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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 1330~




Elmer Eli Fitch, formerly of Fayette county, Iowa, but for a number of years a prominent citizen of Illinois, and at this time an honored official of Henry county, that state, is a native of Trumbull county, Ohio, and a son of George and Deborah Fitch, who are noticed at some length further on in the sketch. Born August 13, 1846, his early childhood was spent near the place of his birth, and later he lived for a short time in Mercer county, Pennsylvania. Subsequently (1854), in company with his uncle, Samuel Boleyn, and family, the widowed mother and two sons, Martin B. and Elmer E., went to Indiana, and lived two years near the city of LaPorte, at the expiration of which time the family removed to Fayette county, Iowa, locating in Illyria township, where the subject spent the six years ensuing, working on a farm at intervals in the summer time, and during the winter months, attending school in s little log building known as district No. 5. In July, 1861, he commenced carrying the mail from Independence to McGregor, riding a mule, and supplying the following intermediate postoffices: Buffalo Grove, Hazelton, Otsego, Fayette, Lima, Illyria, Elgin, Gem and Farmersburg. Mr. Fitch acted in the capacity of route agent until the summer of 1862, when with the spirit that actuated the movements of young men throughout the entire North, he resigned the position to tender his services to his country in another and far different capacity. On the evening succeeding his sixteenth birthday, at a war meeting held in the school house above designated, he enrolled his name as a soldier, was sworn in at West Union the following day, and became a member of Company A, Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, J. J. Welsh, captain, J. J. Berkey and John Herriman, first and second lieutenants, respectively. On December 17, 1864, the regiment was consolidated with the Thirty-fourth Iowa and Company A became Company F of the new organization. Mr. Fitch accompanied his command to the front, where he experienced the usual vicissitudes of war, taking part in a number of campaigns and battles, and spending but nine days in the hospital during his three years' service. He was mustered out with the regiment August 15, 1865, at Houston, Texas, and on the 5th of September, following, received his discharge at Davenport, Iowa, immediately after which he returned home and began planning for his future.


Actuated by a laudable desire to add to his scholastic training, he entered the Upper Iowa University, at Fayette, where he prosecuted his studies for a period of two years, and in 1870 became a student of the Iowa State University, at Iowa City, from which he was graduated in 1874, with an humble record as an industrious and critical student. On receiving his degree from the above institute, Mr. Fitch was elected principal of the West High School, in the city of Burlington, and the following year was chosen superintendent of the public schools of Galva, Illinois, which position he worthily held during the eight years ensuing, resigning in 1883 to engage in newspaper work as editor and publisher of the Galva News, which he purchased in the latter year. In connection with his editorial duties he served one year as superintendent of the public schools of Henry county, Illinois, to fill out an unexpired term in that office, and later was postmaster at Galva, from 1891 until 1895, discharging the duties of both positions with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of the public.


In 1896 Mr. Fitch was elected supreme director of the Mystic Workers of the World, a fraternal beneficiary order now numbering over sixty thousand members, which responsible position he still holds, and in which he has demonstrated superior abilities as an executive office, and done much to strengthen and give publicity to the organization. His other fraternal relations are represented by the Masonic brotherhood and the Grand Army of the Republic, he holding at this time the title of past commander of Galva Post, in the latter order.


Mr. Fitch has always kept abreast of the times on matters of public interest, and in close touch with enterprises and measures having for their object the material prosperity of the community, and the social and moral advancement of his fellow men. Politically, he is a Republican, and in recognition of valuable services rendered his party, as well as in view of his peculiar fitness for the position, he was elected in 1906 county clerk of Henry county, to the duties of which important office he has since devoted his attention. He was re-elected to this position in November, 1910, with a majority exceeding twenty-five hundred, thus emphasizing the degree of satisfaction found in his official career.


On July 5, 1876, Mr. Fitch married Rachel Helgesen, of Winneshiek county, Iowa, daughter of Thomas and Anna (Hplverson) Helgesen. Thomas Helgesen was a native of Norway, and a Quaker in his religious belief. He was of the stuff from which heroes are made, for he suffered persecution and imprisonment for the sake of his religion. The following reply to his jailors, after he had subsisted for two weeks on bread and water, was characteristic of the man: "On the rock of my faith, I take my stand, God helping me, You may starve this poor body, but you cannot starve the soul." For the sake of religious freedom, Thomas Helgesen, in 1848, came to America, and settled in Madison, Wisconsin, where the daughter Rachel was born, April 23, 1850. Her mother died when the daughter was about two years old. In 1856, the family moved to Winneshiek county, where the father purchased land on Washington Prairie, and became a well-to-do farmer. He was intensely loyal during the Civil war, and was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and, despite his religion of non-resistance, was an ardent supporter of the President's war policies. He died at the home of his daughter in Galva, Illinois, August 16, 1895, in the eighty-first year of his age. Thomas Helgesen was three times married. By his third wife four children are living, viz: Mrs.


