Robert W. Wilder Papers

  • 1888-2013
  • 2 boxes (2 linear ft.)
  • Call no.: MS 884

Born in the Quabbin town of Enfield, Mass., Bob Wilder (1933-2015) rose from a life of poverty to a successful career in the Marine Corps and the aerospace industry. Becoming an avid local historian in his retirement, he drew upon his rural childhood while working later as an interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village and became a popular lecturer on topics in regional history.

This small collection consists of materials relating to Wilder's family and his research into the history of the Swift River Valley and the Quabbin Reservoir. In addition to some Wilder family photographs, the collection includes hand-drawn maps, newspaper clippings, town reports, magazine articles, oral histories, and poems about the towns of the Swift River Valley. Of particular note are several video recordings of Wilder's lectures and an extensive series of oral histories with Wilder recorded by Marc Peloquin.

See similar SCUA collections:

Background on Bob Wilder

Born in Enfield, Mass., on August 18, 1933, Robert Wayne "Bob" Wilder knew the hardships of poverty as a young child. The son of Joseph Edward Wilder, Jr., a laborer from old Yankee stock, and his second wife Beulah (Turner), an Eastern Abenaki woman originally from Maine, Bob was raised in Smith Village during the depths of the Great Depression. Rarely traveling further afield than the neighboring town of Ware, the family scraped through the Depression until 1938, when they, like all the residents of Enfield, were evicted to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir.

The trauma of losing their farm and relocating miles from home affected Wilder deeply. Settling among several of their former neighbors in Warren, Mass., the family started over, though as poor as ever. After attending grammar school in Warren and graduated at the top of his class from Brookfield High School in 1951, Wilder joined the Marine Corps, determined to escape the poverty he had always known. A bunkmate of Red Sox star Ted Williams and comrade of the golfer Lee Trevino, he made the most of his time in service. Excelling as a Marine, Wilder gained practical experience in engineering that became the basis for his future career, also earning an associate's degree in military science and hydraulics from the Marine Corps Institute in Quantico, Va.

When he left the Corps in 1960 with the rank of Staff Sergeant, Wilder secured a job in the aerospace industry, working for many years as a quality engineer and rising from production foreman to chief inspector while working on projects related to NASA's moon mission. Retiring at only 52, he returned to Brookfield, where he had the good fortune of running into a woman he had met in town many years before, Nancy Cronin. She became his wife.

A gifted storyteller fascinated with local history, Wilder drew upon his rural upbringing while working for Old Sturbridge Village as an interpreter in their farming operations. Haying, milking, blacksmithing, and working ox teams were part of his repertoire. Wilder was an active member of the Quaboag Historical Society, the Swift River Historical Society, the Friends of Quabbin, and the Ware Chapter of the Marine Corps League, and emerged as a popular lecturer on regional history, giving talks on everything from the Boston Post Road and King Phillips War to life in the Quabbin towns. Wilder died in Brookfield on Nov. 29, 2015, nine months after his beloved wife Nancy.

Scope of collection

Assembled by Robert "Bob" Wilder, a native of Enfield, Mass., this small collection consists of family papers and research into the history of the Swift River Valley and the Quabbin Reservoir. Focused primarily on Enfield, the collection includes genealogical information, census records, and photographs relating to Wilder's family, along with some of his hand-drawn maps, newspaper clippings, town reports, magazine articles, oral histories, and poems about the towns of the Swift River Valley, with a handful of newspaper clippings and photographs from the other Quabbin towns, Greenwich, Prescott, and Dana. Of particular note is an extensive series of oral histories with Wilder recorded by Marc Peloquin and a number of historical lectures by Bob Wilder.

The effect of the Quabbin Reservoir project on the residence of the Swift River Valley is seen throughout the collection. The scope of the collection documents the impact of both the Great Depression and World War Two on the lives of both the Wilder family and the people of the Swift River Valley.

Series descriptions

This series includes: the Wilder family genealogy going back to the 15th century, Flora Wilder's 1934 diary, and copies of Fredrick Brown's World War Two POW papers. Highlights of this series include: historical lectures by Robert Wilder, Wilder family census records from Enfield, Elizabeth Rand's poems about Enfield, and Robert Wilder’s oral histories with Marc Peloquin. This series also features the Wilder family photo album with locations in Enfield.

This series includes: hand-drawn maps, newspaper clippings, town reports, magazine articles, and oral histories. This series focuses on the hometown of Robert Wilder, Enfield Massachusetts This series focuses on the hometown of Robert Wilder, Enfield Massachusetts; however, it does include clippings and photographs of Greenwich, Prescott and Dana. This collection includes many local newspaper clippings written during the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir as well as oral histories by Swift River Valley Residence. Highlights of this series include: Being a Kid in the Pre-Quabbin Swift River Valley photography exhibit from 2009, the DVD copy of the 1916 Enfield centennial celebration, and the 2012 DVD Exodus from Enfield.

