1st Lieutenant John E. Wilson was born December 4, 1881 at Mobile, Alabama.  He had been working as a porter in 1901 when he enlisted in the 9th U.S. Cavalry, one of the “Buffalo Soldier” regiments.  He served for six years, and records found so far suggest he never rose above being a private.  However, since attendance at the officers’ training school at Fort Des Moines  required either being a non-commissioned officer or a college education, one may assume he did reach at least the rank of corporal, as there is no indication of a college education.

After his discharge from the service at Fort Riley, he  stayed in the area, living at Junction City.  His pre-war occupation, according to the 1910 census, was being a house painter.

Wilson served with the 317th Ammunition Train of the 92nd Division.  While he was living in Leavenworth just before the war, he later moved to Kansas City, Kansas.  He was working as a railroad porter up until 1932, when he was admitted to the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Leavenworth.  His disability was listed as bronchial asthma.

Wilson died there on July 27, 1933.  He was buried at the Highland Cemetery in Junction City.  While he has a government gravestone, an epitaph has been added:  “His life an ideal – his memory an inspiration.”

Continuing the recognition of African Americans from Kansas who attended the officers’ training school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa:  https://www.kansasww1.org/the-african-american-soldier-kansans-at-fort-des-moines/

Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.