Pictured above (left to right) Joe Mack Wilson, John Mauthé (family friend) and James Wilson circa 1946.
It all began five generations ago with Richard Wilson. Before the War Between the States, Richard was a schoolteacher in Douglasville, Ga. After joining the Confederate States Army in 1861, he served in the First Atlanta Regiment. Captured at the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn., at the very beginning of 1863, Capt. Richard Wilson was held as a prisoner of war on Johnson’s Island in Sandusky, Ohio. At the end of the war, Richard made his way back to the South with a new skill: clock making. He put his new skills to work on the weekends, working out of the corner of the dry goods store on the Square in Marietta, Ga., (the location is now home to the Cobb County Courthouse). Richard would take clocks and watches in for service on one Saturday (which was often known as Market Day in the 19th century) and deliver the finished products on a subsequent Saturday. In 1868, he had successfully transitioned to small business owner.
In 1914, Richard’s two grandsons, Joe “J.D.” Dorsett Wilson and Homer Wilson had inherited the business and christened the expanded operation “Wilson Bros. Jewelers.” For some time the two brothers actually operated two storefronts. One space fronted the Square and carried all manner of jewelry, watches and clocks and even made and repaired eyeglasses. The other store fronted the busy railroad tracks on what was then known as Depot Street. J.D. had landed an exclusive contract with the N.C. and St. L (or North Carolina-St. Louis) Railroad to time all of the engineers' watches, so he spent the majority of his time in the Depot Street store. Homer, who was quite the “dandy” by the standards of the day and was a charming salesman in the larger space that fronted the Square.
By 1950, it was time for J.D.’s two sons, Joe Mack Wilson and James Wilson, to take over the business. They also operated two storefronts for a time, Wilson Bros. Jewelers and Friendly Jewelers, both located on Church Street just off the main Square. Joe Mack worked part-time in the family business while attending the Georgia Institute of Technology in the early 1940s, and the family remain Georgia Tech fans to this day! Joe Mack left Georgia Tech and the family business when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but he was soon to return to the Marietta Square. Using his separation pay from the Navy after the end of hostilities, Joe Mack invested in new display cases and equipment for Wilson Bros. Jewelers, then located at 77 Church St. Joe Mack and James became fixtures in the community and soon Joe Mack was elected to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1960. Although he continued to work at business when the Legislature was in recess, by 1970, day to day operations had passed to his son, Stephen H. “Beau” Wilson.
Beau started working in the family business in 1962, was running it by 1970 and in 1983 bought the business from his father, Joe Mack. In 1983, the block of buildings on Church Street that housed Wilson Bros. Jewelers was undergoing renovation and Beau moved the store to the space next door. We’ve been at 73 Church St. ever since. Beau and his wife, Janis Ledford Wilson, have been operating this fifth-generation business together since the 1980s. You’ll often find one of their two daughters, Stephanie Janis Wilson or Ashlie Wilson Pendley helping out in the family business as well, but their grandson Beau Wilson Pendley is usually on site several days a week, greeting customers.