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Wilson papers

Identifier: MS 0833


The Wilson papers contains a collection of personal and business papers of members of Wilson family, principally, Reverend Franklin Wilson, a Baptist minister, and his wife Virginia Appleton Wilson; his son, John Appleton Wilson, an architect, and daughter Adelaide S. Wilson, and granddaughter, Virginia Appleton Wilson. Papers include correspondence, diaries, account books, scrapbooks, photographs, legal documents, church records and records of John Appleton's architectural firm. Topics include religion, architecture, family history and genealogy, War of 1812, Civil War, Baltimore YMCA, Maryland Industrial School for Girls, and Maryland History.


  • 1790-1952


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Reverend Franklin Wilson (1822-1896) was a Baptist minister and social welfare activist. During the Civil War, he wrote and delivered speeches on freedom of speech, abolition, and peace. Other causes he espoused were religious freedom, church taxation, occupational training for wayward women, and the YMCA.

John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927), son of Franklin, was an architect, and was involved in several patriotic and historical institutions. A highlight of his professional career was the restoration of the old Senate Chamber in Annapolis.

Other Wilson family members whose papers are in this collection are William Wilson (1749-1824), a Baltimore merchant, shipowner, and president of the Bank of Baltimore; his sons and business partners, James (1775-1851) and Thomas (1777-1845). Thomas was the father of Franklin. Also, Mrs. Franklin (Virginia Appleton) Wilson (1824-1902), who managed the Baltimore Orphan Asylum and the Baltimore Rosine Female House of Refuge; Adelaide Stansbury Wilson (1860-1925), daughter of Franklin; and Miss Virginia Appleton Wilson (1881-1957), daughter of John Appleton Wilson.


3.75 Linear Feet (9 full Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



Materials in this collection are arranged by series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Miss Virginia Appleton Wilson and the Estate of Miss Virginia Appleton Wilson, 1946 and July 1958.

Related Materials

MS 833.1, Wilson papers, 1812-1896

MS 1066, Wilson and Sons cashbook, 1869

MS 1149, William Wilson account book, 1788-1795

MS 2278, William Wilson papers, 1787-1854

Scope and Contents

The Wilson family papers (1790-1952) concern members of five generations of the Wilson family; however, are mostly the papers of Rev. Franklin Wilson and his son, John Appleton Wilson. The collection consists mostly of personal papers, i.e. letters, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, receipts, deeds, wills, and personal account books, but also contain church records of the High Street Baptist Church kept by Reverend Wilson, papers of the Franklin Square Baptist Church kept by John Appleton Wilson as trustee, and office records of John Appleton's architectural firm. Also among the business records are many accounts of properties and estates of the Wilsons and of others for whom they were trustees or executors.

The papers document the commitment of a wealthy and prominent family to its church, country, and community. The letters and diaries from the early Wilson papers to those of John Appleton reveal the importance of religion to generations of Wilsons and their relatives. Because of the variety of materials, the collection presents a comprehensive view (from the mid-1840's to 1927) of the education, family life, family history, professional careers, and interests and activities of a 19th century Baptist minister and a professional architect. The letters, diaries and scrapbooks of the women of the family are less extensive, but highlight the homelife of the family. Early Wilson family papers are sparse, but are complemented by papers in other collections mentioned above.

Series Descriptions

Early Wilson family papers

Papers include letters (1814-1823) of Thomas Cruse of Alexandria, Virginia to his wife and daughters, Mary (later Mrs. Thomas Wilson), and Anne (Mrs. William Power) discussing religion, family history, and the War of 1812; a floor plan for the Sharp Street Baptist Church drawn by William Wilson (1818); portrait and letters (1822-1838) of Mary Cruse Wilson concerning religion and family news, also a diary of a trip to Bedford Springs [Pennsylvania] by Priscilla Stansbury, a Wilson cousin who later assisted in raising Mary Wilson's children; letter (1837) from James H. Wilson (son of Thomas) to his uncle concerning business; letters of Thomas Wilson (1837-1843) concerning business, and a revival of religion on the campus of Brown University where his sons Franklin and William studied; and estate papers (1851-1890) including wills, inventories, and executors cash books of James and Mary Shields Wilson. Other items include a letter to Emma [Wilson] Teackle (daughter of Thomas) about religion (1839); letter to Dr. William Power from abroad concerning the illness of a Wilson family member (1843); a copy of a letter from Reverdy Johnson and John Mason Campbell to George Austin concerning a Baltimore property (1839); and Thomas Wilson's cyphering book (1790), a notebook of mathematical exercises.

