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Richard H. Fletcher (1858-1933)
Born in Bay City, son of Robert and Marie R. (Wing) Fletcher.

1915 biography - Added July, 2010.

History of Michigan by Charles Moore - 1915


It is sixty years since the Fletcher family was established in Bay county. That fact alone gives the family a position in the pioneer annal. Richard H. Fletcher, a son of his pioneer parents, has himself gone through the vicissitudes and strenuous life of the old lumbering era, employed his energies at farming for a number of years, recently retired from the office of labor statistics, in which he made a splendid record in behalf of the public welfare and is now a prominent real estate man in Bay City.

Richard H. Fletcher was born at Bay City, June 2, 1858. His parents were Robert and Marie Rye (Wing) Fletcher, the former a native of England and the latter of Genessee county, New York. Robert Fletcher when a young man left England, and on a sailing vessel spent nine weeks before landing in New York City. He then enlisted for a three years' cruise on a whaling vessel, and spent three years in the north Atlantic and Baltic seas. On the expiration of his term, and the return of the ship to New York he went to Genessee county, and began working at his trade of blacksmith. At the age of twenty-five he met and married Miss Wing, in Genessee county, and then with eleven other families the young couple came west to Michigan. Most of the journey was made overland, and in the year 1853, they arrived in Bay County, located on a quarter section of land, eight miles west of Saulsburg. The eleven other families all likewise took up quarter sections in the same neighborhood. Indians and wild animals were still a plague in the country, and these New York families settled close together for protection. Robert Fletcher opens a blacksmith shop at Gran Blanc near Flint, conducted it a year, and in the meantime assisted in clearing the land for his farm. Land near Bay City and Saginaw was then selling at fifty cents an acre. Farming and blacksmithing occupied the energies of this pioneer until his retirement, and he finally moved to West Bay City, where he died, at the age of eighty-seven years. While his own par was that of the rugged pioneer laborer in the forest and in the fields, his wife likewise should be mentioned as a pioneer woman, who bore her share of hardships and yet reared and cared for a family of twelve children. In the early days she provided the clothes for the household, shearing the sheep and spinning the wool into cloth. She often walked to Bay City to do her marketing. She is still living at the venerable age of eight-one and her home is with her son in West Bay City.

Richard Fletcher, who was third of the twelve children, had no sooner got into the years of early boyhood before he had to go out into the forests and assist in the lumber camps, and in the duties of the farm. In spite of the primitive conditions in which he was reared, he managed to secure an education by studying at night by the light of an old-fashioned tallow candle. His experience in the woods developed his self-reliance, so that when he was still very young he took a contract for a drive of lumber down the Ripple river. The successful fulfillment of that contract meant everything to his future, and with a force of sixty-eight lumber jacks, he started in during the fall of the year when the river already has a thin coat of ice, and he himself stood in the water up to his waist for hours, while directing and performing much of he work. Most of his men deserted him in the increasing cold, and he was finally left practically alone and unaided got the last log through the boom. After that grilling experience he went home and lay for four days in bed, and at much bodily sacrifice earned his first thousand dollars. Following that experience Mr. Fletcher spent ten years at farming, and then sold out and went into the lumber trade, buying and selling. A number of years ago he was appointed to a clerical position in the state labor department, became an inspector, and on August 15, 1908, became commissioner of labor statistics, an office which he held until July, 1911. He was for twenty years connected with the state labor department, and on resigning he returned to Bay City, and has since engaged in the real estate and insurance business.

Mr. Fletcher has for the past twenty years been a member of the Bay County Road Commission. He was elected a member of the City Council of West Bay City, director of the Bay City Cast Stone Company of West Bay City, and is president of the Grand Rapids Granite Block Company of Grand Rapids.

