Wheeler Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Wheeler Meaning
conventional and usual explanation of the Wheeler name is that it is
occupational, describing a master wheel-maker or wheelwright. The
root here was the Old English word hweogol
or hweol meaning

However, there is an alternative explanation: that
the word comes from the Anglo-Saxon combination of words wel and hari meaning “lucky/prosperous

Wheeler Resources on

Wheeler Ancestry

England. Wheeler
is clearly a name of southern England. Early
records of the name were John le Whelare in Worcestershire in 1275;
Hugh le Welere
in Cambridgeshire in 1279; and Gilbert Whyler in Surrey in
1351. Later concentrations of the name
suggest two focuses – one around London and another southwest in a line
running north from Hampshire into
Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire

Wheler family with a coat
of arms were said to have been seated in Worcestershire since the early
1300’s. The first recorded was
William Wheler who through marriage came into possession of the Martin
manor in
1541. John Wheler, a goldsmith in
London, sold the estate in 1619. Later
Whelers of his line became baronets:

  • the main branch based themselves at Birdingbury in
  • while other Whelers, Royalists who briefly went into exile, were
    to be found at Charing near Ashford in Kent. This line included Sir George
    who undertook a tour of Europe in the 1670’s which
    extended as far as Constantinople. He was an early travel

has had the largest number of
Wheelers in the southwest. The Wheelers
of Millcourt manor in Binsted dated from the early 1600’s.
The Wheeler name was particularly common on
the Isle of Wight. One family line was
traced back to 1475 and William Willier at Freshwater.
The spelling changed over time from Willier
to Whillier to Wheeler.

The 18th century saw the rise of the notorious Wheeler
smuggling gang on the Isle of Wight – from their base at Box Cottage on
Chale Bay. James Wheeler, not maybe
connected to the
smuggling, kept track of the shipwrecks there.
He recorded sixty shipwrecks at Chale Bay between 1746 and 1808. Robert
engage in a little

Ireland. The
Rev. Jonas Wheeler, born in 1543, served as chaplain to Queen Elizabeth
and was
appointed Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin in 1594. He died in Ireland in his 97th year in
1640. Our line from him in county
Kildare were mainly medical men, two of whom attained the Presidency of
Irish College of Surgeons. There were
also English Wheeler branches in Limerick and Kilkenny

Wheeler’s 1914 book History of the
Wheeler Family in America
provided extensive coverage of the
various early
Wheeler lines in New England.

New England. One
point for these Wheelers was Concord, Massachusetts.
The Wheelers from Cranfield in Bedfordshire
were congregating there in the 1630’s and 1640’s. The
relationship between George, Obadiah, and
Timothy Wheeler is not quite clear, but they were all clearly related. And Obadiah had married his cousin Susannah

George was a selectman in 1660. His
house lot was at the present
corner of Main and Walden Streets, together with Timothy Wheeler’s. Ma
of his descendants remained in Concord. Some
were to be found at Shrewsbury by the
1730’s, others at Grafton nearby (including the unfortunate
Ebenezer Wheeler
There were later lines in New Hampshire and Vermont. Meanwhile Thomas Wheeler had
arrived earlier than his brother George
and made his home at Lynn where he operated a gristmill.

There was a Captain Thomas Wheeler of
uncertain origins at Concord by 1640. He
was later trading with the Indians along the Merrimac river. Although he was constantly moving
around, he
kept his home base in Concord and died there in 1676.

John Wheeler from Wiltshire came to
Newbury, Massachusetts with his family around 1634. His
son David arrived on the Confidence four years later
and married
Sarah Wise there in 1650. The 1984 book Wheeler Cousins covered his lineage.

There were also early Wheelers in Connecticut:

  • Moses
    Wheeler from Kent came around 1638 and
    first settled at New Haven and then in Stratford. Moses became a
    sizeable landowner there and died in 1698 at the grand age of
    100. A descendant Nathaniel Wheeler was a pioneer in the
    manufacture of sewing machines in the mid-19th century.
  • while
    Thomas Wheeler, formerly of Lynn, later
    settled in Stonington where he died.
Wheeler Homestead on Wheeler Road in Stonington was built by Thomas’s
son Isaac
in 1687 and remained with the Wheeler family from that time. Sadly the homestead burned to the ground in
the 1970’s.”

