Chesterfield Church Records
Forbes Library Microfilm No. 43
Publick Confessions for Sins
The confession of John Wilder for the Sin of Slander.
I John Wilder do hereby make this Publik Declaration that whereas
there has been of late several scandalous reports against Deacon Tupper
respecting his keeping the Records of this town, and I was so very unhappy
and ungarded as to brake over the rules of the Gospel as to report
several things of that nature even before I had taken chase in order to
satisfy myself which ought to have done. I find by examination that he
was not faulty respecting the premises. I desire to be humbled before
this church and Deacon Tupper in particular would overlook this my fault
and I declare to be restored to your charity again and desire still an
interest in your prayers and desire that we might still walk as
brethren and fellow heirs of the kingdom of our blessed redeemer. John Wilder
February 12, 1769. A true copy of the confession text __ Benjn Mills
This was my John Wilder who moved from Hingham, up to Chesterfield, Massachusetts and joined the church in 1768.
Good News! I found the Northampton Town Clerk's handwritten entry:
"John Randall Wilder, son of Zachariah Wilder & Betsy his wife, was
born September 12th 1814."
So you can add Northampton, MA and the birth date to your chart. I
think the Northampton Tax Collector's office should be able to locate
where the Wilders lived in town at that time.
Sampson Vryling Stoddard Wilder was a wealthy merchant, gentleman farmer, and promoter of evangelical Christian causes. He was born May 20, 1780 in Lancaster, Massachusetts, the oldest of seven children of Sarah Stoddard Wilder (1753–1819) and Lieutenant Levi Wilder (1750–1793).1 The Wilders and Stoddards were seventeenth-century English emigrants, and the Vrylings were Dutch Huguenots.2 Levi Wilder was a merchant and farmer who had fought in the American Revolution. Near the end of his life, he had to mortgage his fifteen-hundred-acre farm to cover the loss of two shipments of potash off the coast of Ireland. Shortly after the elder Wilder’s premature death, Sampson began his career as a clerk for several retailers in Gardner, Boston, and Charlestown, Massachusetts.3
In 1802 Wilder commenced his independent career as a merchant in Boston in partnership with John Bryant.4 By November of that year, Wilder was employed by a prominent Salem merchant named William Gray (1750–1825) as his Paris purchasing agent.5 In the course of his career, Wilder would sail sixteen times to Europe. In Paris, he studied French with Latour Maubrey and became fluent. Wilder’s entree into the Paris commercial world was facilitated by a letter of introduction in 1804 to the French foreign minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754–1838). That letter was written by Wilder’s pastor the Reverend Jedediah Morse (1761–1826), who was the father of the painter and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872). The elder Morse described Wilder as "a young gentleman, by profession a merchant, [who] sustains a fair character for integrity, intelligence, & industry in business."6 Wilder later declared that his career in France was an immediate success, claiming that he employed "upwards of twelve hundred persons and [shipped] goods to the amount of some millions of francs, having cleared for Mr. Gray, during the first eighteen months, some sixty thousand dollars, and for our own house upwards of half that sum."7
In 1808 Wilder left Gray’s employment. Their separation resulted from Gray’s refusal to increase Wilder’s commission and perhaps from Gray’s support of Jefferson’s embargo of 1807. That year, Wilder went to work for Stephen Higginson, Jr. (1770-1834), another prosperous Salem merchant. In 1809 Wilder met with President Thomas Jefferson and President-elect James Madison to discuss the current stalemate with European powers over matters of international commerce and the threat of war.8 In 1810 he represented the United States in place of the American ambassador (who was ill) at Napoleon’s marriage to Princess Maria Louise of Austria.9 He remained in Paris until the War of 1812 interrupted transatlantic trade.
Upon his return to the United States, Wilder purchased six hundred acres in Bolton, Massachusetts. Even during extended trips to Paris, Wilder actively developed the gardens on his estate, importing hundreds of fruit trees from France and grape vines reportedly from Versailles.10 Wilder’s farm produced wheat, oats, potatoes, and apples for cider.11 Wilder also raised sheep, a type of livestock common among many farmers who were among the vanguard of textile production in America. Between 1812 and 1823 he was a member of a mercantile firm called Richards, Taylor, and Wilder that specialized in importing French textiles and other goods.12 On June 15, 1814, the thirty-four-year-old Wilder married seventeen-year-old Electa Barrell in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was living with her widowed mother. He had become acquainted with the Barrell family in his youth during his apprenticeship in Charlestown. The Wilders had eight children, four of whom lived to maturity.13 Between 1817 and 1823, Wilder again worked in Paris and his family lived there with him.
