An early writer and preacher, T. T. Holton wrote about Joseph Wilson and his wife, Ann who preached at all the big Christian meetings. He relayed the following incident that occurred at Allison Prairie Christian Church:
“It was midsummer of 1866, and the sands were hot in the streets of old Vincennes. It was then about six months along in my first pastorate. On many accounts, a vacation would have given me multiple satisfactions. One Saturday morning there came to my door two old fashioned persons in a one-horse, old-time buggy. The man in the case beckoned me to approach, and informed me at once that they were Uncle Joe and Aunt Ann Willson, on their way to Allison Prairie, Illinois, for a week’s meeting, and desired me to get ready at once and go with them. Said Uncle Joe, “I am old and heavy, and am not able to preach. I want you to go along and do the preaching. I’ll manage and maybe exhort a little, and Aunt Ann will put in a word when she feels like it, and there is nothing better on hand.”
“But Bro. Willson,” I said “it is now Saturday; there is no one to fill my place tomorrow. And, besides, I would not think it right for me to go away without seeing some of the officers of the church in regard to it.” “Bro. Holton, I will wait fifteen minutes; you rush around and see one or two if you think it is necessary. And tell them that Uncle Joe wants you, and wants you bad, and wants you right off, for I have an appointment to hold meeting at eleven o’clock this forenoon at a schoolhouse between Vincennes and Allison Prairie.” The upshot of it was, I went. “Get right in with us; it will be a little snug, but is warm and we can stand it.” People noticed us as we passed down the street and over the Wabash.
“Bro. Willson,” said I, “You don’t expect that there’ll be any meeting on a hot day like this, and Saturday at that?” “Indeed, I do. When I was here a year ago, I announced it in the hearing of all that I would be there, Saturday before the first Lord’s Day in August, one year from that time. And I’ll be there and there will be a meeting.”
“Of course, you have written them within a few weeks reminding them of the appointment?” “No sir; not one word has passed between us in the twelve months. But this is the way I have done for years. They know Uncle Joe will be there and I know they’ll be there. So be thinking you’ll have to preach—I give out. _” Aunt Ann nodded that that was the way it would be. Uncle Joe was right. We had a crowd.
Uncle Joe said to the congregation: “tonight we begin a seven day meeting on Allison Prairie and I want you all to be there—this maybe Uncle Joe’s last trip to Illinois.” At that night the schoolhouse on Allison Prairie could scarcely hold the people. After preaching, Uncle Joe talked a few minutes while I fanned him with my huge palm-leaf fan. He told the people that he was there for their good, that he simply wanted to do right, and that less than seven confessions, one for each day was not to be thought of. He and Aunt Ann met with a hearty greeting.
Even the day meetings were well attended. And there was great enthusiasm. It was hot night and day. No one could walk barefooted on the sand till the sun went down. And toward the end of the week, the yard was full. The people were so close to me I could make no gestures, and I was as wet with perspiration while preaching as if I had been dipped in the Wabash. Then I took the fan and Uncle Joe, either standing or sitting, would tell the folks they ought to do right. Aunt Ann did her talking at the day meetings.
The necessity for a meeting house large enough to hold the people was grandly evident, and before the meeting was closed, $1,400 was subscribed to that end. On the seventh and last night of the meeting, four young girls were handed through the windows by their parents and friends and managed to get near enough to the preacher for him to take their confessions. Saturday morning found us at Russellville for one more sermon and for baptism. There were several additions at that meeting. I remember baptizing 22 persons at that time. We had other baptisms, I think, during the week, so that at least 27 additions were gained.
The year following, Uncle Joe was on hand again, making his annual round, and this time he impressed Bro. Alvord into service. Again, there were many additions. He notified me that the baptizing would be done just across from Vincennes; so, a number of us went out and greeted the veteran, and witnessed the baptizing. Here a singular circumstance happened. There was a gypsy camp nearby, and before the meeting concluded an aged gypsy came forward and made the good confession. Upon arising from the water, he put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a silver dollar, and offered to the preacher. Of course, it was refused. He told me he had been a believer for a long time and had greatly desired to be baptized. He went on his way rejoicing.