I don’t care who you are, if you have spent more than an hour searching for your family history, you want to know what your ancestors looked like. Am I short like grandma? Do I have great grandpa’s big ears? How did my mom end up with green eyes? Why are there so many gingers in my tree? Having the opportunity to see your ancestors isn’t just the act of viewing photos in an album. It is seeing all the bits and pieces of DNA passed down the line to you and some of those you didn’t get! While we might take pause at the clothing or the hairstyles of our ancestors, everything old is new again…..I mean, what about the ’70’s? While I have serious doubts that hoop skirts and cutaway jackets will ever again be the daily wear of women and men, fashion also has a lineage and it can help to date a photograph.
Several years ago I was searching around the interwebs for any clue or crumb about the Fritcher family. I was fortunate enough to hit upon a website (Ancestorville) that actually had a sale listing a group of 9 photos of the Fritcher family. I couldn’t believe my eyes….or my luck. At that time, I had no idea how this group of Fritchers fit into my family tree. Debra offered to sell the originals or high quality scans, and since the relationship was sketchy, I only purchased the scans. Debra’s focus changed and she took her website down for a while, but she had recently brought it back. I had remained a member of her Facebook group and when she posted some photos of a recent trip through New York, I mentioned that I had some Fritcher family members from that particular area. Almost immediately she responded that she still had the lot of 9 originals and that I should consider buying them. Now that several years had passed, I had completed enough branches and research to truly know who these people were. I purchased them on the spot. I was not going to let them get away after all this time. They came well packaged and each in their own protective sleeve. We both suspect that these were originally in a CDV album that probably fell apart years ago.
Let’s pause here and I want you to read this carefully. While I am happy to share these photos and their stories with you, please don’t steal them off of this blog. First, it is naughty. Second, if you contact me directly we can discuss your relationship to the Fritchers and I will be more than happy to share many other things and information that I have. Third, you will grow warts on your palms.
Now that we have that out of the way, on to the photos!
Here we have a carte de visite with Charles Fritcher and Mamie Pomeroy on his lap. No doubt an interesting photo but first let’s consider the subjects. I would guess that this photo was taken between 1868 and 1870. Here is the reverse of the same photo.
From what little I can gather about the photographer, Charles E. Myers was a Civil War veteran and he doesn’t appear in the Hornellsville, New York city directory until 1870. Mamie or Mary Rebecca Pomeroy was born in 1860. To me, she doesn’t look to be 10 and I know that Charles Fritcher was employed by her father by circa 1879. But before we delve into that, let’s talk about Charles.
Charles Edgar Fritcher was born 26 February 1846 in Athens, Pennsylvania to Henry I Fritcher and Ann Sprague Ryder, the 8th of 9 children. Father Henry did fairly well for himself starting out as a shoemaker, then running a livery and finally owning a boarding house. While they weren’t wealthy, they were better than most. In the 1870 census, Charles is listed as age 23, living at home and working as a phonographer. Now when I first read this, I thought that the census taker meant PHOTOGRAPHER. Um, no. A phonographer was later known as a stenographer. He apparently began studying in 1865 to attach himself to this line of work.
Shortly after the 1870 census, Charles met his first wife Ella Keeler. I have been unable to discern when or where they actually married but you can bet that it was prior to the birth of their son, Louis Henry Fritcher in February of 1872. At this point they are the ripe old age of 25 and first time parents. But they had hitched their wagon to a star….sort of.
Marcus Mills Pomeroy was born 25 December 1833 in Elmira, New York. According to many fanciful and flowery stories of the day, he was a lazy, mischievous boy who was smart but harmless. He managed to work himself into the good graces of a childless family that employed him in the newspaper business. He pulled up to the top of the heap and become a newspaper owner in several cities. But what he was probably most known for was his outspoken racist views and venomous hatred of Abraham Lincoln.
It was said that he was named after a beloved uncle whose theology didn’t align with his. Upon Uncle Marcus stating his distaste at his nephew choosing to be a Copperhead, his name was promptly changed and he was ever after known as Mark Mills Pomeroy. Copperheads were a group that were opposed to the Civil War, at any cost so long as the Union was preserved, even if it meant retaining slavery. (Historical side note: After the Civil War, what we now refer to as Democrats were then known as Republicans and vice versa. When ever you read about pre and post Civil War and the political parties, remember that it is opposite day post 1865) Mark Mills Pomeroy was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat (today’s Republican) and he named his newspapers to reflect that.
