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W-MCP5-6.240 TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his cousin John Fisher
Sep 4 1835 [estimated date]1
To: Dr. Calvin McQuesten, Brockport, Monroe County, New York, U.S.A
From: La Grange, New Hampshire2

Dear Doctor,

I wish to enquire whether a Mr. Hill has spoken to Mr. Stiles or any other person to make a set of Patterns for Threshing Machine Castings, if I understood Mrs. Hill and Janes they stated that it would cost about $150 for a set of Patterns for the large Horse Power. If such be the fact I can find a man in this place who will make a set of Patterns for $60 or $70 less. Equal to any sample that can be shown him in every respect or no pay. Mr. Hood the Machinist to whom I refer has been in the practice of making Patterns for Gearing for a number of years past and his work is of the first order.

If Mr. Stiles would ask $150. There would be quite a saving by employing Mr. Hood.

I hope I shall be able to be at Brockport by the 15th--Samuel's wife and child are dead, Armina was buried 29 August, the child on the 26th--We have not heard a word from Brother Nathaniel. Catherine3 sends her best love to Mrs. McQuesten. Accept our best regards.

Very Respectfully,

Yours

John Fisher4


La Grange, Sept. 4th


1 The envelope wrapper states LaGrange, N.H. although we find no such place in New Hampshire through a GOOGLE or Atlas search now.


2 We have selected the date by context. Janes abandoned the firm in 1838. Also, the letter suggests the early stages of the business in which they were looking for patterns.


3 It is not entirely sure whether the spelling should be Catherine or Catharine. Mrs. Fisher and her husband write Catherine. Minnes, however, uses Catharine in her biographical information on John Fisher. See also W-MCP4-6.236 footnote 7 for more on correct spelling of name.


4 John Knox Fisher was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, USA on March 13, 1806, and was Dr. Calvin McQuesten's business partner as well as being his first cousin, related through Dr. McQuesten's mother. The two men, in partnership with Joseph Janes of Hamilton and Priam Hill of Brockport, New York, began an iron foundry in Hamilton in 1835, and Fisher and his wife, Catharine W. Blanchard, moved to Hamilton to oversee the project.

The enterprise faced enormous political and financial obstacles in its first years in Hamilton. In 1836 Fisher, who admittedly had very little experience in industry (W-MCP4-6.194), was forced to sell off assets and acquire loans to maintain the foundry and in the late 1830's, Upper Canada (Ontario) suffered an economic depression and Fisher struggled to keep the business on its feet. In addition to the strain of juggling finances, Fisher and his wife felt threatened during the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837 during which time anti-American sentiment was fierce, with many of debtors refusing to pay their notes and some threatening to burn down the foundry. In addition, Fisher had great difficulties working with Janes, who apparently had a tendency to excuse himself from work, as they had very different ideas as to how to conduct business.

During this time, Fisher often wrote to Dr. McQuesten explaining the difficulties they had in acquiring good iron, in getting notes paid and his problems with Janes (W-MCP4-6.195, W-MCP4-6.231, W-MCP4-6.203, W-MCP4-6.190, W-MCP4-6.168, and others). The tone of his letters is generally very cautious, occasionally hasty & panicky, and almost always deferential, sometimes apologizing to Dr. McQuesten for not being able to send money and/or asking for business advice. In fact, he typically addresses Dr. McQuesten as "Doctor," rather than "Calvin" or even "cousin."

However, Janes ran off in 1838 (W-MCP4-6.230) and in 1839 Dr. McQuesten moved to Hamilton to help manage the business. Also the rebellion had been quelled and it was safe now for him to bring his family to Hamilton. Starting that year, the foundry became quite prosperous. The foundry burnt down in 1854 and was rebuilt at the foot of Wellington Street. (See Box 14-111). Fisher and McQuesten managed it until 1857 when they retired from active ownership in the company, leaving it in the hands of Luther, Payson and Samuel Sawyer and William McQuesten, all nephews of Dr. McQuesten. Afterwards, Fisher became a contractor for the Great Western Railway, manufacturing train cars.

In addition, John Fisher believed strongly in community involvement. In 1843 he built a fire engine which was donated to the City of Hamilton where he also served as an alderman until 1850 at which time he was elected mayor of the city. The following year, he donated 100 pounds towards the construction of an orphanage which was organized by the Hamilton Ladies' Benevolent Society. He also served as a member of the building committee for the orphanage.

He moved back to the United States in 1855, making his home in Batavia, New York, where he served as both a superintendent overseeing the construction of the New York State Institution for the Blind and as one of its first trustees. In 1868, he was elected to congress as a Republican to represent his district and in general tried to assist "the young, the poor and those in distress" (Minnes 2).

John Fisher and his wife Catharine had 8 children together, although all but one, Henry, died before their father, who passed away on March 29, 1882 at his home on Main Street in Batavia (Minnes 1-4).




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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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