. W. MacCune he formulated the plans whereby the National Farmers’ Alliance Exchange was organized but in March of the same year he returned to Florida, remaining at Jacksonville until January, 1890, actively engaged in the discharge of his duties as president of the State Farmers’ Alliance there. In the last mentioned year, however, he went to New York City to take charge of the business affairs of the National Alliance. On the occasion of his leaving Jacksonville he was presented with a gold headed cane by the employe[e]s in his office there and again in January, 1891, on the occasion of his retirement form the presidency of the Florida State Alliance, he was presented with a gold watch charm by the officers and employe[e]s in the state office at Jacksonville in recognition and appreciation of his splendid services for the alliance.
In 1892 because of ill health Mr. Wilson resigned his position in New York and spent nearly two years in traveling, being for about one-half of that time in California. In 1894 he returned to Texas and has since made his home permanently in this state. He was in the publishing and printing business at Galveston when the storm and flood of September, 1900, came and wiped away his business and his home, leaving him without a dollar. He then located at Houston and the advice and with the co-operation of Colonel Morse, the general passenger agent of the Southern Pacific railway system, he established and was the editor and publisher of the “Texas Industry,” which has since been changed to the “Rice Industry.” It Mr. Wilson who called the meeting at which the rice growers of Texas were organized. One of the first important questions that he discussed in the columns of his paper and through other channels was the matter of obtaining government aid for promoting the agricultural development of Texas, particularly the tobacco industry. In the interest of tobacco growing he formulated and carred [sic] out an aggressive campaign at congress and among the officials of the agricultural department at Washington for the purpose of securing an appropriation to agricultural department in order that he might carry out his plans for the development of the tobacco industry. He spent five weeks in arduous campaign work in the capital city and in the face of many obstacles and discouragements he finally succeeded in bring about the desired appropriation of half a million dollars, being aided in these efforts by Congressman John Sharp Williams of Mississippi and by Milton Whitney, the chief of the division of soils in the agricultural department, and one or two others prominent in public life.
Mr. Wilson’s work at Washington having been brought to the attention of Hon. James Wilson, the secretary of agriculture, he was offered by Secretary Wilson a good position in his department as special field agent for Texas, Arkansas, Indian Territory and Oklahoma. This position he accepted and filled with great efficiency but later he asked to be relieved of the duties of traveling and accordingly the department gave him the position of statistical agent for the government, involving only office duties. This position he still fills.
Another work which Mr. Wilson has done that has awakened the admiration and gratitude of thousands of agriculturists in the south and which alone would entitle him to distinction as one of the prominent men of this state is in connection with the cotton growing interests. The increasing ravages of the boll weevil and the extremely low prices of cotton in the fall of 1904 awoke the cotton growers of the south to the necessity for organization and also of the need of a remedy to relieve the distressing situation. Accordingly a National Cotton Convention was held at Shreveport, Louisiana, from December 12th to 15th, 1904, and in this Mr. Wilson took a very prominent part. As a result of the convention the National Cotton Association was organized, of which Mr. Wilson was elected secretary with E. S. Peters of Calvert, Texas, as president. Immediately on the adjournment of the convention he returned to Fort Worth, which has been his home since 1903 and entered upon the duties of the secretary ship in carrying out the plans of the association, which, briefly, consist of reducing the cotton crop at least 25 per cent and the diversification of crops. To carry out this plan the cotton growing states have been organized into school-house and precinct organizations, the intention being to have every cotton grower a member.
. . . .The work that the National Cotton Association has been doing is bearing fruits in more ways than one and it has secured the co-operation of people of all classes who are anxious for the best development of the state. Mr. Wilson has been carrying forward the work with great energy and not the least of his efforts are toward getting the farmers, the bankers, the merchants and business men generally to co-operate in this matter, all working toward a common goal and having a tendency to abolish whatever antagonism there may be in agricultural classes against other classes. Only through such a systematic, well organized work could be accomplished the object for which the asociation [sic] is striving and to Mr. Wilson in large measure is due the credit. Mr. Wilson also originated the map of the cotton crop of Texas, which has since been adopted by the agricultural department at Washington. He has unselfishly and at the sacrifice of his own private interests labored for many years to advance the agricultural development of the south and to promote the organization of the agricultural interests. His services in this direction have brought great results and have been generously commended and appreciated by the most prominent men of the south and by the press of this portion of the country, as having been the means more than any other one agency of developing southern interests.
The home relations of Mr. Wilson are very pleasant. Unto him and his wife have been born two sons, Frank and Harold.
NOTE.—Since the above was written Mr. Wilson has severed his connection with the various interests and positions he held in Texas and is now in Zacatecas, Mexico, where he has large and very valuable mining interests, which he is developing and which are now on a producing basis.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 398-402.