Born on August 6, 1828, to Joseph and Elizabeth Whilden, William Whilden was raised the youngest of seven children in Charleston. By the 1860s, Whilden was partner in a firm, Hayden & Whilden, military outfitters which imported British jewelry and silverware in Charleston 1855-1863. In 1863 Whilden became a lieutenant in the elite Confederate Washington Artillery stationed in Charleston.
After the war, Whilden chose to remain in Charleston for another fifteen years before moving to Greenville. When he came to Greenville in 1880, he was a Special Agent for several southern states for the Continental Fire Insurance Company.
Whilden married first Ellen Amelia Taylor (1831 - 1884) and second Emma Julia Smith (1841 - 1930), the widow of Belton Oscar Mauldin, daughter of Thomas P. Smith of Charleston.
Whilden died June 8, 1896 in Greenville.