True West Magazine, A Joe Small Publication, June 1975, Volume 22, No. 5, page 20; (Partially transcribed, the rest of the article can be found in the June 1975 True West Magazine.)
"JOE AND I ARE GOING HOME" by Dana Cox Funk
"Joe and I are Going Home" -- these words are carved in a small private cemetery near McKinney, Texas. On top of the marker is the carved image of A.M. Wilson's faithful dog, Joe. The stone was ordered and paid for by the man who rests beneath it, one of the most colorful figures in Texas history. Within A. M. Wilson's lifetime he gave away more than one million dollars in money, stocks, bonds, blackland farms and other items of considerable value. The give-away was different from most, in that "uncle Gus," as he was known, denied himself every luxury in life. His home was a log cabin that had been built in 1850. The original homestead dated back to 1849; three small rooms were added to the crude structure in later years.
Born in Tennessee in 1845 to Addison and Ann Moore Wilson, Gus came to Texas with his family in 1849... The Wilson family was very poor and the move West was made with hopes of a better life. Gus was four years old when the trip began. He, along with his older brothers and sisters, walked most of the way to Texas.As a young man, Gus saved his money from the sale of his crops. When a piece of land was for sale Gus would buy it. Mrs. Ritter stated that he paid fifty cents an acre for many of his farms. As he grew older, and stocks and bonds became available, Uncle Gus began to invest. Just who explained to him about stocks and bonds is not known. One of his better investments was railroad stock that paid him $1,000 a month for thirty years... Uncle Gus took part of this money and bought more land; at one time he was the largest land owner in Collin County.
Uncle Gus and his gifts are legendary. New cars became a favorite item for him to bestow. In his lifetime he gave away more than twenty-five. Uncle Gus did not own a car until late in life, and then he didn't keep it. He gave it to a man whom he met in the road one day. Gus asked the man how he would like a car like the one that he (Gus) was driving. The man replied he would like it just fine except that he couldn't afford anything except a wagon and horses. Gus pitched him the keys and told him that the car was his, then walked the rest of the way home. Gus preferred to walk to town anyway.
Mrs. Ritter related the story of how Uncle Gus once decided to make the trip to Dallas to buy five new automobiles for people that he thought were deserving. Dressed in his usual careless manner, Gus was taken for a bum. Gus did not bathe daily, nor were his clothes always clean. His appearance was a shock to the car dealer. Gus proceeded to select the five cars that he wanted delivered. The dealer refused to confirm the sale until a phone call to the bank in McKinney revealed that A. M. Wilson had enough money to buy the cars and enough to buy the dealership if he chose.
Another favorite item Uncle Gus liked to give away was expensive blackland farms. A few months before his death at the age of ninety, Gus held the mortgages on three farms. He told his nephew Ad Wilson, who ran the abstract office in McKinney, to make out a deed to each of the farms to three area farmers. "These boys are hard workers, but they're having hard luck. Just make out a deed to each one of them and give it to them," Uncle Gus is quoted as saying.
Mrs. Mattie Wilson Neal, whose late husband was President of the Collin County National Bank, recalled that her Great-uncle Gus once gave a boy $1,000 because of the impression the youth made. Gus was walking into town and passed three boys working in a cotton field. Two of the boys stopped working to watch as the old man with dirty clothes, unkempt hair and long shaggy beard, passed. The third boy did not look but kept working. The next day Uncle Gus gave the third boy ten shares of stock in a power company, each share worth $100.
Uncle Gus gave 150 acres to the Ash Grove school which was near his home and donated $2,000 for a teacher’s salary fund. (He would gladly give but he refused to be solicited by anyone. Once he was solicited by a local church for a large donation. The solicitor told Gus that it was for God. Uncle Gus replied, "In that case I will deliver it in person.")
On a single day Roy Roberts drove Gus around and watched as the kindly old man gave away $28,000 in cancelled notes. Once a lady in California sent Gus a crate of oranges. Gus sent her shares of stock worth $10,000. The largest give away – deeds to four different farms with a total value of $240,000. The deeds were given to four men who Uncle Gus thought were deserving.
One time, while Uncle Gus was in town, a niece decided to give his clothes a good washing. Upon returning home Gus was so moved by the thoughtful act that he gave her $1,000. So it went.
Gus never married. He confessed to Mrs. Ritter that, "I was always out in the woods hunting rabbits. When I quit hunting I was too old to marry." Whether it was hunting rabbits or acquiring land, Uncle Gus did not have an idle moment.
Perhaps the closest he came to getting married was in 1923. That year the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sent a feature writer to see Uncle Gus. As a result of a double page layout entitled "The Fun of Giving Away a Fortune" was written. The wire services picked up the story and soon Uncle Gus received a mountain of mail.
One day a taxicab pulled up in front of his simple log cabin. Out stepped a well-dressed young woman. She was met in the front yard by the 78-year-old man.
"You’re Uncle Gus, aren’t you? I read about you, and I’ve come to marry you," the young lady stated. Startled, Gus asked the cab driver how much she had paid him to bring her from the McKinney station.
"Five dollars, " was the reply.
Gus handed him twenty and told him to drive her as far as it would take her.
Uncle Gus did not make many long trips but when he did they were memorable. ON a train trip to Utah, Gus could not find his shoes. After searching for some time he was told by a porter on the train that he had taken the shoes and cleaned the axle grease and mud off and then polished them. Gus had seen the cleaned shoes but thought they belonged to someone else!
Gus decided to take a trip to Galveston. He didn’t want to go alone and to preclude showing favoritism, he invited his whole neighborhood. A chartered coach took the group on its way. Before reaching Galveston two men became a little tipsy from strong drink. Gus had the coach stopped and told the men to get off. He said that they could get back home the best way they could. Gus didn’t believe in drinking and smoking.