At some point in his newspaper career, he was tagged by the Louisville Journal as a perfect “brick”. Brick was vernacular of the time meaning a “facetious funny fellow”. Apparently, Mark loved to play jokes and was quite the….er…..smartass. The nickname stuck and if you want to know more about Mr. Pomeroy, just search for Brick Pomeroy and you will be rewarded with lots of results. His staunchly Democratic views were reflected in the tagline of one of his papers “Democratic at all time and under all circumstances”. But he had a tendency to go too far even as he fanned the flames of hatred. When there was a massacre of recently freed slaves at Fort Pillow, just outside of the present day Memphis, Tennessee, he praised the events and called for additional killing. Even the New York newspapers called him out for his fear mongering and over the top hatred.
I make no attempt here to support or defile Mr. Pomeroy. The facts stand as they are and they are important to know as a piece of history. He was a larger than life figure who accomplished much in his time on earth, but also knew many failures. He was known as a personally kind and honest person, but if he were your enemy there would be no mercy. Since he owned the power of the press, he could shape the minds and political leanings of all who partook of his brand. His name was well-known at the time and he never shied away from an opportunity to make money or controversy.
Tobacco and smoking become a vehicle for “white rights”.
If you wish to read more about Marcus Mills Pomeroy, please follow this link for an excellent dissertation about him.
Mr. Pomeroy married Anna Amelia Wheeler in 1854. On 26 Dec 1860 they were blessed with a baby girl, Mary Rebecca Pomeroy. It is this young girl that sits on the lap of Charles Fritcher in the photo above. I had previously struggled with the timeline, age and how positive I was about this being Mary/Mamie. Recently I found an additional photograph of this lady and I no longer doubt that they are one and the same.
Hard to miss those eyes and far away stare. She grew up, married Frederick Eugene Ware and lived in Clinton, Iowa. She died 24 April 1920.
Now we know quite a bit about everyone else but what do we know about Charles?
As stated before, he had married Ella Keeler and they had son Louis Henry. Then on 26 Jan 1876, they welcomed another boy, Charles Raymond Fritcher. He was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Charles Edgar was steadily employed and worked for and with “Brick” Pomeroy for at least 5 years helping to run the Lacross (Wisconsin) Democrat and Pomeroy’s Democrat newspaper in New York city. He was the personal secretary to Mr. Pomeroy and also manager and secretary of the managing company.
From Pomeroy’s Democrat, 14 June 1871
From Pomeroy’s Democrat 7 December 1872
However, in 1874 Peter Herdie hired Charles to take charge of the Williamsport, Pennsylvania “Bulletin”
I feel certain that Brick and Charles parted ways on good terms. Brick was never one to mince words and chased down his enemies mercilessly. If there had been ill will, I do not think that there would have been such a published notice in the Pomeroy’s Democrat 14 March 1874 issue. However, something compelled Mr. Fritcher to take his leave of Mr. Pomeroy’s employ. Finally,
Pomeroy’s Democrat 20th June 1874. Make of it what you will.
In Charles’ 18 years with the “Bulletin” he consolidated it with the Gazette and was quite successful.
September 11, 1883 his wife Ella dies at age 36. While this left him with two young sons, he seems to have managed. He stuck with his newspaper gig until about 1892 and then decided to go back to his stenographer roots. He served as stenographer for various judges in the state house and then statute clerk in Washington, D.C. He could count among his closest friends; Benjamin F. Butler, Samuel (Sunset) Cox and Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president. It does not escape me the disdain that his former employer had for Lincoln and yet…..
In 1890, Mr. Pomeroy floated the idea of boring a railroad tunnel through the Rocky Mountains. The Denver, Apex and Western railroad would include a 233 mile tunnel through the mountains and under Loveland Pass. He was sure that the Atlantic Pacific tunnel would be a great success and that the boring would lead to vast quantities of gold and silver, which would help underwrite the project. He died in New York city in May 1896, his tunnel a failure and he was nearly penniless.
On the 4th of October, 1900 Charles Fritcher remarried. He was betrothed to Julia Dunn Myer in New Jersey and they made their home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
We shall continue this look into the Fritcher family very soon. Stay tuned!