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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Francis Xavier Oster

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 716-717 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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When in the spring of 1909 the friends of Francis Xavier Oster of Utica were called upon to mourn the passing of that genial citizen, the Utica Daily Press said concerning Mr. Oster and the qualities of mind and heart that had endeared him to his friends:

"He was considered an excellent business man and in all his dealings he was extremely honorable. He was a man of most genial and jovial nature and made friends on every hand. All with whom he came in contact were impressed with his unfailing sincerity, loyalty and generosity. He possessed a ready wit and was a welcome guest wherever he went."

It seems but fitting that in this definite history of the region in which Mr. Oster's life was spent there should be set out briefly some mention of his life and character as a small tribute to the good memory he left at his passing and which found such accurate reflection in the above comment from the local newspaper.

Francis Xavier Oster was born in Deerfield Corners, Oneida county, New York, in the year 1853 and was a son of Joseph and Sophia (Dietrich) Oster, both of whom were members of old families in this section of the state. Joseph Oster, in his generation, was one of the best known men in the district in which he lived. For years he conducted a general store and hotel at Deerfield Corners, and also for some time served as postmaster of the village. The Oster Hotel was a landmark of that region. It was amid this environment that Francis X. Oster was reared, his constant contact with the public from the time of his childhood developing those traits of geniality and readiness of response that so marked his intercourse with the public in his mature years. He acquired his early schooling in the old brick schoolhouse on the Marcy road and then attended the advanced school and Assumption Academy of Utica. As a lad he began working at the upholstering trade in the establishment of Lord & Company of Utica, but not long afterward entered the employ of his uncle, Peter Vidvard, who was engaged in the wholesale liquor trade of Utica. He learned the details of this form of marketing and then started out as a traveling salesman for his uncle, covering central New York, and thus acquired a wide acquaintance with the trade throughout this region.

In 1884 Mr. Oster became engaged in the wholesale liquor trade on his own account, in association with Daniel Quinn, opening an establishment on Charlotte street, in Utica. Presently John Lalor was admitted to this firm, which then carried on the business under the name of Quinn, Oster & Lalor, later moving into more extensive quarters in the Majestic Theatre building, on Lafayette street. Not long afterward Mr. Lalor withdrew from the firm, and in the course of time the Quinn interest in the business was bought by Mr. Oster, who thereafter and until his death carried on the business alone and with a large measure of success. As his business expanded he recognized the need of greater quarters, and about 1906 bought the old Press building, on Main street, and was thus in business at that place at the time of his death, on March 26, 1909. Mr. Oster was a democrat, and while he was often active in behalf of others in political campaigns, he was never a candidate for office himself, preferring to devote all of his attention to business. He was a member of St. John's church and of the Fort Schuyler council of the Royal Arcanum. He was a singer of more than local reputation, possessed a clear tenor voice, and was long one of the leading members of the old Zingarella Glee Club of pleasant memory throughout this section.

On November 23, 1881, Francis X. Oster was united in marriage to Miss Margaret Welch, who survives him and who is still living in Utica, residing at No. 2039 Genesee street. Besides his widow Mr. Oster also was survived by three sisters, Mrs. T. W. Arthur and Mrs. Fred C. Hitzelberger of Utica, and Mrs. Patrick B. Kearney of Schenectady, New York.

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