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Wilbur Pioneers: The Van Bibber Empire

In 1868, Isaac Jacob Van Bibber, and his 23 year-old son Peter each claimed 160 acres of prime timberland north of Germaine. Two years later, young Peter began to build a small sawmill on Tamarack Creek to provide lumber for several new homesteads which were being constructed in the area. Unable to find enough strong, young men in Wilbur County to fall the trees and drag them with mule teams down to the mill, the Van Bibbers began to advertise for labor in the Willamette Valley, and in the east. By now the cross-country railways were bringing new arrivals daily to the Oregon country, and in no time, the Van Bibbers had all of the workers they needed to operate the sawmill full time. By the late 1870s they were bringing down so much lumber from the Ochocos that Peter Van Bibber headed out to find new markets in neighboring towns. Van Bibber found the demand for sawn timber to be insatiable, and immediately arranged for purchase of wagons and teams of horses to deliver the product. By 1892 a new sawmill was producing several thousand board feet daily, and in 1894 the Van Bibbers moved into a new mansion southwest of Germaine. The next year, when Isaac Jacob Van Bibber died at the age of 77, the family fortune was estimated at $750,000. By 1915, when Peter Van Bibber passed on, the fortune had grown to several million dollars.