Wilson Canyon and the Wilson Mining District were named for brothers David and “Uncle Billy” Wilson. David Wilson (b. 1829) came west in 1850 during the California Gold Rush. He returned to the Midwest in 1853, married, and joined the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Wilson participated in at least one battle and was discharged with sunstroke. He then returned to the West.
The Wilson family settled in the Wilson Canyon area in 1863 mining gold discovered in Pine Grove by “Uncle Billy” and ranching in Mason Valley. The Wilsons’ mining efforts eventually yielded several million dollars.
David Wilson died in 1915, a prominent local rancher and community leader. He is buried nearby in the Wilson Ranch Cemetery.
A Northern Paiute named Wovoka was raised with the Wilson boys and took the name Jack Wilson. Wovoka started the Ghost Dance movement in 1890, which swept into the Great Plains with potent political force.