Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr.
April 20, 1919 - March 17, 2000
Herbert Wisbey was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Rhode Island. He went to the University of Rhode Island for his undergraduate studies and received a master's degree from the University of Arizona. During World War II he was Division Historian of the Seventh Armored Division in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
In 1946 Adelia Wagner and Herbert Wisbey were married. They lived in New York State for 48 years. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, and two daughters, Jane C. Wisbey and Susan M. Van Alst, and two sons, Thomas B. Wisbey and Peter A. Wisbey, and six grandchildren.
Herbert Wisbey was awarded a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951. Doctor Wisbey came to Keuka College in 1952 and was there for 10 years as head of the Department of History and Political Science. In 1962 he went to Corning Community College and, in 1965, was invited to join Elmira College. He remained there until his retirement in 1986, then continued as Professor Emeritus of American History and Elmira College Archivist.
Dr. Wisbey's fields of special interest were American religious and social history. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and several historical and professional organizations. His first book, Soldiers Without Swords, a history of the Salvation Army in the United States, was published in 1955. He was especially interested in the Utopian Communities such as Jemima Wilkinson and her followers, and the Shakers. His biography, Pioneer Prophetess, Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend was published in 1964 and reprinted in 1999. In 1975 Herbert Wisbey founded the Elmira Shaker Seminar which was held each summer for a week at the sites of former Shaker settlements. Following his retirement as director in 1985, the program has continued as the Berkshire Shaker Seminar. His book The Sodus Shaker Community was published in 1982.
Professor Wisbey developed his own specialization in folklore and in New York history. He became a member of the editorial board of the New York Folklore Quarterly and he was a frequent contributor to history society publications and to reference and biographical encyclopedias.
Herb Wisbey co-authored with Robert Jerome Mark Twain in Elmira, published in 1977. He was the founding director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Quarry Farm from 1983 until 1986. He was a charter member of the Mark Twain Society and together with Robert Jerome edited the Mark Twain Society Bulletin that continued until 1997. He was an active board member of the Chemung County Historical Society.
Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr. generously contributed many articles to The Crooked Lake Review. His transcription of F. C. Pollay's account as a crew member on Perry's 1852 expedition to Japan appeared in our June 1990 issue. Herb's interview with Alderman Gleason on the story of Jonathan Goble and his jinrikisha, was the July 1990 issue along with his review of a new biography of Goble. Camping on Lake Keuka, his edit of Will Gerity's 1870 diary ran from June to September 1991. The issues of August and October 1991, August 1993, and July and August 1995 contained accounts he supplied about Robert Ingersoll. Herb provided Huldah Barnes Davis's 1890 recollections of Jemima Wilkinson in the October 1992 issue, and he wrote of Edward H. Rulloff and The Wilder Brain Collection in the May 1993 issue. Notes from a Schoolmaster's Diary was in the September 1993 issue, and his folklore pieces: Guyanoga—The Indian Born in a Cider Barrel in the September 1992 issue and The Lady in Granite in the October 1994 issue. His story of the Penn Yan Diner was in November and December 1993 issues and his biographical sketches of Coates Kinney, Bolton Brown, and Halsey C. Ives appeared in our September 1995, November 1995 and Fall 1998 issues.
Herbert Wisbey was a dedicated scholar and a very generous man.
© 2000, Bill Treichler