Charles E. (Charles Elliott) Fitch.

Encyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) online

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Online LibraryCharles E. (Charles Elliott) FitchEncyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) → online text (page 52 of 58)
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minster Presbyterian Church (how near-
ly related to the famous Presbyterian
Alexanders of Princeton the writer is not
informed), a member of the Sons of the
American Revolution, vice-president of
the New York State Historical Associ-
ation, a member of Chapin Post, No. 2,
Grand Army of the Republic, and a thir-
ty-second degree Mason. He has in
contemplation a fourth volume of the
"Political History," and is busy with his
pen and among his books, in his Buffalo
home (31 North street), serene in his de-
clining years. He married (first) Alice,
daughter of Jonas and Almira Hull Col-
by, of Henniker, New Hampshire, Sep-
tember 14, 1871 ; and (second) Anne Lu-
cille Bliss, daughter of David Gerlach and
Mary Fiero, of Buffalo, New York, De-
cember 28, 1893.

FITCH, Charles E.,

Lia^ryer, Jonrnalist, Educator.

While Charles Elliott Fitch, of Syra-
cuse, during a long and unusually active
life, has held various important official
positions, and always with ability and
fidelity, his chief distinction is in the field
of letters. With the exception of Dr.
Ellis H. Roberts, of Utica, he is the sole
survivor of that remarkable group of
"writing editors" who made a deep im-
pression upon the public affairs of the
State of New York in the years following
the Civil War. In the metropolis, Gree-
ley of the "Tribune" and Raymond of the
"Times" were both in the last decade of
their service. From 1867 Dana was bril-
liantly identified with the "Sun," and
Bryant was yet at the head of the "Even-
ing Post." Weed, of the Albany "Jour-
nal," had but lately ended his newspaper
activities. In the interior, a school of
trenchant and aggressive journalists em-
braced Roberts of the Utica "Herald,"
Francis of the Troy "Times," Carroll E.



Smith of the Syracuse "Journal," Warren
of the Buffalo "Commercial," and Mat-
thews of the Bufifalo "Express." Of Fitch
it has been said by a discriminating
writer, Alexander, that he was an edi-
torial advocate and disputant who had to
be reckoned with. In Alexander's recent
history of New York, dealing with the
period immediately following the Civil
War, there are various references to the
editorial work and political influence of
Fitch, and, as said by the writer quoted,
in vigor and grace of editorial expression
he was at least the equal of any of his up-
State contemporaries ; but he had the ad-
vantage of most of them in his bountiful
store of historical learning — the one im-
matched fountain of enlightened and con-
vincing editorial discourse.

Charles Elliott Fitch was born in Syra-
cuse, New York, December 3, 1835, son of
Thomas Brockway and Ursula (Elliott)
Fitch ; his father was for nearly fifty years
a prominent merchant and banker of
Syracuse ; his mother was a daughter of
Daniel Elliott, architect and builder, who
settled in Syracuse in 1827. Fitch is
eighth in descent from Rev. James Fitch,
a Congregational clergyman, well known
for his missionary labors in conjunction
with John Eliot, the Apostle among the
Indians, who having preached in Say-
brook, Connecticut, removed with nearly
all his congregation to Norwich, Connecti-
cut, and is regarded as the chief founder
of that place. Fitch is of pure Puritan
ancestry throughout, being descended in
direct lines from Governor William Brad-
ford and Elder William Brewster, of the

