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Fletcher, Calvin

            The first 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.

            Mr. 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 and Maryland 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.

            After the 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.

            Mr. 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.”

            Mr. 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 Mr. Fletcher. 

            Many a 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.

            Mr. 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.

            The first 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.

            About the 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 Calvin Fletcher.


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.