Reverend Franklin Wilson papers

Franklin Wilson (1822-1896), a Baptist minister, was involved in social welfare activities, and was co-founder of the Maryland Industrial School for Girls and the Baltimore YMCA. Franklin wrote two books: The Duties of Churches to their Pastors--Its Acquisition, Investment and Use,and his autobiography, composed from his journals, that was published in 1897. He also edited The Christian Review, and wrote articles for it and the True Union, as well as numerous tracts for causes and subjects in which he was interested. Reverend Wilson's papers are organized under the categories of correspondence, financial papers, legal papers, writings, printed material, and bound volumes.

The correspondence (1844-1896) of Reverend Franklin Wilson covers a variety of topics and reflects his personal stand on religious and social issues. Letters from a cousin, Melville Wilson, and John Davis in Sligo, discuss the effects of the potato famine in Ireland and donations for relief. Relatives discuss family news and financial concern. Some correspondence relates to Franklin's career, and includes letters of recommendation stating his qualifications; affairs of the churches which he served; comments on or requests for his articles and books. Some correspondence also concerns his speeches and writings on religious liberty in America and taxation of church property. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s the correspondence concerns Franklin's appeals for peace and stands on such issues as the abolition, slavery, and freedom of speech (during the Civil War). After the Civil War, Franklin received a letter from A. T. Spalding describing the ruins of a Baptist church in Selma, Alabama (Nov. 19, 1865); one from Mrs. Julia Breakers describing the sufferings of a Yankee in the South (Charleston); and one from Lt. Moore of the 48th Virginia Regiment at Ft. Delaware officers prison thanking him for books.

Among Franklin's financial papers (1828-1897) are those that relate to private financial matters and also to the church. For 1864 there is a list of individual incomes for the First, Seventh, Eighth and Franklin Square Baptist churches. An agreement (1874) with the Bible and Publishing Society of Philadelphia sets the royalty fees for his book on wealth. Among these papers, also, is a Monthly Report of Operations at the Battery Hudson for October (1841) by Captain R. E. Lee, Corps of Engineers Superintendent. The report details the number of masons, carpenters and laborers employed and gives a cash account. The signature has been clipped from the document.

Property deeds and agreements, several versions of Thomas Wilson's will (1826-1845), and estate papers, including his own and estates for which he was trustee (Priscilla Locke and John Loane), comprise Franklin's legal papers.

Franklin's writings (some handwritten and some in printed form) include sermons; a resolution to form the YMCA (1852); remarks on usury laws; an appeal of the Union Association of the Baltimore Rosine for a female reformatory; facts and thoughts about Columbian College; and the Maryland Industrial School for Girls. Included for the latter are specifications for the building for the School, a subscription list, an invitation to its opening and a first annual report.

Printed material collected by Franklin include announcements of meetings at which he spoke (on religious freedom, forming the YMCA, a day of prayer for peace, funds for the education of Virginia soldiers), the first annual report of the Baltimore YMCA, and a biographical sketch of John Appleton Wilson read before the Maine Historical Society (1890) by George Emery.

Bound volumes of Reverend Wilson's papers include diaries and journals (1835-1873), lecture notes, newsclippings about articles in the Christian Review; financial ledgers and property books (1846-1896). Also, church records, including a list of sermons preached (when and where); a book containing the marriage ceremony he used, with a list of persons he married (1847-1896), and baptized (1846-1890); a pastor's book for the High Street Baptist Church that includes annual records (1847-1851) and membership statistics; and a visiting list for the same church recording name, address and date of visit.

Virginia Appleton Wilson papers

Mrs. Wilson's papers include letters from her husband and relatives about family matters (1852-1888). Also, in bound volumes, a group of letters of condolence upon the death of her son, Franklin Hamilton, in 1892; and a group of letters, poems, gift acknowledgements, etc. that concern her engagement and wedding, and include photographs of her and Reverend Wilson taken in 1896. Other bound volumes include a diary, a journal, and a recipe book.

