Hiram Wilson was born on September 25, 1803, in Ackworth, New Hampshire, the son of John Wilson and Polly McCoy. He attended the Oneida Institute, an institution that incorporated both education and manual labor, and he then studied theology at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, where he joined the group of rebels who left for Oberlin College. He received his theological degree from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1836. That same year, he was given twenty-five dollars by Charles Finney to travel to Upper Canada and observe the situation of fugitive slaves there.
|He returned to Canada the following spring as a delegate of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He then began raising and borrowing money in order to establish an educational institute for fugitive slaves. By 1839, Wilson had established ten schools and recruited 14 teachers, most of whom were Oberlin graduates. His work gained the attention of Gerrit Smith of Rochester, New York, and Quaker philanthropist James Cannings Fuller of Skaneateles, New York. Gerrit Smith's Rochester committee helped supply Wilson’s schools with Bibles, clothing, and money, and Fuller raised much of the money necessary for the foundation of the British-American Institute, established by Wilson, Fuller, and ex-slave Josiah Henson at Dawn, near Chatham, Canada West. The intent of this institute was to integrate labor and education and introduce ex-slaves to the capitalist system in order to make them into self-sufficient freedpersons. The institute opened on December 12th, 1841.|
|Wilson acted as head of the institute until 1849, and he visited England during the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1843. Although the Dawn settlement had a fairly successful lumber industry, the institute suffered from internal conflicts and financial instability. Wilson resigned from the institute in 1849 and established another fugitive haven in St. Catharines. He opened an American Missionary Association school there with his second wife. He housed approximately 125 refugees in his own home between 1850 and 1856. He also established a Sunday school in St. Catharines, but he abandoned his labors in 1861, possibly because of political or financial issues. Wilson died in St. Catharines in April 16th, 1864|