Biography of Charles M. Wiberg
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Charles M. Wiberg was born in Norkoping, Sweden, 1820. His youth and early manhood were passed in different parts of his native land, engaging in various occupations until he became an apprentice at the shoemakers’ trade. After acquiring his trade he, in 1841, went to London, where he was employed for nearly three years. He then came to the United States, landing in New York in 1843. From that time until 1850, he worked at his trade in New Milford, Connecticut, New York City, Milwaukee and Janesville, Wisconsin, and New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1850, he started in business for himself at Milwaukee, but had only gotten fairly underway when he was burnt out by the great fire of 1851. With his entire capital destroyed and several hundred dollars in debt, he determined to seek a new home in Oregon, and in 1852, he started for Portland via the Isthmus of Panama, arriving here July 6, 1852. For a short time after his arrival he worked at his trade, but in December, 1852, opened a boot and shoe store, the first in this line of trade ever started in Portland. He began on a small scale, but fortune favored him and in a short time he was doing a prosperous business. The first money he could spare from his business he used in paying the indebtedness he had incurred at Milwaukee, paying not only the full amount he owed there but interest on it from the time it was contracted until paid. This debt he could have settled at a great reduction, but he refused all offers of compromise, insisting on paying in the manner he did. This incident illustrates his innate sense of honor and honesty which throughout his long commercial career has ever been so conspicuously exhibited. For several years Mr. Wiberg conducted his business alone, but in 1860, J. A. Strowbridge became a partner under the firm name of Wiberg & Strowbridge. In 1864, a wholesale business was begun in connection with their retail trade, and leather and twining were added to their stock. A high degree of success followed their exertions in this line of trade and a large business was built up. In 1869, they sold out the boot and shoe business to Kramer & Kaufman. For some time thereafter, Mr. Wiberg in connection with Mr. Strowbridge continued in the leather and finding business, but he finally sold out and for a few years led a retired life. He then started again in the boot and shoe business and for a time John Kern and was associated with him under the firm name of Wiberg & Kernan. The latter sold his interest to A. M. Hollabaugh in 1882, since which time the firm has been Wiberg & Hollabaugh.
Mr. Wiberg has been interested in various other enterprises outside of his regular line of trade. He was one of the original promoters and stockholders in the Willamette Iron Bridge Company, the Merchants National Bank and the Pacific Insurance Company. He has also been a large operator in real estate, and still owns valuable property in and near the city. Coming to Portland at an early day he has seen all the marvelous changes which have occurred in this portion of the northwest, and is now one of the oldest merchants in the city. His reputation as a business man has been of the highest. The rewards of his honorable business career have been a large fortune and the deserved esteem of all who know him.
He was married, in 1858, to Miss P. Ingram, of Portland. They have had nine children, eight of whom are living. Their eldest son, Charles Edwin, died recently at the age of twenty-six.