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George W. Fitch, 1844-1920

FITCH, BOLEYN, MOORE, PALMER, ILIFF, DESART

Posted By: Constance Diamond, IAGenWeb Volunteer (email)
Date: 8/29/2017 at 09:50:00

The Fayette County Union
West Union, Fayette Co., Iowa
Nov. 11, 1920
Page 1, column six

GEORGE W. FITCH
HAS PASSED AWAY
Well Known Writer of History Throughout the United States.

George William Fitch died yesterday morning, November 10, at the West Union hospital where he had been taken earlier in the week suffering from general debility. Mr. Fitch had not been well for years and during the past year his decline was apparent to all his townsmen. His passing is universally regretted for he was a good man, and kind'neighbor and a faithful friend. Of an extremely social nature he made friends and held them. He was scholarly and a few hours spent in his company was a mental uplift.

Mr. Fitch was a native of Youngstown, Ohio, born October 13, 1844. In the Fayette county history is a lengthy sketch of the genealogical record of the Fitch family. From this we glean that they were identified with the growth and progress of their native state. The early members of the family were devoted to educational and philanthropical pursuits, one of the ancestors being the founder of Yale college at which several succeeding generations were educated, and another ancestor was the founder of a free hospital near Cleveland, presumably the first free hospital in America. None of them were money makers, in the sense of extensive accumulation but devoted their means to the relief of others and to the upbuilding of public institutions. The family was more devoted to teaching than to preaching, and a law abiding race though not distinguished as rigid adherents to any church creed. All of these virtues may be ascribe to their descendants, George W. Fitch.

His mother was a Boleyn, a descendant of the historically English family and his maternal grandfather was a soldier in the early Indian wars and with the mother country. The winter of 1860-1 found the Subject of this sketch in school in Butler, Pennsylvania. In March 1861 he hired out on a farm for eight months, but the war cloud darkened the land and the lad made it a point to attend all "war meetings" and was selected to assist in enlisting men, and promised a non-commissioned officer's place in the company being organized (which he never got till three years afterward). On the first day of July 1861 he became a member of Company D, 62nd regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and was assigned to duty with the army of the Potomac. George W. Fitch participated, with his command, in all the early engagements of the Peninsular campaign and was taken prisoner in the battle of Gain's Mill, within seven miles of Richmond while endeavoring with others to recover the dead body of their colonel, Sam W. Black. He was exchanged in time to join his command on the march to the battlefield of second Bull Run, and the year's work culminated in the disastrous defeat of Burnside at Fredericksburg. His enlistment expired in December 1863, but he re-enlisted and served the last year of the was as a member of Company A, 155th Pennsylvania Infantry. After serving four years, he was discharged at Washington, D.C., and soon found his way to his maternal home in Fayette county, his mother having moved to Iowa following the death of his father.

Mr. Fitch had successfully passed the teacher's examination in Pennsylvania at the age of sixteen, and received his first teacher's certificate in Iowa, Winneshiek county, teaching several years in Castalia. He also taught in the Wadena school for eight consecutive years, then bought a farm in Bethel township and moved his family there in 1877. In that year he was elected County Superintendent of schools, a position to which he was thrice elected. He inaugurated many reforms in the school system of the county and some of his pet theories have been incorporated in the school laws of the state. After retiring from office (1886) Mr. Fitch became interested in the publication of local and general histories, throughout the United States and traveled extensively for several years devoting his time to writing history and genealogy. Among his works may be found "History of the Anthracite Coal Regions, the Centennial of Ohio," and the valuable Fayette County history which includes the biography and auto-biography of a large per cent of its citizens. In this work he excelled and if there is any lack of completeness therein it must be attributed to the destruction of public record rather than to indifference or incompetency on the part of its author. The history grows more valuable each year.

George W. Fitch was married April 13. 1866, to Roxie A. daughter of Rev. William and Catherine Moore, pioneers of Illyria township. Seven children were born to their union, of whom five are living. They are William E. of La Salle, Illinois; Mrs. J.E. Palmer of San Jose California; Deuzil A., of Mendota, Illinois; Mrs. Clara lliff of Hawkeye; and Mrs Maud DeSart of West Union. Mary Luella, a young woman of great promise, was drowned
at the age of twenty-one while driving across a swollen stream to attend her music classes. The other, George Porter, died at the age of ten months.

Mr and Mrs. Fitch celebrated their golden wedding on April 13, 1916, at which time the children returned home for the event in which many old friends and neighbors participated. The occasion will now be a happy memory in the minds of wife and children it being the last time the family circle was complete. On the occasion of his seventy-six birthday anniversary on October 13, he told the writer of the celebration by the family with great appreciation of all that had been done in his honor. The partner of his joys and sorrows is now left to complete life's journey without him. To each one is extended the heartfelt sympathy of the community and the assurance that the example of the life just passed out will live long in the community as an influence for all that is most desired. Mr. Fitch did not accumulate much of the world's goods for he chose "the better part that which shall not be taken away." Mr. Fitch was a Master Mason and a member of Grand Army of the Republic, being a charter member of Abernathy Post No. 48 serving as adjutant and commander. Funeral services will be held Friday afternoon at the home in the north part of the city, with sermon by Rev. Gilbert Chalice of the Methodist church. West Union lodge A.F. & A.M. will have charge and interment will be made in the City Cemetery.


 

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