Mr. Fletcher has been twice married, and the children of his first wife were: Mrs. Nettie Whigham, born in Bay City, December 27, 1881, and now a resident of Cleveland, Ohio; Henry E. Fletcher born at Bay City, August 13, 1884, a resident of Cleveland, and the father of five children; Charles Fletcher, born June 16, 1887 in Bay City, lives in Cleveland and has three children; Mrs. Alma Tulley, born February 20, 1889, lives in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has one child; Ross, born at Bay City, June 20, 1892, is a soldier in the United States army and is now stationed at Pekin, China. At Port Huron, Michigan, August 11, 1895, Mr. Fletcher married Harriet Phillips, a daughter of Gilbert Phillips, now deceased. To this marriage have been born the following children: Richard Harold Fletcher, born at Bay City, December 17, 1896, who has completed the work of the grade schools; Olive Fletcher, born April 20, 1898, and now attending high school; Dorothy Fletcher, born November 24, 1902 and in the sixth grade of the Bay City schools; and Gertrude Fletcher, born September 24, 1904, and in the fourth grade of school.

Additional Notes:

1900 - Census: Bay City, Mich.

  • Fletcher, Richard H. - b. Jun 1858, Mich., contractor
  • Hattie – wife, b. Aug 1873 Mich.
  • Nettie – dau., b. Dec 1882 Mich.
  • Henry – son, b. Aug 1885 Mich.
  • Charles – son, b. Jun 1887 Mich.
  • Alma – dau., b. Feb 1890 Mich.
  • Ross – son, b. Jun 1893 Mich.
  • Harold – son, b. Jul 1896 Mich. (aka. Richard Jr.)
  • Olive – dau., b. May 1898 Mich.
  • Harriet – dau., b. Aug 1899 Mich.

    1909: On June 25, Richard H. Fletcher, of Bay City, Bay County, appointed Commissioner of Labor, for a term of two years from and after July 1, 1909.

    1909-10: City commissioner, 6th Ward, Bay City, MI

    1909: Bay County road commissioner.

    1920 – Newberry Case, held in Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids – Richard H. Fletcher, Bay City, State Labor Commissioner, sentence to 15 months in prison for violation of nomination and election laws.

    1921 – Richard H. Fletcher among suspects being investigated in the Michigan elections of 1818. In what was called the “Newburry Case,” that came the elections committee of the U.S. Congress Senate. Fletcher, then serving as State Labor Commissioner (term May 2, 1918 – Jun. 30, 1919), and others found guilty of illegally influencing election results, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

    1933 – Hyatt Funeral Home, Bay City MI.

  • Richard H. Fletcher died Jan. 14, 1933

    1984 – Richard Harold Fletcher Jr., member of Michigan Conservation Commission, died on Dec. 23, buried at Elm Lawn Cemetery. Richard was married to Marie C. Bonkell on January 31, 1925, at Bay City. (LDS records)

  • Related Pages & Notes

    Related Pages: Fotheringham, Wm. S.
    People Referenced
    Bonkell, Marie C.
    Fletcher, Alma (dau.)
    Fletcher, Charles (son)
    Fletcher, Dorothy (dau.)
    Fletcher, Gertrude (dau.)
    Fletcher, Harriet (dau.)
    Fletcher, Henry E. (son)
    Fletcher, Nettie (dau.)
    Fletcher, Olvie (dau.)
    Fletcher, Richard H. (subject)
    Fletcher, Richard H. Jr. (son)
    Fletcher, Robert (father)
    Fletcher, Ross (son)
    Phillips, Gilbert
    Phillips, Harriet (2-wife)
    Tulley, Mrs.
    Wing, Marie R. (mother)
    Wingham, Mrs.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City Cast Stone Co.
    Bay Co., MI
    Bay Co. Rd. Commission
    Chillicothe, OH
    Cleveland, OH
    Elm Lawn Cemetery
    Flint, MI
    Genessee Co., NY
    Grand Blanc, MI
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Grand Rapids Granite Co.
    Hyatt Funeral Home
    New York, NY
    Port Huron, MI
    Ripple River, MI
    Salzburg, MI
    Pekin, China
    West Bay City, MI
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.