Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN FIELDER. That period of the nineteenth century embracing the decades between 1830 and the breaking out of the Civil war was characterized by, the immigration of the pioneer element which made the great state of Missouri what it is today. The immigrants were sturdy, heroic, sincere and, in the main, upright people, such as constitute the strength of the commonwealth. It is scarcely probable that in the future of the world another such period can occur, or, indeed, any period when such a solid phalanx of strong-minded men and noble, self-sacrificing women will take possession of a new country. The period to which reference is made, therefore, cannot be too much or too well written up, and the only way to do justice to such a subject is to record the lives of those who led the van of civilization and founded the institutions which today are the pride and boast of a great state and a strong, and virile people. Among those who came to Greene county when it was, still largely in its primitive wildness was the late Benjamin Franklin Fielder, who was not only a leading actor in the great drama which witnessed the passing of the old and the introduction of the new conditions in this locality, but who enjoyed an excellent reputation that penetrated to adjoining counties during his career here of over sixty years. He devoted his life, which embraced the unusual span of ninety years, to agricultural pursuits and by close application he established those habits of industry and frugality which insured his success in later years. With the able assistance of his estimable life companion he forged ahead, extended the acres of cultivable land and in due time found himself upon the high road to prosperity with a good farm in his possession and all the comforts and conveniences of life surrounding him. He was regarded as an enterprising and typical farmer of the progressive type. His thorough system of tillage, the good order of his fences, the well-cared-for condition of his fields, the commodious and comfortable buildings, all demonstrated his successful management and substantial thrift, and his long residence in the vicinity of Springfield won for him a very high place in the confidence and esteem of his neighbors and friends.
Mr. Fielder was born in Maury county, Tennessee, on February 7, 1824. He was a son of John and Mary (Denton) Fielder, one of the old families in that section of the South, and there they spent their lives, dying in Maury county. The father of our subject was a successful farmer and was influential in public affairs. He was at one time sheriff of Maury county. His family consisted of eight children, all now deceased, namely: Mrs. Martha Speer, Thompson, Benjamin F., Mrs. Mary Wilkes, Samuel P., Ellen, Louisa and the youngest died in infancy unnamed.
Benjamin F. Fielder grew to manhood on the home farm in Tennessee and there worked when a boy. He received a limited education in the rural schools of his neighborhood, and remained at home until he was about thirty years of age, when he came overland to Greene county, Missouri, in the year 1853, and settled on a farm about three miles southeast of the business center of Springfield, which was then a mere village, but which has now spread almost to the Fielder homestead. However, he had learned the carpenter's trade in his native state and followed this for some time after coming to Greene county in connection with farming, in fact, he liked to use tools so well that he worked at his trade at times during all his active life. Being industrious and managing well, he prospered and became owner of a number of good farms in this county, all of which he placed under high-grade improvement and an excellent state of cultivation. His widow still owns the old home place, lying just cast of the National cemetery, and which fine farm contains one hundred and five acres. Old age finally rendering him unfit for the strenuous work of the farm, he removed to a comfortable dwelling on East State street, Springfield, which he purchased, and here he resided from 1913 until his death, which occurred on December 4, 1914. He was twice married, first in Tennessee to Mary Estes, about 1851. Four children were born to this union, Mary A. Brown, living near Ozark, Missouri; Roxie, deceased; William Thomas is living in this county, and Andrew J. is living in Lindsay, California.
Mr. Fielder was married on February 6, 1877, on his farm in this county, to Mary S. Barnes. She was born in Greene county, Missouri, on September 28, 1846. She is a daughter of Matthew C. and Luceta A. (Townsend) Barnes. Her father was born in Indiana on January 18, 1823. He spent his early life in that state, eventually removing to Greene county, Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life on a farm, dying here on December 7, 1908. He was thirteen years old, when he came here, Springfield at that time being a small trading center on the wild prairies. Mr. Barnes became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church and was prominent in that denomination in the early days in this locality when most preachers were also farmers. He is remembered as a man of fine characteristics, beloved by all who knew him, and he did much for the moral and general uplift of the county. His wife was born in Logan county, Kentucky, on August 20, 1827, and her death occurred about twenty-seven years ago near Monett, in Barry county, Missouri, when she was in the prime of life. To Mr. and Mrs. Barnes eleven children were born, nine daughters and two sons; five of them are still living, namely: Mrs. Mary S. Fielder, widow of our subject; Mrs. Virginia Thomas, Mrs. Ellen Decker, Mrs. Lula Williams and Mrs. Geneva Tharp.
