Wilder family active in community for many years


Electa and Royal Wilder as shown in the early 1920s.
By : 
Mary Jo Dathe
Glimpses of Yesteryear

Actually the column this week should read Dathe, ala Sharon Jahn:  it is a copy of her article in the Tribune from June of 1994 regarding the Wilder family living in Spring Valley.  It continues:

In 1898, James and Angelina Wilder joined the Thayers (T.J. & Eliza Jane) at Crowley, Louisiana, and both died there.  H. Lamanzo Howard died in 1897 and is buried in the Spring Valley cemetery; but his wife, Laura, moved to Crowley with her parents in 1898.  In 1899 Perley Wilder married at Crowley and also made his home there.

Royal and his new family remained in Spring Valley.  A daughter, Bernice Angeline, was born to Royal and Electa in 1894.  Two other daughters followed in 1897 and 1898, each dying in infancy.  Both are buried in the Spring Valley cemetery on the Royal Wilder's lot with unmarked graves.  (They have since been marked!)

The Royal Wilder home was always a busy and full household.  The family was active in the Methodist-Episcopal Church and many school activities over the years. The 1912 Mercury-Vidette reported that Electa was installed as an officer of the Royal Neighbors Camp.  Local items indicate that the Wilders often entertained at their home.  Many of Royal's relatives left the area by 1900 but Electa was close to her sister, Susan, who was married to Dwight Beagle.  The Beagle family operated a grocery store in Spring Valley as did Electa and Susan's brother, C.S. Averill.

There were many happy events at the Wilder home such as Bernice's ninth birthday party when "32 boys and girls assembled to help Bernice celebrate.  Games were played on the lawn, and ice cream and cake were served.  Miss Bernice received many presents, among them being a gold watch, a nice necklace, two fine handkerchiefs and four cups and saucers" according to the Mercury, Sept. 10, 1903.  The Wilder residence in 1903 was also the setting for the wedding of Electa's oldest daughter, Ethel Hutchinson, to Willard N. Stevens, a store clerk in Spring Valley. Ethel and Willard presented Royal and Electa with their first grandchild in 1904, Melba Stevens.

In the early 1900s tuberculosis, often called consumption, was an illness killing hundreds each year.  The Wilders experienced this as much as any family for in 1905 Ethel died of consumption at the age of 23.  Three years later her husband, Willard, would die of the same disease.  Their young daughter, Melba, lived with the Wilder grandparents from the time of her mother's death until she graduated from high school in the class of 1922. 

The two Hutchinson boys, Clyde and Ray, both became barbers and worked in the shop on West Broadway north of the hotel.  Clyde later married Edna Bailey, a teacher in Spring Valley, and they moved to California where Clyde died at the age of 34.  In 1907 Ray married Lizzie Luedtke, an aunt of Carrlie Marzolf.  Ray and Lizzie had one daughter, Evelyn, who died at 6 months, and her mother died of tuberculosis in 1910.  After Lizzie's death, Ray married a lady from Stewartville.  He then moved to Jackson, Minnesota, where he ran a barbershop and raised a family of two daughters and one son.  Ray's twin sister, Mae Hutchinson, graduated from the local high school in 1910, and taught in the area before her marriage to George Pooler; they lived their lives in California.

Bernice Wilder attended high school here where her classmates nicknamed her Bernice "Amiable" Wilder.  In 1914 when Bernice would have been a senior, the Spring Valley Mercury reports that "Bernice Wilder is at Winona studying to be a nurse."  In 1916 a local item noted that Bernice Wilder assisted as nurse at Dr. Utley's hospital but no further information indicated she continued her work.  In 1917 she married Arlow Laging of Spring Valley, and they were divorced in 1923.  She married a second time in 1929 to George Granger, a prominent Rochester attorney and district judge.  Bernice never had children, and died in Rochester in 1957.

Royal died at his home in Spring Valley in 1925.

In  1925 Laura Ingalls Wilder of Mansfield, Missouri, had not begun writing her now famous books.  The Wilder family was just like every other family, and little did they know their names would one day be known to thousands of readers the world over.  And our town played a part in the story!

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