I happened into this article by seeing a photo of Foster Alexander Fletcher on FindAGrave (thanks D. Stonebraker). I discovered too late for our Twins Montgomery Memories that Foster fathered two sets of twins. Since I was mesmerized by this good-looker, thought I’d just go ahead and research Foster and besides the twins, let ya’ all know about his feats and accomplishments. WHOOPS – was it a mistake? Well, no, but I always form an opinion of a subject almost immediately and the one I formed here was not an upbeat one for sure. After reading dozens upon dozens of articles about him, I’m still not sure how I feel about this man but read on and see what you think!
Foster Alexander Fletcher was born in Keene, New Hampshire, according to his obituary (findagrave agrees but that is probably taken from the obituary). I think, though that he was born in Ostego County, New York, where I’m sure all but two (his oldest brother, Andrew who was 19 in the 1850 census and the youngest who was indeed born in Keene, New Hampshire) of his many brothers and sisters were born. Both of his parents (Joseph and Sarah Streeter Fletcher) were born in New Hampshire, children of long-time settlers there. However, the Fletcher children were born in NY where Joseph and Sarah farmed for about 15 years – they moved back to Cheshire County NH about 1858. Foster and his brothers, Aurelis and Charles S. (who later signed Foster’s marriage certificate) in June 1863 registered for the Civil War draft back in NH but there is no indication any of them went to War. There were at least five other brothers and two sisters in Foster’s original family. Both Aurelis and Charles came to Illinois about the time Foster arrived in Montgomery County where Foster planted (hey, I made a joke). All but one of five census records for Foster shows him born in NY as do all those brothers and sisters.
Just why Foster landed in Montgomery County, Indiana I have no idea, but that he did, going to work on Paschal Wilhite’s farm near New Market. The Wilhite’s had raised Mary Catherine Smith (born in Alamo and orphaned at age seven) having lost two children of their three. Foster was living alone on a farm in NH when he left after the 1870 census and must have gotten here soon after. He worked for Paschal and wife (Margaret Ruffner) and met Mary whom he married on April 25, 1875 (he 30, she 23) and immediately began making money. He had an uncanny knack for it. Paschal also gave them a farm. Foster and Mary raised eleven children.
One of Foster’s biggest pluses was his work ethic. He was said to have amazing energy and could do a “wonderful amount of work in a day.” In fact, he continued that until about a year before he passed away at age 65. He was in to so many fields of work. First, he was a farmer, but with that he raised sheep, and had better luck with them than most in that business. In the Spring of 1893, after a severe winter, many had lost a large amount of their flock. Foster began with 125 and only lost four, plus he had five new lambs – figure that out - he was ahead. The Crawfordsville Weekly noted that “it shows what can be done when a man takes care of his stock!”
As he progressed in farming, he began to pile up the money and would often go to the sale of land that had been repossessed or property in an estate and purchase it at a good price. There might be 40 bidding, but it was almost always Foster Fletcher left with the land. In fact, when his father passed away, even though he had only lived on that farm in New Hampshire about a dozen years, he heard it was not going to sell for what it was worth and traveled back to New Hampshire buying “the home farm.” In fact, he purchased land all over the country, NH, Mississippi (where he once went to supervise the building of a sawmill), Illinois and much here in Montgomery County. The stock market was another money maker for Foster and he owned bank stock as well. One profit in Chicago was $3,600 (lots of money in 1890). This fellow definitely had odd but sure ways to bring in the bucks.
Although he and Mary went to no church, he was active in the IOOF and Eagles, generous to their causes, as well. Sounds like an amazing man, doesn’t he? Well, he was but there were … hmmm how to put it? Interesting isn’t strong enough. Shady is too strong, so here are just a few of the attention grabbers I discovered while researching Foster Fletcher.
For one thing, Foster was in and out of the courts multiple times. The biggest case actually got him pushed-out of the New Market area. He either frequented, was friends with the owner of the local saloon (Jacob Freed), or just wanted to help the fellow out and prove a point. Certainly, he was persistent in regards to this saloon. First, he bought it and hired the previous owner to run it. Didn’t work as Jacob scared away when the KuKluxKlan (saying get out of our town or something bad will happen to you – ya’ don’t know when but it will – this along with a large picture of a tar & feathering party) threatened them. Foster ignored the warning and his saloon mysteriously burned down not too long afterward. He built it right back up. So, the White Cappers took him to court (at the conclusion when FF took it all the way to the supreme court and won, there was a listing of the names in the group). After he proved his point, he either voluntarily left the area, moving up to Cherry Grove, or was pushed out. Do know at that point as he so loved politics that he wanted to run for County Commissioner and when he put his name in most of those New Market fellows pitched a campaign to stop that and they did. However, later he won several county offices as the people in the CG area adored him. Speaking of politics, he often put up the bond money for those running and sometimes bond money for folks in trouble.
Another court trip was cancelled. Supposedly, he had slandered teacher, Phil Hauk, who was “kissing and more with one of his older students.” Phil said he couldn’t get the job thanks to Foster Fletcher and that rumor. However, before that went to court Phil got Grace McClamrock pregnant, set-up or did an abortion that went bad and Grace died. Phil “the foxy young man” decided to drop his charge of slander as he said he “had as much chance in the case as a plum pudding in a pig pen.”
Raising eleven children, involved in so many activities, I wonder if Foster just wore out as in early June, 1910 he was taken to Deaconess Hospital in Indianapolis, spending a month there, enduring three operations (bladder problems), had a comeback or two, but grew worse the last week, expiring. That darling Mary spent the next 29 years as a widow and passed away ten days after her 87th birthday party given by all the children. Blessings upon these folks, but still not sure just how I feel about Mr. Foster Alexander Fletcher! You?

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at Karen@ thepaper24-7.com