Saturday, May 23, 2015

He Could See the Music

I've found some old newspaper articles that mentioned my grandmother Edith's first cousin, William Jasper Wilson. I had never heard of him which is understandable since the Wilson family was so large.

My great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson had at least 24 siblings so keeping up with the next generation is pretty daunting.
Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1916

The first newspaper article from 1916 mentioned he was visiting his sister, Mattie Wilson Kight in Cortez, Florida. Two of his sisters had married Fishermen in Cortez.

This was eight years before my grandmother left the farm to marry a fisherman and moved there herself. The article called him the "blind pianist."

William Jasper Wilson was born on January 24, 1884 in Dade City, Florida, the first child of Jasper Peter and Georgia Catherine Tate Wilson. The family moved to Oneco, Florida in Manatee County in the late 1890s.
Manatee River Journal - January 18, 1917

His father's farm was pretty close to his brother Ben's and several other Wilson relatives.

On the 1910 Census Willie Wilson was listed as a Piano and Organ Tuner. Since he was living at home on the farm, I assume he had already gone blind. If he was able he would have been helping on the farm like his brothers.

I found several other articles that mentioned him playing music at parties and other events in Oneco and Bradenton.

My great uncle Walt told me his father Ben Wilson left the Baptist church because the preacher accused him of dancing at a party in Oneco. He denied dancing and was pretty straight lace according to Walt, so was probably telling the truth. I wonder if he was just listening to his nephew play the piano.
WWI Draft Registration

When Willie filled out his WWI draft card on September 12, 1918 he was shown as blind and his occupation as Piano Tuner.

Two years later, on the 1920 Census, still living at home, he was listed as a Musician,

Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1929

My uncle Alton Green made a living as a full time Musician for a while during this same time in Sarasota, Florida just a few miles from Oneco. He played the trombone in swing bands so I don't know if he ever met Willie Wilson. Sarasota was still part of Manatee County for the 1920 census and didn't become a separate county until the next year.

I don't know how much success Willie had in his music career. He was almost always called the blind piano player in the paper so he must have been well known.

He died fairly young, on September 8, 1929 and was buried in the Braden River Cemetery next to his father who had died a few months earlier and his mother, who died in 1906.
Braden River Cemetery

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