In 1873, a customer, Rowland Hall of Elmira, NY, entered Chester store in order to purchase some plant stands. Unable to pay in cash, he bartered with Chester. Chester received several dog muzzles, rat traps, and egg beaters along with a carpet loom in payment for the plant stands.
Having always been mechanically minded, Chester tinkered with the carpet loom so that it would weave wire instead. He began developing products that a farming community like Cortland would need: horse muzzles, seed spreaders, window screens to keep insects out, coal sieves, and popcorn poppers. Chester purchased more looms to accommodate the growing business and developed a partnership with his younger brother, Theodore. Together they created Wickwire Brothers Company. In 1876, they sold the hardware store in order to start producing wire cloth full time.
Even after becoming one of Cortland’s most prominent citizens, Chester was described by his contemporaries as quiet, modest, sincere, kindly, and genuine. Chester was often called on for advice and leadership and commonly assisted with municipal works such as paving roads and running sewer lines. He was a trustee of the First National Bank, the First Presbyterian Church, and the Franklin Hatch Library Association. The best demonstration of his concern for Cortland’s citizens was his gift of the first Cortland County hospital.
When he wasn’t working, Chester pursued several hobbies at home, including raising and racing horses. Chester lived in his house for 20 years before a fateful night in 1910.
While dining on corn-on-the-cob with his wife, Ardell, and son, Frederic, Chester suddenly had convulsions. He dropped his corn and said, “It’s paralysis all right!” Chester’s diagnosis proved right. After rushing to the hospital, Chester was diagnosed with a stroke, and he returned to his home only to die shortly after, at the age of 67.
Support Cortland's Landmark Building
The impressive collection found throughout the 1890 House Museum offer visitors the opportunity to step back in time to 19th century Cortland. The unique history within our walls tells the stories of the Wickwire family, their servants, and the factory workers who toiled in Wickwire Wire Mills Factory.
We strive to educate and inspire every visitor through diverse programming and exhibitions. With your help, we will preserve this Cortland County landmark for present and future generations.