John Marshall Wilson (1847-1918), a Civil War Veteran and Justice of the Peace, spent his entire life working in his native town of Canarsie, within the independent Township of Flatlands. Flatlands consolidated with the City of Brooklyn in 1896; two years later Brooklyn consolidated with the City of New York.
John Marshall Wilson, before serving as a Justice of the Peace of the Town of Flatlands, fought in the Civil War. At the war’s end, Wilson became a judge as well as president of the Canarsie Board of Education. Judge Wilson assisted in preventing a smallpox epidemic and retrieved coal from a sinking ship off the coast of Canarsie, helping avoid a heating crisis during a coal strike. During his life, Justice Wilson received the title of “Canarsie’s Leading Citizen” from his neighbors. In 1918, at age 71, Justice Wilson died of pneumonia in the same house he resided in his entire life.
During Justice Wilson’s life, the Dutch made up the majority of the population in Canarsie. The 1870s brought a large number of German immigrants to the area. They formed the German Evangelical Reformed Church (1876) and in 1877 opened the Canarsie Reformed Church. This church, although German, took the name of the Dutch Reformed Church due to the large Dutch population of the area.
Canarsie underwent significant change during Justice Wilson’s life. At the time of his birth, Canarsie existed as a neighborhood of the Township of Flatlands. In 1896, Flatlands consolidated into the City of Brooklyn, and Canarsie lost its affiliation with Flatlands, becoming a separate neighborhood of Brooklyn. In 1898, the City of Brooklyn consolidated with the City of New York, taking the designation of Borough of Brooklyn.
From the mid-1800s, Canarsie had railroads running through it from the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. In 1906, the company opened a sandpit on Avenue J and East 99th Street. From 1906 until 1936, the Transit Company used this sandpit as a “burial ground” for trolley cars. At the time of its closing more than 100 cars lay buried there. Upon this burial ground now sit two-family houses.
Wilson Playground, located on Avenue K between East 100th and East 101st Streets, contains numerous benches shaded by London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) and ash trees (Fraxinus spp. ). The playground, surrounded by wrought iron and chain link fencing and paved in asphalt, features a camel play sculpture, three game tables, and a yardarm flagpole. Red, yellow, and green play equipment with safety surfacing was installed during a reconditioning of the park in 1997 funded through a $339,531 allocation from Mayor Giuliani. This money also went towards general site work and repairs to the park’s handball courts. In addition to the handball courts, sporting areas include basketball courts and a baseball diamond play area.