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Biography of Col. Homer F. Fellows
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In these days of money-making, when life is a constant struggle between right and wrong, it is a pleasure to lay before an intelligent reader the unsullied record of an honorable man. To the youthful it will be a useful lesson, an incentive to honest industry. Col. Homer F. Fellows is acknowledged by all to be one of Springfield’s most public-spirited and honorable citizens. He has been largely identified with the public enterprises of that city, is a promoter of its improvements and the real founder of one of the largest mechanical industries in this part of the State. He springs from old Colonial stock, and is of English-Puritan extraction, two brothers of that name, John and Drane, having emigrated from England in old Colonial times. John Fellows, grandfather of our subject, was born in the town of Canaan, Conn., where his ancestors had settled, and served in the Revolutionary War, fighting bravely for independence. His wife, whose maiden name was Edna Deibold, was a native of Canaan, and came of French extraction. After marriage this worthy couple moved to Luzerne County, Penn., and settling on a farm went actively to work to make many improvements in their new home. Indians were very plentiful at that time. About 1820 Mr. Fellows moved with his family to Tioga County, Penn., and there he passed the remainder of his days, dying at the good old age of eighty-three years. He reared a family of six children: Horace, Asahel, Erastus, Merritt, Eliza and Hulda. As a man of intelligence and as one of the first citizens of his town he was well known and held in the highest esteem.
His son, Erastus, father of our subject, was also a native of the old town of Canaan, Conn., and was but a boy when he went with his parents to Luzerne County. He obtained a fair education for his day, and when a young man went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he remained one year. Returning to the Keystone State he married a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson, nee Cole. Her father, Royal Cole, was born in New York State, but was of English extraction. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, took an active part in several battles, Trenton and others, and was present at the surrender of Burgoyne. He also served in the War of 1812. Mr. Cole was a well-informed man, a wide reader, and a Universalist in his religious belief. To his marriage was born a large family. His death occurred at Wellsboro. Following his marriage Erastus Fellows and wife settled at Wellsboro, Penn., where, in connection with farming, he followed hotel keeping. From 1825 to 1865 he was proprietor of the Fellows’ Temperance House, and was known far and wide as a man of sterling worth and high moral character. He was one of the early promoters of the cause of temperance, and accomplished much good by his determined stand. He was also a strong Abolitionist, a lover of liberty, and his house was the refuge for slaves escaping to Canada. He was ever fearless in the advocacy of any cause he believed to be right, and did not hesitate to express his views when it was necessary. The famous James G. Burney, at one time candidate for the presidency on the Abolitionist ticket, when lecturing in Pennsylvania, came to Wellsboro, but could find no place in which to deliver his lecture, as the Abolition cause was very unpopular. Mr. Fellows gave him the use of his dining room, and there his lecture was delivered. In his political views Mr. Fellows was at one time an Old-Line Whig, later an Abolitionist, and finally a stanch Republican. During the latter part of his days he became a prosperous and wealthy man. His death occurred in 1884, when eighty-four years of age. His wife was a lady of education for her day, and an old teacher’s certificate bearing date as early as 1813, and issued to her by the directors of the district at Coeymans, Albany County, New York, attesting her ability to teach school, is yet in existence. Throughout her life she took an interest in literary matters, was a great reader, and was a poetess of no mean ability, writing many poems, some of which were published. She was a devout member of the Methodist Church, a woman of high moral worth, and a great strength of character. By her first husband she was the mother of two children: ‘Newton and Almira, and her second union resulted in the birth of four children: Rachel A., Homer F., Norris W. and Mary E., all now living except the last named. Mr. and Mrs. Fellows passed all the days of their married life at Wellsboro, Penn.
