Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

June 21, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Joshua Wilbur, Lockport's first historian

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Joshua Wilbur, born in Norwich, Ct., in 1824, was the third of five generations to be named “Joshua Wilbur.” When he was a toddler, his family moved to Providence, R.I., where he spent his childhood. When his father died in 1839, Joshua started for Lockport, where his mother’s relatives kept the Lockport House at Market and Exchange streets. He walked to Utica, where he boarded a canal packet boat for the rest of the journey.

In Lockport, Wilbur was apprenticed to a tailor, but when the sewing machine was invented in 1846 he lost his job and took up the printing trade instead. His first newspaper, the “Niagara Democrat,” was published in 1848. In 1853 he began to do the printing for George Merchant of Merchant’s Gargling Oil fame. That same year he formed a partnership with a man named Prentiss and began printing the “Lockport Daily Advertiser” in an office above 17 Main St.

Wilbur then moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for two years at the “Washington Daily Globe.” He returned to Lockport in 1856 and worked at a drug store on Market and Chapel streets. It was also in that year he married his first wife, Mary Hickey, a native of Ireland and resident of Lockport, at St. John’s Church. A year later he bought the drug store and worked in the pharmacy business for the next 46 years.

Wilbur’s store on Market Street was more than just a pharmacy. He sold hardware items, toys, confectionaries and tobacco products, as well as ladies’ fancy goods.

Joshua and Mary had three sons, Joshua, William and George. William became a priest and George went into the insurance business. Son Joshua married Kate Burns in 1884 and, eight days after the wedding, while they were visiting his parents in Lockport, Kate died unexpectedly.

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