Isaac T. Wilde (1824- 1896)
At the age of 19, Isaac T. Wilde, along with his Mother, immigrated to America in 1843 from Ashton-Under-Lyne, Lancashire, England. They first lived in Manayunk where he almost died with typhoid fever. After his recovery, Isaac, being a trained cabinetmaker, soon found work in the shop of George L. Moore of Guthriesville, East Brandywine Township, Chester County. Later, a partnership was formed between David Alexander Moore and Isaac Wilde. The two young men purchased property on March 17, 1849 in the village of Penningtonville, now called Atglen, and opened a cabinet shop. The partnership lasted for four years. On January 11, 1853 the association was dissolved and Isaac informed the public that he intended to "...carry on Cabinet-Making at the old stand."
Many country cabinet makers’ work involved producing coffins as well as furniture. Isaac was no exception. In 1848 the account book of George L. Moore’s shop lists furniture made by Isaac. Besides cupboards and bedsteads many coffins, and outer cases, were listed as well.
On September 11, 1851 the vicinity around Atglen and Christiana was rocked by an event that later became known as the Christiana Riot. Runaway slaves had banded together for mutual protection and resisted their capture by fighting back. In the ensuing early morning hours, on a farm about a mile southwest of Atglen, Maryland slave-owner, Edward Gorsuch, who came North hunting his "property", lie dead and his son Dickerson was seriously wounded. Isaac Wilde was given the task of making the coffin and preparing the body of Mr. Gorsuch for shipment by rail back to Maryland.
In 1852 Isaac married Matilda Paxson. They had two children; a daughter Katherine and a son Willie who died in infancy.
By 1888 the business had made the change from a cabinet shop to FURNITURE DEALER, AND UNDERTAKER. During the last half of the 19th century many cabinetmaking shops were compelled to make the complete switch to the undertaking business due to the increased competition brought on by the mechanization of the furniture manufacturing industry. However, Isaac continued in the furniture business and likewise provided funeral services. Even today, in some locations, furniture stores are still owned by funeral directors.
After a long illness, Isaac T. Wilde died on October 18, 1896.
William J. Wilde (1858 - 1925)
Born in Kansas, he was the son of James and Mary Pretty Wilde. While homesteading his father James was struck with pneumonia and died when William was an infant. Mary moved the family back East and two year old William was adopted by Uncle Isaac in Atglen. William received training in cabinetmaking and entered into the family trade. On January 24, 1884 he married Lizzie T. Moore of Atglen. They built a home at 532 1st Ave. in Parkesburg and had two children, Ruth E. Wilde Cowan and James W. Wilde. William continued to operate a furniture store located along the railroad on Front Street in Parkesburg.
William was issued a license to practice undertaking on April 20, 1906 by the State Board of Undertakers. He purchased the business’ last horse drawn hearse in 1912.
During this period most funerals were either held from homes or in churches. Families’ "parlor" rooms were used for funeral viewings and ceremonies. Thus, the phrase funeral parlor still lingers today. Embalming and casketing were often done at the deceased residence as all the equipment was portable. Embalming, which cost $5.00 in 1900, was still an option rather then a requirement for public viewings.
According to his obituary, Mr. Wilde enjoyed daily walks around Parkesburgs’ business section, "... pausing here and there for a friendly little chat with those he met along the way." (Some things never change). It has also been passed down through the family that he enjoyed fishing trips to the Susquehanna River with the Parish Priest from Our Lady of Consolation Church and that they often stopped at the Green Tree Inn for refreshments on the way to the river.
William died on January 23, 1925.
James W. Wilde (1893 - 1979)
As a third generation funeral director, Jim recalled going out with his father to a home at the age of 6 to help embalm a body. In 1912 he graduated from the Eckels College of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia and began his lifelong career as a funeral director.
James purchased the present Wilde Funeral Home at 434 Main St. in 1928 and began to offer "his" home for funerals thus relieving families of sad associations during the funeral ceremonies. He advertised "Homelike Surroundings - No Charge for Use of Home". He was able to acquire from the local telephone company phone # 1 for the business.
Like his father, James was very active with many civic organizations in Parkesburg . He was a member and former president of the Chester County Funeral Directors Assoc. He was also an avid sportsman who enjoyed skeet shooting and bird hunting.
His first wife, Edith Galloway died from complications soon after the birth of their daughter Dorcas in 1924. In 1928 James married his second wife Ruth Kirk from Chester, Pa. Over the next few years they were blessed with three sons, James K. Wilde, Thaddeus W. Wilde and William S. Wilde, one of whom (Thaddeus "Bud") is still active in the funeral business today.