Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


COL. HOMER F. FELLOWS. No man stood higher in the affairs of the city of Springfield in the early period of her development than the late Col. Homer F. Fellows, a pioneer who came here nearly sixty years ago, in antebellum days and by his industry became one of the leading business men of Springfield, founded a great wagon manufacturing concern, helped organize the street railway system, was twice chief executive of the city and prominent in public affairs, and during the war between the states became an officer of high rank. His record shows that he did as much as any other man ever did toward the general growth of the city for a period of half a century, and he merits extended notice in a work of this nature.

Col. Fellows was born in Willsborough, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, July 28, 1831. He was a son of Erastus and Elizabeth Fellows. He sprang from old Colonial stock, and was of English-Puritan extraction, two brothers, John and Drane Fellows, having emigrated from England among the early colonists. John Fellows, the colonel's grandfather, was born in Canaan, Connecticut, where his ancestors had settled, and served in the Revolutionary war. He married Edna Deibold, also born in the town of Canaan, and of French descent. After their marriage they removed to Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, locating on a farm, which they developed by hard work from the wilderness, which was filled with Indians and wild beasts. Remaining there until about 1820 John Fellows moved with his family to Tioga county, Pennsylvania, and there passed the remainder of his life, dying at the age of eighty-three years. His family consisted of six children: Horace, Ashel, Erastus, Merritt, Eliza and Hulda. His son, Erastus, father of our subject, was also a native of Canaan, Connecticut, and was a small boy when the family moved from there to Pennsylvania. He received a fairly good education for those early times, and when a young man he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spent one year, then returned to Pennsylvania and married Mrs. Elizabeth (Cole) Johnson, a widow, and a daughter of Royal Cole, a native of the state of New York, but of English extraction. Mr. Cole was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, participating in a number of important engagements, including the battle of Trenton, and was present at the surrender of Burgoyne. He also served in the War of 1812. He was a well-informed man on general subjects, and was a Universalist in his religious belief. He reared a large family. The latter part of his life was spent at Wellsborough. In that town also Erastus Fellows and his wife located, and there he engaged in hotel keeping and fanning, being proprietor of Fellows' Temperance House there from 1825 until 1865, his inn being well known to the traveling public of that period.

He was one of the early advocates of temperance, accomplished much good by his determined stand, and was known as a man of high moral character in every respect. He was also a strong Abolitionist, and his house was the refuge for slaves escaping to Canada about the Civil war period. He was fearless and outspoken in his views when once convinced that he was right. The famous James G. Burney at one time candidate for the Presidency on the Abolitionist ticket, came to Wellsborough, but owing to the opposition, could find no place in which to make a speech, and Mr. Fellows gave him the use of his dining-room and there his lecture was delivered. Politically, Mr. Fellows was at one time a Whig, but later an Abolitionist, and finally a Republican. During the latter part of his life he became a man of wealth, and his death occurred in 1884 at the age of eighty-four years. His wife received an excellent education for her day, and her descendants are in possession of a certificate issued to her in 1813 by the directors of the district of Coeymans, Albany county, New York, attesting her ability to teach school. Through her life she took an interest in literary matters, was a great reader, and wrote verse of much merit, some of which found its way into print. She was a member of the Methodist church and was strong in her moral convictions. By her first husband she became the mother of two children, Newton and Almira Johnson, and her union with Mr. Fellows resulted in the birth of four children: Rachael A., Homer F., of this sketch; Norris W. and Mary E. The parents of these children lived their entire married life at Wellsborough, Pennsylvania, and there their son, Homer F. Fellows, grew to manhood, working on his father's farm in the summer time and attending the common schools in the winter. At the age of seventeen he began clerking in a dry goods store in his native town, in which position he remained about a year and a half. He then taught a district school, and later entered the Wesleyan University at Lima, New York, where he remained a year. By the time he had reached his twenty-first year he had acquired a good education for those days, and with the intention of going to Texas he came west, but illness overtook him at Rock Island, Illinois, interfering with his plans. He went on to Muscatine, Iowa, where he remained some time, then went to Burlington, that state, and was salesman for a mercantile firm, and later worked as collector there for one of his employers, then managed a store for him at Chariton, Iowa, for a year and a half. Following this he managed a general store for two other employers, one of whom sent him East to purchase the stock. In 1856 he went to Plattsburg, Missouri, where he engaged in the real estate business which business he purchased of his employers a year later, and established offices at Warsaw and Springfield, this state, under the firm name of Fellows, Todd & Robinson, in 1857, and the firm located many land warrants in the Platt Purchase in southwest Missouri, also engaged in the abstract business here.