Col. Homer F. Fellows, son of the above and our subject, was born at Wellsboro, Penn., and his youthful days were divided between assisting his father on the farm and in attending the common schools. At the age of seventeen he began clerking in a dry goods store in Wellsboro, and this business continued for about a year and a half. He then taught a district school, and later entered the Wesleyan University at Lima, New York, where he continued for one year. At the age of twenty-one, having acquired a good education for his day, he emigrated West with the intention of going to Texas. On reaching Rock Island, Illinois, he was taken sick, and this interfered with his plans. However, he went on as far as Muscatine, Iowa, remaining there for some time, but later went to Burlington, that State, where he engaged as salesman for a mercantile firm, Gear & Baum. Subsequently he became a collector for Mr. Baum, and afterward managed a store for him at Chariton, Iowa, for a year and a half. Following this he managed a general store for David Waynick for some time, and one for Joseph Mitchell, by whom he was sent East to purchase the stock. In the year 1856 he went to Plattsburg, Missouri, as a member of the firm of J. S. Sheller & Co., in the real estate business, and one year later he bought out the business and established offices at Warsaw and Springfield, Missouri, under the firm name of Fellows, Todd & Robinson. This was in 1857, and the firm located many land warrants in the Platt Purchase and in southwest Missouri. Being a stanch Republican and possessing first-class qualities for the position, Mr. Fellows was appointed register of lands for the district of Springfield by President Lincoln in May, 1861. He continued in this office until the battle of Wilson’s Creek. In 1861 he visited Washington on military business in the interests of Gen. Sigel, and made the personal acquaintance of President Lincoln. Springfield then being occupied by the Confederates, the Union men remained away from the city, and Mr. Fellows engaged in general merchandising at Rolla, Missouri, as a member of the firm of McElhaney, Jaggard & Co. In 1863 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-sixth Missouri Militia. The regiment was called out under Gen. McNeil, mustered into the United States service, and was on guard duty during the last invasion of Missouri by the Confederates under Gen. Price. In the winter of 1864 Mr. Fellows sold out his interests in Rolla and engaged in the wholesale grocery business at St. Louis, the firm being McElhaney & Fellows. Continuing in this business until 1867 he then sold out and went to Arlington, where he established a general store under the firm name of Fellows, McGinty & Co. Arlington is on the S. F. R. R., and as the road was then being opened for business, Col. Fellows established stores at convenient points on the same, one being at Lebanon, and another at North Springfield. This business was largely wholesale.
In 1871 Col. Fellows built a grain elevator, the first one erected in Springfield, and in 1872 he was induced to take charge of the Springfield Manufacturing Company, which had been organized but a few months, and which was in a bad condition financially. Finding the concern hopelessly involved the stockholders surrendered their stock and a new company was organized as the Springfield Wagon Company. The principal stockholders were Col. Fellows, his brother Morris W., and Capt. Boyden. New capital being invested, the company made the manufacturing of farm wagons a specialty, and from the start did a good business. In 1883 the plant was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt after one year, and the capital stock was increased from $25,000 to $50,000. One year later it was increased to $75,000. The plant was greatly enlarged and the business increased, so that the demand has since been equal to the capacity of the works. During 1893 about 3,500 wagons were manufactured. The reputation of the Springfield wagon for utility and service has steadily gained, so that it now commands the highest price in southwest Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. Its equal is not manufactured by any firm in the United States, and it comes in competition with all other wagons manufactured in this country, and ranks as the best. The Springfield Wagon Company gives employment to seventy-five men, and as an industrial enterprise, employing labor, is a direct benefit to the city. As a public-spirited citizen, Col. Fellows has done much to further the interests of the city, and in 1881 he was the chief promoter of a street railway between north and south Springfield, and was president of the company for three years. In 1859 he was one of the stockholders of the first telegraph line through Springfield. This line followed the overland stage road, and was established by Clowrey Stebbens. Col. Fellows built the first telephone line that came into Springfield, and it connected his office and residence. This was in 1877. The Colonel was a liberal contributor to the Gulf Railroad, and is a subscriber to the railroad now projected. He was one of the organizers of the Springfield Water Works, and president of the company for three years. Originally a Republican in politics, in 1860 he was the only man in Springfield who openly voted that ticket, excepting John M. Richardson, a presidential elector. He now entertains liberal views politically. In the year 1876 he was mayor of Springfield, and for many years was a member of the city council and school board. He has ever extended a helping hand to the cause of education, and has done much to establish good schools in Springfield. Liberal in his views and progressive in his ideas, Col. Fellows has always assisted with his means the churches of the city without regard to denomination. Formerly a member of both the Masonic and Odd Fellow orders, he is now a member of the Knights of Honor. He selected as his companion in life Miss Martha Alvira McElhaney, of Springfield, and their nuptials were celebrated November 15, 1859. Three living children have blessed this union: Emma, widow of Charles T. Keet, resides in Springfield; Clara, wife of F. J. Curron, also resides in Springfield, and Ada, widow of George Rothbun, makes her home in Springfield. Mrs. Fellows was called from the scenes of this life on October 5, 1869, and on August 15, 1872, the Colonel was married to Miss Minnie L. Boyden, of Neosho. One son, Homer F., was born to this marriage, and he is now in the office of the ” Frisco” Railroad in St. Louis. Mrs. Fellows died September 24, 1881, and the Colonel has since married Mrs. Matilda (Dickard) Jackson, widow of Mr. J. C. Jackson.
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