Friday, February 11, 2011

Henry Brown Wilde

  • Name: Henry Brown Wilde 
  • Born: June 11, 1811 Crowd Hill, England
  • Died: February 23, 1875 Coalville, Utah
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Elvira Wilde Langford

Henry Brown Wilde was born June 11, 1811 in Crowd Hill, Hampshire, England to John Wilde and Jane Brown. He was christened June 14, 1811 in Owslebury, Hampshire, England. He spent most of his early life in the Owslebury, Crowd Hill, and Fair Oak areas of Hampshire County in England. These towns were only four or five miles apart. His occupation there was that of a man-servant.

While living there, Henry Brown Wilde met Sarah Hewlett and they were married November 9, 1840 in Bishopstoke. At this time Henry was 29 years of age and Sarah was 23. Sarah had worked as a maid in the houses of wealthy individuals for seven years prior to this, four years at one home and three years at another.

Early on in their marriage, Henry and Sarah lived in Fair Oak and while they lived there they their first son came into the world on January 20, 1841. They named him Thomas Hewlett Wilde and he was christened July 18, 1841 there in Bishopstoke. The next year Henry, Sarah, and Thomas moved to Southampton in search of better employment for Henry. Then again, to a nearby town called Portswood.

It was that same year in Portswood that Henry Brown Wilde met an energetic young missionary named Thomas B. H. Stenhouse who was serving a mission with Lorenzo Snow. He told him of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ being restored to the earth. Henry believed and was baptized by Elder Stenhouse July 12,1849 at the age of 38. A week later his wife Sarah Hewlett Wilde was also baptized July20 at the age of 31, as was their first son Thomas Hewlett Wilde at the age of 8. About three months later on October 8 Henry Brown Wilde was given the Aaronic Priesthood and ordained to the office of a priest. Henry was instrumental in spreading his knowledge of the restored gospel to his friends and family. Henry baptized several members of his extended family and his children’s nurse.

About a year after their baptism, Henry Brown Wild and his family decided to accept the call to gather with the other Saints in the Salt Lake Valley far away in America. Shortly before leaving, Henry moved back to 4 Princess Street, Northam, Southampton. On January 6, 1851, they sailed for America on the “Ellen Maria” with their four small children ranging in age from 1 to 9 years old. Sarah was also pregnant with their fifth child. Traveling with them was Jane Brown Wild (Henry’s mother) age 81. His father had already passed away over 10 years prior. They also brought with them Martha Sparks, their children’s nurse. (age 67).

It took about nine weeks for them to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and when they were near the end of their journey, while the ship was passing through the Caribbean, Henry Brown Wild and Sarah Hewlett had their fifth child and fittingly named her Ellen Maria Martha Wilde, after the name of the ship they were on and also after their nurse who was in attendance.

After the family landed in New Orleans, Henry Brown Wild spent the year working to gather supplies for the journey to Salt Lake City. In the summer of 1852, they started their journey for Utah. On the steamship ride up the Missouri River, Henry’s mother Jane Brown Wild caught malarial fever and died in Jackson County, Missouri. She was a woman of uncommon faith. After burying her there, the family continued on across the plains.

They traveled north to Council Bluffs and from there crossed the plains with their own wagon with a team of oxen and one cow. Along the way, while camped near the Platte River, Henry and Sarah’s son Henry died August 20, 1852 from injuries sustained from falling from a tree, at the age of six. He was buried the next morning and they had to leave him there and continue on across the plains. His mother recounted the story many times years later to her granddaughter, saying that of all the trials she ever passed through, that was the hardest of all. To leave that precious body there buried in the grave, she knew would be dug open by wild beasts, was almost more than she could bear.

They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September and attended the October Conference of the church. They stayed in Salt Lake City for a while before moving to Provo where they spent the winter of 1852 - 1853. They lived that winter in a tent and covered wagon. Early that spring Henry returned to Salt Lake, leaving his wife who was now pregnant again, and his other children in Provo. He worked for a short time with the crew cutting the granite for the Salt Lake Temple.

Later in the spring the rest of the family came back to Salt Lake and they and Henry settled in Sugarhouse, named for the sugar mill that was built there. Henry worked as a member of the construction crew that built the mill, the first of its kind in Utah. There were some complications, however, and it was never used to make sugar. According to his granddaughter Margaret Carruth Rhead, they had 10 acres of land and Henry’s son Thomas Hewlett and daughter Emma herded cows where the town of Sugarhouse now stands. For church meetings, they walked to the Tabernacle block which was 2 ½ miles away. There were no sidewalks and not very good roads, and Emma would make cloth shoes to walk in and carried her other shoes with her to put on when they got there. While at Sugarhouse, they experienced many hardships. They dug roots and gathered greens to eat and were hungry many times. The family moved to Spanish Fork for a while, but soon returned to Sugarhouse and this is where they remained until 1859.