Mr. Fellows was a strong Republican from the first, and possessing exceptional qualifications, he was appointed registrar of lands for the district of Springfield by President Lincoln, in May, 1861, and continued in this office until the battle of Wilson's Creek. In 1861 he visited Washington, D. C., on military business in the interest of General Sigel, and made the personal acquaintance of President Lincoln, whom he had voted for the previous year. Springfield then being occupied by the Confederates, Union men avoided the city, and Mr. Fellows engaged in merchandising at Rolla, Missouri. In 1863 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-sixth Missouri Militia, which regiment was called out under General McNeil, mustered into the service of the United States, and was on guard duty during the last invasion of Missouri by the Confederates under Gen. Sterling Price. In the winter of 1864 Mr. Fellows sold out his interests in Rolla and engaged in the wholesale grocery business in St. Louis, under the firm name of McElhaney & Fellows. Continuing in this business until 1867, he then sold out and went to Arlington, where he established a general store. The St. Louis & San Francisco railroad was at that time being built from St. Louis to Springfield, and when business over the same commenced Mr. Fellows established stores at convenient points along the road, one at Lebanon and another at what was then known as North Springfield. This business was largely wholesale. In 1871 he erected the first grain elevator in Springfield and the following year was induced to take charge of the Springfield Manufacturing Company, which had just been organized and which was in a bad condition financially. Finding the concern hopelessly involved the stockholders surrendered their stock and a new company was organized as the Springfield Wagon Company. The principal stockholders were Colonel Fellows, his brother, Morris W., and Capt. Boyden. New capital being invested the company began the manufacture of farm wagons and did a good business from the start. In 1883 the plant was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt a year later and the capital stock increased from twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand dollars. A year later it was increased to seventy-five thousand dollars. The plant was greatly enlarged and the business increased, and from that time to the present the demand has been equal to the capacity of the works, and several thousand wagons have been annually manufactured here, and they find a very ready market over a vast territory. The reputation of the Springfield wagon for utility and service has steadily gained from the first, so that it has long since commanded the highest price in southern Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and all over the great Southwest. Its equal is not manufactured by any firm in America, and it comes in competition with all other wagons manufactured in this country and ranks as the best. The great success of the enterprise was due for the most part to Col. Fellows. The plant of the company is a large and modern one and gives employment to scores of men, and as an industrial enterprise has been one of the most important in the city for thirty years. In 1881 Col. Fellows was the chief promoter of the Springfield street railway system, and was president of the company for three years and made it a successful venture. In 1859 he was one of the stock holders of the first telegraph line through Springfield. This line followed the overland stage road. Col. Fellows built the first telephone line that came into Springfield, in the latter part of the seventies, which connected his office and residence. He was a liberal contributor to the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis railroad, which was made a part of the Frisco System in 1900. He was one of the organizers of the Springfield Water Works, and president of the company for three years. For a number of years after the close of the war he also engaged in shipping and a transfer business between Rolla and Springfield. He remained manager of the wagon factory the rest of his life.

In 1860 Col. Fellows was the only man in Springfield but one who openly voted the Republican ticket. Like his father, he had the courage of his convictions upon all occasions. He was elected mayor of this city in 1876, later serving a second term, and for many years he was a member of the city council and the local school board. He ever extended a helping hand to the cause of education, and did much to establish good schools here. Liberal in his views and progressive in his ideas, he always assisted with his means, time and influence the churches of the city without regard to denomination; in fact, one of our most public-spirited citizens, he did much to further the general interests of the city. Fraternally, he was a member of the Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in his earlier years, and towards the latter part of his life belonged to the Knights of Honor and the Woodmen of the World. He was at one time nominated for lieutenant governor of Missouri, but was defeated.

Col. Fellows was three times married, first, on November 15, 1859, to Martha Alvira McElhaney, of Springfield, and to this union three children were born, namely: Emma, who married Charles T. Keet; Clara, who married F. J. Curran; and Adah, who married George Rathbun, all establishing homes in Springfield, but the eldest and youngest daughters were left widows early in life. The mother of these three daughters died October 5, 1869. Col. Fellows was married a second time on August 15, 1872, to Minnie L. Boyden, of Neosho, Missouri, and to this union one son was born, Homer Frank Fellows, who was in the employ of the Frisco railroad for some time, in the offices of the company at St. Louis, but he is now president of the Springfield Wagon Works and makes his home in Springfield. A sketch of him will be found on another page of this work. The death of the Colonel's second, wife occurred September 24, 1881. On March 24, 1884, our subject married Mrs. Matilda (Dickard) Jackson, widow of J. C. Jackson. She was born, May 29, 1847, in Kentucky, and is a daughter of Josiah R. and Mary E. (Hart) Dickard, the father a native of Virginia and the mother of Kentucky, and they were married in Hardin county, Kentucky, later removing to Illinois when Mrs. Fellows was a child and there she grew to womanhood and received her education, and from that state she came to Springfield, Missouri, in 1870. She first married John C. Jackson, in December, 1864, in Illinois. He was a native of North Carolina and was a merchant by occupation. His death occurred February 22, 1883. To this first union two daughters were born to Mrs. Fellows, namely, Mary M. Jackson, born March 16, 1873, married James H. Jordon, and they live in Oklahoma; and Jennie Mabel Jackson, born April 29, 1876, married Richard M. Holbrook, and they live in Clarksville, Arkansas.

Mrs. Fellows owns a picturesque, old-fashioned home on North Main street, Springfield. She is a member of Calvary Presbyterian church, and is a woman of many praiseworthy attributes.

The death of Col. Homer F. Fellows occurred November 10, 1894, at the age of sixty-three years, after a successful, useful and honorable life.

[1364-1368]


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