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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John Christian Hieber

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 216-219 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of John Christian Hieber

Portrait: John Christian Hieber

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The late John Christian Hieber was for years the senior member of the firm of John C. Hieber & Company, Incorporated, which has conducted a wholesale dry goods business in Utica for more than a half century and enjoys an enviable reputation as one of the leading and most successful concerns of its kind in central and northern New York. Mr. Hieber was born in Württemberg, Germany, on the 23d of December, 1837, and was in the seventy-second year of his age when he departed this life on January 20, 1909. He received a good practical education in his native country and was a youth of fifteen when in 1852 he crossed the Atlantic to the United States, He first worked as an employe in a glove factory in Johnstown, Fulton county, New York, and in 1853 came to Utica, where he had a position in the grocery store of A. D. Mather & Company for three years. On the expiration of that period, in 1856, he returned to Johnstown for the purpose of learning glove cutting, there remaining for four years. In 1860 he came back to Utica and here secured a clerkship in the dry goods establishment of E. T. Manning & Company, the predecessor of Hugh Glenn & Company, with whom he continued until 1864. In the latter year he embarked in the retail dry goods business in Utica on his own account in partnership with William Gries, under the firm name of William Gries & Company, which in 1867 was changed to Gries & Hieber. It was also in 1867 that the firm moved from its first location on Genesee street to No. 85 Franklin Square. Two years later Mr. Hieber purchased his partner's interest in the business and formed a partnership with John A. Roberts which was maintained under the name of John C. Hieber & Company until 1871. In that year the firm disposed of its retail business and acquired the wholesale dry goods establishment of Smith, Sanford & Company. A new company was organized under the name of Hieber, Roberts & Jones for the conduct of a wholesale dry goods business. This proved successful from the beginning. In 1874 Mr. Hieber purchased the interests of his associates and soon afterward formed a partnership with David E. Williams and William O. Hewitt. In the year 1875 a removal was made to the corner of John and Main streets. The business was continued under the name of John C. Hieber & Company until 1881, when Mr. Hieber became the sole proprietor. The next year the concern was reorganized, Mr. Hieber taking into partnership J. Francis Day and Isaac O. Roberts. The business greatly expanded. The partnership continued until February, 1900, when Mr. Roberts died, and the same year Mr. Day severed his connection with the enterprise to become secretary of the Utica Trust & Deposit Company. In 1901 Theodore William and Eugene Albert Hieber, two sons of John C. Hieber, were taken into the firm, which was incorporated six years later with the following officers: John C. Hieber, president; David E. Williams, vice president; Eugene A. Hieber, secretary and treasurer; and Theodore W. Hieber, general manager. John C. Hieber died on the 20th of January, 1909, after nearly fifty years of success in the dry goods business in Utica. The present officers of John C. Hieber & Company, Incorporated, are as follows: Theodore W. Hieber, president; and Eugene A. Hieber, secretary and treasurer. The present large business block of the company at Nos. 311, 313 and 315 Main street was erected in 1893. The commanding position which the concern occupies as one of the best known wholesale dry goods houses in central and northern New York is largely attributable to the efforts of John C. Hieber, who attained well merited distinction among the leading and representative business men of Utica. His was the proud American title of a self-made man, for he was penniless when he arrived in this country and the prosperity which he later enjoyed was the direct result of untiring industry, unquestioned honesty, unassailable integrity and fair dealing in business affairs. All with whom he came into contact during a half century in business life were his friends.

On the 22d of September, 1862, Mr. Hieber was united in marriage to Miss Barbara Neeger of Marcy, New York, who passed away on February 9, 1912, leaving six children, namely: Theodore W., Eugene A., Dr. George M., Lena C., Flora I. and Matilda C. A worthy exemplar of the teachings and purposes of the Masonic fraternity, Mr. Hieber belonged to Oriental Lodge, F. & A. M.; and Oneida Chapter, R. A. M. He also held membership in the Utica Chamber of Commerce and in the Utica Maennerchor. Mr. Hieber first joined the Zion Lutheran church, in which he served as Sunday school teacher and also sang in the choir, for he possessed an excellent voice. Later he took a prominent part in the organization of the Evangelical Lutheran church of the Redeemer and served as one of its deacons as well as superintendent of its Sunday school. In his passing the city of Utica sustained the loss of one of its foremost merchants and most valued citizens.

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