Fitch attended select schools in Syra-
cuse, except for one year at a boarding
school in Stamford, Connecticut. Among
his Syracuse teachers were Miss Buttrick
(afterward wife of lion. William A. Sack-
ett), Samuel S. Stebbins, Joseph A. Allen

and James W. Hoyt. Among his fellow
students were Andrew D. White, Oren
Root, Joseph May, Rossiter W. Raymond
and William O. Stoddard. He was espe-
cially prepared for college at Alger In-
stitute, Cornwall, Connecticut, Rev. Ed-
ward Watson Andrews, principal. In
185 1 he entered Williams College, and
had among his college classmates United
States Senators John James Ingalls and
Phineas W. Hitchcock ; Henry W. Sey-
mour, member of Congress from Michi-
gan ; State Senator Abraham Lansing, of
New York ; William R. Dimmock, pro-
fessor of Greek, Williams College, and
principal of Adams Academy, Quincy,
Massachusetts; Cyrus M. Dodd, pro-
fessor of mathematics, Williams College ;
W. S. B. Hopkins, a leading lawyer of
Massachusetts; Edward P. Ingersoll, a
leading divine of the Reformed church ;
James Orton, nattiralist, traveler and
author ; and William P. Prentice, a promi-
nent lawyer and linguist of New York
City. President James A. Garfield, with
whom he became intimate, was in the
class below him. With his class, one of
the most notable at Williams College,
under the presidency of Mark Hopkins,
Fitch graduated in 1855 with honor ; sub-
ject of his commencement oration, "Berk-
shire." He was a member of the Sigma
Phi fraternity ; and throughout his course
was prominent in the Philotechnian Soci-
ety, secretary and vice-president.

In 1855-56 he studied law in the office
of Hon. Israel S. Spencer, in Syracuse,
and in the latter year entered the Albany
Law School (now the law department of
L^nion University), from which he was
graduated Bachelor of Laws, his gradu-
ating thesis being "Theory of Interest."
Admitted to the bar in February. 1857,
he entered tipon practice in Syracuse,
which continued until 1864, with the fol-
lowing partners: Henry S. Fuller. Henry


A. Barnum and A. Judd Northrup ; Fitch
& Barnum were city attorneys in i860,
Amos Westcott being mayor. During
this period Fitch was president of the
Calliopean Society, the leading literary
society of Syracuse (1856-57); president
of the Junior Fremont and Dayton Club,
a political association of young men not
yet voters (1856); director of Franklin
Institute (1858-61), and corresponding
secretary in 1859; director and corre-
sponding secretary of the Onondaga
County Historical Society (1859-60). In
1861 he was a member of the Onondaga
County Board of Supervisors from the
Seventh Ward of Syracuse ; of this board
he was in 1916 the sole survivor. In 1864
Fitch was appointed clerk of the Provost
Court, Department of North Carolina, at
New Bern, under Colonel Edwin S. Jen-
ney, Provost Judge (also of Syracuse),
and served in that capacity in 1864-65,
and in the latter year engaged in the
practice of his profession there. The Su-
preme Court of the State had not yet
been reestablished, but he had much re-
munerative practice in justices' courts,
civil and criminal, and in military com-
missions and courts-martial, some of his
cases being notable.

He returned to Syracuse in December,
1865. He had a liking for his profession,
but journalism now opened to him a field
which was most congenial. From 1857
to this time, he had been a frequent con-
tributor to Syracuse journals, and his
writings had been received with favor.
He now (in May. 1866) became a mem-
ber of the firm of Sumnxers & Company
(Moses Summers, William Summers,
Henry A. Barnum and Charles E. Fitch),
publishers of the Syracuse "Standard,"
and of which he was made editor-in-
chief, and continued as such until 1873,
when he relinquished it to become editor-
in-chief and a stockholder and trustee in

the Rochester "Democrat and Chronicle,"
so continuing until 1890, when impaired
health and public duties called him from
his editorial chair. Firmly adhering to
Republican principles, in 1872 he favored
the liberal element of the party, and he
vigorously fought the Grant third term
project, in line with the "Half Breeds."
He gave his paper a literary as well as a
political tone, and his polished style and
critical analysis of character gave a
special weight and attractiveness to his
biographical articles and all pertaining
to the personality of the prominent men
of his day then before the public.

