WILLIAM D. FULLER, Prosecuting Attorney of Newaygo County, and editor and Proprietor of the Newaygo Tribune, was born in Chardon, Geauga Co., Ohio, Sept. 3, 1840. He is the third son of Edson and Celira (Canfield) Fuller.
Edson Fuller was a pioneer of Northern Michigan and settled in Mecosta County in 1859. In that year he established the first general store in that county, which was located at Big Rapids. Of the history of the latter place he is inseparably part and parcel, from the date of his settlement therin and his connection with the foundation of its pioneer business relations. The career of Mr. Fuller was that of the typical early settler. He was born in Cazenovia, N. Y. in 1809, attained to the period of his legal freedom in his native State, and, possesed of the spirit which the customs and progress of the Empire State instilled into so many of her sons, he went, in the first flush of his healthful, ambitious manhood, to seek advancement in the then land of promise - Ohio. There, in 1830, he was married to Celira Canfield, and resided until 1845, when he collected together his earthly effects and, accompanied by his family, consisting of his wife , four sons and two daughters, proceeded to Grand Rapids, Mich., to avail himself of the resources which have given such splendid results as are manifest in that marvelous city. Until 1855, the career of Mr. F. was one continuous record of successes, and he went to Mishawaka, Ind., where his ample means found its Waterloo two years later, when the crisis of the financial world drew his resources into a ruinous vortex. Falling back on the guiding principle of his life, he availed himself of the pioneer privilege of seeking primeval territory where others similarily situated had congregated to wrest success from untested resources. He pursued his mercantile venture some years, and retired to a farm in Green Township in the same county. In 1877, he returned to Big Rapids, and, in April, 1879, while on a visit to his son at Des Moines, Iowa, he was seized with fatal illness and died.
The record of Celira (Canfield) Fuller is one that verifies the law of natural heritage, and in the careers of her four sons and surviving daughter her womanly worth and super-eminent intellectual qualities are perpetuated. Her earliest recorded ancestors were Huguenots, a fact which largely accounts for much of her personal annals. Her family name had its origin in the events which characterized the commingled history of England and France in the 14th century. A Huguenot family of Normandy, named Dephilo, received from the British crown a grant of land lying contiguous to the river Cam in England. The bestowal was for meritorious services, and such was the appreciation of the honor bestowed with it that the event was made more memorable by abnegation of the old family cognomen, and the compounding of a new one which should perpetuate the memory of the act of the English Government to the remotest generation. Cam and Dephilo became Camphield, and the orthography remained unchanged until the death of Thomas Camphield, in the 16th century, when the name was spelled Camfield, remaining thus until 1720, when it became Canfield. Matthew Camfield came from England to New Haven, Ct., in 1639. When that province made haste to secure the favor of the British Government in the early days of the restored monarchy, the charter which the "scholarly young Winslow, the best and truest man" in all her borders carried to King Charles, bore the name of "Matthew Camfield" as one of the petitioners for a royal patent. Winthrop's tact and segacity secured for the colony "the most liberal and ample" charter ever granted by an English Monarch, and upon the people of Connecticut was conferred power to govern themselves, and this without qualification or restriction. Under the provision of this charter "Gold, Sherman and Camfield" were appointed judges and vested with the power to hold court at Fairfiled, opening April 1, 1669. Mr. Camfield afterward went with part of his family to Newark, N.J., where he died and where his name is perpetuated by numerous descendants. The distinction of his name and position is also marked by the fact that his son Samuel (first) was a member of the General Assembly of Connecticut in 1669. Samuel Camfield (second) was born at Norwalk, Ct., in 1672, and married Abigail Austin of Stamford, Ct., Aug. 1, 1709. Samuel Camfield (third) was born June 4, 1710, at New Marlborough, Mass. His estate is yet in the possession of his descendants. Thomas Canfield, son of the last named, was born at New Marlborough, and married a lady named BUrr. Oliver Canfield, son of Thoms, married Sally Sherman in 1782, and of this marriage was born at Tyringham, Mass., July 7, 1810, Celria, the mother of W. D. Fuller.