Edward or Evard Wheeler came
to Dutch New York sometime in the 1680’s and to land along the Hudson
south of Fort Orange. He made his
at Kinderhook. Within two generations
this family had spread up and down the Hudson on both sides of the
river. George Wheeler of this family was a
who fled to New Brunswick in Canada after the Revolutionary War and

Wheelers South.
line from immigrant Moses Wheeler who had settled in Stratford,
Connecticut led
to Fighting
Joe Wheeler
, a
Civil War
General revered in the South.

born in Georgia, his roots were in Connecticut and he spent much of his
life there. However, when the Civil War
broke out, he joined the Confederate ranks and distinguished himself in
battle. After the war was over he moved to
and represented the town there, now known as Wheeler, no fewer than
times. Then in 1898 when war with Spain
broke out, Fighting Joe volunteered for service, even though he was
over sixty,
and was appointed the general in Cuba overseeing groups such as Teddy
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

West. The Wheeler name was a
prominent one in the history of the early West.
Included in their number were:

  • John
    Ozias Wheeler had left Connecticut for Florida in 1844 and then took
    off for
    California in 1849. He and his brother
    Horace were early merchants in Los Angeles and he also started
    publishing its
    first newspaper The Southern Californian.
    His immigrant forebear was Thomas Wheeler of
    Stonington, Connecticut.
  • Thomas
    and Ann
    Wheeler were English Mormons from Herefordshire who had made the trek
    to Salt Lake
    valley in 1852. The Henry J. Wheeler
    farm in South Cottonwood, built by their son in 1898, is one of the few
    19th century farmsteads extant in the Salt Lake valley.
  • Henry
    H. Wheeler operated mail and stage lines
    from the Dalles to Canyon City in Oregon territory in the 1860’s. Wheeler county in Oregon was named after
    him. He came from Pennsylvania.
  • William
    Wheeler served as US Marshal for
    Montana territory from 1869 to 1878. He
    had come West from upstate New York. His
    grandfather Moses Wheeler had been a Revolutionary War soldier and
    Sheriff of Orange county, New York.
  • while Dr. Henry
    was one
    of the best
    physicians and surgeons in the Northwest in the 1880’s, making his home
    Grand Rapids, North Dakota. His father
    was a drover and stock raiser in Northfield, Minnesota and his line
    went back
    to immigrant Thomas Wheeler in Concord, Massachusetts.

M. Wheeler was a pioneering explorer and
cartographer of the American West in the 1870’s, although he made his
home in
the East

Wheeler was the son of a fisherman and lived in the Black Gang area of
the Isle
of Wight, a place once well-known for smuggling.

In 1885 he emigrated to the
Canadian Prairies, following his uncle who was already homesteading
there. By 1897 he had established his
Maple Grove
Farm to grow wheat just outside Rosthern in Saskatchewan.
His innovative wheat seedlings and farming
methods made him famous and he was soon being called Canada’s Wheat
King. He would get some 700 visitors a
week to see
his farm during the 1920’s. He lived
onto 1961.

South Africa. There were two
early Wheeler families in South Africa:

  • James
    Wheeler and his family from
    Wiltshire were among the 1820 settlers, one of Wilson’s party that came
    out on La Belle Alliance. James
    farmed near Grahamstown but died from
    war wounds in 1831.
  • while
    Thomas and Sarah came from Berkshire on the Susan in
    1845 and made their home at
    Middelburg in the Transvaal where they farmed. A
    branch of the family trekked to new farming land in
    Rhodesia in 1899.


Wheeler Miscellany

The Alternative Meaning of Wheeler.  Albert Wheeler’s
1914 book The Genealogical and Encyclopedic
History of the Wheeler Family in America
provides an alternative
of the Wheeler surname.

striking point is the meaning of the name Wheeler itself.  For
this, it is
evident, determination must be made from the earliest form on
record.  It was
said that the name
first appeared in history in the 8th century when one of the Saxon
was recorded as bearing the name of Wielher.

significant is this early appearance has been mentioned, a fact all the
remarkable when it is remembered that surnames did not appear in
general use
until the 11th and 12th centuries.

early spelling Wielher is evidently a compound of two
Anglo-Saxon words wel or wiel meaning
“prosperous” or “fortunate,”
from which the derivation of the modern word “weal” and “wealth” may be
and the Anglo-Saxon word hari or heri
“a warrior,” a root traceable in
the modern word hero.

spelling of the family name “Wheeler,” therefore, is a spelling of
words which
in their modern form would be “Weal-Hero” or in the Anglo-Saxon words wel-hari.  The meaning of the
family name therefore is clearly “the lucky warrior” or “the prosperous

Sir George Wheler, An Early Travel Writer.  George Wheler was just a boy when
he returned to England from exile with his Royalist parents Charles and
Wheler after the Restoration.  As a young
man of means he embarked in 1673 on a Grand Tour of Europe with his
tutor from
Oxford.  This was followed by an extended
stay with the French scholar Jacob Spon in Greece and the Levant in
1675 and 1676.

Wheler’s book, A Journey into Greece,
was published in 1682.  He gave an
account of the antiquities of Athens and brought home marbles and
made considerable use of coins in his book and paid attention to
botany. He
brought home a number of plants that had not yet been cultivated in

All this bought him into public prominence.  He
was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (although
he was later expelled) and was knighted in 1682.   By that
time, he had returned to the family estate at Charing near Ashford in
Kent, taken
holy orders and become a clergyman.  He
in Durham in 1723.  His son Granville
in his footsteps as a clergyman.  Granville
was also a Fellow of the Royal Society and an early experimenter in

Robert Wheeler of Chale Bay.  Robert Wheeler lived at Chale Bay on the southern tip of the Isle of Wight in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  He owned a boat, fatted a pig or
two yearly,
and did an extensive trade in smuggled gin.
To the end he was unable to spell his own name correctly and
wrote it as he pronounced it – Whiller.

his name should have been
Wheeler.  The Wheelers were a notorious
smuggling gang of the time.  And Wheelers
have remained a sizeable presence in the area, with a local cricket
team being
known to field half a dozen of them.

