Question: What decision did Charles E. Fletcher and his wife make to be sure their children had a good education?
Answer: Charles Eugene Fletcher was born June 26, 1843 in Westford, Massachusetts to Francis Fletcher and Esther Wright. When Charles was about three years of age, his parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Charles wrote: “On April 8, 1847 we left our home. We came to St. Louis, stopped there a short time then continued our journey on to Canesville then in 1849, to Harrisville. We stopped there about two years, and then with two cows and two oxen and a small light wagon we made a start, June 22, 1856 to cross the so-called plains of a thousand miles.
“We arrived in Salt Lake City September 29, 1851. I cannot remember very much of the particulars of that journey…There were five of us children with Father and Mother so we made a wagon full. Our few things put under the beds and so we traveled on day after day until we got up into the mountains then trouble began again…but our uncle Jefferson Wright who had gone to the Salt Lake valley three years before came to our relief with a yolk of cattle and cart and came to meet us and helped us through the mountains into the valley.
“We stopped at Uncle Jefferson Wright’s for several weeks until we could find a house that we could rent. We found a house over in the 27th Ward. Father soon bought a lot down in the 8th Ward, near Emigration Canyon..We soon had a shell of a house. Father managed to get a roof and the doors and windows in. We lived in that way for some time.
“Father was a stone cutter by trade…He worked cutting stone some three years most of the time… The stone dust was very hard on his lungs and made him sick. So in the fall he thought he would take a trip up the canyon. He thought it would help him and get some wood for the winter but he took cold, and on Christmas Eve, 1854, he died, leaving Mother with six little children, the oldest was 14 years of age…Mother tried to get some work so we could make a living. She thought I could herd the cows for the people in the city, so I commenced herding cow. I used to take them up on the mountain north and east of the city (where the capital building now stands). They paid me 2 1/2 cents a day for each cow. I soon had quite a herd so I could earn fifty cents to seventy-five cents per day. I herded for several years.
“I worked for different ones until 1864 when Bishop S. F. Sheets called me to go and drive a team down to the Missouri River and help bring the Latter-day-Saints up to the Salt Lake valley. I was then 21 years old. Teams and wagons were donated by the people, hired for the trip…It was a trip I think I will never forget! We were gone six months and three days. I remember seeing herds of buffaloes and lots of antelope along our journey.
“…one night my mind was quite worked up and wondered what I should do, I heard a voice saying, ‘You stay with the old ship Zion.’ I thought someone was just behind me. The voice was so plain, I turned around to see but could not see anyone. I said to myself, that is enough, I will stay with the Old Ship. It was a great testimony to me that I must know for myself and not depend on some one else. This seemed to satisfy me. I have seen a great many rise and fall in the church, but it has not weakened my faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. I don’t believe the Lord will allow any man to lead this church very long if he was not leading them in the right course.
“I then went to work for H.O. Smoot to build him a barn. It was quite a large barn and it took several months to complete it. George Gonaman and myself had formed a partnership so worked together…We secured the contract for the First Ward schoolhouse, now the Assembly Hall, First Ward. We had to make all the moldings, frames and brackets by hand which took us a long time.
Charles E. Fletcher family in front of Provo Home.
“In 1873 (at age 30) I was married to my wife, Elizabeth Miller (born September 16, 1856). Our first housekeeping was in E.F. Sheet’s house in October 1873. We lived there until the next spring we moved into Sister Shaw’s house. I had made arrangements for a city lot (in Provo) and started building a two-bedroom house. I remember I did most of the work nights and mornings after I had worked a days work. I built a frame house so I could do most of the work myself. I got it ready to move into in July 1874. In August that year our first child was born. We have been blessed in our family relations having eleven children born to us (all in Provo) as follows: Sarah, Charles Eugene, Francis, Calvin, Harvey, Ethel (who died when she was 20 days old), Milton P. , twins–Erma A. and Samuel, (Samuel died at birth), Eula E. and Zoe. We have been able to keep them in the district schools, and as fast as they graduated, we sent them to B.Y.U..
“I bought a small farm and worked part of my time on this. William D. Alexander and myself entered into a partnership as contractors and builders in Provo. We were quite successful. We worked together up to 1893, when I was called to go on a mission so we dissolved our partnership. On May 26, 1893, I left Provo to fill the mission I had been called to.’ (Northern States Mission) Charles was almost fifty yeas of age at this time.
While on his mission, in September 1893, Charles received a telegram that his mother had passed away in Salt Lake, so he returned home for her burial. “The next day after I got home I became deaf and could not hear common conversations and have been that way ever since. Bro. David John and President Raynold came and visited me and saw the condition I was in, and shortly after I received an honorable release from my mission until my hearing was better, but some seventeen years have passed and my hearing is about the same.’
Charles E. Fletcher died on March 9, 1922, in Logan, at age 78, and was buried in the Provo Cemetery. His wife, Elizabeth, died on February 15, 1918.
One of their sons, Harvey Fletcher was an American physicist. Known as the “father of stereophonic sound,” he is credited with the invention of the 2-A audiometer and an early electronic hearing aid. He was an investigator into the nature of speech and hearing, and made contributions in acoustics, electrical engineering, speech, medicine, music, atomic physics, sound pictures, and education. He became the first Dean of the College of Physical and Engineering Science at BYU. Another son, Calvin Fletcher, became a professor of applied art at the Agricultural College of Utah at Logan.