Biography of James Fleet
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Many of our most capable and substantial citizens have come to us from England and among that number we must mention the subject of this sketch, whose career has demonstrated the pluck, perseverance and intelligence of the doughty Anglo Saxon race, and any work which purports to give review of the prominent citizens of Wallowa County would be quite incomplete were there not mention of this honorable and esteemed gentleman, whose uprightness, integrity and capability have given him a standing among his men and fellows and it is with pleasure that we accord him representation in the chronicles of our county.
Beneath the shadows of Windsor Castle, in Berkshire County, England, on November 24, 1845, the subject of this sketch opened his eyes to the light, being the son of William and Jane Fleet. The first years of his life were spent in his home with his parents, gaining for himself meanwhile a good education in the schools of his native place, and at the age last mentioned he enlisted as an able bodied seaman upon a man of war and until the spring of 1866 took all the vigorous exercise and training in this capacity. During these years he visited the West Indies, the coast of African, and then returned to Portsmouth, England, and trained as a seaman gunner and diver. Following this he repaired to Esquimault Harbor, near Victoria, British Columbia, in which place he left the vessel in 1866. We next find him in Portland, Oregon, where he remained for a short time and then repaired to San Francisco and followed steam boating for a few years. Tales of golden wealth to be had from nature’s golden vaults led him to Idaho City and there he operated in the mines until 1870, with what success we are not told. At that date, however, he repaired to Owyhee, Idaho, and continued in the mining business for some time. It was not, however, until 1874 that he first came into the Grande Ronde valley, settling at Summerville.
The marriage of Mr. Fleet and Mary, daughter of William U. and Elizabeth Hayden, and a native of Illinois, was celebrated on October 6, 1874, in the Grande Ronde valley. Mrs. Fleet’s parents were among the very first settlers in that peaceful valley, coming there in 1862. Her father is now dead, but her mother is living still in the Imnaha country, aged seventy-seven. Subsequent to his marriage Mr. Fleet repaired to Owyhee, Idaho, whence in 1876 he migrated to Prescott, on the Verde river, Arizona, meeting with abundant success in farming and stock raising until 1884 and then came to his present place in Wallowa county. November 15th he entered government land about five miles northwest of the present town of Flora and one-half mile south of Arko. He built an elegant home and opened up a fine farm. At the present time the farm is well improved, and in addition to good building and a fine orchard is very skillfully kept. But one other family was upon Lost Prairie when Mr. Fleet removed there. He has the distinction of being one of the pioneers of development of this section of the county and also it was he that brought the first children into the northern part of the county.
To our subject and his estimable wife have been born five children, born as follows: Mary B., wife of Charles Whitmore, near Flora: Amy, wife of William Baker, a merchant of Flora: Artie I., wife of Willis Wright, near Arko: Bertha, the first child born on this prairie. Mr. Fleet was instrumental in organizing the first district in the northern part of the county, and he has constantly maintained by his efforts the up building of the cause of education and the advancement of the same. Two of Mr. Fleet’s daughters have been very successful teachers in the public schools and took and held rank among the best educators of the county. Mrs. Whitmore has the distinction of holding a first-class certificate with the exceptional average in all her studies of ninety-seven and seven-twelfths, and Mrs. Baker holds a first-class certificate and for four years was numbered with the leading educators of the county. Mr. Fleet has always manifested an intelligent interest in the matter of politics, allying himself with the Democratic Party and has constantly labored during his residence in this county for the advancement and development of the same. His farm is one of exceptional fertility and produces vegetables of all kinds in great abundance. He has the distinction of raising potatoes weighing as high as five and six pounds each. Among the capable, intelligent and substantial agriculturists of Wallowa County there is none who holds the esteem of his fellows in surer grasp and the confidence of them also than does Mr. Fleet, who has been a very valuable acquisition to the population of Wallowa County.