In 1876 Fitch was a delegate to the
Republican National Convention in Cin-
cinnati, and in 1888 was chairman of the
State Convention in Buffalo. In 1880 he
was supervisor of the United States Cen-
sus for the western district of the State.
From 1890 to 1894 he was Collector of
Revenue for Western New York, under
appointment by President Harrison, and
made a phenomenal record, collecting for
the government the sum of nine million
dollars, and, in his final settlement, with-
out a penny at fault in his accounts. In
1894 he was secretary of the New York
State Constitutional Convention. During
all the years from 1864 to 1892 he was
frequently on the stum.p in behalf of the
Republican party in its most important
campaigns ; and he was a delegate from
Onondaga or Monroe counties to many
Republican State Conventions, usually
serving upon the committee on resolu-

Fitch has been especially distinguished
in the fields of literature and education.
In 1877 he was elected by the Legislature
a Regent of the University of the State
of New York, and as such served with
conspicuous ability for the unusual period
of twenty-seven years from 1S77 to 1904.
From 1893 to 1896 he was university ex-



tension lecturer, delivering ten lectures
on "Civil and Religious Liberty" in a
score of cities and towns in New^ York,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania ; from 1895
to 1904 was lecturer before Teachers' In-
stitutes under appointment by the Hon.
Charles R. Skinner, superintendent of
public instruction, and speaking in nearly
every county in New York, mainly on
historical subjects ; and from 1904 to 1906
was chief of the important School Li-
braries Division of the New York Educa-
tion Department. During all these years
he also delivered many orations and ad-
dresses, all distinguished by lofty literary
and oratorical ability. These include, in

Annual address as president of the Calliopean
Society, Syracuse, 1856 and 1857; address in com-
memoration of the laying of the first Atlantic
cable, Syracuse, 1858; "The National Problem,"
at Delphi. July 4. 1861 ; "Union and Liberty," at
New Bern, N. C, July 4, 1865; "The Press of
Onondaga County," at Syracuse, and repeated in
various villages in Onondaga county, 1868; "The
Risks of Thinking," before the Sigma Phi So-
ciety at the University of Michigan, 1S70; "The
Limitations of Democracy," at Marathon, N. Y.,
July 4, 1871 ; "Union and Unity," at Cortland,
N. Y., 1872; "American Chivalry," at Syracuse,
Memorial Day, 1874; "Church and State," at
annual meeting of school commissioners and su-
perintendents, State of New York, Rochester,
1875; "Education and the State," before the New
York State Teachers' Association, Watkins, N. Y.,
1876; "National and Individual Independence," at
Skaneateles, N. Y., July 4, 1876; "Chivalry and
Duty," at Albion, N. Y., Memorial Day, 1877 ;
"The Perils of Journalism," before New York
Press Association, Syracuse, 1878; "The Mean-
ing of the Flowers," Geneva, N. Y., Memorial
Day, 1879; "Migration and Development," before
Wyoming Pioneer Association, Silver Lake, N. Y.,
1880; "Mental Limitations," at Commencement,
Ingham University, 1880; address and author of
resolutions at citizens' meeting at Rochester, on
death of President Garfield, 1881 ; the sketch of
Garfield, printed in "International Magazine" by
request; "The American College," 1884, at semi-
centennial of Sigma Phi chapter at Williams Col-
lege, and repeated substantially at the centennial

