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Mark Simonson

August 17, 2013

A farewell, sidewalk supervising and cheers made local news in August 1928

Oneontans said farewell to one of their esteemed residents. Two big construction projects got underway, and crowds cheered on Oneonta’s “Iron Man.” These were all part of our life and times in August 1928. 

It’s just my opinion, but when it comes time to die, it’s best when you’re in a place you enjoy. Such was the case for David Forrest Wilber, as The Oneonta Star reported on Monday, Aug. 16, 1928. 

“Hon. David Forrest Wilber, former member of congress, long engaged in the consular service of the United States and easily the most widely known and most esteemed resident of Oneonta, died at his summer camp at Upper Dam, Maine yesterday morning ... following a decline of more than a year ... having been compelled to forego his favorite pastime of fishing.”

Wilber was born in Milford in December 1859, and after his education at Milford and at the Cazenovia Seminary, he joined his father, David, and brother, George I., in the hop business of David Wilber & Sons. Young David moved to Oneonta in 1880 to open an office for the firm. He also built a brick residence at the corner of Ford Avenue and Main Street, where Community Bank is today. The house was replaced in the early 1920s by the Palace Theatre.

Wilber entered politics, serving as a county supervisor and then elected to Congress in a district made up from Otsego, Montgomery, Schoharie, Greene and Schenectady counties. Wilber served from 1895 to 1903.

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Wilber as a Consul General at Singapore in 1903, and he was then either promoted or transferred to other countries until 1923, thereafter returning to Oneonta to care for property interests and enjoying his remaining years in travel and favorite diversions, such as fishing.

One of D.F. Wilber’s early property interests was a partnership with Reuben Reynolds and Fred Wilcox in acquiring the Yager farm, found near the top of Maple Street, and then providing the state with the site for the State Normal School, today’s State University College at Oneonta. Wilber was highly active in the development of Oneonta from 1880 to 1900.

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Mark Simonson

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