Wheeler’s only claim to fame is his
diary which has been preserved.  His
first entry was in 1773 and they continued until 1777.
Then for some reason there was a break and
the diary did not resume until 1790.
This time it continued until 1805 when the diary abruptly ended.  The entries mark mainly his daily activities
and transactions. Here and there we hear
of smuggling adventures.  We find
tabulated in 1804 his revenues from smuggling that year – nine tubs of
gin, worth
almost two pounds each (a sizeable sum in those days).

Reader Feedback – Isle of Wight Wheeler DNA.  I am a 5th generation Australian but descended from the Isle of Wight Wheelers.  My Y haplogroup is I-Z60.  I had my DNA done
by National Geographic and I came across an American, also named Wheeler, who also had his DNA done by
National Geographic, and he has the same haplogroup as me.  This is quite a rare one.

would therefore seem that if you wish to
classify the various branches of Wheelers you can put those with my
in the Isle of Wight basket.

Regards, Dave Wheeler (dwhe1952@gmail.com)

Ebenezer Left to Die in Vermont.  In 1759
during the French and Indian Wars, Ebenezer Wheeler at the age of 18
with Captain Rogers to go to Canada.  He
never returned.  The History of
Grafton, Massachusetts
had the following account of
his death:

travelling through the woods the men were compelled to eat
groundnuts and lily roots; and, at last roasted their shoes and powder
and used them as food.  Ebenezer Wheeler
was one of the party and having become so feeble as to be unable to
walk, by
reason of hunger, he was left by his companions and died upon a lonely
in Vermont.” 

Fighting Joe Wheeler.  Joseph Wheeler joined the Confederate side at the outbreak
of the Civil War and was appointed cavalry general in early 1862.  Although short in stature he was beloved by
his troops and constantly in battle until the war ended.

He was wounded three times.  Thirty-six of
his staff officers fell by his
side, six killed and thirty wounded, and sixteen horses were shot out
under himHe distinguished
himself in battle at such places as Shiloh, the Kentucky campaign,
Murfreesboro, Chickamagua, Knoxville, and also opposed Sherman’s
March to the Sea.  He is one of only two
Confederate Generals buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Fighting Joe Wheeler’s name is still sacred
throughout the South.  Besides the town in Alabama named for him,
there is also
a dam that is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority named for him.  According to a testimonial on the TVA web site:

Confederate commander was more
fully reconstructed and some claim that Wheeler single-handedly
inspired the
South to start celebrating the Fourth of July again, after a hiatus
decades in many parts of the former Confederacy.”

When every state in the Union was invited to
display statues of two of its most prominent citizens in the U. S.
Alabama did not hesitate in making Joseph Wheeler one of their choices.

Henry Wheeler Repelling a Bank Raid in Minnesota.  In
1876 Henry Wheeler was visiting his home in Northfield, Minnesota during a
college vacation
when he realized that an attempt was being made to rob the town bank by
the James
and Younger gang.  Henry stepped into the
street from in front of his father’s store where he had been sitting
and shouted

he turned to get
his gun, but remembered that he had left it at home.
He went to the Dompier hotel where an old army carbine with
cartridges was secured and he was soon at a second-story window.

first shot
was at Jim Younger, but the gun carried high, and Younger looked for
the gunner
and rode on.  Wheeler then shot at
Miller, the bullet passing through the body, severing the great artery
death ensued instantly.  After the last
cartridge had fallen to the floor, he was brought replenishment
supplies.  Wheeler shot at Younger and the
ball struck
the robber’s elbow, shattering the bone.  Younger
coolly changed his pistol to his left
hand and continued shooting.  While Wheeler
was re-loading his gun, Younger made his escape and mounted a horse
behind his
brother Cole.  However, the outlaws were
pursued and captured.

Wheeler was presented
with a handsome gold watch by the First National Bank of Northfield in
remembrance of his services in assisting in repelling the attack on
their bank.


Wheeler Names

  • Sir George Wheler who undertook a Grand Tour of Europe in the 1670’s was an early English travel writer.   
  • Joseph Wheeler was a Confederate cavalry general from 1862 to 1865 and a major general in the war against Spain in 1898.   
  • Seager Wheeler was called Canada’s Wheat
    King during the 1920’s
  • Sir Mortimer Wheeler is considered the father of modern British archaeology. 
  • Charles Wheeler has been the longest-serving BBC foreign correspondent, from 1947 until his death in 2008.

Select Wheeler Numbers Today

  • 33,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Wheeler and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.





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