Adelaide Stansbury Wilson papers

Adelaide Stansbury Wilson was the daughter of Reverend Franklin Wilson and the sister of John Appleton Wilson. Her papers include family letters (1888-1902) and two autobiographical sketches; legal papers (1906-1925) concerning contracts, bonds and insurance for houses and property; journals and diaries (1880-1907); verse about her niece and other relatives (in a scrapbook, 1876-1889); a book of rhymes and jingles for her niece, Virginia Appleton Wilson; a scrapbook of newspaper and journal clippings of articles and photographs on Baptist history, including ministers, missionaries, laymen, churches, chapels and colleges.

Miss Virginia Appleton Wilson papers

Virginia Appleton Wilson (1881-1957) was the daughter of John Appleton Wilson. Her papers consist mostly of legal papers (1922-1952) dealing with property, and a school notebook of history notes and poetry.

John Appleton Wilson papers

John Appleton Wilson (1851-1927) was the son of Reverend Franklin Wilson. He was a professional architect who served on the Baltimore Municipal Art Commission and who was involved in several patriotic and historical institutions. His papers are arranged in the same categories as those of Reverend Franklin Wilson's papers.

Wilson's correspondence (1892-1927) contains letters from relatives about family concerns, including family history and genealogy, and his travels. A few letters concern financial transactions on property and stock shares. Most of the correspondence, however, concerns his activities as member of the Municipal Art Commission; the Societies of the War of 1812, Sons of the Revolution, and Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence; as corresponding secretary of the Maryland Historical Society; restorer of the old Senate Chamber in Annapolis; and as trustee of the Franklin Square Baptist Church. Invitations and programs of various dinners and monument dedications are included. Among those declining dinner invitations in 1917 were Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other letters acknowledge Wilson's gifts to the Maryland Historical Society and the Peabody Institute. Letters relating to duties as trustee of the Franklin Square Baptist Church mostly concern financial matters. Letters concerning the Senate Chamber restoration date from 1894-1906, and include letters from Governor Ritchie about the project. Topics in the correspondence include incidents and personalities in Maryland history, architecture, historic preservation and restoration, and patriotic education. One interesting letter to Appleton is from the Superintendent of the U. S. Capitol Building and Grounds answering criticism on the artistic arrangement of the statues in Statutory Hall.

Wilson's legal papers (1877-1930) include contract agreements for building houses; an opinion by the Court of Appeals in the case of Henry J. Berkley v. J. Appleton Wilson; a promissory note for the creation of a Franklin Hamilton Wilson Fund; deeds and title abstracts; wills of Eben D. Appleton and James Teackle Dennis (both 1916); estate papers of Priscilla Locke (1897-1903) and his own (1906-1930). Miscellaneous documents include a passport (1901), and appointment as manager of the Maryland School for Boys (1908).

Financial papers (1890-1919) include stock share certificates and receipts.

Writings (1904-1927) include a memorial sketch of George Freeman Emery (1904); a report on Society of Colonial Wars property (1918); typed list of Maryland historic sites (1922); typed list of personnel of the Executive Committee of the Stone Mountain Confederate Monument Association (with biographical sketches); typed copy of the certified record of the General Entry Book of Prisoners of War at Quebec...; typed history of the old Senate Chamber; typed copy of the First Report of the Female Humane Society Charity School (1803); notes on Maryland history (including Barbara Fritchie's house and Maryland officers in the Confederate States Army); a talk before the Maryland Historical Society; and an autobiographical sketch of himself.

Printed material includes programs of monument dedications, newsclippings on items of historical interest, and a manual of the Franklin Square Baptist Church (1907) with a brief history and constitution and by-laws.

Wilson died in 1927, and memorial resolutions in his honor and letters of condolence and requests for biographical details addressed to Mrs. John Appleton Wilson conclude the correspondence.

Wilson's papers in bound volumes include journals and diaries (1867-1927); architectural notes (1871, 1873) from lectures of Professor W. R. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.; office record books (1884-1909) that are journals of daily business activities; a contract book (1905-1920) of accounts with his clients; a book listing property owned by himself and his sister Adelaide, giving property locations, maps, improvements and repairs, and mortgages; a pedigree book of Wilson family genealogy and a genealogical notebook on the Steuart, Digges and Sprigg families; scrapbooks with news and journal clippings of articles and photographs on buildings in Baltimore and Maryland [pasted in a cash book (1891-1899) of the North Baltimore Land Improvement Company of Baltimore City, of which Wilson was a trustee], buildings, people, churches in the U.S. and Europe, Wilson's projects, and literary, political, and musical personalities.

Guide to the Wilson papers
Under Revision
Edith Prise
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-09-17: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States