Tried in March, 1839, for the murder of Robert Barber, August 30th, 1837.
At the time of the murder, they were fellow-passengers on board a canal boat, on the Erie canal, for Buffalo. Barber was 53 years old, and was on his way to be married, in the neigborhood of Syracuse. Early on the morning of the day when they were to arrive at Syracuse, he left the boat, to walk ahead along the tow-path. He was presently followed by Wilbur, who joined him, and they walked on together. There were about thirty passengers, and many of them left the boat for the same purpose at about the same time. There was some doubtful testimony, about their being seen to cross a bridge, to the opposite side, or "heel-path" of the canal; and also of their having been seen from a little distance, to strike off from the canal, by a person living on that side, who had formerly known Wilbur. That testimony did not amount to evidence. Wilbur rejoined the boat at a town some distance ahead. The old man was no more seen, till his murdered body was found in the following spring. His pocket-book, with 8102 in it, was found in his vest pocket. To the inquiries addressed to him about the non-appearance of Barber, Wilbur replied that he did not know what had become of him, but supposed he had hurried on, from his "impatience to reach his journey's end. The body was discovered, in the following spring, in a lonely place, at some distance from the canal. Wilbur was suspected, traced, and arrested in Ohio, where he was found under the name of Lee. He was brought back, but denied knowing any of the hands of the canal boat, or having left Maine on his way west, before the 10th September. He explained his change of name by some other cause, expressing great regret at its unfortunate suspicions bearing against him. He was, however, fully identified as having passed at the period of the murder, at trie end of August. All the evidence against him was circumstantial, and far from being such as to have secured a conviction, had he not told the falsehoods which he did respecting the time of his passage, &c.
Before his execution, however, he confessed the crime. His design was to rob Barber, though in his terror at the imagined approach of danger he fled from the body without taking his money. He had formerly been a slave-driver in Kentucky.
He was hung May 3d, 1839 (Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 64th Session, 1841. Vol. 6 : Albany, N.Y. : Thurlow Weed.