This article is a brief biography of Fred Fiting, a Prussian wagon-maker who, along with his family, emigrated to America in 1856, eventually settling in Saginaw County, Michigan. Despite initial financial hardships, the Fitings persevered, contributing significantly to the early development of Richland Township through farming and running a ferry. Fred Fiting’s life story is a testament to the resilience and pioneering spirit of early settlers, showcasing their ability to overcome adversity, adapt to a new land, and lay the foundations for future generations. Through the Fiting family’s narrative, we gain insights into the early settler experience, highlighting the challenges, sacrifices, and achievements that shaped the community.
by Lorenz H. Loesel
Fred Fiting was born in Prussia May 12, 1819, and was a wagon-maker by trade. He was married to Regina Zebel, who was born in Prussia, October 6, 1812. After their marriage, they remained in their native land until 1856, when they came to America, landing in New York, August 20. Thence they proceeded as far as Buffalo, where their money gave out, and they were compelled to stay until they had earned enough money to proceed further. Two months after reaching the city, they started for Michigan, reaching Saginaw County when this region was in a blaze during the great fire of 1856.
In those early days, settlers were few and at remote distances from one another, and the fertile soil had few improvements and was mostly uncultivated. The family settled on a farm in Thomas Township where the father, with the aid of his sons, built a log house for the abode of the family… They remained on the farm, and in the meantime, the boys contributed to the support of the family by running a ferry across the Tittabawassee River. Next, they moved to Richland Township and settled on eighty acres where the father still lives. Few improvements had been placed upon the farm, and its only building was a crude log house. This was replaced by a frame house of modern construction and larger size, which still stands on the old homestead.
There were but seven other families in Richland when Mr. Fiting removed hither in 1859, and of these but two families now remain, the others having removed hence. No roads had been opened, and the farm was covered with a thick forest growth. In those days, Mr. Fiting was accustomed to going to Saginaw with oxen and sled, there being no wagons or horses in the county, and the trip there and back consumed three days. Many were the hardships which this family experienced, and the father, who now rests from his active labors, is passing his declining years in comfort on his farm. His wife died December 1889. He is survived by three children: Wilhelmina, the wife of Fritz Simon and the mother of two children; August Fiting; and Charles Fiting who resides on section 15, is married, and the father of seven children. Both parents were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Richland Township… He was elected treasurer of Richland Township in 1862; he was the first Highway Commissioner of the township and served as a member of the School Board for twenty years.
Since Fred Fiting was one of the very early pioneers of Richland Township, his life’s history gives us some very important glimpses of the past. The subject of this sketch was the grandfather of Fred Fiting, who lives on Frost Road. In the above biography, the writer mentioned a log house which served as a dwelling for the pioneering family. According to Fred Fiting, this crude log house served as a home for his grandparents and was unique in this respect that no nail had been used in its construction. Apparently, this building was erected by some early trappers or Indians who had lived in this area. Since this structure had no chimney, the smoke had to escape through the roof.
As we view the life of Mr. Fred Fiting and the primitive conditions which he encountered, we become aware of the tremendous sacrifice and courage which these early settlers portrayed. We must realize that many of these people had received an excellent training in the schools of Europe. Many of them had learned a trade as an apprentice and were well qualified to earn a living in their respective homeland. However, due to political, social, or religious reasons, these people were willing to forego all of these well-founded institutions and seek a new life in the forested regions of Michigan.
Biography of August C. Fiting Sr.
At this time, we acquaint ourselves with the biography of August C. Fiting Sr., a son of the early Mr. Fred Fiting. Our subject was twelve years old when he came to this country. In Saginaw County, he learned the trade of brickmaking and thus helped to supplement the family income. In his later years, he took an active part in his community. He served Richland Township as treasurer, justice of the peace, school director and moderator, and many other official positions. He was a charter member of St. Peter Lutheran Church. As a member of this congregation, he helped to draw up the constitution of this church. The undersigned had the opportunity to see many of his writings and documents which August Fiting, Sr., either wrote or signed. It is amazing to see how well these men could record their ideas and at the same time employ correct usage of the English and German language.
Edwin Fiting, a grandson of August Fiting Sr., lives on the original homestead. George Fiting is a son of the late August C. Fiting Sr.
August Fiting Sr. told C. W. Wardin that he was able to walk across the Tittabawassee River on October 20, 1856. I thought that this is a significant observation and would give the reader an interesting glimpse of the past.