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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The honor of lifelong identification with California and the distinction of influential association with the agricultural interests of Sacramento county may be claimed bv James Allen Wilder. In addition, he is proud of the fact that his father, Benjamin Wilder, was one of the pioneers of that memorable year of 1849. The family of the mother, who bore the maiden name of Elitha C. Donnor and who was born in Springfield, Ill., October 11, 1832, was even more early in its efforts to reach the coast, and the sad fate of their expedition aroused a wave of sympathy throughout the entire world. They had started for the coast in 1846, when Mrs. Wilder was a girl of fourteen. Unfortunately, delays prevented them from completing the journey ere cold weather commenced. They were confronted by the fear of being obliged to spend the winter on the east side of the mountains. Their alternative was the attempt to cross the Sierras. They chose the latter, and most of the party perished in the snows of the mountains, but this young girl was one of the survivors who, almost starved and well-nigh exhausted, reached the American settlements on the 12tli of March, 1847. She had been snowed up in the Sierras for months. During 1854 she became the wife of Benjamin Wilder, who was born in Rhode Island March 27, 1821, descended from colonial residents of New England.

The schools of Rhode Island and those of Springfield, Ohio, afforded Benjamin Wilder exceptional advantages for that day, and when only seventeen he was able to successfully teach school, which work he pursued for the ensuing five years. At the age of twenty-two he traveled south to New Orleans and secured employment as a bookkeeper, but in 1848 he returned to Springfield, Ohio. The news concerning the discovery of gold in California caused a change in his plans, and he forthwith began to prepare for a trip to the coast. From 1849 until 1852 he worked in the mines, and then for two years he ran an old-fashioned stage coach out from Sacramento to Jackson, Amador county. During 1855 he began to be interested in the stock business and in 1856 he bought a Spanish grant comprising five thousand two hundred and twenty acres, but unfortunately he lost the place in 1861, all being wrested from his possession with the exception of one section of land. Discouraged by his ill luck, he returned to the mines, where he remained about ten years. Again, in 1872, he resumed agricultural pursuits, and this time he settled in Franklin district, Sacramento county, where he engaged in raising grain and stock until the infirmities of age necessitated his withdrawal from active labors. His death occurred in 1898 at the old homestead. His wife still continues to reside at the old family home, having been a resident of California for sixty-six years.

During the sojourn of the family at Camp Pocahontas, a mining camp in Eldorado county, James Allen Wilder was born March 25, 1862. As a boy he lived at Placerville, the same county, and attended the public schools. When his father settled on a farm he began to assist him in the cultivation of the land and the care of the stock. Eventually he was trusted with greater responsibilities and long before his father's demise he had relieved him of the greater share of the heavy tasks on the farm. Since the death of his father he has continued farming operations for himself, owning two hundred and fifty head of cattle as well as other stock, besides which he is also running his mother's place of four hundred and eighty acres of land. September 6, 1911, he was united in marriage with Mrs. Ora Mary Bryant, who was born at Fort Scott, Kan., and has made California her home since 1890. Upon the farm he has made improvements as needed, and the property now ranks as one of the best-improved in the vicinity of Bruceville. Having worked with steadfast devotion on the farm, he has had no leisure for participation in public affairs, and has taken no part in the same aside from voting the Republican ticket. The only fraternity in which he has become an active member, the Knights of Pythias, receives his cordial co-operation in benevolent and civic enterprises. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011