Her father died when she was in infancy, and her mother re-married and went to Chardon, Geauga Co., Ohio, where she grew to womanhood. She married Edson Fuller, Feb. 4, 1830. Her home in Ohio was with that of the pioneer element, and she had but little technical education, as she had the advantage of but ten weeks of school in her life. But she was ever a student. The profession of medicine afforded deep interest to her alert mental organization and, within her scope, she pursued its practice both in INdiana and at Big Rapids, being signally successful in her efforts to alleviate suffering and battle disease. She was ever prminent in educational, moral and religious movements. In 1850, '51, and '52 she was in charge of the primaty department of the union school at Grand Rapids, MIch. She organized the first Sunday-school at Big Rapids, whose sessions were held in the old red school-house. In moral avenues her influence was sensibly felt among the pioneers of the village and vicinity, and extended through the latter years of her life, when Big Rapids had become a city incorporate and her population had incresed to thousands.
Her religious ideas were in keeping with the simplicity of the Center of the New Testament, and she fashioned them into articles for the press, which were fraught with her own ardor and strength. After the death of her husband she resided with her children. In November, 1882, she went to Des Moines to pass the remainder of her life, and during its closing months her intellectual activity seemed to culminate. She was ever keenly sensitive to any real or implied attack upon the Christian religion and hastened to give conscientious and earnest support to the principles whose vitality she had proved. The following quotation is from an article from her pen published in reply to one who caviled at some of the methods of public religious worship as misleading and inconsistent with existing facts:
Most men have learned something of the Bibile, but comparitively few have studied it carefully in order to understand its teachings and live according to its requirements. They listen to quotations from its pages and remember them, but do not know to whom the words were addressed, or the occasion which called them forth. More men have been driven to infidelity by the wrong application of Scripture and the divisions among Christians than by all other forces combined. Many people have very unwisely given over their spiritual interets to the keeping of the clergy. They pay liberally toward building churches and supporting a preacher who is supposed to understand his business; attend church and are very well satisfied with their position. But there are shrewd thinkers among them, men who think independently, and after listening to the preacher for a time, begin to question his doctrine. They attend church some fine morning and the congregation is composed of those classed among the best members of society. Much wealth is represented by the worshipers. Silks, laces and jewels adorn the persons of the women, proclaiming at least a competency of this world's goods. The minister arises in his place. His dress is faultless - the bluest of broadcloth, with the whitest of shirt-fronts, with studs and cuff buttons that glitter like diamonds set in gold. This is all very well. We will not question the right of those people to wear what they please, but we do question their right to sing, at the request of this richly dressed minister, -
"I'm but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me, on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home."
Neither does he a right to say during his weak-worded prayer, "We confess that we are strangers and pildrims on the earth; that we have no continuing city, but seek one to come." Some of his hearers are disgusted and denounce the whole thing as a farce. They say "that preacher don't believe what he says. If he does, why did he buy that corner lot when he already had a splendid home?" And so the word of the Lord is dishonored, for these are genuine quotations. Let us try and learn about these pilgrims and strangers. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, in order to strengthen their faith and encourage them in their afflictions, refers them to the ancient worthies whose deeds of faith were recorded in their own Scriptures. Also to the promise made to Abraham, "In thee and in they seed (which was Christ) shall all the families of the earth be blessed." He recounts at some length the names of the men of faith and says "they had trials of cruel mockings and scourging, bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. These all died in faith, not receiving the promised ingeritance, but believed the promises afar off, were persuaded of them and embraced them and confessed, that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." No one could object to these men calling themselves pilgrims or strangers. There is one more quotation from Paul often used, not applicable to the people of our day, which he must explain himself. He says, I think, "that God has set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed unto death. Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, are naked and are buffeted and have no certain dwelling place." Again, in Hebrews, he says, "Let us go forth bearing His reproach, for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."
If a lawyer should make as many mistakes in explaining the meaning of our human law to a jury as do some ministers in trying to teach the people the way into the kingdom of heaven, they would lose practice; but the people would never say, "We will pu the law aside and be a law unto ourselves." Let us all look more carefully into the perfect law of liberty and be not void of understanding.
