The life of the subject of this brief biography illustrates the success that attends quiet, honest endeavor and well-directed industry, without the assistance of early advantages or the aid of particularly favorable chance of circumstance.
David B. Wagner was the son of Jacob and Mary (Bryant) Wagner, natives of Pennsylvania, and among the earliest settlers of Greenfield township, Fairfield county, Ohio. They were the parents of ten children, five boys and five girls, of whom the subject of this sketch was the first-born. Fairfield county was the place of his nativity, and the time, November 14, 1822. He passed his boyhood days in the manner common to the youth of the farm, and attended the common district schools of his neighborhood, receiving the best instruction attainable at that time and in the locality where he lived, but not enjoying the advantages of an advanced education, which most of the young are now offered. He acquired, however, through his own endeavors and by close application and diligence, a fair knowledge of books, which he has, during his whole life, been supplementing with what he has obtained from reading and observation. In the early years of his manhood he taught school eight terms--three before and five after his marriage--giving very general satisfaction. His regular occupation, however, was farming, and he followed it until his removal to his present place of residence in 1854.
Mr. Wagner married, January 19, 1845, Leah (daughter of the famous Evangelical preacher, the Rev. John Dreisbach), who is still living. The offspring of this union were four children, all of whom are living except one. The eldest, John D., was born January 23, 1846--married Elizabeth Feller, and is now living in Hancock county, Ohio; Jacob was born July 25, 1847, and is living with his parents in Circleville; as is also Jennie, the youngest, born September 181859; Mary Frances, the third child, was born March 25, 1851, and died September 6, 1852.
Mr. Wagner's life, since 1854, has been identified with Circleville, and he has been, during all the years that have passed subsequent to that date, one of the town's representative business men and substantial citizens. He commenced his mercantile career immediately on coming to Circleville, in the dry goods and grocery business, as a member of Einsel, Wagner & Co. Louis Einsel was the senior member, and the junior, Jacob E. Dreisbach. Mr. Wagner remained in this firm, which did business on West Main street, where Joseph Wallace now is, until September 5, 1859, when he opened, in partnership with Martin E. Dreisbach, a grocery store. When this partnership was dissolved Mr. Wagner conducted the business alone until 1865, when he associcted [sic.] with himself Andrew Nonnamaker, under the firm name of D. B. Wagner & Co. Just at this time the war coming to a close, prices went suddenly down, and, in common with most of the merchants of the country, Mr. Wagner suffered a loss. Although he had just associated with himself a partner, he bore alone, by his own voluntary proposal, the entire loss occasioned by the falling of value on goods which they had in stock, previously invoiced. After the partnership of Mr. Wagner and Mr. Nonnamaker had existed four years it was dissolved by mutual consent, and Mr. Wagner took into his business Mr. B. H. Moore, who remained with him one year. At the expiration of that period Mr. Wagner and his son John formed a partnership, and remained in business together five years. After that the firm name became D. B. Wagner & Co., the company being Jacob Rife, and, as a silent partner, M. E. Dreisbach. The business was continued for five years under this name and style, and then changed to that which at present Exists--D. B. Wagner & Rife. Mr. Wagner, ever since his first business partnership, has been, through the several changes, the senior member of the different firms, and has furnished the greater part of the capital used. He has been popular as a tradesman, and successful in his business. During all of the years since he began, Mr. Wagner has given the business he has been engaged in his personal attention and supervision. He has taken no part in public affairs, except that which every good citizen does, and has not been connected actively with the political movements of the times, though he has had much interest in them, and been an intelligent observer of men and measures. He originally was a Democrat, but left that party at the time of the free soil issue, and afterwards became a Republican. His vote has since been, on all questions of National or State importance with that party.
Mr. Wagner's religious affiliation is with the Evangelical Association. He has been for forty years a member of this church, and is one of its class-leaders. He is a prominent Sunday-school worker, and has been superintendent of the Calvary Sunday-school of the Evangelical Association ever since its organization--nearly ten years. It is not inappropriate to add, in this connection, that this school was organized by Mr. Wagner as a mission school. He expected and endeavored [to] secure assistance in the labor and expense of conducting it, but was unsuccessful, and not wishing to have the project prove a failure, continued it alone. He purchased the library at his own expense, and virtually gave the entire support that the school received in its inception and infancy. It is now in a very flourishing condition.