lawyer that came to this place, about the middle of August, 1821. He was a native of Vermont, and there educated. His first residence in the West was at Urbana, Ohio, where he
taught school, and studied law with James Cooley, an eminent and distinguished
lawyer of that place, and for whom he named his first child, James Cooley
Fletcher, who is the present Consul to Brazil.
Fletcher and his young wife came by way of Winchester
and down White river in a small two-horse wagon
that contained all his wordly goods.
There was a cabin stood near my father’s, a man named Wilson had raised
and covered, but no floor was made; a door was cut out, and a place for a
chimney. My father advised him to take
possession of it, as it was not likely the owner would ever use it, it being
understood he had declined moving to the place since it had proved so
sickly. This cabin was situated about
the middle of the square between the Canal and West street, and Washington
streets. It was here Mr. Fletcher lived
the first year of his residence in Indianapolis,
and until Mr. Blake had built a small one-story frame house on the south side
of Washington, between Illinois and Tennessee streets; in this house his first
two children, James and Elijah, were born.
death of my father Mr. Fletcher borrowed of my mother a horse for the purpose
of attending court at Pendleton. While
in his possession the animal foundered so bad that he died. Mr. F. bought of Mr. Blake the only horse in
the settlement, that was for sale, to replace the one that had died. This was not so good a horse as the one he
had got of my mother. Said he, “When
your daughter is old enough, and is married, I may be able to give her a better
horse and (pointing to the babe in my mother’s lap,) when she is married I will
giver her one also.” Both of those
pledges he faithfully kept, the latter twenty-five years after it was made,
thus giving three horses for one.
Fletcher was the first Prosecuting Attorney for this Judicial Circuit, and when
practicing before magistrates had frequently to explain the law both for and
against his client as was the case I have referred to on another page, where
Esquire Basey was in favor of sending a horse-thief direct to the penitentiary
without troubling the higher court with the case.
Mr. F. was
elected senator for the district composed of the counties of Marion, Madison,
and Hamilton; and it was while a senator he first met in that body that
irritable, old bachelor and Irishman, “John Ewing, of Knox.”
Fletcher was quick to discover the weak points in Mr. Ewing’s character, and
amused himself and the Senate often by attacking them. Mr. Ewing was one of the most talented men of
the Senate, and had been very overbearing toward his associates, but had never
met his match in wit and sarcasm until he met the “Yankee poney,” as he called
practical joke did he play upon his associates at the bar while traveling the
circuit. On one occasion himself, Harvey
Gregg and Hiram Brown were going to attend the Johnson Circuit Court; Mr. Brown
wore a very high-crowned hat, which Mr. Fletcher said resembled a North Carolina tar
bucket. At or near Greenwood Mr. Brown
stopped a few minutes, while Messrs. Fletcher and Gregg rode on. They had not gone far when they met a
traveler; said Mr. Fletcher to him, “you will meet a man riding a white horse,
tell him we have found the tar bucket;” and so he told every person they met between
that and Franklin, and by the time Mr. Brown reached the latter place he had
been told at least a dozen times that they had found the tar bucket, which
annoyed him very much.
Fletcher was a successful practitioner of the law for about thirty years. His unequalled success was as much the result
of his close application and attention to the business intrusted to his care as
to his talent; he was, during nearly the whole time he practiced, the
collecting lawyer for Eastern merchants throughout the State. This great business he got through the
influence of his friend, the late Nicholas McCarty.
At the time
Mr. F. first came to Indianapolis there was a strong prejudice existing among
the people against the Yankees (as all Eastern people were called), but he soon
overcame this by his disposition to suit himself to the times, and taking a
deep interest in the welfare and success of all the settlers, and his attention
to them in that trying time, when nearly every family was helpless by sickness.
As I have
said before, he was worth but little in property when he first came to this
place, but he brought with him that which afterwards made him a fortune, and
one for all his numerous family, i. e., perseverance,
industry and economy. At the time of his
death, 1867, he owned and managed some of the finest farms in this and the
adjoining counties, and I have been told that the immediate cause of his death
was over-exertion on one of them. One of
Mr. F’s maxims, and by which he was governed, was never to leave until
to-morrow that which could be done to-day.
night he spent in Indianapolis
was under my father’s roof; and he was for many years after the death of my
father the friendly adviser of our family.
time of his death it was said that he came to this place a laborer; this was
not true; to my certain knowledge he never did a day’s work for any other
person but himself, save in a professional way, or assisting at house-raisings
or log-rollings, after he came to this place.
Mr. F. has
several sons residing in the city and county, all of whom inherit the leading
traits of their father’s character.
He was a
contributor to, and for, the erection of nearly every church built in the city,
from the beginning up to the time of his death.
He ever took great interest in Sunday Schools, and was for many years
the Superintendent of one. Such was
Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 121-124.