Henry D. Fitch

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Henry Delano Fitch
Henry D. Fitch (restored).jpg
Born May 7, 1799
New Bedford, Massachusetts, United States
Died 13 January 1849(1849-01-13) (aged 49)
San Diego, California, United States
Cause of death Pneumonia
Resting place Presidio of San Diego
Residence San Diego, California
Other names Enrique Domingo Fitch
Citizenship Mexican
Occupation Sea captain
Known for First American settler in San Diego
Spouse(s) Josefa Carrillo (1829-1849)
Children 11
Parent(s) Beriah Fitch and Sarah Delano

Henry Delano Fitch (1799 – 1849) was an American born Mexican sea captain and trader. He was an early settler of San Diego, California. In San Diego, he was the first attorney, created the first survey of pueblo lands in the region, and served as mayor of the city from 1846-1847.

Pueblo modern and old communities of Native Americans in the western United States

In the Southwestern United States, the term Pueblo refers to communities of Native Americans, both in the present and in ancient times. The first Spanish explorers of the Southwest used this term to describe the communities housed in apartment structures built of stone, adobe mud, and other local material. These structures were usually multi-storied buildings surrounding an open plaza. The rooms were accessible only through ladders lowered by the inhabitants, thus protecting them from break-ins and unwanted guests. Larger pueblos were occupied by hundreds to thousands of Pueblo people. Various federally recognized tribes have traditionally resided in pueblos of such design.


Early life

Henry Fitch was born in 1799 in Nantucket or New Bedford, Massachusetts. [1] [2] His parents were Beriah Fitch and Sarah Delano. Beriah Fitch was a sea captain. In 1815, Fitch made his first ship journey, visiting ports in South America, buying and selling cargoes for a Danish merchant. [2]

New Bedford, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 95,072, making it the sixth-largest city in Massachusetts. New Bedford is nicknamed "The Whaling City" because during the 19th century, the city was one of the most important whaling ports in the world, along with Nantucket, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut. The city, along with Fall River and Taunton, make up the three largest cities in the South Coast region of Massachusetts and is known for its fishing fleet and accompanying seafood producing industries as well as having a high concentration of Luso Americans.

Career and family life in California

Fitch first came to California while serving as a sea captain, from 1826 until 1830, of the María Ester, a Mexican brig that called ports throughout California. [1] [2] It was during his journey on the María Ester that he met Josefa Carrillo in San Diego. She was fifteen years old. Fitch expressed romantic interest in Carrillo, and during his return visits to San Diego he would court the girl. In 1827, Fitch asked Carrillo's parents for her hand in marriage. [2]

Sea captain Commander of a ship or other sea-going vessel

A sea captain, ship's captain, captain, master, or shipmaster, is a high-grade licensed mariner who holds ultimate command and responsibility of a merchant vessel. The captain is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the ship and its people and cargo, including its seaworthiness, safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance.

Brig sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts

A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. Their rigging differs from that of a brigantine which has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail.

On April 14, 1829, he was baptized in San Diego, California under the name Enrique Domingo Fitch. The next day, Fitch was to marry Carrillo. Prior to the wedding, Domingo Carrillo, Carrillo's uncle, stopped the wedding on behalf of then governor Jose Maria Echeandia. Later in her life, Carrillo claimed that the Echeandia intended to stop the wedding because he was in love with her, however, historians believe Echeandia stopped the wedding because of his general dislike of Fitch. [2]

Josefa Carrillo Fitch Josefa Carrillo Fitch.jpg
Josefa Carrillo Fitch

That evening, Carrillo's cousin, Pio Pico brought her to a ship called the Vulture. The ship left for Valparaiso, Chile, where the two eloped on July 3, 1829. The newlyweds returned to San Diego in July 1830, with a newborn son, Enrique Eduardo. The family would sail up the coast to Santa Cruz on a trade mission. Upon stopping in San Pedro, they received a summons from padre Jose Sanchez claiming that the marriage certificate from Chile was invalid. Fitch ignored the summons and was arrested on August 29, 1830. He was held in San Pedro by General Mariano G. Vallejo, who would eventually marry Carrillo's sister, and therefore become Fitch's brother-in-law. On December 28, an ecclesiastical tribunal ruled that the marriage was legal. [2]

Santa Cruz, California City in California, United States

Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California. As of 2013 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Santa Cruz's population at 62,864.

Return to San Diego

For one year, 1830–31, Fitch was captain of the Leonor which transported Mexican convicts. He became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1833. [1] In Old Town, San Diego, Fitch operated a general store starting in 1833. [2] At his store, he traded tallow, furs, and hides, outfitted hunters, and went on trading voyages on the coast. [1]

Old Town, San Diego human settlement in San Diego, California, United States of America

Old Town is a neighborhood of San Diego, California. It contains 230 acres (93 ha) and is bounded by Interstate 8 on the north, Interstate 5 on the west, Mission Hills on the east and Bankers Hill on the south. It is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California. It contains Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tallow rendered form of beef or mutton fat

Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, and is primarily made up of triglycerides. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.

In 1835, Fitch became San Diego's first city attorney. Fitch was not fluent in Spanish, therefore he struggled to succeed at the job. He was released from the position in 1836 and in 1837 he was asked to serve as police commissioner. In January 1840, he served as justice of the peace. In 1846, he became alcade of San Diego. Within a year he quit. Historical records note that he did not enjoy public service and repeatedly requested to be relieved of his duties based on language barriers. [2]

During his time in public service, his general store and trade business continued to thrive. He struggled to get repaid by debtors, the most notable debtor being John Sutter. [2]

Ten years later, in 1845, he made the first land survey and map of the pueblo land surrounding San Diego. [1]

Land acquisitions and later career

Fitch became disenfranchised with the trade business, including challenging business relations. He expressed interest in new land settlement opportunities north of San Francisco. [2] In 1841, he was given a 48,000 acre land grant at Rancho Sotoyome in Healdsburg, California in Sonoma County. [1] [2] Fitch never actively settled or developed the land in Healdsburg, choosing to continue to work in the trade industry up and down the coast. After gold was found in Northern California, Fitch started planning to relocate the family to Rancho Sotoyome in March 1849. However, Fitch would die before he relocated. [2]

Later life

Fitch died of pneumonia in San Diego in 1849. [2] His body was buried at Presidio of San Diego. His body was the last buried at the site. After his death, his family relocated to Healdsburg. [1]


Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg is named after Fitch. [1]

See also

Further reading

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Captain Henry D. Fitch (1798-1849) - San Diego History Center | San Diego, California | Our City, Our Story". San Diego History Center | San Diego, California | Our City, Our Story. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Clayborn, Hannah. "A San Diego Landlord - Captain Henry Delano Fitch". Our Healdsburg. Retrieved 13 May 2018.

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