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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 859~


Dr. Martin Bentley Fitch

To attain success in any one line of endeavor is within the power of every man of ordinary intelligence and judgment, but to become distinguished in more than one vocation and that, too, at a period of life when the majority of men are supposed to discontinue active duty to spend the remainder of their days in quietude and retirement, indicates a degree of mental and intellectual strength such as few possess. The record of the subject of this review is that of a man who in his prime fitted himself for a sphere of activity in which much more that ordinary technical training was required, but later, when through force of circumstances he could no longer rely upon his vocation for a livelihood, he turned his attention to a profession for which its devotees prepare only by long years of painstaking study and research. His career, which has been a strenuous and honorable one, is replete with interest and it is with much satisfaction that the following brief outline is accorded a place in these pages.

Martin Bentley Fitch is a native of Trumbull county, Ohio, where his birth occurred on June 6, 1840, being the eldest son of George and Deborah (Boylen) Fitch, both representatives of well-known families in the northeastern part of that state. His father dying in 1847, the boy of seven years thereafter lived among strangers, though he kept in touch with his mother, who, as circumstances would permit, maintained a home for the two sons who were with her. But, being a teacher, after the death of her husband, sometimes in Pennsylvania and later in the states of Indiana and Iowa, it was not always convenient for her to keep her children together, consequently they were often separated from her and while still young obliged to rely upon their own resources. Mrs. Fitch remarried in 1862, at which time, or soon afterwards, her three sons were in the army and from that date she saw little of them.

Martin B. Fitch attended the public schools and acquired a fair education in such branches as were then taught, but later by years of painstaking study and investigation he obtained a knowledge of many subjects and became a widely read and deeply informed man. When a young man nineteen years of age he was united in marriage with Helen B. Hayes, who bore him five children, viz : George H., who died February 10, 1863, aged two years and six months ; Frank B., Elmer, Alice and Mary. Frank, the oldest survivor of the family, is employed in the railway service at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he married and has a home. Elmer died at the home of his grandmother in Fayette county at the age of fourteen. Alice, now Mrs. Davis, resides in Chicago. Mary was also reared among her motherís people in Michigan and still lives there. The mother of these children died some years ago in the city of Cedar Rapids, after being divorced from her husband.

In 1873, Mr. Fitch went South and finally located in southeastern Arkansas, where for a period of ten years he operated a blacksmithing and machine shop, which was extensively patronized, and he also spent one year in Texas. He was a skillful mechanic both in wood and metals and while in Arkansas his establishment was known far and wide, the most profitable part of the business being the repairing of grills and engines and boilers for the cotton planters of the surrounding country. Failing health compelled him to entrust too much important work to unskilled hired help, which caused him considerable pecuniary loss and as a result he was obliged to sell out and return to Fayette county, his early home. His mother was then living and the first thing he did after his return was to build for her a comfortable house on the farm which his step-father owned.

After another disastrous trip to the South, in which he lost heavily. Mr. Fitch located at Decorah, Iowa, where, in 1888, he married Isabel Nelson, who bore him seven children : Roy A., the oldest who was graduated from the Decorah high school with the class of 1909, is at this time assistant principal of a high school in North Dakota ; George, the second in order of birth, married Emma Thompson, of Decorah, where he now resides and has a little son named after himself ; Raymond is a student in a business college of the above city and the others who are old enough are attending the public schools, their names being ; Martin D., June E. M., Lillian M. and William R. Both Mr. and Mrs. Fitch are active members of the Methodist Episcopal church and stand high in the social circles of the city in which they reside.

In 1862 M. B. Fitch enlisted in Company H, Eighteenth Iowa Infantry, with which he served until permanently disabled and discharged the following year. This disability, which was of a most aggravated nature, has been continuous throughout all of the intervening years, making a physical wreck of an otherwise robust and exceptionally strong man. For a number of years he was on the pension roll at seventy-two dollars per month, but during the administration of President Cleveland his rating was reduced to thirty dollars; under President McKinley, however, it was increased to fifty dollars and so remains, an insignificant recompense for so costly a sacrifice. He manifests a lively interest in military affairs and all matters pertaining to the old soldiers and for a number of years has been an influential member of the Grand Army of the Republic, also belonging, with his wife, to the Womanís Relief Corps of Decorah.

Being naturally a sympathetic nature and blessed with a good memory, besides being a keen and critical observer, Mr. Fitch became an excellent nurse while among the southern people and was frequently called to treat the sick in preference to the local physicians, who often lived long distances from the homes of the afflicted. In this manner he was finally induced to take up the study of medicine and for more than a quarter century he has been a devotee of that profession and a successful practitioner. Soon after locating at Decorah he opened an office and engaged in the general practice and to his credit be it said that some of his cures have been little short of marvelous and under all circumstances he has demonstrated unusual ability and skill in alleviating human suffering. Being physically incapacitated from meeting country patients at their homes with any degree of certainty, he has relied almost entirely upon his office practice, not going to the trouble and annoyance of complying with the "red tape" requirements surrounding the general practice of medicine. In this way his patronage partakes largely of the form of hospital nursing and care, in which line he has all the business to which he can possibly give attention, all of the rooms of his home, at No. 612 River street, being fitted up and provided with every convenience necessary to the successful treatment of those who seek his retreat. By dint of hard and close application, Doctor Fitch has succeeded in mastering the intricacies and difficulties of certain lines of professional study and on the 6th of February, 1900, he was awarded a diploma by the Institute of Physicians and Surgeons in the city of Rochester, New York. This institution includes practice along the lines of vitaeology, suggestive therapeutics, magnetic healing and personal magnetism, in all of which he has made commendable advancement and by the application of which many of his most obstinate cases have been successfully treated. The Doctor also holds two diplomas from other scientific schools and is withal especially well equipped both by nature and training for the practice of his profession from the viewpoint indicated by the lines of preparation which he has pursued."

~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Georgianna Gray


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