Oregon man keeps Fulton memorabilia in family
A descendant of the famous Fulton family that founded Fairfield was able to secure some of his ancestor’s heirlooms when they were put up for auction April 20.
Securing the heirlooms was no easy task for Joe Fulton, who is the great-great-great grandson of the brother of Alexander Fulton, one of the early pioneers who founded Fairfield and who started the Fairfield chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Joe was faced with a dilemma. He lives in Kings Valley, Ore., and the auction was to be in Des Moines.
Luckily, Joe recalled he had a distant cousin, Donna Cooper, who lived in Des Moines and who was also interested in genealogy. He asked her if she could attend the auction to bid on some of the items, and she enthusiastically agreed.
Joe had his heart set on two artifacts in particular: a photograph containing individual photos of the first five generations of Fultons to belong to the Fairfield chapter of the Odd Fellows and a gold pin worn by those first five generations passed down through the family from 1846 to 1959. Cooper and her daughter Sally spent $225 on the two heirlooms, which Joe said was twice as much as he expected. Nevertheless, he is happy the antiques are staying in the family.
The men in the photograph are listed alongside the year they joined the Odd Fellows. The five men and their year of initiation are: Alexander Fulton – 1846; Joseph Fulton – 1881; Pearl Fulton – 1899; Robert Fulton – 1909; and Harold Fulton – 1930.
The photograph is 25 inches by 10 inches and framed. The pin is less than an inch wide. Joe said he was surprised by the pin’s miniature size, which he estimated to be no more than three-quarters of an inch wide. It has three loops, which represent the I.O.O.F. Joe suspects it was made to be tiny so it could be worn all the time on a jacket’s lapel.
Harold Fulton died when he was only 22 years of age. His father, Robert, donated the pin to the Jefferson Lodge in 1959.
Joe learned of the auction through an article appearing in the Fairfield Ledger March 28. Fairfield resident Richard Thompson, an acquaintance of Joe, sent Joe the link to the article. Thompson and Joe know each other because they are both active in researching the location of family gravestones through the website findagrave.com.
The article in the Fairfield Ledger reported the Jefferson Lodge was closing after 167 years and would be selling its entire memorabilia collection at an auction in Des Moines. Joe wanted to purchase the items pertaining to the Fulton family and add them to his Fulton family display case at home.
Joe said he would have been willing to part with the Fulton antiques if a direct descendant of Alexander Fulton had wanted them. He did not expect the two heirlooms to sell for as much as they did because he did not think they would be highly sought by someone outside the family. However, the price of the two items was bid up by a man in attendance who collects Odd Fellows memorabilia.
Joe is a direct descendant of William Fulton, Alexander Fulton’s brother. William, like his brother Alexander, is buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. William was a veteran of the War of 1812 and fought in the Battle of Thames in which the Shawnee chief Tecumseh died. William died in 1874 at the age of 86.
“I’ve got his family bible with all Fultons listed and when they were born,” Joe said.
Joe even has William’s obituary from the original newspaper edition it was printed in 139 years ago. He keeps the obituary in the display case at home with other rare, Fulton family collectibles.
William and Alexander’s mother, Ann, is also buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. She was born in Maryland in 1767 and died in 1857.
Fairfield’s Odd Fellows lodge was the fourth such lodge started in Iowa, which is why it is known as Jefferson Lodge No. 4. To receive a charter for Jefferson Lodge and be initiated into the society, Alexander Fulton walked from Fairfield to Burlington and back, a distance of 120 miles. Alexander Fulton also was instrumental in organizing the first Iowa State Fair, which began in Fairfield in 1854.
Joe has lived in Oregon his entire life but his interest in genealogy has brought him to Fairfield a few times. He visited the Old Fairfield Cemetery 16 years ago to see the graves of his Fulton ancestors. While in Iowa he also visited Bentonsport, where the son of William and other family members lived in the late 19th century.
Joe is 58 years old and has researched his family’s genealogy since he was 24.
“I’ve become the curator of our family history,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in history. I got a degree in U.S. history and I’ve written two books about my mom’s side of the family [Paschal]. One of these days I’m going to write a Fulton family history, too.”