of the University of the State of New York, in
the Senate Chamber, Albany; Historical address
at semi-centennial of the City of Rochester, 1884;
Five lectures on "Journalism," before students of
Cornell University, 1885 ; "A Layman's View of
the Medical Profession," before graduating class
of Medical College, Syracuse University, June 11,
1885; "Journalism as a Profession," Rutgers Col-
lege commencement, June, 1886, and repeated at
Haverford College, March, 1890; "The Christian
School," at Keble School commencement, June,
18S9; "The Value of Exact Knowledge," Foun-
ders' Day, Lehigh University, 1891 ; Memorial
address on George William Curtis, before the
Regents of the University of the State of New
York, Senate Chamber, Albany, 1892; "Higher
Education and the State," University Convoca-
tion, Albany, July, 1893; Historical address at
Centennial of Onondaga County, Syracuse, 1894;
Historical address at semi-centennial of City
of Syracuse, 1897; "Patriotism in Education,"
before State Teachers' Association, Rochester,
i8g8; Historical address at semi-centennial of
Genesee county, Batavia, 1902; "Regents' Ex-
aminations," at University Convocation, Albany,
1902; Memorial address on Carroll E. Smith,
before Onondaga County Historical Association,
Syracuse, 1903; "Susan B. Anthony and Hu-
man Liberty," before Syracuse Political Equality
Club, April 20, 1906; also many unpublished
lyceum lectures and papers read before the Fort-
nightly and Browning clubs of Rochester, and
elsewhere, and which were all burned in the
Albany Capitol fire in February, 191 1 — a most
serious loss to the memorabilia of the State.
These included "Gerrit Smith," "Thomas Chat-
terton," "The Law of Libel." "John Milton as a
Politician," "Robert Burns." "Arnold of Brescia,"
"Henry Clay in 1850," "The Intercontinental Rail-
way," "The Puritan and the Dutchman," "Prussia
and Stein," "A Forgotten Author — Fitz Hugh
Ludlow," "Drawn Toward the Orient, — Lafcadio
Hearn," and a lecture on Abraham Lincoln, which
he delivered a hundred times.

Mr. Fitch has been a contributor at
various times to "Harper's Weekly," the
New York "Tribune," the New York
"Times," the Troy "Times," and the Syra-
cuse "Herald," and was associate editor
of the Rochester "Post-Express" (1896-
98). He is author of the article on "The
Press," in Peck's "Historv of Rochester;"



"The Public School History of Common
School Education in New York from 1813
to 1904," published by the Department
of Public Instruction, 1904; "Secretary's
Report at Fiftieth Anniversary of the
Class of 1855," 1905 ; "History of Brown-
ing Club, Rochester," 1910; Mr. Fitch also
edited "Political New York from Cleve-
land to Hughes," (1913) ; and was super-
vising editor and writer of many brilliant
biographical sketches of the "Memorial
Cyclopedia of New York." He received
the honorary degree of Master of Arts
from S^.-racu.'^c University, 1875 ; was a
trustee of the Mechanics' Savings Bank of
Rochester, 1878-99; one of the founders of
the Fortnightly Literary Club of Roches-
ter, 18S2, resigning therefrom in 1898;
elected member of Williams Chapter. Phi
Beta Kappa, 1883; president of Roches-
ter Historical Society, 1892-93; one of the
founders of Sigma Phi chapter at Lehigh
University. 1887. and at Cornell Univer-
sity. 1S90; received honorary degree of L.
H. D. from Hamilton College, 1895 ; has
been member of the .Society of Mayflower
Descendants, American Geographical So-
ciety, American Historical Societ}-. Syra-
cuse Club (predecessor of the Century),
the Rochester and Rochester Whist clubs,
president of the Williams College Asso-
ciation of Western New York, and of the
Sigma Phi Association of Central and
Western New York.

Dr. Fitch married, July 21, 1870, Louise
Lawrence, daughter of Thomas A. Smith
(sometime editor of the Syracuse "Stand-
ard") and Charlotte Elizabeth (Lawrence)
Smith, and own cousin of the Hon. Car-
roll E. Smith. His children are: Law-
rence Bradford (B. A., Williams, 1892). a
civil engineer of Rochester ; and Elizabeth
Le Baron, wife of Rev. Wallace Hubbard
Watts, chaplain. United States army.
Fenwick Y. Hedi.ey,
Managing Editor.

FASSETT, Jacob Sloat,

Xiawyer, Legislator, Capitalist.

