- Name: Thomas Hewlett Wilde
- Born: January 20, 1841 Bishopstoke, England
- Died: December 13, 1920 Blackfoot, Idaho
- Related through: Dan's grandmother Elivra Wilde Langford
Thomas accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Elder Thomas B. H. Stenhouse of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was baptized 30 July 1849 at the age of 8 while living in England.
Thomas Hewlett Wilde’s family accepted the call to gather with the other saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. On January 6, 1851 Thomas, his grandmother Jane Brown Wilde, his parents Henry and Sarah, and brothers and sisters set sail for America on the “Ellen Marie” bound for New Orleans. Another sister was born on the ship.
After arriving in New Orleans, the family remained there for a time to work and save money to buy the supplies they required to continue their journey west. In the summer of 1852, they started the next leg of their journey to Utah. They bought passage on a steamship that took them up the Missouri River. At that time, Thomas’ grandmother caught malarial fever and passed away. They had to bury her in Jackson County, Missouri and continue on.
They traveled north to Council Bluffs and from there crossed the plains with their wagon, team of oxen, and one cow. Along the way, while camped near the Platte River, Thomas’ brother Henry climbed up a tree near the camp. Tragically, he fell out of the tree and died of his injuries. They buried him the next morning and had to continue on again. Losing his grandmother and his little brother must have been a great trial for Thomas.
They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September of 1852. They moved around some for a few years after that, finally settled in Chalk Creek which later became known as Coalville, Utah located in Summit County in 1859.
Thomas met and married his first wife Martha Elmina Norton June 15, 1862 in Coalville, Utah. Martha was born September 12, 1846 in Keosaugua, Van Buren, Iowa and died June 15, 1885 at the age of 38 in Mink Creek, Idaho. She was the daughter of Alanson Norton and Sarah Maria Sally Freeman. Alonson was a close friend of Brigham Young. Thomas and Martha had seven children: Thomas Henry, Albert Alonson, Jacob Henry, Lawrence Brown, Milton Leonard, Louise Elmina, and Emma Marie.
At that period of time in the church, there were select members of the church who were asked to take part in plural marriage. Thomas was one of these men asked to take marry more than one wife. He also married Louisa Jane Carter and Sarah Jensen.
The early years of Thomas Hewlett Wilde’s married life were spent in Brigham City, Utah which is the birthplace of some of his children but they later moved to Mink Creek, Idaho where he helped set up a sawmill up in the mountains. While there, the remainder of his children were born.
Thomas later moved his family to the Grays Lake valley to the small settlement of Wayan in Bannock County, Idaho. Thomas’ youngest child Evelyn recalled the following about this area: “In this very beautiful valley, in the shadow of the great Caribou Mountain, with its rolling, green hills, blue lakes, and meadows covered with wild flowers, its bright glowing autumns and its immense quantities of snow covering everything with glistening whiteness in winter, he made for us a wonderful home. The valley was noted for its wild-hay ranches, and his was one of the largest. The rich soil produced fine vegetables in the gardens, and the mountains not far away afforded many kinds of berries. I remember, especially, the huckleberries which we, as a family, would gather. Yes, this was free and happy living.”
There in Wayan, Thomas was called as the superintendent of the Sunday School , a position he held for 35 years until moving away from Wayan. He was also the superintendent of the school and the postman there. He was the first to get a telephone in his home in that area, though many others soon followed and thus the community was then linked closer together.
Thomas later moved his family to Blackfoot, Idaho and in January 1914, they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. In the last years of his life, he returned to Blackfoot where he passed away December 13, 1920 at the age of 79 and was buried there December 18.
Evelyn recalls the following of life with her father and their large family: “What does one remember most about a great man - his success, his many accomplishments? What really goes into the making of a great man? Through the eyes of his fellow - men it is often the mark he makes in life, but through the eyes of a daughter, it is much more. It is his kindness, his consideration, his love and tenderness. It is the twinkle in his eyes, his pleasant smile, the memory of a song, heartfelt and loving, which he sang. It is the touch of his hand, the memory of his advice, his voice gentle and blended with love and compassion. It is his unfailing wisdom, the comfort which he provided. It is, also pride in his success and accomplishments. All of these wonderful, glorious things I remember about a great man, for he was, also, my father.
“Thomas Hewlett Wilde, my father, was a man of culture, of intellectual refinement. His was the ability to win the admiration of all with whom he dealt, as well as the admiration and the love of his loved ones and friends, and to hold that love and admiration. His was the greatness that is recognized by our Heavenly Father. To obey His command, and to love Him more each day of his life, constantly serving Him, was my Father’s greatest joy. Because he was so close to our Heavenly Father, he was a man of great wisdom and abiding faith. Being and educated man, he was a school teacher in the early days, and had the privilege of being the first school teacher for a number of his children.”
Of growing up in a family with plural marriage, Evelyn wrote, “I have always greatly admired and loved my father for his constant loyalty, and for having the faculty and wisdom of holding us in oneness, and not as separate families, and of impressing us with the glorious purity of purpose. Joined by my mother, they taught us love, respect, and honor for each, and thus we grew up knowing and remembering the place of each one of our great family circle and, for, the most part their children. Distance was a barrier in those days, but this did not separate us in love and principle. In this great family circle were 20 children and 104 grandchildren. Each brother and sister, Aunt Sarah and Aunt Martha, I have loved and remembered.”
Living a life with plural marriage was not without trials and persecution. Another of Thomas’ children, Thomas Henry Wilde, recalls an incident that occurred soon after he got married, “There was a rap at our door one morning before daylight. I asked who was there, and the answer was, ‘United States Deputy Marshalls. Get up and let us in.’ When I opened the door they looked at me and said, ‘I think you are too young for the man we want.’ I saw that I didn’t have any chance at all to notify father, so I told them where one of his homes was, as I knew he wasn’t there. But somehow, they found out where he was and he and two others of the brethren were arrested that day. Their court was held at Blackfoot, Idaho, and they were convicted of having too many wives. When they went up later to receive their sentence, I took them up. One man who was called up just ahead of my father agreed to turn away one of his wives and be a free man. When father was called up, the judge said, ‘Mr. Wilde, you are quite an intelligent looking man; you heard what the man just before you is going to do. I think he is very wise and I hope you are of the same mind.’ Father said, ‘Mr. Judge, I don’t know as I have broken the law. I didn’t mean to, but I have two wives. I think just as much of one as I do of the other. If I should turn one away, the other would leave and I am too old to get any more, so I think I will keep them both.’ This caused a big laugh in the court, and father was sentenced to one year in Detroit, Michigan. He got two months off for good behavior, so he was gone ten months. We will just say that my mother died just before this, so there were just the two at this time.”
Thomas Hewlett Wilde had a great sense of humor. Evelyn wrote, “He had pet-names for each of his daughters. These he formed into a song, and arising early in the morning he sang this song to awaken us. It was so musical, however, that it often put us to sleep instead. I can still hear his chuckle as he went by the bedrooms, singing his happy song. One special song I remember which he so often sang, or hummed, was the dearly beloved church hymn, ‘Oh My Father.’ I remember this hymn was sung at his funeral, and I feel he was so pleased.
This story was compiled by Mary A., great great great grand-daughter of Thomas Hewlett Wilde’s uncle William Wilde. Thanks to Mary for making it available on her family history website.