NAME, Years Elected to City Council

JC Wilson (1844-1897) was on the  City Council in 1887-1888.




JC Wilson was a coal merchant by trade; possibly one of the largest coal dealers on the West Coast. He was also a well-known yachtsman. Wilson was born in New York and came to California when he was 25. He moved to Oakland near the end of his life and lived on Hobart Street (?). After his son died, he and his wife, Agnus Cowan moved back in with his other son in San Francisco. (See below for his other marital life.) Wilson was a member of several boat clubs; his boat was called "the Idler."8 

Wilson's JC Wilson & Co had the contract to provide coal to the Alameda County buildings.At another point, his company was involved in a contract dispute over whether his company or another would be delivering coal to the Oakland Unified School District. The Department of Public Works, Mayor John Davie and John McClymonds, then Superintendent of Schools somehow worked out the kerfluffle.6

In 1894 Wilson had his nose broken in a train accident: a commuter train going from San Francisco home to Oakland jumped the track. At least one person was killed.4

JC Wilson may have been the first city council member to die of a broken heart. In 1898 Wilson's 24 year old son Hugh Wilson tragically drowned in Antioch and Wilson reportedly never recovered.1, 2

After Wilson's death, the distribution of his wealth (reportedly around $600,000) was the source of much controversy. His well left most of his money to his widow, Mrs Agnus Wilson, but another woman, Mrs Clara Gordon came forward claiming that she was his wife and the mother of 4 of his kids. She alleged that he told her he was single and that his name was Mr Gordon and that the pair were married in Redding, California. After the wedding, they moved to Oakland and after she found out his double life, he continued to care for her. They briefly lived in San Francisco before he built a house for her at 858 Isabella in Oakland. A year before his death, Gordon acknowledged the children, but Mrs Gordon had not seen him for 2 months before his death. She came forward when she heard he died and that she was not in the will. She stated that she only sued because she wasn't provided for in Wilson (slash Gordon's) will. At the time of the suit, Mrs Gordon was totally broke.3




  1. "CAPTAIN J. C. WILSON DIES BROKEN HEARTED." San Francisco Chronicle: Feb 25, 1897.
  2. "LOSES HIS LIFE WHILE SWIMMING." San Francisco Chronicle: Sep 8, 1896.
  3. "CLARA GORDON IS AFTER MONEY." San Francisco Chronicle: March 15, 1898. 
  4. "RAN Off THE TRESTLE." San Francisco Chronicle: Oct 3, 1894. 
  5. "OAKLAND NEWS." San Francisco Chronicle: Sep 29, 1892.
  6. "EVENTS ALONG THE OAKLAND SHORE." San Francisco Chronicle: Oct 18, 1895.
  7. “ACROSS THE BAY.” San Francisco Chronicle: March 15: 1887.
  8. "MOURNING A SON, HE DIED." San Francisco Call: Feb 25, 1897.