Visit the Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home in Augusta Georgia - Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia and spent 13 childhood years in Augusta.
Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home
The son of Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a Presbyterian minister, he moved with his parents and two sisters to Augusta in 1858, when his father was installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. The future president, then known as “Tommy,” had just turned one when the Wilsons moved to Augusta Georgia. His younger brother was born while they lived in Augusta.
In 1860, the church offered Reverend Wilson a raise and a comfortable new house as incentives to remain. The salary increased from an above average $2,500 to a generous $3,000 per annum. The church purchased the house for $10,000. The Classical Revival 2½-story brick home had conveniences of the day, including gas lighting and running water. The church justified this purchase by explaining its goal of making the pastor and his family so comfortable in this temporal life that his only earthly concern would be the care of his congregants’ souls.
The Wilson family remained in Augusta Georgia until the fall of 1870 when Tommy was nearly 14. Wilson suggested in a speech in 1909 that his earliest memory was standing at the front gate and hearing someone pass by exclaiming that Abraham Lincoln had been elected, and there would be war. He also remembered wounded and dying soldiers, when his father’s churchyard had been confiscated by the Confederate government to use as a hospital. Joseph Wilson, originally from Ohio, defended slavery in a widely distributed sermon and served as Chaplain in the Confederate Army. Young Tommy Wilson witnessed Jefferson Davis being brought under guard through the streets of Augusta after his capture.
While living in the house, Wilson formed the Lightfoot Baseball Club with friends and served as its president. He wrote a constitution and bylaws and conducted the meetings according to Parliamentary Procedure in the carriage house. This started his lifelong fascination with governing and political science, culminating in the U.S. Presidency and formation of the League of Nations.
The Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home is located at within the boundaries of the Augusta Georgia Downtown Historic District. It is owned and operated by Historic Augusta, Inc. and is open for tours, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. An admission fee is charged. Groups by appointment. Call 706-722-9828. For additional information, visit Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home. The home has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey. The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated an official "Save America's Treasures" site.
History of the Mansion
The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson was built in 1859 by local stove merchant, Aaron H. Jones, a native of Eastport, Maine.
Jones, however, never occupied the house, selling it when it was new for $10,000 in February, 1860 to the Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church. Across Telfair Street from the church, the new house was a convenient location for the manse. The Rev. Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, the minister, also received a raise from $2,500 to $3,000 per year. The First Presbyterian congregation was very pleased with its pastor, and by providing monetary and temporal comforts in this life, hoped to encourage him to remain with them for many years. Thus, 53 McIntosh Street, later known as 419 Seventh Street, would remain the official residence of the pastor of First Presbyterian Church for the next seventy years.
The Wilson Family moved into their new home from the former Manse on Greene Street soon after it was purchased. At the time, the family included the parents, Joseph and Janet Woodrow Wilson, also known as Jessie and Jeanie, two sisters, Marion (9) and Annie (6), and three year old Thomas Woodrow Wilson, called Tommy. Later, in 1867, a fourth child would be born in the manse, Joseph R. Wilson, Jr.
The house was two and one-half stories high, built of solid brick, and enhanced with a small portico on the front with balconies on either side. It had gas lights, 12 foot ceilings with plaster moldings and a fireplace in every room. Detached in the back yard was a two story brick service building that contained a modern 1860s kitchen, a laundry room, a wood storage room and two servant's rooms on the second floor. Across the back yard was a carriage house with a second floor hayloft where Tommy met with his friends of the Lightfoot Baseball Club. Here they practiced parliamentary procedure and operated under a set of bylaws drawn up by the future president.
The Wilsons lived in the house for almost eleven years, witnessing the Civil War and Reconstruction. Most Wilson historians believe that young Tommy was profoundly impacted by living through the Civil War, and this directly influenced his reluctance to commit the United States to World War I. Tommy's first memory was standing on the front gate when two men walked by exclaiming that Lincoln had been elected President and that there would be war.
At the end of that war, Tommy watched with Augusta, as Confederate President Jefferson Davis was brought through the streets under guard of Union troops. In 1870, Tommy accompanied his father to see the great fallen Confederate hero, Robert E. Lee during his last tour of the South. Later that year, the Southern Presbyterian Church called the Rev. Dr. Wilson to an important teaching position at its seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. The family moved there in the fall. Never the less, the Presbyterian Manse in Augusta Georgia was the home of the future president for more years than any other dwelling place, formative years that would affect him for the rest of his life.
Chronological History of Woodrow Wilson Compiled by Erick D. Montgomery,
Executive Director of Historic Augusta, Inc.
1849 – Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903) and Janet E. Woodrow (1826-1888) are married in Chillicothe, Ohio. Joseph is a native of Stuebenville, Ohio, the son of Scots-Irish immigrants, James and Anne (Adams) Wilson. His father was a prominent newspaper publisher. Janet, usually known as Jessie, or Jeanie, was born in Carlisle, England, the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Woodrow and his first wife, Marion Williamson. The Woodrows immigrated to New York in 1836, thence to Canada, and settled in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1837.
