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Rev. Royal Gould Wilder

Younger brother of James Wilder, and uncle to Almanzo Wilder and his siblings.

A new periodical edited by Reverend Royal G. Wilder, a former Presbyterian minister with years of service in India, is The Missionary Review. – Arthur T. Pierson.

Reverend Royal Gould Wilder (1816-1887) was a younger brother of Alamanzo Wilder’s father, James Mason Wilder. Almanzo’s older brother, Royal, was named after his uncle. Rev. Wilder was born October 27, 1816, in Bridport, Vermont. He married Eliza Jane Smith on March 5, 1846; they had five children: Edward Payson Wilder, Mary Jane Wilder, William Royal Wilder, Grace Evelyn Wilder, and Robert Parmalee Wilder. Rev. R.G. Wilder died October 10, 1887, in New York City.

An excellent piece about Rev. Wilder can be read online HERE. The following tribute by Rev. A. T. Pierson, D.D., originally appeared in the Princeton (New Jersey) Press shortly after the death of Rev. Wilder in 1888:

Royal Wilder was a man that might have commanded an important position in this country. He might have made money and amassed wealth – he might have made reputation and secured for himself the homage of mankind. But he set his life in a nobler direction.

It may be known to some of you that one of his schoolmates became Vice-President Wheeler, and that in the last year of his seminary course, Richard S. Storrs, Junior, now of Brooklyn, was a fellow-student with him, and in the same class. And Foote, who became a brilliant lawyer – and who, by the way, was born the same day with Mr. Wilder – stood side by side with him, they two leading the class with equality as to their own standing in Middlebury COllege. And when Foote learned that he was going to India, he said, “Wilder, why do you bury yourself among the heathen?” The young man gave his class-mate a quiet answer, indicating the purpose of his life, and the way in which he looked upon his life, and they parted.

They corresponded for a number of years, and by-and-by the letters from Mr. Foote ceased to come to Mr. Wilder, and on his return to this country he made some inquiries about his beloved friend. He found that Foote had entered the profession of the law, as he knew, had amassed wealth, married a beautiful wife, but he learned also that his wife and daughter had been taken away by death, and that in sheer disheartenment and despair he had blown out his own brains.

My dear brother in the college, what do you think of the difference between these two lives – one given to making money and fame in a great profession at home, the other given to winning souls in the dark, dark realms of paganism abroad? Which was the buried life?

The colossal character of his work in India grows upon me. Think of Mr. Wilder and his wife, the only missionary among 4,000,000 souls. SO large a parish, and yet they practically reached 3,500,000 of them. Unaided and alone he preached the Gospel in more than 3,000 cities, towns, and villages. He circulated more than 3,000,000 pages of tracts, and translations of parts of the Scripture; and he gathered into schools 3,300 children, 300 of whom were girls. You know of his literary work. His kingdom did not come with observation. He never blew his own trumpet before him. His labours in foreign fields would have done honor to one of the most distinguished literary workers. He edited and translated many works himself. He wrote commentaries in the Marathi dialect, and aided in the translation of the Bible. Besides he made a most laborious and voluminous manuscript in regard to the kingdom of Kolapoor. In addition to these, an assiduously-written and carefully-kept diary of his missionary work. That none of these have appeared is due to the fact that they were lost with the effects in a vessel wrecked off the Cape when he crossed the continent, and left his effects to go by sea.

Nothing was sweeter than the fact that while he resided here in Princeton, the parlour of his house was the gathering-place and training-school for all those who looked towards missions. He ever had a hand, warmed by a sympathetic heart back of it, for every young man, and especially for those who had set their faces toward missions, home or foreign. His heart was set upon going back to India, and our only consolation is that he has gone to a better land. I cannot but think that there is something very impressive in the way in which he laid down his life.

I am not here to magnify or glorify him, but I would magnify and glorify Christ; and I tell you solemnly that I would rather have lived the life that he has lived, and to have done the work he has done, than to have occupied the proudest position in the American Republic; or to have amassed the greatest amount of wealth that has ever been held by any man within the bounds of the Republic; or to have the greatest literary reputation that has ever set its crown upon the brow of a human being.

I would like to say, if there is any one present who is not a disciple of Christ, “What do you think of such a life in retrospect, in its religious determination and enjoyments; and above all, what do you think of its present blessings?” I tell you I would not be the child of such a man as that and turn away from Christ, if you would give me the wealth of a thousand worlds. And I would not be the man or woman who had come into contact with such a life and turn away into the darkness of eternal night for any possible position that this world can offer. Royal Wilder was a proof of Christianity that was worth more than all the works on evidence that were ever written and published. He was a proof of the dynamics of Christianity – and the dynamics of CHristianity are the grandest vindication in the way of apologetics. He had a will that would have carried him to any position on earth, but that will, turned towards God, and linked with the will of God, became practically omnipotent for good. Out of poverty and obscurity, without a thought of personal employment or temporal advancement, he rose to be what he was among the millions of Christendom, a mighty power with pen and tongue. And if I were a young man today just starting in life, I would like to follow such an example, and givce my life to missions at home or abroad, as God might graciously indicate my place. Young man, what is the best investment you can make with the capital of your life? Here is a man who has spent thirty years in India and will never be forgotten.

He besought his son Robert to go back to India, and go among that people about fifty miles from Kolapoor whom he once visited, and among whom he told the story of the cross, and who, weeping, followed him for quite a distance, asking that they might hear more of the story of redemption. What can you do better than spend thirty years of your active life in telling the precious story of redemption to those who never heard the Word of God?

If you are asking how you can give your life in the most profitable way to God and to humanity for the furtherance of His Kingdom, I would say, “Here is a life that was ushered on Monday morning into the presence of the King; methinks that there was a crown ready for him, set round with many gems that shine with lustre brighter than the stars.”


Rev. Royal Gould Wilder