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Major Wilbur Fiske Osborne

Major Wilbur Fiske Osborne (pictured above) was one of the great business leaders of the community prior to his death on March 30, 1907. However, his greatest legacy is the Derby Neck Library which he pioneered through his original work as a teacher in a small mission school in the Derby Neck section of town. When that school closed, he and others decided to form a "Circulating Library" for area residents with the books that had been used in the mission school. That was accomplished in June, 1897 and eventually resulted in the building of the Derby Neck Library. The sad part of the story is that he died before the new library building was completed. His name adorns the front of the building along with Andrew Carnegie.

Derby Neck Library circa 1907.

From the Evening Sentinel

March 30, 1907

Maj. W. F. Osborne Died Suddenly To-Day

Maj. Wilbur F. Osborne died at his home on Hawthorne Avenue, Derby, this morning very suddenly. Mr. Osborne was taken ill with stomach trouble on Monday and was compelled to remain in the house. The attack left him weak, but on Tuesday he was better and continued to improve on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. Yesterday, he was so much better that he planned to go to his office for a short time this morning. He spent the evening at home reading and playing chess with his daughter, and retired apparently much better than at any time during the week. This morning about 5 o'clock he was taken with a sinking attack due to heart failure and lived only a few hours, death coming about 8 o'clock.

The news of the death of Mr. Osborne was a great shock to the people of the city. He was a man who has been identified with the business interests of the associated communities for many years, and through these interests had a wide circle of friends. He was an exceedingly popular man with all classes of people , and as it was not generally known that he was ill, the announcement of his death cam with a peculiar saddening effect.

Sketch of his Life

Major Wilbur F. Osborne was born in Derby, January 14, 1841. He was a son of the late John W. Osborne, one of the founders of the Osborne & Cheeseman Company. He has lived all his life in Derby, although for a number of years  and until very recently his business life was identified with Ansonia. He grew up in the business enterprises established by his father, and from boyhood took an active and a promising part in planning and developing the business out of which since have come a number of branches. A few years after the retirement of his father from the presidency of the Osborne & Cheeseman Co., he became the executive head of that concern. In 1882, as an offshoot of the above named company, there was incorporated the Schneller, Osborne, & Cheeseman Company. Some years later the Union Fabric Company was organized, and Major Osborne became its president, a position he has since held. He was also the president of the Schneller Stay Works, of Ansonia, and of the Connecticut Clasp Company, of Bridgeport, and is identified with a number of other manufacturing enterprises in this section. He was one of the original incorporators of the S. O. & C. Co. of Ansonia, and of the Derby Silver Company, of Shelton, now a branch of the International Silver Co.

Mill Moved to Derby

A few years ago the Union Fabric Company built a large mill on Housatonic Avenue ...where the business has grown to large proportions. The mill is a model one throughout, in equipment  and in conveniences and accommodations for those employed. One side of Mr. Osborne's character is shown in the care taken to do everything that might preserve the health and add to the comfort of those who worked in this shop.

Major Osborne served three years and seven months in the Civil War, having enlisted in April 1861, from Wesleyan University, first in the three months' service and later in the first regiment that was sworn into the United States service for the entire Civil War. He received promotion to sergeant, second, and first lieutenant, and captain of artillery, being in Companies C and G of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery. He was military instructor of the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery, inspector general of defenses at Washington, south of the Potomac, ordinance officer, acting quartermaster, and held other positions of trust and importance. He was a member of the Kellogg Post, GAR.

His Greatest Work

The greatest work that Mr. Osborne has done in this community is the building up of the Derby Neck Library. Notwithstanding the pressure of a large number of business affairs he found time to devote to the development of an institution that is one of the best of it size in the state, and perhaps in the country. Years ago, there was a small mission school in Derby Neck, in which Mr. Osborne was a teacher. For various reasons it seemed wise, after a time, to discontinue this school. A number of books which had been used in the school, and which has been donated principally by Mr. Osborne, were on hand, and it was decided to form a circulating library for the use of people living at the Neck. The library was organized in June, 1897. It has been the pride of Mr. Osborne's life to build it up rapidly, and to make it a successful one, and the great number of people who visit it on the days of the week when it is open and the large number of books that are weekly drawn from it show its popularity. It is popular with the children, a thing that Mr. Osborne sought to make it. It is well equipped with a splendid selection of books. Mr. Osborne not only devoted a great deal of attention an time to the library, but was a liberal contributor, and through his wide acquaintances, drew to it support from many different people in many parts of the country.

In recent years, the library has grown so rapidly that the quarters it occupies in the Hawthorne School building are not adequate, and last year a movement for a building, which was started some time ago, was pushed with vigor, and a contribution from Andrew Carnegie, contributions from other sources an active and energetic work y members of the association, resulted in the erection of a building. This building is now under way, and will probably be completed this summer. It will remain a monument to the interest that Mr. Osborne felt in the people of the section, and in the people of the city, for the library has long since become a library for the whole people.

Man of Great Popularity

Personally Major Osborne was a man who made friends readily and retained those that he made. He was a man who believed in the rights of others, and believed that every man should be careful not to encroach upon the rights of others. He was always approachable and always ready and willing to talk with any who sought him, and these traits, with his inherent honest, an honesty that showed itself in all business dealings, made him a vast number of friends, and friends who today speak of his death as a distinct loss to the city. These friends are among all classes, in the business world, in the labor world, and in the social world. He was a man who did not seek political preferment, and although time and again urged to accept the nomination for some office, a nomination that in his case seemed equivalent to election, he invariably declined. The only office he ever held was that of a member of the Board of Apportionment, by which fact he became a member of the committee that built the concrete steel bridge across the Naugatuck River2. He was an advocate from the first of a bridge of this material.

Mr. Osborne is survived by his widow and one daughter, Miss. Frances Osborne.

The funeral service will be held on Monday afternoon, at 2 o'clock, at the house. Internment will take place at Oak Cliff Cemetery. The body will lie in state at the house between the hours of 11 and 12 o'clock on Monday, so that employees of the shop and the other friends of Mr. Osborne may view the remains.


Correct answers were received from: Carol Pendagast, John Poole, Amy Cobaugh, Patti Villers, Marc J. Garofalo, Ann Searles, Nick from Terryville, Beth colette, tom chebro, Randy Ritter, Ruth E. Barnett, Joe Drauszewski, Bert DeForest, Bruce  Sill, Cyndi, MARILYN MIZII, Sharon, Mildred Fatterusso, ann mirisola, MARY SUESS, Mary Bisaccia, Joe Dedo, Mary Lou Boroski, jack vagnini, Jean (Graboski) Malone, BOB SCOVIN, Adam Greene, ozzie  neustaedter, Ray Allen (DHS 75), Sharon Tracy Sonsini, Michael J Regan, Robert, Stephanie Anne D'Onofrio, patricia sweeney, Edward Baclawski, Julie Crockett, Fred Grant, Jack Moran, Eileen Krugel, Julia Romano Soda, Bob Ahearn, Sean Conlon, Robert Reilly, Robert Pasquini, Paula Tyszka, Stephanie Hardenber, Rick Schreiner, Carmela M. D'Onofrio, Samuel Tuccio,

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