Jacob Sloat Fassett was born in El-
mira, New York, November 13, 1853, son
of Newton Pomeroy and Martha Ellen
(Sloatj Fassett, grandson of Jacob Sloat,
of Sloatsburg, the builder of the first cot-
ton-twine factory in the United States,
and a descendant on the paternal side of
ancestors who came to New York from
Vermont by the way of Pennsylvania.

Jacob Sloat Fassett attended the public
schools of his native city, and became a
student of the academy at Elmira, and in
the fall of 1871 matriculated at the Uni-
versity of Rochester, from which institu-
tion he was graduated in 1875, with the
degree of Bachelor of Arts, having especi-
allv distinguished himself in belles lettres
and oratory, with high prizes to his credit.
He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi
fraternity, and has for many years been
a trustee of his alma mater. After giadu-
ation he determined upon the law as his
profession and accordingly studied in the
ofifice of Smith, Robertson & Fassett (his
father), at Elmira. He was admitted to
the bar as an attorney in 1878 and as a
counselor, at Albany, in 1879. Within
half an hour after his admission as coun-
selor he was handed a commission from
Governor Robinson as district attorney
for the county of Chemung. He held
this position for one year, — a signal
recognition of his talents by a political
opponent, but a fellow citizen. During the
years 1880 and 1881 with the view of per-
fecting himself in his profession, he stud-
ied law and political economy in the Uni-
versit)- of Heidelberg; then returned to
the United States. In 1878, after his ad-
mission as attorney, he opened an office
for the practice of his profession in El-
mira and has continued therein to the
present (1916) ; although at times with-



drawn from its activities by political pref- his section of the State, utilizing its re-
erment and business interests. sources, directing its policies and mar-
He married, February 13, 1879, Jennie shaling its forces. Sagacious, unsullied
L., daughter of Judge E. B. Crocker, of and ardent he has held almost uniformly
Sacramento, California, a lady of large his senatorial and congressional districts
fortune, fine culture and charming man- in his keeping and materially changed the
ners, an efficient helpmeet to him through- political complexion of his own county
out his eminent career. In the fall of (Chemung) which long, under the skill-
1883 he was, as a Republican, elected to ful management of Governor Hill, had
the State Senate from the Twenty-sev- been in the habit of rolling up large

enth District (Allegany, Chemung, Steu-
ben) and, by successive reelections, re-
mained therein for the ensuing eight
years, exercising marked influence in its
deliberations and gaining celebrity as
committeeman, speaker and parliamen-
tarian. He served as chairman of the
committee on commerce and navigation
and that on insurance, and member of the
committee on finance, on cities and

Democratic majorities, Fassett's mag-
netic personality supplementing his ex-
ecutive ability ; for many men have loved,
as well as admired, him. He was from
1879 until 1896 editor and proprietor of
the Elmira "Advertiser," of which his
college classmate, Edward L. Adams,
now United States consul at Dublin, was.
for years, the able managing editor, but to
which Fassett himself contributed manv

others. In 1889, upon the death of Sena- leading articles. He was a delegate in
tor Low, he was elected temporary presi- 1880 to the Republican National Conven-
dent of the Senate by a unanimous vote, tion at Chicago, and was secretary of the
and was reelected in 1890 and 1891. Republican National Committee from
As a legislator, high minded, acute and 1888 until 1892. In 1891 he was nominated
accomplished, his name is connected with enthusiastically and unanimously by the
many important measures and he was in- Republican State Convention at Roches-
strumental in securing the passage of ter, for Governor, in accepting which he
many excellent laws, among them being delivered one of the most feeling, telling
the one making employees the first pre- and eloquent addresses that it has been
ferred creditors in all assignments. He the privilege of a political convention to
also conducted the aqueduct investiga- hear, following it with a whirlwind cau-
tion, and the investigation into the mu- vass ; but the die was cast against him,;
nicipal departments of the city of New and for reasons not essential here to reca-
York, which resulted in considerable pitulate and which involved no reflections
benefit to that city. As a debater he was upon him, the Democratic ticket, with
ready, clear, incisive and cogent — at times Governor Flower at its head, was elected,
supremely eloquent; and, as a presiding In 1892, he was chairman of the Republi-
officer, thoroughly informed in rules and can National Convention at Minneapolis,
precedents and quick-witted in applying sounding in his speech the keynote of
them while firm and courteous in bear- the campaign. He was also chairman of

ing. He retired from the Senate with
a brilliant record in all respects, unex-
celled and rarely equaled in the legisla-
tive annals of recent years.

