Written by Justin Brett
Throughout anyone's life they're bound to acquire some responsibilities or titles no matter what career they choose. It's just the nature of things. But occasionally some person comes along who manages to acquire a great deal of jobs and duties in their lifetime, either due to their quality as a person or from being in the right place at the right time. Joseph Wilson is one such individual.
Joseph's father George Wilson was a Lieutenant in the British Navy, who in Joseph's adolescent years retired from service and decided to move his family to Canada, where land was free for soldiers. They ended up settling in the Toronto area where Joseph followed in his father's footsteps by joining the local militia. He would then see combat during the conflict of 1837.
Years later in 1843, George Wilson was appointed Collector of Customs for Toronto, with Joseph in turn becoming Deputy Customs Official. Not long after that, Joseph himself was appointed Collector of Customs for a separate town: the port of Sault Ste. Marie. During his time here in those early years, he was said to have virtually ran the town on his own. Among his roles were serving as representative of the Canadian Government to the First Nations, being an arbiter of disputes, an overseer of fisheries, and commander of the local militia. These are just a few examples, and the Museum collection contains a number of letters authorizing his appointment or promotion in quite a few fields.
Despite holding these positions, Joseph felt by the mid-1800s that Sault Ste. Marie could be improved with a more formal structure to its government. This was something he pushed for, as well as the ability for settlers to purchase their own land. He would also propose the creation of an official judiciary for the surrounding area, which eventually led to the Judicial District of Algoma. While many do not know of Joseph Wilson, it is undeniable that he helped shape Sault Ste. Marie before it even was a city. He may not have asked for all of these responsibilities, but he still took them on and did amazingly. Sometimes a coincidence is something that was meant to happen.
(Information taken from https://www.sootoday.com/columns/remember-this/remember-this-joseph-wilsons-lasting-legacy-3-photos-522393)