She commenced the preparation of a series of lay sermons for the Newaygo Tribune, the first of which reached its publishers July 9, 1883, and appeared July 25, in the same issue which contained the notice of her death. That event occurred July 12, three days after her communication reached its destination. Her five surviving children watched the closing of her life and placed her in her pale sleep by the husband at whose side she walked in wifely dignity, in maternal beauty, in Christian consistency, for nearly half a century. In her children her earthly record yet lives; her sons are all in honorable walks of life, and her daughter, Mrs. Elma L. Hutchinson, of Des Moines, is a physician in regular practice and standing, representing the one characteristic of the mother; as the sons typify the race from which she sprung in sterling merit, honorable record and inflexible courage. Corydon E. Fuller, eldest son, resides ta Des Moines, Iowa, and has held his present responsible incumbency of Trasurer of the Iowa Loan & Trust Company 12 years. Hon. Ceylon C. Fuller, Judge of the Twenty-seventh Judicial Circuit, is a resident of Big Rapids, Mecosta Cop., Mich. Orrin T. Fuller, resident of Des Moines, Iowa, is the Interest Clerk in the office of the Iowa Loan & Trust Company. Ellen J. M. Fuller died at Grand Rapids, in 1850, aged sixteen. In her memory, parents, brothers and sister kept youth alive, and the oldest and youngest await the restoration of the household band in its entirity in the realms of perpetual morning.
William D. Fuller was a lad of five years when his parents went to Grand Rapids, where he was a pupil in the common schools until he was 16 years old. He went to Indiana with his father's family and returned with them to Michigan. In the reversed fortunes to which they were subjected he never flinched from the hardships which fell on all who were able to bear a burden. He shrunk from no labor, however menial, that promised proportionate remuneration, and in the spring of 1858 went to Big Rapids, then a village containing three houses and a saw-mill. When his father's store was opened and the first load of goods delivered a road was cut to convey them to the building where they were placed on sale. Mr. Fuller acted as the teamster, hauling the goods to supply the demand from Grand Rapids, a distance of 65 miles, over roads which were so far from imaginable that they cannont now be brought within the scope of fancy. In the fall and spring nearly a week was required for the trip, and among the well remembered experiences were the lying out nights beside the wagon, unloading goods to make it possible for the horses to draw the remainder up hills, or over mud-holes, etc. The arduous labors of those days developed all varieties of human weakness, and the drinking habit was almost universal. Mr. Fuller possessed a rugged Saxon temperament, capable of almost any hard task if managed judiciously, and he performed all his labors without the aid of the stimulus of spirits and tobacco. He had only to recuperate from weariness, and he passed this most laborious period of his life without permanent injury, sustaining the reputation of being one of the most useful members of the teaming fraternity.
In the spring of 1861, he went to Hiram, Ohio, to attend school. The Rebellion of the Southern States aroused the patriotic sould of the immortal Garfield, then at the head of the school, and it was disbanded to aid in the re-establishment of the Union. Mr. Fuller resumed his wonted occupation at Big Rapids. In the winter of 1861-2, he went to Geneva, Ohio, where he took a course of penmanship under the personal instruction of Prof. P. R. Spencer, received his credentials and taught one term in Rochester, Fulton Co., INd. The calling not proving attractive, he went home and, not long after, came to Newaygo and read law in the office of Col. J. H. Standish. Later on he went back to Big Rapids and entered into a contract to build a State road.
Mr. Fuller was married Jan. 1, 1863, to Georgiette H., eldest daughter of Col. Standish, and entered soon after into one of the departments of lumbering and "put in" saw logs (about 100,000 feet), banking them on the Muskegon River. He afterward sold the same to Sextus N. Wilcox, whose name is synonymous with the lumber trade of Northern Michigan. In the spring of 1863, Mr. Fuller engaged in commercial business at Berlin, Ottaw Co., Mich., associated with his youngest brother. The venture proved disasterous and Mr. Fuller retreated in the following December, bearing with him as trophies of his prowess in the undertaking the vouchers for an indebtedness of $1,000, his assets being represented by his wife, one child and a modest collection of personal effects.