In 1823 Wilder returned from Europe for the last time and settled in Bolton. Upon his arrival in New York, Stephen Salisbury II (1798–1884)—the Worcester businessman and father of the founder of the Worcester Art Museum—wrote of the Wilders:
Mr. S.V.S. Wilder with his lady and children arrived from France this morning and they keep in this house. Mr. Wilder retains the manners, or rather the formality which he had when he went abroad but has less of the flourish for which he was so remarkable; he seems to be greatly impressed in religion; he manifested very deep interest in serious things in a short conversation which I had with him before breakfast this morning; his wife appears very amiable and I think she is more beautiful than before she left the country; my mother will perhaps remember that I did not think her so beautiful as others considered her but now I know scarce one whom I think superior to her in this respect; they have several very beautiful children. Mr. Wilder tells me he has returned with the intention of making home at his farm Bolton.14
Two of Salisbury’s cousins, who were the daughters of Stephen’s paternal uncle Samuel Salisbury, had married Wilder’s business partners Stephen Higginson and John Tappan.
A devoted Francophile, Wilder attempted to bring Napoleon to Massachusetts after the emperor’s exile in 1815.15 On September 2, 1824, Wilder hosted the Marquis de Lafayette–whom he referred to as "the revered and beloved Lafayette"—during his tour of the United States in honor of his contributions to the American Revolution.16 Lafayette and his party were met "at the line of this [Worcester] County, where an escort consisting of a company of cavalry and a large cavalcade of military Officers in full dress received and conducted him to the hospitable mansion of S. V. S. Wilder, Esq. in Bolton, where he lodged, and was sumptuously entertained."17 Wilder prepared for the feast by ordering a "doz. young fat fowls & as many pigeons & 1/2 doz. young ducks with plenty of eggs."18About 1830 Wilder met with President Andrew Jackson who had insulted the French government with his demands that the French immediately pay their debts to the United States. Wilder persuaded Jackson to tone down his rhetoric.19 In 1833 Wilder entertained Napoleon’s nephew Louis Napoleon in New York. 20
Wilder was active in public life as a philanthropist. From 1824 to 1841, he was a major donor of Amherst College and served as a trustee.21 In 1816 he met the Rev. Thomas Gallaudet—the noted pioneer in education for the deaf—and became a supporter of the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.22 Wilder devoted the most effort to evangelical Christian causes, founding the Paris Tract Society in 1818, the Bible Society in 1819, and the Paris Missionary Society in 1822.23 He also served from 1825 to 1842 as the first president of the American Tract Society.24 The national tract society was formed from local organizations in order to "diffuse a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of sinners, and to promote the interests of vital godliness and sound morality, by the circulation of Religious Tracts, calculated to receive the approbation of all Evangelical Christians."25 Wilder was recognized at the time of his death by the American Tract Society "as a highly evangelical layman, of world-wide sympathies and relations, eminently fitted to preside over its counsels."26 He paid to have tracts printed in French and Spanish for distribution in Europe and used his mercantile connections to facilitate their dissemination. He also wrote three tracts: "The Village in the Mountains" (no. 193, 1826), "The Only Son" (no. 530, 1850), and a temperance tract called "The Well-Conducted Farm" (no. 176, 1825). In 1828 Wilder was one of the major contributors to the establishment of the Hillside Church near his estate in Bolton; the church was an evangelical church and was created in opposition to the spread of Unitarianism.
Beginning in 1826, Wilder was a director and agent of the Ware Manufacturing Company, an early producer of textiles founded in the central Massachusetts town of Ware.27 Not only was Wilder active in the industrialization of this town, he also helped to construct a church and settle Parsons Cooke as the minister there. In this instance, Wilder’s business and religious interests were deeply interwoven.28 In 1830 Wilder moved to Brooklyn and then New York City, where he was associated with the prestigious French House of Hottinguers and the Bank of the United States. Following Andrew Jackson’s dismantling of the Bank of the United States and the Depression of 1838, Wilder’s fortunes crumbled. In 1842 he even spent a short time in jail in Worcester as a debtor.29 In 1852 he moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, near where his daughter Francina Haines and her family lived. In 1857 he wrote a book of maxims that were published posthumously for his grandsons. Sampson Wilder died in Elizabeth on March 3, 1865.30
Note added by DFH from - - - "The Records of S. V. S. Wilder": - - - During the last four years of the life of S.V.S. Wilder the dark days of the Civil War and the struggle for the nation's life ensued. His loyalty was unquestioned. He often said he "was ready, at eighty years old, himself to shoulder a musket in its defence if necessary."
A brief mention was made in my previous E-Mail of an escape plan by S. V. S . Wilder to bring Napoleon Bonaparte to the U.S. If you are interested in this story the following are the circumstances.