Meanwhile, he became, and is still
recognized, as the leader of his party in

the Republican State Convention of 1904.
He was a representative in Congress for
three terms (1905-11) maintaining therein
the same high standard of speech and ac-
tion that he had attained in the Senate.
Since his retirement from Congress,



while still retaining his interest in poli- who removed from l^Iassachusetts to
tics, he has neither sought nor seemed to Syracuse shortly after the opening of the
desire public preferment, devoting him- Erie Canal and resided there the rest of
self mainly to his large business enter- their lives. The father was liberally edu-
prises. He is or has been manager and cated and a lawyer by profession, but did
vice-president of the Second National not engaged in practice after leaving Mas-
Bank of Elmlra; vice-president of the sachusetts. From 1 86 1 until 1S70 he was
Commercial State Bank of Sioux City, United States Consul at Santiago de
Iowa ; manager of the little mining town Cuba.

of Banner, Idaho: of a ranch and cattle William James Wallace received his
company which conducts an extensive early education at the select schools of
business in New j\Iexico; and is under- Syracuse. It had been planned that he
stood to hold various concessions in Ko- should enter Dartmouth College, where
rea. He holds a controlling influence in his father had been graduated, but after
the development of the hardwood re- being prepared for, he was disinclined
sources of the Philippine Islands, and the to devote four years to a college course,
introduction therefrom in this country of and it was concluded that instead of
what is commercially known as Philip- this he should pursue a three years'
pine mahogany ; controls heavy lumber term of studies especially selected to be
interests in North Carolina and Canada ; of service to him as a lawyer, the pro-
and is deeply engaged in the manufacture fession which he had chosen as his
of the Corona Typewriter, and of glass future vocation. Accordingly, for three
bottles. He is a member of the Order of years he took a course of general reading
Free Masons, having received the thirty- under the tutorage of Judge Thomas Bar-
second degree of the Scottish Rite; of low, a scholarly lawyer of Madison
the Order of United Workmen ; Improved county, who had retired from general
Order of Red Men ; the Benevolent and practice. Thereafter he studied law, and
Protective Order of Elks; and of the upon graduating froni the Law School of
honorary college fraternity of Phi Beta Hamilton College (of which the distin-
Kappa. He is also a member of the Uni- guished Prof. Theodore W. Dwight was
versity, Bankers' and Metropolitan clubs then preceptor) he was admitted to the
of New York City. In 1901 Colgate Uni- bar. At his application for admission one
versity laureated him with the degree of of the examining committee was Roscoe
Doctor of Laws. Fle lives happily and Conkling, and the occasion was the origin
hospitably in the elegant homestead in of a friendship between the young lawyer
Elmira. He is still {1916) but sixty-three and the eminent statesman which ripened
years of age ; and it is not improbable, as into a very intimate one and lasted until
it is to be hoped, that further political the death of the Senator. Immediately
honors may attend his declining days. upon his admission to the bar. in April,
1858, young Wallace commenced the

WALLACE, William James, P^^^t'^^ ^^ ^'^ profession at Syracuse,

at first associated with the Hon. William

Lawyer and Jurist. _, . ^ , j i.

Porter, a promment lawyer and subse-

William James Wallace was born in quently with William C. Ruger, Chief

Online LibraryCharles E. (Charles Elliott) FitchEncyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) → online text (page 52 of 58)