Henry D. Fitch

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Henry D. Fitch

Henry Delano Fitch (May 7, 1799 – January 13, 1849) was an early settler of San Diego, California.

Life[edit]

Henry D. Fitch was born 1799 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.[1] He was a sea captain and trader. During 1826-30, he was master of the Mexican brig María Ester, calling at California ports. During 1830-31 he was master of the Leonor and brought 50 Mexican convicts to San Diego, where 23 of them remained. He settled in San Diego, as the first American settler there. On April 14, 1829 he was baptized into the Catholic Church as Enrique Domingo Fitch. This was required in order to own land and have other rights. Fitch became a Mexican citizen in 1833.

Josefa Carrillo Fitch

Fitch eloped with Josefa Carrillo, who was born December 29, 1810 to Joaquin Victor Carrillo and Maria Ygnacia de la Candelaria López. They were going to be married the day after Fitch was baptized, but suddenly Josefa's uncle (and Fitch's godfather) Domingo Carrillo appeared and ordered a halt to the marriage by order of the Governor, José María de Echeandía. The reason is not known, but its thought that Echeandía loved her or disliked Fitch. They eloped on the brig Vulture to Valparaíso, Chile where they were married, on July 3, 1829. They returned to San Diego July 21, 1830 with a one-month-old son. They had eleven children, 7 boys and 4 girls born between 1830 and 1848.[2]

Fitch kept a general store in Old Town San Diego for many years and was the only store there in 1845. He bought and sold hides, tallow, and furs, outfitted otter hunters, and made trading voyages along the coast. Richard Henry Dana, Jr. called him "coarse", which is expected for an old sea captain. Dana also called him a "big vulgar shop-keeper and trader".

Fitch was active in public affairs. In 1835 Fitch was San Diego's first attorney (sindico procurador), and held other public offices. In 1845, he made the first survey and map of the pueblo lands. During August 1846–June 1847 he was Suplente (substitute) and Juez de Paz (Justice of the Peace or Mayor) of San Diego.

He received the Rancho Sotoyome land grant, near Healdsburg, California, in 1841 with the help of his brother-in-law Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, and began to develop it. Fitch died in San Diego in 1849, and was the last person buried on Presidio Hill. The family moved to Rancho Sotoyome soon after his death.

Fitch's wife Josefa died in 1893.

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