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William Henry Wildes, more commonly known as simply “Henry”, the son of Francis Wildes, born July 20, 1789 and Nancy Higgins born in 1791, was born in 1834 in Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine in the United States; though many of the Wildes descendants still believe Henry came from Bath, England. That came about when the Watson/O’Keefe Group suggested to Neil Wildes that his grandfather came from the United States, and Neil said no, from Bath, England; so Bath, England it was, end of story, matter closed. Research, however, reveals the Watson/O’Keefe Group was in fact correct.

According to the l850 U.S. Census he was first listed as being in the U.S. as William H. Wildes, age 14, attending school, which would have him being born in l836, if the records were correct; which research reveals they in fact may not have been. He was recorded as living in the household of Francis Wildes, at Bath, Maine. Francis, his father, and at least one other older son named Philip, worked as carpenters and shipbuilders. By 1860, however, in  the Census records, there was neither a William H. nor a Henry in the City of Bath, Maine; perhaps by that time they had moved to Oakleigh, Maine; where Henry’s father and mother were in fact married, on November 21, 1816, in the Trinity Church in Oakleigh, Maine. Bath, Maine, at that time was a leading ship building port in the United States.  

Henry was born into circumstances far beyond his control. In the 1700’s large tracts of land were being leased to those who had none, at greatly inflated prices. Large numbers of people were migrating to America in a totally unplanned migration and as a result the infrastructure was unable to cope with the influx. There were many rebellions against unfair lease payments, requiring armed forces to be used to assist the rent collectors. That led to a mass migration from the country farms and by 1790 over a million people were residing within the cities; by 1840 there were over eleven million, with insufficient industry or jobs to support them. It has been said by some that the “Union” itself was in fact developed to support the disadvantaged and by 1857 people were lining up to leave; and by 1863 conscription was introduced. That was one of many reasons why the “Union” violated the U.S. Constitution in refusing to allow southern states to legally withdraw from the Union.

Some have said that during the American Civil War Henry Wildes joined the Union military under the name Colonel Asa W. Wildes in the 16th Maine Infantry; and the only Wildes found that served with the Union at all was indeed Colonel Asa W. Wildes. He would have been twenty-eight years of age when he enlisted, serving Companies F and S of the 16th Maine Infantry. After further investigation, however, it was determined Asa Waldo Wildes, the Colonel, was born in Massachusetts in 1822 and died in Augusta, Maine in 1894; so Henry definitely could not have served as Asa W. Wildes in the 16th Maine Infantry.

Information on Henry’s Civil War service is dubious, but relying on family “Oral History” that Henry served with the Union during the American Civil War, the search continues for validation to substantiate the claim. Looking again at the local enlistments, there was an Isaiah Wildes, Henry’s cousin, in the 21st Maine Infantry and Henry’s younger brother Lyman Wildes, was the wagoner of the 3rd Maine Infantry Regiment, Company D.  That is the same unit in which his cousin Daniel, another Bath Wildes served. No William H. or Henry, however, was found as enlisting from Bath; but does lead one to believe if a cousin and a younger brother and others of the Wilde’s family served during the war, it stands to reason he too likely did so as well. Many individuals below the legal age of enlistment actually enlisted by lying about their age; and using a fictitious name. Perhaps Henry also used a ficitious name for one reason or another and perhaps served in the capacity of a wagoneer, support personnel or what ever, and not as a professional soldier; or like many others, a record of his service may have been recorded under a different name, or lost, which is also possible. Some of the Maine men, including men from Bath, also enlisted south of the state of Maine, in the state of Massachusetts. Henry cannot be found listed in the Maine regiments or the Navy under either Henry or William, so his story is considered by some to be bogus.

There was a William H. Wildes, however, who enlisted in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as a Private and was discharged as a Corporal; serving in companies A and B. Some think that may in fact be our William Henry Wildes. In any case, his story is being presented here to present what has and has not been found on him on the long shot that someday someone may uncover additional evidence to validate the family “Oral History” and further confirm Henry served in the “2nd Massachusetts Infantry” or some other Civil War unit.

In a genealogical compilation of Bath Families in the 19th Century, a Dr. Holt lists the family of Francis and Nancy Wildes as having 8 children, but none specifically listed as Henry.  Their child #7, however, was William H., born about 1834.  Francis' brother, Samuel, and his wife Mary had 9 children, #6 being Isaiah W., born 1830 and baptized in 1833.  Isaiah enlisted for military service in Bath on October 14, 1862, at age 28, joining Company C of the 21st Regiment, and was discharged on August 25, 1863.

Henry Wildes is said to have arrived in Australia in 1860 and as a ship builder at 27 years of age, in 1864, married Annie Baker 21, born in 1844 at Manchester, England, in the Church of England at Oakleigh at Ferntree Gully, Victoria; eventually having eight children. When the War Between the States broke out in 1861, it seems records of Henry in Australia disappear; reappearing only with the birth of his first child in 1866. It has been suggested that Henry returned to the U.S. after his marriage, being a U.S. citizen and from a patriotic family dating back to the Revolutionary War, and served during the war; returning to Australia afterwards. From the birth of his first son in Australia in 1866, his presence is methodically recorded until his death in 1904.

Henry’s son Frederick “Frank” was born May 5, 1866 at Scoresby, Victoria; his next son was recorded as Edward, who was born  in 1867 at Narre Warren, Victoria and died at birth; another son named Henry was born on June 1, 1869 at Oakleigh, Victoria in Gippsland; a son Lyman Palmer was born in 1871 at Oakleigh; George was born in 1873 at Oakleigh; a daughter Harriett was born in 1875 at Oakleigh; daughter Frances Eudora, known as Deborah, was born in 1877 at Oakleigh and Anna Maria known, as Hannah, was born in 1879, also at Oakleigh. Henry’s father at 81 years of age died the same year his son Lyman was born, on April 27, 1871 at West Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine and was buried in the Witch Spring Cemetery in West Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine. His wife Nancy died on April 2, 1874, also at West Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine, and was also buried at Witch Spring Cemetery, West Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine; along side her husband.

Post office records reveal Henry Wildes in 1885 was a farmer in Lysterfield, but while in Australia, however, Henry largely worked as a carpenter and a shipbuilder. In 1885 Henry was recorded as being insolvent and working as a carpenter at Longwarry; the insolvency being discharged on March 27, 1895. Family oral history states Henry, Annie and the family were all living in a two room cottage in 1886 at 1135 Westernport Road, Yanathan. The frame of the house is said to still be standing behind a brick house on the property, a ways back from the road.

William Henry Wildes died of “heart disease” on November 4, 1904,  No. 12923, at Lang Lang, Victoria and was buried in the Lang Lang Cemetery. Anyone having information of any kind on William Henry Wildes is requested to forward it on to the webmaster.


Digger – Pioneer Index, Victoria, 1836 - 1888

Family Group Record of Henry Wildes, Neville Elvish

Henry Wildes Headstone

Lang Land Death Records

Latter Day Saints, Family Search

“Morman Roots, Byron Marchant, 1994

Neville Elvish, Lang Lang, Victoria

Oakleigh Marriage Records

Pedigree Resource File, Compact Disct # 68 / Pin # 694847

Peter Goodwin, Manager, Sagadahoc History and Genealogy

Robin A. S. Haynes, Sagadahoc History and Genealogy

 “West Gippsland Pioneers &  Settlers”, pre 1900, West Gippsland Genealogical Society Inc.


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