While living at Sugarhouse Henry Brown Wild was ordained a Seventy on April 10, 1853. He and Sarah both received their Endowments October 11, 1856 and were sealed in the Salt Lake Endowment House. Henry was ordained a High Priest April 21, 1856 by A. O. Smoot.

In the summer of 1859 Henry and his family left Sugarhouse to settle in the Weber Valley and he played an important role in the establishment of Coalville, Utah. William Henderson Smith and Andrew Williams had found by accident that wheat would grow in a place called Chalk Creek. They had observed that wheat dropped by travelers from Fort Bridger had grown. They determined to settle the Weber River. The two men made a temporary settlement at the mouth of Echo Canyon and then returned to Sugarhouse to enlist others in their cause.

Henry Brown Wilde, Joseph Stallings (husband of Elizabeth Sarah Wilde, one of William Wild and Eliza Phillips’ daughters), and Thomas B. Franklin agreed to come and settle the area. On 8 June 1859, they drove their ox teams into the Weber Valley. John Wilde and Frederick Wilde (two of William Wild’s sons) followed soon thereafter.

The new colony cultivated a field of four or five acres, taking water from the Weber River. This was on the same ground that is now occupied by part of the town of Coalville including the Stake Center. Even though they planted late, a fair crop of wheat and vegetables was raised. Henry Brown Wild came back out that summer and built a cabin there for his family. The Wilde cabin was on the site where the Coalville Co-op now stands. Chalk Creek was in the mountains at 5,550 feet elevation and the mountain winds made for extremely cold temperatures. For this reason the women and children stayed behind in Sugarhouse that winter and came out later in the spring. Word spread quickly of the desirability of the area, and by 1860 fifteen families lived in Chalk Creek.

It was not long before the discovery of coal in the vicinity was made and mines were opened in the area. This small settlement was initially named Chalk Creek because of the location of that stream, but after coal had been discovered on the town site, the name was changed to Coalville. Tulledge gives the credit to Henry Brown Wild for discovering coal on the Weber River. He wrote, “Joe Lewis and Henry B. Wilde were the first to discover coal on the Weber and open a mine there. Andrew Johnson, a miner, was associated with them and did the first labor in mining the mine in what was known as Allen’s Hollow in 1868, on ground now near the south end of the town of Coalville.” He made this observation about the quality of coal in that area, “The coal from this mine is the best in the county for domestic purposes, but has been abandoned on account of financial difficulties. The development of the coal beds under and around Coalville had been destructed by the Union Pacific Railroad refusing to convey the coal to market on reasonable terms.” They sold their share of the mine for this reason.

In 1870, a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad was built to Coalville, a distance of about five miles from Echo. Henry had a contract for a piece of the work and Sarah cooked for the men who were working for him.

Henry Brown Wilde was a political leader of the city and county. On March 4, 1861, a county organization for Summit County was established by the county court at Chalk Creek. Henry Brown Wilde was appointed county treasurer. He was also installed as Selectman for Summit County with A. B. Williams and Joseph Stalling on March 9, 1863. In 1867, Coalville was incorporated and the first election was held that year. Henry was voted in as one of the five councilmen on March 5, 1869 at the age of 57. They held their meetings in the vestry room of the Old Rock School House, which was built in 1865 and also served as the first church house, as a place for school classes, dances and social gatherings, and as a place to gather for safety in times of troubles. This building was dedicated by Brigham Young in the fall of 1868.

On March 4, 1871 he was elected mayor. He served in this capacity until November 12, 1872, at which time he resigned and he and his wife Sarah returned for a time to England to visit his place of birth and early life. They returned to Coalville in 1873 and he was again elected as Councilor, and as a member of the city council on February15, 1875.

Not only had Henry Brown Wilde been active in the economic development of Coalville, but he also served as spiritual leader. Like most early colonies in Utah, the spiritual and temporal affairs of the settlement for several years were under the fatherly direction of an elder of the Mormon Church. In this important capacity as presiding elder, Henry acted first as President of the Branch in Coalville and afterwards, when the Coalville Ward was organized in 1861, as Bishop. He remained the Bishop there until his death on February 23, 1875 at the age of 63.

Henry Brown Wilde was buried in the Coalville Cemetery. The following was said of him in the Deseret News following his passing, “He was a man of unblemished character and unsullied reputation, and possessed to an eminent degree, the qualities of God’s noblest work, an honest man. As a member of the church, he was earnest and sincere, full of integrity and a firm believer in the religion he had espoused. He was the first Bishop appointed over the Coalville Ward, and during the fourteen years of his incumbency of the office, he won the goodwill and respect of all with whom the duties of his office brought him in connection.”

This story was written by Mary A., a great great great grand-daughter of Henry Brown Wilde’s brother, William Wilde. Photos are courtesy of the John Wilde Research Foundation. Thanks to Mary for providing this history on her family history website.

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