Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1880, Wilson initially imigrated with his family to Minnesota. Moving in his teens to Newton, Massachusetts he taught himself the art of the sea painter, capturing the ships and scenes of Boston harbor. He was employed for a time by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. Where he etched ships from blueprints. During the Second World War he served with the U.S. coast guard in the Boston area.
Wilson exhibited with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Currier Gallery, the Lyman Allyn Museum, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.