Captain Henry D. Fitch (1798-1849)

henryfitchCaptain Fitch was a native of New Bedford, Mass. In 1826-30, he was master of the Mexican brig María Ester, calling at California ports. In 1827 he announced his intention of becoming a Mexican citizen and was naturalized in 1833. He was baptized at San Diego in 1829 as Enrique Domingo Fitch. His elopement with Señorita Joséfa Carrillo is related elsewhere. In 1830-31 he was master of the Leonor and brought 50 Mexican convicts to San Diego, where 23 of them remained. He kept a general store in Old Town for many years and in 1845 this was the only store in the place; there had been some other small shops previously. He bought and sold hides, tallow, and furs, outfitted otter hunters, and made trading voyages along the coast. At different times he was a partner of Stearns, McKinley, Temple and Paty. He was San Diego’s first syndico, in 1835, and held other public offices. In 1845, he made the first survey and map of the pueblo lands. In 1841 he received a grant of the Sotoyomi Rancho, in Sonoma County, and began to develop his interests there. He died in San Diego in 1849, and was the last person buried on Presidio Hill. The family removed to the ranch near Healdsburg soon after his death, and continue to reside there. Fitch Mountain, in Sonoma County, was named for him. Mrs. Fitch died at the age of 82, having kept her faculties remarkably to the end.

Their children were eleven in number, as follows: Henry E. born in 1830; Fred., 1832; William, 1834; Joséph, 1836; Joséfa, 1837; John B., 1839; Isabella, 1840; Charles, 1842; Michael, 1844; María Antonia Natalia, 1845; and Anita, 1848.

The estimates of his character vary somewhat, but are mostly favorable. Dana hints that he was coarse, and perhaps he was somewhat so, according to that young man’s standards; old sea captains were not then noted for their polish. The testimony is clear however, that he was an honorable, popular, and influential man and a useful citizen.

[from Smythe, William Ellsworth. History of San Diego, 1542-1908. San Diego: History Co., 1907. (page 274)]

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