FAIRFIELD – An Oregon man has just published a book about his ancestors who played a critical role in the development of Fairfield.
The book is called “Under a Full Head of Steam: The Famous Fulton Family from Fairfield,” and is written by Joe Fulton, a descendant of William Fulton, one of three Fulton brothers who were among the most important movers and shakers in the early days of the town.
Their father, James Fulton, came to America from Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania and later Ohio.
James had four sons: Alexander, William, James and Robert. Robert stayed in Ohio, but the others moved to Fairfield. Alexander was the first to come in the 1840s in the wake of land purchases between settlers and Native Americans. Joe said many pioneers stopped shortly after crossing the Mississippi River in towns like Fort Madison, but Alexander went deeper into the frontier to settle in Fairfield.
Alexander was responsible for a round of “firsts” in the town, such as opening the first drug store, the first book store and the first schoolhouse.
But the man also suffered terrible loss. Four of his five children died young in the pandemics of that era such as cholera.
His son Alexander Robert Fulton, or A.R. Fulton, also helped to put Fairfield on the map. He wrote a book, “The Red Men of Iowa” about Native American tribes in the state and wrote another book to attract immigrants to settle here. About 110,000 copies of it were printed, translated into five languages and shipped to Europe. A.R. Fulton purchased the Fairfield Ledger, and during his tenure as owner, took a trip on the Oregon Trail and sent back dispatches of his journey to be printed in the paper.
A.R. Fulton’s nephew Charles Jacob Fulton became the town’s mayor and later a state representative and state senator. A descendant of this family, Susan Felton Welty, wrote “A Fair Field,” a seminal work chronicling the town’s start and the people who made it grow. Her work has been acknowledged in the three films Dick DeAngelis has produced for his Fairfield History Series.
Joe Fulton said he has been interested in family genealogy since 1978. He has visited Southeast Iowa once, in 1997, when he visited graves and interviewed the wife of Harold Fulton, a descendant of Alexander Fulton’s brother James. He also interviewed people in Bentonsport, where his family also settled and where they become known as railroad engineers and postmasters. Joe said one of his uncles and a cousin ran the Bentonsport Post Office for 47 years until it closed in the 1940s.
Joe said Fairfield resident Richard Thompson was a big help for the work he did updating records on graves on findagrave.com. Those who would like to learn more about the book or to purchase it can find it on Amazon.