Mary Passmore, of Chicago; Hon. Henry T., of Milton, North Dakota (recently elected a member of the national Congress as a Republican); Mrs. H. T. Hammer, of Pullman, Illinois, and Albert, of Crookston, Minnesota. Henry Helgesen was the first commissioner of agriculture of Dakota territory, and the first man to fill that office after the state was organized. Rachel Helgesen, the wife of the subject of this sketch, was educated, primarily, in the country schools of Winneshiek county, and in Breckenridge Institute, of Decorah. She subsequently attended the Upper Iowa University at Fayette, for about two years, and then went to the State University, at Iowa City, where she completed the work of the junior year and for one year taught in the Iowa city schools. During the progress of her studies she did considerable teaching. She is public spirited in every sense of the term. She labored successfully for manual training and a free kindergarten in the Galva public schools, and was largely influential in securing the present public library in Galva. For a number of years she was president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Galva, and also served as president of the Woman's Relief Corps. Mr. and Mrs. Fitch are the parents of three children: George, born June 5, 1877; Rachel Louise, September 27, 1878; Robert Haynes, born January 17, 1881, all natives of Galva, Illinois. They were all graduates from the Galva high school, and attended Knox College, at Galesburg, Illinois, George and Louise completing the prescribed course of that institution. Robert attended two years and for a similar period was a student of the department of mechanical engineering, in the State University at Champaign, Illinois. George is at present managing editor of the Peoria (Illinois) Herald Transcript. He is a humorist, and his writings appear in a number of the standard magazines. On October 5, 1904, he married Clara Gattrell, daughter of Horace and Mary (Gatterell) Lynn, of Kansas City, Missouri. Mrs. Clara Fitch was born in Columbus, Ohio, April 21, 1876. Her father, Horace Lynn, a native of Newark, that state, was a son of William and Mary (Taylor) Lynn. William Lynn was a Virginian by birth. Mary Taylor was daughter of William Taylor, whose father, Judge James Taylor, served in the Revolutionary war. When Licking county, Ohio, was organized, he was appointed one of the associate judges of the court of common pleas. Mary Gattrell was a daughter of Nathan and Mary (Moorehead) Gattrell. Nathan's grandfather, Nathan MUSGROVE, was a Revolutionary soldier, also a soldier in the war of 1812. Mary Moorehead's mother was Louisa CHAPLINE, who was a descendant of Isaac Chapline, an ensign in the British royal navy, who came to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, as king's commissioner, under Lord Delaware, in 1610. George and Clara Fitch have two children, Mary Gattrell, born August 8, 1907, and Elinor Moorehead, born December 17, 1909. Rachel Louise is at home in Cambridge, Illinois. She was for eighteen months editor and business manager of the Galva News, and is at present editor and business manager of the Trident Magazine, the official organ of the Phi Delta Sorority. Robert Haynes had a position with the SIMMONS Hardware Company of St. Louis for several years, and at present holds a responsible position with the Avery Manufacturing Company, of Peoria, Illinois. On April 16, 1906, he was married to Mary J. Morse, of Pasadena, California. They have two children, Mary Louise, born April 28, 1907, and Rachel Lillian, born August 28, 1909. Mary (Morse) Fitch is a daughter of Henry Wilson and Ida (Throop) Morse, the father a native of Vermont and of Irish-English descent. One of the Throops was a Revolutionary soldier, and another Throop ancestor was a soldier in the army of King Charles I of England and fought against Cromwell. Mary Morse Fitch's grandfather Throop was a first cousin of the Throop who founded the Throop Polytechnic Institute of Pasadena, California.


The subject of this sketch was the son of George Fitch and Deborah Boleyn, who was a daughter of Eli and Jane BRISBINE Boleyn. Eli Boleyn was born in Virginia, in 1793, and the wife in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, in 1790, their marriage taking place in Ohio, in 1812. The grandfather was a soldier in the second war with England, and was assigned to duty on the frontier of Ohio, where all his toes were frozen off, and he was discharged. Seven children were born unto them, two of whom are now living, Thomas and David. Thomas came from Pennsylvania to Iowa by boat, in 1852, and the following year settled in Illyria, Fayette county. Others of the family followed four years later, so that all were residents of Iowa in 1856, except James and Nancy. The mother died in Illyria township, in February, 1858, and her husband followed her twelve years later. George Fitch was twice married, his wives being sisters. By his first wife, Margaret Boleyn, he had one child, Martha Jane, who married Ira Kitch, of Mercer county, Pennsylvania, and had George, Willard, Nettie and Iretta. Ira Kitch was orderly sergeant in the One Hundredth Pennsylvania ("Roundhead") Regiment, and was mortally wounded at the battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia, May 12, 1864. 