1849 – Joseph Wilson is ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church and accepts a call to the Chartiers Presbyterian Church in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
1850 – Marion Morton Wilson is born in the Chartiers Manse in Washington County, Pennsylvania on October 20th, the first child of Joseph and Jessie Wilson. Shortly afterwards, Joseph Wilson accepted the professorship of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy at Hampden-Sydney College in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
1853 – Annie Josephine Wilson is born at Hampden-Sydney, Virginia on September 8th, the second child of Joseph and Janet Wilson.
1855 – Joseph Wilson accepts a call to the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in Staunton, Virginia, and moves there with his family.
1856 – Thomas Woodrow Wilson is born on December 28th at the Presbyterian Manse in Staunton, Virginia, the third child and first son of Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Janet E. (Woodrow) Wilson. He is called “Tommy” by his family.
1857 – After meeting members of the Augusta congregation while performing the wedding ceremony of his brother-in-law, Rev. James Woodrow, in Dalton, Georgia, Joseph Ruggles Wilson is offered the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta Georgia.
1858 – The Reverend Doctor Wilson begins his duties as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, on the first Sunday in January. He moves his family to the existing manse in the present 600 block of Greene Street. The family consisted of his wife, Janet E. "Jessie" Wilson; his daughters, Marion Morton Wilson and Annie Josephine Wilson; and his 12 month old son, Thomas Woodrow Wilson.
1859 – Aaron H. Jones, an Augusta Georgia stove and tin ware merchant, purchases the lot at the northwest corner of McIntosh (Seventh) and Telfair Street and begins the erection of a two-story brick house with detached kitchen and servant's wing and a brick stable.
1860 – The Trustees of the Presbyterian Church are so pleased with the services of their pastor, the Rev. Dr. Wilson, that they offer him a raise and a new Manse. The recently erected house at the northwest corner of McIntosh (Seventh) and Telfair Streets is acquired at a cost of $10,000 from Aaron H. Jones.
1860 – Tommy Wilson's first memory is standing at the gate of his father's home in Augusta in November, and hearing two men pass saying that Lincoln had been elected and there would be war. Not quite four years old, he ran inside to ask his father what it meant.
1861 – The Rev. Dr. Wilson and First Presbyterian Church in Augusta host the meeting of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States in December.
1865 – Tommy Wilson watches as Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, is led through the streets of Augusta in chains on his way to prison at Fortress Monroe.
1866 – About this time, Tommy Wilson begins his formal education in Augusta Georgia under the tutelage of Dr. Joseph Tyrone Derry. Schoolmates include his next-door neighbor, Joseph Rucker Lamar (later Supreme Court Justice); Pleasant A. Stovall (later Minister to Switzerland); Thomas R. Gibson (later U.S. Consul to Beirut), and William Albert Keener (later Dean of the Law School at Columbia University). Another friend is William H. Fleming (later U.S. Congressman).
1867 – The youngest sibling in the Wilson Family, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, Jr., is born in the Augusta Manse on July 20th, the fourth child and second son.
1870 – The Rev. Dr. Joseph R. Wilson is called by his denominational leaders to become a Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. The Family moves to Columbia in the fall of the year.
1871-1930 – The Presbyterian Manse is used by five successive pastors and their families.
1901 – The front porch is added to the Manse.
1911 – The kitchen wing is connected to the house.
1911 – Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, contemplating a run for the Presidency, visits Augusta Georgia for several days. On Sunday, November 19th he attends church at First Presbyterian and has lunch at the Manse with the current pastor, the Rev. Dr. Joseph R. Sevier.
1930 – After having been used by the Presbyterian Church as a Manse for 70 years, the house is sold to Mr. and Mrs. William Peebles as a private residence.
1976 – The estate of May Booth Peebles sells the property to Bill Moore and Thomas Rosier. They convert the house into a beauty parlor and florist shop and briefly open it as a house museum.
1991 – Historic Augusta, Inc. purchases the house from Bill Moore, at auction for $200,000. The money was granted for the purpose by the City of Augusta Georgia.
1992 – Norman D. Askins of Atlanta is hired as the project architect, and directs a study to determine the architectural changes that have occurred at the house. The team also includes David C. Crass, Ph.D., who directs an archaeological investigation and Erick D. Montgomery, who conducts extensive historical research. The findings are combined into a report published in February 1994.
1995 – Following the recommendation of the report and advise from other presidential site managers, Historic Augusta, Inc. purchases the Joseph R. Lamar Boyhood Home, next door to the Wilson House, at 415 Seventh Street, to be used for interpretive space and support facilities for the Presidential Site. Purchase price is $175,000 which comes from a grant from the City of Augusta Georgia.
2001 – After ten years of planning and restoration, the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson in Augusta Georgia is opened for tours as a house museum by Historic Augusta, Inc.
Hours of Operation
Tours: Monday - Saturday at 10 am - 5 pm - Last tour departs at 4 pm. Groups by appointment. Admission: $5 Adults - $4 Seniors - $3 Students (K-12)
Phone, Address & Website
Phone: 706-722-9828 - Location: 419 7th St., Augusta Georgia 30901 - Parking is available adjacent to the Lamar House at 415 Seventh Street and along Telfair Street.