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Medal of Honor given to museum

February 24, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A Congressional Medal of Honor earned by a Hagerstown native will get a permanent home in Baltimore.

Descendants of Cpl. William Othello Wilson were recognized this week for donating the priceless piece of history to the Maryland African American Museum Corp., which is breaking ground in December.

Wilson's only living daughter, 90-year-old Anna V. Jones, told the Maryland General Assembly on Friday that she wanted to make sure the medal will be seen by many people, especially children.

"I'm so happy to be here this morning that, well, I can't express myself," she said. "I would just like to say it is indeed a pleasure for me to present this medal to the museum."

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Cpl. William O. Wilson was a "Buffalo Soldier," a black man who fought during the Indian campaigns after the Civil War with the U.S. Army 9th Cavalry.

Wilson earned his medal for riding through enemy territory on his way to get reinforcements for his wagon train when it was pinned down at the Battle of Wounded Knee near Pine Ridge, S.D., on Dec. 29, 1890.

As a result, there were no casualties, according to local historian Donald Brown.

Wilson returned to his hometown and married Margaret Virginia Brown on May 5, 1898, and they had seven children.

He worked as an upholsterer, cook and carpenter before he died in 1928.

Wilson was buried in an unmarked grave at Rose Hill Cemetery and rested in relative obscurity until his family began researching the history in the late 1990s.

Brown joined the quest after meeting Jones's daughter-in-law, Mary Jones, at the Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library.

In 1997, Brown found the grave site.

Brown is disappointed the medal is leaving Washington County.

"I just think Western Maryland, Washington County, should hold onto its own things," he said.

Brown had hoped the medal would become the centerpiece for a local black history museum, on display with the late Marguerite "Peggy" Doleman's collection.

But local historian John Frye said the medal will be secure as well as accessible at the museum in Baltimore. The $32 million museum at Pratt and President streets will be nearly 80,000 square feet.

"I can't think of any place here it will be shown, preserved or even respected as much as it will be down there," Frye said. "We just do not have the facilities in this area, unfortunately."

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