The Wilder Family & Maine
a Letter from Thornton Wilder dated February 14, 1917, Oberlin College
The Wilder Family has a deep, long-standing connection with Maine which began when Captain Theophilus Wilder, II received land in Maine as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. The Massachusetts-born Wilder moved with his family to Deenysville, Washington County, Maine--close to the Canadian border--where he died and was buried in 1821. He and his wife, the former Lydia Cushing, had fourteen children and one of his sons was named … you guessed it, Theophilus, III.
From Deenysville, the family spread out to Calais where Thornton’s father, Amos Parker Wilder, was born in 1862. Later, through marriage, the Wilders crossed over the border into St. Stephen in New Brunswick.
Amos Parker Wilder's children would continue to have a connection to Maine. Thornton spent several inspiring weeks with his aunt on Monhegan Island, as referenced in his letter to his father, and returned often to the family summer home, built in 1947, in Blue Hill (pictured above), where his brother Amos Niven Wilder wrote many of his own works.
Glimpses of the Wilders can still be seen throughout the state today:
Wrapped Up, a sandwich shop in Augusta, is the former home of Thornton’s father Amos Parker Wilder. He moved here with his family from Calais after the Civil War. This house was owned by his father, Dr. Amos Lincoln Wilder. It originally stood near the Governor’s mansion but was moved decades ago to make room for a garden.
In Hallowell, Wilder Street still leads to the Kennebec River and the former site of Amos Wilder Company, an oil cloth manufacturer owned by Amos Lincoln Wilder who had started his professional life in Calais as a dentist.
On Route 127, over the Sasanova River, near Arrowsic, is the Max L. Wilder Memorial Bridge. One of only two cantilevered bridges built in Maine, this one was renamed after one of Thornton’s favorite cousins, following his death in 1962. Max, a civil engineer who was the Chief of the Bridge Department of the Maine State Highway Commission from 1929 to 1962, was a celebrated public speaker. To this day the Maine Transport Conference presents the Max L. Wilder Award.
Captain Theophilus Wilder and his son, Theophilus Wilder, III’s graves are located in the Forest Hills cemetery in Pembroke.