George Fitch had the following children by his second wife: Martin Bently, Alice Ann (who married Thos. Kennedy), George W. and Elmer Eli. George Fitch, the father of the subject of this sketch, died in December, 1847, and was buried at Youngstown, Ohio. He was a man of liberal education, a native of New York city, born in 1807. After the death of her husband Mrs. Fitch taught school, and was thus engaged during the greater part of the long period of her widowhood, from 1848 to 1861. As a sincere Christian, of beautiful character, her life was unselfishly devoted to the happiness and well-being of her children, and all who came within the range of her influence spoke in high terms of her gracious presence and many estimable qualities. She remarried in 1862, her second husband being William O. Hageman, now of Ringgold county, but formerly of Fayette county, Iowa, the union resulting in the birth of two children, Philo F. and one that died in infancy. Mrs. Fitch departed this life on the 17th of January, 1895. Philo F. Hageman, the survivor, is a farmer in Ringgold county. He married Louisa Hazlet, August 21, 1886. They have a family of six children living, and one dead. Everett Carlen, born September 15, 1887; Lora Luella, born September 8, 1889, married Clement M. Todd, December 22, 1909; Clement Frances, born February 1, 1892, died November 15, 1901; Leonard Hazlet, born July 24, 1894; Harwill Elmer, born September 22, 1896; James William, born September 15, 1899; Ila Mae, born July 6, 1908.


George Fitch was a son of William Haynes and Hannah (Lockwood) Fitch. The genealogy of the family runs as follows: William Haynes Fitch was a son of Haynes and Anne (Cooke) Fitch. Haynes Fitch was a Revolutionary soldier, serving in the Ninth Connecticut Regiment. His wife, Anne Cooke, was a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Toucey) Cooke. John Cooke was a son of Rev. Samuel and Anne (Trowbridge) Cooke. Anne Trowbridge was a granddaughter of Governor William Leete, of Connecticut, who concealed in the basement of his store, at Guilford, for several weeks, the regicides, Goffe and Whaley, two of the judges who pronounced sentence of death upon King Charles I of England, in 1649.


John Cooke, above mentioned, was a half-brother of Gen. Joseph Platt Cooke, of the American Revolution. Haynes Fitch, above mentioned, was a son of James and Mary (Haynes) Fitch. Mary Haynes was a daughter of William and Mary (Marvin) Haynes. William Haynes was of the same family as John Haynes, of Copford Hall, Essex county, England, and later governor of Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies. James Fitch (above) was a brother of Thomas Fitch, for ten terms governor of the colony of Connecticut. This family consisted of Governor Thomas, the brothers Samuel and James, and sister Elizabeth. Samuel and James were colonial officials. Elizabeth married, first, Joshua Raymond, and became the progenetrix of Hon. Henry Raymond, founder of the New York Times. She married, second, Elisha Kent; there was no issue from this marriage, but Elisha Kent was the progenitor of Chancellor James Kent, the world-renowned jurist. The Fitch family came from Bocking, Essex county, England. The widow of Thomas Fitch, who died at Bocking, in 1632, came to America with three of her sons, Thomas, Joseph and Rev. James. Thomas became the founder of Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1652. There were five generations of Thomas Fitches in Norwalk in regular succession, ending with the aforementioned Governor Thomas Fitch.


In a work entitled "Fitch Family," by Prof. G. L. Mills, the statement is made: "In the records of the herald's office in London, the genealogy of the Fitch family is quite full, much more so than common. In the herald's visitations to Essex, the family pedigree is traced back from sons to fathers, step by step, to William, second son of John Fitch, who was living in Fitch Castle, parish of Widdington, in the northwest part of Essex, in the twenty-second year of the reign of Edward I, that is 1294." Hannah (Lockwood) Fitch, the grandmother of the subject of this sketch, was the daughter of Hezekiah and Catherine (Seymour) Lockwood. Hezekiah was a Revolutionary soldier, a member of the Ninth Connecticut Militia. He was the son of Isaac and Ruth (Whitney) Lockwood. Isaac was the son of Joseph and Mary (Wood) Lockwood. Joseph was the son of Ephraim and Mercy (St. John) Lockwood. Ephraim was the first of the Lockwood settlers in Norwalk, and was the son of Robert Lockwood, who lived in Watertown, Massachusetts, as early as 1630. The Lockwoods seem to have been a military race. Including husbands of Lockwood women, there were one hundred and fifty-six of them in the colonial and Revolutionary wars.


~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Ann Borden


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