Collection inventory

Series 1:Wilder Family Papers
1888-2013
Box 1
Brown, Fredrick
1944-1945
Box 1: 1
Rand, Elizabeth
1927-1931
Box 1: 2
Rand, Silas
1888
Box 1: 3
Wilder Family Genealogy
1956-2006
Box 1: 4
Wilder Family Genealogy Census Records
Box 1: 5
Wilder Family Photo Album
2012
Box 1: 6
Wilder, Flora
1920-1939
Box 1: 7
Wilder Robert
1930-2013
Box 1: 8
Chronicle: Bob Wilder and Friends at the Quabbin
1994
Videocassette
Box 2
Conversation over Quabbin Bob Wilder and Elizabeth Rand
1995
DVD
Box 2
Madam Jumel
undated
DVD
Box 2
Lecture: Wheelers Surprise
undated
DVD
Box 2
Lecture: Destruction of Brookfield in King Philips War
2007
DVD
Box 2
Lecture: Maps of Greater Brookfield
2007
DVD
Box 2
Lecture: Conflicts in Brookfield Churches
2007
DVD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 1: Hard Time Letting Go, Henry and Charlie Smith, Land and Loss
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 2: Haying How to, Unk-Hunk Story, Ware Nipples 2 copies
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 3: Moonshine, Ned, Linda, Bill, Town Hall and Changes of Life
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 4: Farm Stories, Food Friends Family, Graves and Last Child
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 5: Sheeping, Get Into a Better School, Last Dog Hung
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 6: Poetry
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 7: Grandmother's Diary
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 8: Milking and Plowing
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 9: Howe's Book and Enfield Map
2008
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 10: Remembrance and More
2008
CD
Box 2
CD Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 11: Stick Map and Recollections 4 CD set
2008
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 12: Pigs and Bees
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 13: The Great Sadness
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 14: Quabbin: Open Discussion
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 15: Being Poor
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 16: Oxen Know How
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 17: Saw Mills of the Valley
2009
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 18: Radio
2012
CD
Box 2
Oral History: Conversations with Bob Wilder and Marc Peloquin 19: April 19 2012
2012
CD
Box 2
Channel 57 Interview with Bob Wilder
2013
DVD
Box 2

Collection inventory

Series 2: Swift River Valley/Quabbin Reservoir
1908-2013
Box 1
Barlow Goldmine
ca.1928
Box 1: 9
Being a Kid in the Pre-quabbin Swift River Valley exhibit
2009
Box 1: 10
Belchertown Photographs
1927-1932
Box 1: 11
Dana
1921-1939
Box 1: 12
Daniel Shay's Highway
1938
Box 1: 13
Daverson Tunnel Project
1932-1940
Box 1: 14
Enfield, Church Fire
1935
Box 1: 15
Enfield, Evictions
1942
Box 1: 16
DVD Exodus from Enfield
2012
Box 2
Map: Enfield families remaining in 1934
1934
Box 2: 1
Enfield, Firemen's Ball
1938
Box 1: 17
Enfield, Garage Fire
1935
Box 1: 18
Enfield, Last Days
1937-1938
Box 1: 19
Enfield, Last Days Boston Globe Pictorial
1938
Box 1: 20
Enfield, Obituaries of Former Residence
ca.1940-2013
Box 1: 21
Enfield, Photographs
1927-1940
Box 1: 22
Enfield, Pre-Quabbin Reservoir
1908-1919
Box 1: 23
DVD Enfield, 1916 Centennial Celebration
1916
Box 2
Enfield, Soil Testing/Water Quality Laboratory
ca.1940
Box 1: 24
Friends of the Quabbin
1994-2013
Box 1: 25
Greenwich
1928-1940
Box 1: 26
Homemade Radio with email
1920-2012
Box 1: 27
New Salem
1928-1945
Box 1: 28
Pelham Photographs
1932-1938
Box 1: 29
Petersham Photographs
1937-1943
Box 1: 30
Prescott
ca.1930-1939
Box 1: 31
Ware Photographs
1932-1935
Box 1: 32
Quabbin Aqueduct to Boston
1938-1941
Box 1: 33
Quabbin Club
1936-1938
Box 1: 34
Quabbin Park Cemetery
1933-1948
Box 1: 35
Quabbin Reservoir
1939-1946
Box 1: 36
Quabbin Reservoir Construction
1930-1948
Box 1: 37
Quabbin Reservoir Hunting/Fishing
ca.1940
Box 1: 38
Quabbin Reservoir Legislature Newspaper Clippings
ca.1935-1940
Box 1: 39
Quabbin Reservoir Munitions Testing
ca.1940-1941
Box 1: 40
Quabbin Reservoir Project Deaths
ca.1936
Box 1: 41
Quabbin Reservoir Project News and Local Reaction
1920-1935
Box 1: 42
Quabbin Valley Clearing Project "Woodpeckers"
1936-1939
Box 1: 43
Quabbin Valley Historic Interest
1928-2006
Box 1: 44
VHS Quabbin Valley Oral Histories
1994
Box 2
Quabbin Valley Reforestation Project
1936-1948
Box 1: 45
Swift River Company Auction
1912
Box 1: 46
Swift River Flood
1936
Box 1: 47
Swift River Valley Buildings, Demolition/Transportation
1928-1939
Box 1: 48
Swift River Valley Historical Society
1981-2005
Box 1: 49
Swift River Valley Memorials
1938-1948
Box 1: 50
Swift River Valley Post Offices
1937-1939
Box 1: 51
Swift River Valley, Railroad
ca.1927-1940
Box 1: 52
Swift River Valley Town Auctions
1938
Box 1: 53

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English

Provenance

Gift of Robert W. Wilder, Nov. 2015.

Processing Information

Processed by Jennifer Momaney, June 2016.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Robert Wilder Papers (MS 884). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms

Subjects

Names

Genre terms

Link to similar SCUA collections