Mr. Fuller had decided to enroll himself a member of the legal fraternity of Northern Michigan, and removed to Newaygo in order to take charge of the office of his father-in-law, Col. Standish, who was winning distinction at the front end during the war. He established himself therein and, urged by necessity and press of business, made immediate acquaintance with hard work, reading law and practicing in the justice court. He was entirely without guidance, and at the time the Bar of Newaygo County was in the foremost ranks in point of learning and experience, a fact which, while it added greatly to Mr. Fuller's sense of inexperience and the responsibility of his undertaking, spurred him to effort and quickened his apprehension of details, indispensbale to his chosen profession and the importance of the duties he had undertaken. Retrospection shows that the opportunity was a rare one, and its difficulties fade into nothingness beside uits real advantage to the struggling, hard-beset young advocate. Judeg Barton was then in his prime. W. T. Howell, an experienced practitioner (afterwards Judge of Arizona), A. H. Giddings, whose name is inseparably connected with the Judiciary of Newaygo County, and E. L. Gray, a lawyer of scknowledged ability as an advocate were prominent contestants in the judicial arena. This array was strengthened by accessions from the forensic talent of Grand Rapids, and to it Mr. Fuller was deeply indebted for much consideration. A substantial friend appeared in the person of Sullivan Armstrong, of Ashland Township. He was then County Treasurer, the possessor of abundant resources and immoderately fond of checker-playing, in which he loved to indulge in the long summer days at the Brooks House, and the daily dollar which he paid to Mr. Fuller to secure the leisure he could afford, was a godsend to that individual, and secured for him a gratitude which has never wavered.
On the first of September, 1864, two years before the twenty-fourth recurrence of his birthday, Mr. Fuller was admitted to the Bar of Newaygo County, Hon. F. J. Littlejohn presiding, and proceeded with active practice as an attorney. Among the important relations he has sustained as a practiitioner, is his connection with the legal affairs of Sextus N. Wilcox, and the lumber firm of which he was the leading factor. Mr. Fuller had for some years prior to his death been in sole charge of his extensive legal affairs relating to his lumber interests and those of the S. N. Wilcox Lumbr Company, and is now attorney for his estate and the company.
In NOvember, 1868, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Newaygo County and held the office four years. He served as Supervisor of Brooks Township in 1867, '69-71, and 1871, when D. P. Clay commenced his operations to establish a railroad from Grand Rapids to Newaygo, he interested himself in the enterprise, contributed $1,000 toward its sonsummation and subscribed another $1,000 to the same end. The terrible realities of the year 1873, which wrought such financial havoc in Northern Michigan, swept away all the accumulations of his years of labor, and he found himself stranded, losing his home with the rest. In September of that year of disaster, he entered into partnership with Col. Standish, who had established his business at Grand Rapids, and conducted an office there until Sept. 15, 1880, when he re-established himself at Newaygo.
On the first of October, 1879, associated with Timothy edwards, Mr. Fuller assumed control of the Newaygo Tribune. The relation closed Jan. 1, 1881, after which the paper was under his sole management until Oct. 1, 1883, when the eldest son of Mr. Fuller, having attained to the age of 18 years, became assoiate editor and proprietor by gift from his father, the style now being W. D. & E. S. Fuller. The paper is devoted in its political affiliations to the interests of the National party, and has a satisfactory subscription list in Newaygo County.
Mr. Fuller cast his first Presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln, and regards that act as the crowning privilege of his public career. He claims adherence to the fundamental principles which the Republican party was created to perpetuate, and clung to its tenets until the fall of 1878, when he became identified ith the National Greenback party. He was aware that it was a forlorn hope, but he fearlessly adopted the principles enunciated in the platform of the Chicago Convention of 1880, and has since been their champion. He has been honored by the organizarion at the Michigan State Convention held in September, 1882, was unanimously elected Chairman of the State Central Committee.
In Novemebr, 1882, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Newaygo County, by a fair majority over the two opposing candidates, carrying the townships of Brooks and Garfield by 160 votes. In January, 1883, he was appointed Stte Swamp Land Road Commissioner, and in the summer and fall of that year traveled over 3,000 miles in the discharge of the duties pertaining to the office. More than 600 miles of the distance was traveled by team.
Mr. Fuller is a temperance man practically and theoretically. He believes in the perpetuity of the Republic and its innate tendencies. The lessons he has learned from the march of events have convinced him of the deathless character of truth and the inevitable triumph of right.
The family of Mr. Fuller includes five children, born in the following order: Jennie E., Oct. 16, 1863; Earnest S., Sept. 20, 1865; Hettie C., Nov. 19, 1867; Alice F., NOv. 4, 1869; JOhn E., Nov. 12, 1872.
As a prominent county official and a representative of the element which distinguishes him by its support, we have the pleasure of presenting the portrait of Mr. Fuller to the citizens of Newaygo County.