Grand Army of the Republic
Major Oliver Morris Wilson
Commander 1868

Oliver Morris Wilson was born August 16, 1836, Logansport, Cass County, Indiana. The son of Lazarus B and Mary Barbee Wilson, both descended from will know colonial families. His grandfather Thomas Wilson, of Pennsylvania, was one of the soldiers who received the standards from Cornwallis's army at Yorktown, VA. His father was a soldier in the war of 1812 and participating in the battle of North Point and was present at the Battle of Ft. McHenry, immortalized by Francis Scott Key

A large part of Oliver's boyhood was spent in Indianapolis, after his family moved in the 1840's. They lived in a house located at Maryland and Tennessee streets (now Capitol). The home place was sold about 1872 to his brother Henry, who organized the Board of Trade, became its first Secretary and built its old home, now the Liberty Building. He attended Marion County seminary; Wabash College and Hamilton College located in Clinton, New York and graduated in1858. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1859. He then began the practice of Law in Indianapolis but shortly was made clerk of the Indiana sinking fund commission and in 1862 of the swamp land commission.

In 1862 raised Company B, 54th Regiment, Regiment Indiana Volunteers, and was commissioned Captain on 16 October 1862 and promoted to Major on 01 January 1863. He mustered out of service in 1865. This regiment was active in field service during its whole term of enlistment, serving in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and taking part in the siege of Vicksburg and the movements in the Southwest that followed.

In 1865 he was elected secretary of the Indiana Senate, a place he filled with some ability for six years. During this time he prepared his "Digest of Parliamentary Law." Which was long recognized as a standard authority.

In 1871 he was a member of the House from Marion County and was one the then minority Republican leaders. During the grant Administration he was assistant United States attorney and with that his official service ended and the e remainder of his life was devoted to professional practices.

In July of 1866 he became, along with eight other men, a founding member of the new Grand Army of the Republic. This initiation was performed by General Robert S. Foster. After initiation, Wilson became the Adjutant General of the new Department of Indiana, and would serve as such under department commanders Foster and Kimball. In 1869 he was elected the third department commander of Indiana.

During his term as department commander, January 1869 - January 1870, his Assistant Adjutant General was M. G. McLain, who was the Indiana State Librarian and the custodian of the Indiana State House. Due to McLain's position he secured a vacant Senate committee room for use of the Grand Army of the Republic. It would start the Organizations State house presence for some 70 some years. Before this time the Department of Indiana G.A.R. had been located on the second floor, next to Landmark Lodge No. 23, in the Aetna building on North Pennsylvania between East Washington and Market Streets in Indianapolis.

In 1887 Major Wilson moved to Arkansas City, Kansas, and later moved to Independence Missouri and Kansas City Missouri. Here he was made a candidate for the Legislature, but was defeated.

He was brilliant writer, and produced many papers, sketches, and lectures on the war and kindred topics. One of these was on 'Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg." One Judge McDougall, of Missouri, said, "I doubt if his effort has ever been surpassed by any soldier who wore the blue or gray." He was author of Wilson's Digest of Parliamentary Law (Indianapolis, 1867), "Primitive Governments and Their Parliaments" (n.p. 1880) and "The Grand Army of the Republic Under Its First Constitution and Ritual" (Kansas City, Mo., 1905).

It is ironic that Major Wilson's burial was one day before the dedication of the O. P. Morton Statue on the East Side of the Indiana State House. The dedication took place on 23 July 1907 with the Commander-in-Chief in attendance along with the Vice-President of the United States. In his speech Doctor King, Chairman of the Morton Memorial Commission, stated the following "As a historical fact, to the Union soldiers of Indiana is due the credit of breathing the first breath of life into the great soldier and sailor organization that was, in 1866, christened the Grand Army of the republic. Four men are responsible for the birth of the organization. Dr. B. F. Stephenson was the author of the conception of the organization he was not able to build the superstructure there on, but the mastermind was found in Oliver P. Morton, the builder in general R. S. foster and his no less efficient assistant, Major Oliver M. Wilson."

Major Wilson died July19, 1907 at Kansas City, Missouri and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana, Section 14, and Lot 91. His wife, Mary Adelia Allen, who he married in 1860 died in 1902. His six children and ten grand-children survived him. Also his brother Henry C. Wilson and his sister Alma Wilson who was Assistant Librarian in Marion County Indiana.


Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth Annual meeting of the Indiana State Bar Association, Held at Indianapolis, Indiana 11 - 12 July 1922, By order of the Association, Published by Harrington and Folger Publishing, Pages 73 - 74

A Biographical Directory of The Indiana general Assembly, Volume 1, 1816 - 1899, Published by the select committee on the Centenial History of the Indiana General Assembly in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Bureau.

Indianapolis Star, 1-8-1933, Part 1, Page 15 Column 6

Indianapolis Star, 3-30-1913, Womens Section, Page 4

Indianapolis Star, 6-13-1928, Page 2, Column 2

Indianapolis News, 7-20-1907, Page 22, Column 5

Indianapolis Star, 7-24-1907

Indiana Authors and their Books, Thompson, 1917 - 1966, Page 668


Submitted february 5, 2001 by:
Stephen Bruce Bauer

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