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Wildes Family.

LETTERS: Correspondence.


Wildes, George, Anne, John Edward, et al. Wildes Family Correspondence. 1829-1866.
Arneytown, New Jersey: 1829-1866.
A collection of over 200 letters of correspondence, consisting of approximately 500 handwritten
pages, dating from the 1820's to the 1860's, between members of the Wildes family living at
"Myrtle Bank" in Arneytown, Burlington County, New Jersey. Many letters are written to and
from the women in the family. There is also a sizable grouping of correspondence received from
George Wildes, an uncle living in Manchester, England, whose failed mercantile house had a
great impact upon the economic Panic of 1837 in England and America. The collection also
contains 10 Civil War letters to and from a Wildes son fighting for the Union, as well as various
letters from relatives, friends, and educators. The correspondence, on quarto, octavo, and
twelvemo sheets, is clean and legible with some original mailing envelopes. Overall very good or
better condition, with typical wear and toning found in letters of this age.
The Wildes of Arneytown were a large, prosperous, and educated farming family. Their
residence, Myrtle Bank, was originally owned by the Emley and Forman families until it was sold
to William Wildes in 1796. The house was documented in the Historic American Buildings
Survey in the 1930s. The family had strong social connections in Philadelphia and southern New
Jersey. The Wildes were Quakers and had two sons fighting for the Union during the Civil War.
This collection richly details mid-19th Century American life in southern New Jersey and the
surrounding region, providing a wealth of primary source information. The letters document the
strong kinship ties within the family; their important social relationships with friends, classmates,
teachers, and domestic help; their daily routines on a busy working farm; and in juxtaposition,
their frequent social and travel engagements in nearby towns and cities; their methods of
household and economic management; their child rearing and playtime activities; and their
observations upon important events of their day, such as hearing Lucretia Mott speak and
witnessing a Mormon gathering.
The patriarch of the Wildes family was Tilton Wildes, (1796?-1872) who married Lydia Wallace
Brown, (1801-1885). The majority of correspondence in this collection is addressed to their older
daughter, Anne (Ann) Wildes, (1825-?). For example, writing to her father from school in
Downingtown, Pennsylvania on September 22, 1844, Anne describes how, "an immense Loco[-
Foco] procession passed through here on its way to a convention at West Chester. It was the
longest procession I ever saw, and no doubt if I had been the daughter of a Democratic gentleman
I should have called it a splendid sight, but as it was I could have cried with vexation to see so
many old Locoes together. I do hope their efforts will avail them nought. I do not know when our
State election is, but be it when it may, I hope thee will give thy vote in favour of Clay and the
Jersey blue."
Tilton's younger brother was George Wildes, (1798-1861) who left New Jersey permanently for
England as a young man where he became a major player in Anglo-American banking. George,
writing to his mother from London on January 10, 1822, reports: "I have worked very hard since
my arrival in this country and trust in a few years to be above the powers of the world. I certainly
have made some very good friends in this place which makes my stay here very agreeable and at
this moment I have no idea when I shall be returning to my native land… When I see you again
… I expect to see a wonderful change in the face of things…"
George Wildes's firm became one of the famous "Three W's" - one of three mercantile houses in
England that was part of a spectacular failure whose tremendous losses triggered the failures of
dozens of English manufacturers and importers that, in turn, ruined American southern cotton
planters and helped start the great Panic of 1837.
Additionally, and notably, are a group of letters from George, writing from England, to his
beloved niece, Anne, living in New Jersey documenting a unique and loving relationship between
the two. A November 19, 1852 letter sent from Manchester impresses upon his young niece the
importance of socializing: "…it will be highly important to keep up an intercourse with intelligent
nice people whose acquaintances you or they may have made at school or elsewhere and this can
only be done by having them occasionally to stay with you when time and circumstances[arise] -
Not having such society about you is a great drawback to the neighborhood and this can only be
remedied in the way I point out and by putting yourself in the way of exchanging such friendly
intercourse with friends at some distance both in town and country…"
Anne was actively encouraged by her uncle to develop her energetic, inquisitive young mind and
to seek a proper education. To this end, Uncle George shipped bo s to America, encouraged her to
subscribe to worthy magazines, sent money for Anne to create a home library, and liberally
funded the education of Anne and his other nieces and nephews. Anne was eventually sent to be
educated at the Mary B. Thomas and Sisters boarding school for girls in Downingtown,
Pennsylvania (later known as M.B. Thomas" Sisters" School).
The two correspondents clearly shared a strong passion for discussing farming. Removed so
dramatically, geographically speaking, from where he spent his youth, George was clearly wistful
and nostalgic of his early days farming in New Jersey. Through Anne, George was informed of
and engaged in this previous life he had once lived. He even goes as far as telling Anne to
convince her father to strive to be known as the best farmer in the state to procure a customer
base that will pay higher prices.
Also within this collection is a fine grouping of ten Civil War letters. They are from John Edward
Wildes to his sister, Anne, and his father, Tilton, between 1862 and 1863. These letters describe
the life and battles fought by a young Union soldier in the Anderson Troop (Pennsylvania
Cavalry) to family members back home while in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The
letters detail camp life, the capture of deserters, traveling by steamer and rail, and regiment
In one letter sent from Camp Garesche in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on March 17, 1863, he
describes a scouting mission, nearly being ambushed, and mopping up a group of Confederate
saboteurs. "We were riding along an old snaggy road at a slow trot not expecting to find guerrillas
secreted somewhere in those woods. We had not proceeded far when several rode out and fired at
us. They then put spurs in their horses and fled, closely pursued by us (at speed) for nearly four
miles. When our boys gave one of the most unearthly yells you ever heard and then their party br
e and skedaddled. We captured fifteen of them. They were members of Smyth Cavalry, had been
in service two years sneaking around the mountains of Kentucky and Tenn., had been chased by
the 4th Regular Cav. And by the 7th Penn Cav. But they said they never had to "get up and git so
fast before." We returned to camp the following day bringing in 28 or 30 prisoners. They were
the most wretched looking beings I ever saw armed with old shotguns and short muskets without
a sign of a uniform upon their backs…"
The collection is rounded out by additional miscellaneous family papers including business
documents, expense bo s, and various correspondence from family friends and assorted relatives,
such as a brother-in-law Frank Bowen, who wrote letters from Mobile, Alabama of his efforts to
establish a business selling cotton.

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