On June 15th, Napoleon's army met a portion of the enemy in Belgium,
near Brussels, and on July 16th, 17th, and 18th were fought the battles of
Ligny, Quatre Bras, and Waterloo, in the last of which he was completely
defeated. The limits and nature of this sketch do not permit a
description of the engagement at Waterloo. The literature on the subject
is perhaps richer than that on any other subject in military science.
Thousands of books discuss the battle, and each succeeding generation
takes it up as if nothing had been written on it. But while Waterloo
cannot be discussed here, it is not out of place to notice that among the
reasons for its loss are certain ones which interest us because they are
personal to Napoleon. He whose great rule in wars was, "Time is
everything," lost time at Waterloo. He who had looked after everything
which he wanted well done, neglected to assure himself of such an
important matter as the exact position of his enemy. He who once had been
able to go a week without sleep, was ill. Again, if one will compare
carefully the Bonaparte of Guerin (page 108) with the Napoleon of Girodet
(page 240), he will understand, at least partially, why the battle of
Waterloo was lost.
[See After Waterloo]
The defeat was complete; and when the emperor saw it, he threw
himself into the battle in search of death. As eagerly as he had sought
victory at Arcola, Marengo, Austerlitz, he sought death at Waterloo. "I
ought to have died at Waterloo," he said afterwards; "but the misfortune
is that when a man seeks death most he cannot find it. Men were killed
around me, before, behind - everywhere. But there was no bullet for me."
He returned immediately to Paris. There was still force for
resistance in France. There were many to urge him to return to the
struggle, but such was the condition of public sentiment that he refused.
The country was divided in its allegiance to him; the legislative body was
frightened and quarrelling; Talleyrand and Fouche were plotting. Besides,
the allies proclaimed to the nation that it was against Napoleon alone
that they waged war. Under these circumstances Napoleon felt that loyalty
to the best interest of France required his abdication; and he signed the
act anew, proclaiming his son emperor under the title of Napoleon II.
Leaving Paris, the fallen emperor went to Malmaison, where Josephine
had died only thirteen months before. A few friends joined him - Queen
Hortense, the Duc de Rovigo, Bertrand, Las Cases, and Meneval. He
remained there only a few days. The allies were approaching Paris, and
the environs were in danger. Napoleon offered his services to the
provisional government, which had taken his place, as leader in the
campaign against the invader, promising to retire as soon as the enemy was
repulsed, but he was refused. The government feared him, in fact, more
than it did the allies, and urged him to leave France as quickly as
possible. In his disaster he turned to America as a refuge, and gave his
family rendezvous there.
Various plans were suggested for getting to the United States. Among
the offers of aid to carry out his desire which were made to Napoleon, Las
Cases speaks of one coming from an American in Paris, who wrote:
"While you were at the head of a nation you could perform any
miracle, you might conceive any hopes; but now you can do nothing more in
Europe. Fly to the United States! I know the hearts of the leading men
and the sentiments of the people of America. You will there find a second
country and every source of consolation."
Mr. S. V. S. Wilder, an American shipping merchant who lived in
France during the time of Napoleon's power, and who had been much
impressed by the changes brought about in society and politics under his
rule, offered to help him to escape. He proposed that the emperor
disguise himself as a valet for whom he had a passport. On board the ship
the emperor was to conceal himself in a hogshead until the danger-line was
crossed. This hogshead was to have a false compartment in it. From the
end in view, water was to drip incessantly. Mr. Wilder proposed to take
Napoleon to his own home in Bolton, Massachusetts, when they arrived in
It is said that the emperor seriously considered this scheme,
but finally declined, because he would leave his friends behind him, and
for them Mr. Wilder could not possibly provide. Napoleon explained one
day to Las Cases at St. Helena what he intended to do if he had reached
America. He would have collected all his relatives around him, and thus
would have formed the nucleus of a national union, a second France. Such
were the sums of money he had given them that he thought they might have
realized at least forty millions of francs. Before the conclusion of a
year, the events of Europe would have drawn to him a hundred millions of
francs and sixty thousand individuals, most of them possessing wealth,
talent, and information.
"America [he said] was, in all respects, our proper asylum. It is an
immense continent, possessing the advantage of a peculiar system of
freedom. If a man is troubled with melancholy, he may get into a coach
and drive a thousand leagues, enjoying all the way the pleasures of a
common traveller. In America you may be on a footing of equality with
everyone; you may, if you please, mingle with the crowd without
inconvenience, retaining your own manners, your own language, your own
On June 29th, a week after his return to Paris from Waterloo,
Napoleon left Malmaison for Rochefort, hoping to reach a vessel which
would carry him to the United States; but the coast was so guarded by the
English that there was no escape.