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Jesse Wheeler


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 Jesse Wheeler article

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Company D, 31 North Carolina Infantry

Born March 16, 1837

Died March 28, 1914 in Wynnewood, Oklahoma

Jesse Wheeler died of cancer and is buried at
Oaklawn Cemetery, Lot 1, Block 131,  in Wynnewood

His wife was Susanna. They were in North Carolina until 1883, when they headed for Indian Territory, settling in Atoka, then relocating to the Wynnewood area sometime before 1900, where they are listed in the census of that area

Jesse was a Baptist Minister who left North Carolina to be a missionary to the Indians in Indian Territory and was a chaplain during the war

He was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor in 1904.

 Jesse Wheeler
by  Margaret Wheeler, Grand-daughter

Jesse Wheeler was born March 16, 1837 in Johnston County, NC, the fifth of nine children of Jesse and Lurany Johnson Wheeler.  Early in his life Jesse knew that he wanted to be a minister and tried to prepare himself for that profession  In 1855 he enrolled in the Ministerial School at Wake Forest College.

The year 1857 was an eventful year for Jesse Wheeler.  On July 2nd he married Catherine Johnson and in October at the Cape Fear Conference in Wake County he was ordained as a minister and his name was placed on the Roll of Ministers.

In 1859 Catherine and Jesse had two children, Sarah and Charles. Jesse had been the minister for several churches in the area while continuing his studies at Wake Forest College.  By  September the War had cast its shadow over the South and Jesse felt that he must do his part.  Leaving Catherine and the children with Johnson relatives, he enlisted at Auburn, NC, on Sept 18, 1861, first for one year and later 'for the War."  He did not enlist as a chaplain.  He wanted to be a soldier and he was proud of going in as private third Corp. Co. D, 31st Regt, NC, Inf.

On Dec 20, 1862, Jesse Wheeler's name was listed on the Roll of Honor in his regiment.  By April 1863 he was stationed at Fort Sumter.  May 31, 1864, Jesse Wheeler was taken prisoner at Cold Harbor, VA, and was in prison at Fort Lookout, MD.  On July 12, he was transferred to the prison at Elmira, NY, where he remained until the end of the war.  Prison records at Elmira stated that Jesse Wheeler was a minister of the Gospel and conducted religious services at the prison.  ON May 19, 1865, he subscribed to the Oath of Allegiance and was allowed to return to his home in NC.

His return home was a very sad return when he learned that Catherine and the children had died in 1862.  After a few months Jesse went back to Wake Forest College to finish the work that he left in 1861.  On Jan 10, 1870, Jesse Wheeler and Susanna Watkins Rogers (a War Widow) were married at the home of her parents Newbern Robert and Nancy Watkins at Rolesville, NC.  Jesse and Susanna had nine children but only six lived to adulthood.  After serving as minister to churches in Union and Rockingham Counties in NC, Jesse and Susanna decided to move west to Indian Territory so that Jesse could use his training in Missionary Work.  Three of their sons were born in NC; Robert, Jr., Walter R., and James E.  One son, Jesse Y was born in AR and Frank J. and daughter Mary were born in Indian Territory before it became the state of OK.

In 1996 the family settled in Atoka, Indian Territory, where Jesse was a circuit riding minister preaching to Indians and early settlers and any who would listen.  He learned the Choctaw Indian language and could speak it fluently.  It was not unusual for Federal Marshals to spend the night at Jesse Wheeler's house when they were taking prisoners to the jail at Muskogee, sleeping on the floor handcuffed to their prisoners.  In 1900 Jesse Wheeler moved his family to Wynnewood in Garvin County where his sons established themselves in business and professional life and daughter Mary became a teacher.  Susanna died during an influenza epidemic in 1910 and Jesse died in 1914.  Both are buried in Wynnewood's Oaklawn Cemetery.


Complied & Contributed by:
Michael Andrew Grissom

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