The union of Benjamin F. Fielder and wife resulted in the birth of four children, named as follows: Mrs. R. L. Matthews lives in Springfield, Cordelia lives at home, Benjamin F., Jr., resides in Springfield, Mrs. G. W. Chapman lives at Hunter, Missouri. These children all grew up on the homestead southeast of the city and all were given good educational advantages.
Thompson Fielder, a brother of our subject, was also an early settler in this county and he was a soldier in the Mexican war.
Benjamin F. Fielder was a member of St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal church, South. In earlier life he was a Democrat, but in later years voted for prohibition. He was long an active member of the Masonic Order, having in early life united with Polk lodge at Columbia, Tennessee. He led a quiet home life, never taking an active part in politics and was never a candidate for office.
The following article on Mr. Fielder's death occurred in the Springfield Republican in its issue of December 6, 1914:
"Away back in '53 a prairie schooner pulled by a span of horses rattled and creaked its way across the country from Maury county, Tennessee. A jolly party was in the schooner. Ben F. Fielder and his brother, T. F. Fielder, with their wives and babies, were searching for a new home. Both had been married less than two years. It was autumn and the whole world looked bright.
"For days the party looked over the Missouri country and drove on. Arriving in the Ozarks, the Fielders drove more slowly, having been enamored with the beauty and prospects of the hillsides. Arriving in a little village of log cabins on November 17, 1853, they made their camp. That was the town of Springfield.
"Yesterday morning one of the pioneers of Greene county passed away. It was "Uncle Ben" Fielder, the last of the four grown-ups who traveled across the country in the schooner to Springfield. He died at the family home on East State street. For the last month "Uncle Ben," as he was known to hundreds of people in the county, had been failing in health. He grew weaker, but firmly believed to the last that he would recover and again go about among his friends. Prior to the beginning of the month of illness "Uncle Ben" was hale and hearty and walked about town unassisted. He was known here as the oldest Mason in Missouri.
"Soon after the close of the Civil war Mr. Fielder joined the South Side Mount Pisgah church and for years was the superintendent of the Sunday school. Years ago the pupils of the class he taught presented a beautiful Bible to him, which was at his side on his death bed."
We also quote the following article from the Springfield Daily Leader, under date of December 6, 1914:
"Benjamin F. Fielder, whose funeral will be held this afternoon at the family home, was a member of the famous Seventy-sixth Regiment, Missouri Militia, which successfully frustrated the attack on Springfield on January 8, 1863, attempted under order of General Marmaduke. The engagement at the southern and western outskirts of the city was the only active service experienced during the Civil war by Mr. Fielder.
"The decedent's activity in the memorable battle was given last evening by Martin J. Hubble, a Greene count pioneer.
"'I first met Mr. Fielder in the town of Columbia, Tennessee, in the year 1852,' said Mr. Hubble. 'I was clerking in a country store there at the time and Mr. Fielder purchased a razor from me. From that time until the death of Mr. Fielder we were firm friends and he was often a guest at my home after his removal to Missouri. He was in possession of the razor at the time of his death.
"'My friend came to Springfield in the early fifties. He was induced to come to Greene county by the obvious opportunities for a farmer here. Land was much higher priced in Tennessee than it was in this state. Mr. Fielder was never active in politics, as he was of a retiring disposition. Recognition should be given his moral characteristics. His word was as good as his bond, and he was a devoted prohibitionist; in fact, he was one of the noblest men with whom I have ever been associated."'
Mr. Fielder, despite the fact that he was nearly ninety years of age at the time of his death, was unusually well preserved. He was able to read without glasses, and until a short time before he died he made daily walks about the city.
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