Biography of Henry Wilber

Henry Wilber is a remarkable pioneer who has demonstrated the immense potential of agricultural development in South Dakota. Born in Michigan in 1845, Wilber embarked on a successful career in the lumber industry before venturing to Dakota in 1880. There, he settled in Brown County, where he established a thriving farm through sheer hard work and dedication. Wilber’s farm boasted substantial improvements, including a commodious residence and extensive land holdings. He excelled in grain production and Hereford cattle breeding, achieving great success. With his enterprising spirit, Wilber became a model farmer in the region, earning respect and admiration. Alongside his wife, he embraced his Republican politics and Methodist Episcopal faith, creating a rich and fulfilling life in his chosen community.

HENRY WILBER is one of those energetic and sturdy pioneers who have shown the world the possibilities involved in the development of the agricultural resources of the great state of South Dakota, and he is today the owner of a finely improved and valuable farm in Bath township, Brown County, where he took up his abode more than a score of years ago. Mr. Wilber is a native of the fine old Wolverine state, having been born in Lapeer County, Michigan, on the 19th of November, 1845, and being a son of Joel and Hannah Wilber. He was reared on the homestead farm and received a common-school education, and in his youth, he began working in the great lumber woods of his native state, continuing to be identified with this line of industry for a period of fifteen years, while for three years he held the position of foreman. For five years, he followed the hazardous business of driving logs on Mill Creek, becoming an expert in the management of the logs, which were thus floated down to the mills each spring. In the summer of 1880, in company with his brothers, Ira and Martin, Mr. Wilber came to the James River Valley of Dakota, reaching their destination in May. On the 3rd of the following month, each of them filed entry on homestead and tree claims, our subject securing two claims on Section 6, Brown County. That same autumn, he took up his residence on the place, upon which he erected a sod house and barn, of the type common to the early pioneer days. Lumber at that time commanded about one hundred and fifty dollars per thousand feet, and few of the settlers felt inclined to make the necessary expenditure to secure the same, even if able to do so. In this township, those who wintered here that year were few in number, including the subject and S. H. Cook, P. C. Cavanagh, two bachelor brothers named Lamb, and I. Chamberlain. Mr. Wilber continued to occupy his primitive sod house for three years, and in the meanwhile vigorously prosecuted the work of improving his farm and rendering it available for effective cultivation. At the expiration of the period noted, he erected a small frame house, which is an integral portion of his present substantial and commodious residence, which was erected about five years ago, while the other permanent improvements are in harmony therewith. A tree claim which was originally a part of his home farm he has given to one of his sons, but added five other quarter sections to his holdings, one of which he has since given to another of his sons, so that he retains in his home farm a half section at the present time, while he also owns a quarter section one-half mile to the south and another one-half section on the James River, three miles distant, the last mentioned being utilized mainly for grazing and raising hay. In addition to raising large quantities of grain, Mr. Wilber is also prominently interested in the raising of Hereford cattle, having at the present time about seventy-five head, thoroughbred and graded. He has raised ten thousand bushels of wheat in one year, and he now devotes about five hundred acres to this product and sixty-five acres to corn. He has been very successful in raising corn and pronounces this section as well adapted to the propagation of the same as his native state of Michigan. For the past seven seasons, Mr. Wilber has operated a threshing outfit and has found this enterprise likewise profitable. He is wide-awake and enterprising and is one of the model farmers of this section of the state. In politics, he is a staunch Republican, and both he and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In Lapeer County, Michigan, on the 7th of May, 1866, Mr. Wilber was united in marriage to Miss Esther Clement, who was born in Massachusetts, whence she accompanied her parents to Michigan when she was a girl of thirteen years. Of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Wilber, we enter the following brief record: Adel died at the age of four years; Lena died at the age of sixteen; Ruby died on the 24th of May, 1902, as a result of an operation for appendicitis, being in the bloom of gracious maidenhood, as she was nineteen years of age at the time; Hattie is the wife of Rev. W. O. Gram, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Bath, this county; Frank, who married Lillian Rievert, is engaged in farming, his place being one-half mile distant from the old homestead; Frederick, who married Lizzie Schnase, is engaged in farming in this county, and Estella and Clifford remain at the parental home.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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