Fulton Heights has a wealth of stories, anecdotes and colorful characters that have been associated with the neighborhood over the past 100 years. We know that some of the streets in our area, laid out by the Southern Development Company, were named after the original investors. We see their names on street signs each day and probably don’t think much about who these people were—these men of Salisbury who were the cornerstones of our community. But in some cases, the stories of their lives have the makings of a good novel! One such man is William Wiley.
Captain William Murdoch Wiley was a native of Salisbury born in 1863, the son of Samuel Wiley (founder of the Davis and Wiley Bank) and grandson of William Murdoch, the old Scotchman who built the Murdoch-Wiley house on the corner of West Bank and South Church. William moved into this house with his family when he was about 5 years old, and grew up in a home that had the first running water in Salisbury and its own sewer system. But his health was not good as a lad, so his father took him on a Mediterranean cruise to Marseilles, Genoa, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and North Africa. He surely developed his love of travel and foreign places at that time and later studied at the University of Austria in Vienna. In 1887, he married Miss Marion Patterson in Glasgow, Scotland, and brought his bride back to Salisbury. He came by his title, Captain Wiley, because he spent his younger years as captain of a sailing vessel, traveling extensively throughout the “Old World and South America.” He had a wide knowledge of exotic places and was fluent in several languages.
In 1902 at age 39, Captain Will Wiley was the most widely traveled man in Salisbury. “As a linguist, he was the equal of any in the state,” read the Post. He was also a financier with the Southern Development Company and one of the initial investors in Fulton Heights, so his name is with us today. Captain Wiley also became a mining engineer, an intellectual expert whose opinions were sought out by mining companies, and then Director of the Proprietary Mines Company of New York. He spent much of his time at his offices in New York, and also traveled extensively to Mexico, overseeing the actual mining operations of the company. The Salisbury Post often mentioned his comments in letters to family or friends about the rain, drought or cold he endured at his Gregorian Mine or at Zacatecas in deep snow at elevations of 8,500 feet. By 1910, his worldly adventures had begun to take their toll on him. He was becoming ill more often and had “overtaxed himself in giving his mining interests the attention they required.” He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1915 at the age of 52. He left his wife Marion, and one son, Samuel, in Salisbury. In his life, Captain William Wiley was absent from Salisbury a great deal, but in death and in Fulton Heights, he is always with us.
(Written by Doug and Leslie Black of 629 Mitchell Ave.)