The Wilder Family & Maine

Dear Papa, .... A person like me has got to keep writing things or it irks us to pain; when we think we have written a good thing, we feel as tho’ it had justified our existance and we don’t know what ‘plain people’ satisfy their self-demand with. Make a business arrangement with me. Give me three or four months on Monhegan .... and I will give you something final and convincing.

a Letter from Thornton Wilder dated February 14, 1917, Oberlin College


A gathering of Wilders in Blue Hill circa 1949: left to right, Margaret Todd & Charles Todd, Elaine Wilder LeClair, Catharine K. Wilder (Mrs. Amos N.) Catharine Wilder, Emma McCully, Ray LeClair, Thornton Wilder, Gertrude & Max Wilder and Tappan Wilder

A gathering of Wilders in Blue Hill circa 1949: left to right, Margaret Todd & Charles Todd, Elaine Wilder LeClair, Catharine K. Wilder (Mrs. Amos N.) Catharine Wilder, Emma McCully, Ray LeClair, Thornton Wilder, Gertrude & Max Wilder and Tappan Wilder

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.   

Amos Parker Wilder’s birthplace in Calais.

Amos Parker Wilder’s birthplace in Calais.

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:

The former home of Amos Parker Wilder in Augusta.

The former home of Amos Parker Wilder in Augusta.

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. 

 

Wilder Street former drive to the Amos Wilder Company.

Wilder Street former drive to the Amos Wilder Company.

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.

 

The Max L. Wilder Memorial Bridge over the Sasanova River. Photograph by Nathan Holth.

The Max L. Wilder Memorial Bridge over the Sasanova River. Photograph by Nathan Holth.





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.

Amos Niven Wilder sketching beside Captain Wilder’s gravestone.

Amos Niven Wilder sketching beside Captain Wilder’s gravestone.

A closeup of Theophilus North, III’s gravestone nearby.

A closeup of Theophilus North, III’s gravestone nearby.






Amanda Woods