James F. McFetridge

30 October 18446 December 1891



James F. McFetridge left little personal record and remains a mysterious character.  There are no known letters or other written documentation.  I know of no family bible or anything that can positively be shown to have been his.  Even the two photos that I suspect may be of him are just a guess and could be of other people, or even of different people.  What we do have are census records, his military records, his application for a government pension, a photo and description of his grave site and some educated guess work.


James’ father was Daniel Scott McFetridge. 

Daniel S. McFetridge, as he is listed on his grave stone, seems to have actually been referred to as Scott, probably to differentiate him from his father, Daniel O. McFetridge.  James mother was Sarah Ann Johnson.  They were married 7 August 1842 and James followed October 30, 1844.  He was the first of ten children.  Many of Daniel’s descendents still live in the southern Indiana region where James was born, grew up and eventually died.


Of his youth, we know little.  He grew up on a farm in Patoka Township, Gibson County.  His military records show that he enrolled (enlisted) in Company F, 33rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry on 6 September 1861.  His captain, Captain Volk enrolled him and the regimental second in command, LTC Wood, formally mustered in the company with the rest of the 33rd Regiment 16 September 1861.  James gave his age as 17 but he was still 6 weeks short of his 17th birthday.  We can only speculate what was in his thoughts, but a later account by the county history gives us a clue to the emotions of the day.


“When the Civil war came, and there was a call for volunteers, the response made by the men and boys of this neighborhood was a credit to their loyalty and patriotism. It is not a matter of wonder that a community so largely composed of Scotch Covenanters should be loyal to their country, and be ready to make sacrifice, if need be, in defense of their convictions. They have a record for stalwart patriotism from their earliest history. In the Highlands of Scotland it is said of them that they were ever ready to do battle, or to sing psalms, and that they often engaged in both at the same time. It is not strange, that in a community composed of families who had borne constant testimony against a national evil and, failing to eradicate or restrain that evil, had abandoned home and sacrificed property in the Southland, that they might get themselves, and their families away from all the blighting influences of that evil; it is not strange that a community of such people should train up sons who would be ready to manifest the faith and convictions of their fathers. It is not a matter of wonder that these sons would be ready to manifest the supreme test of patriotism, when occasion required it. It is not a matter of wonder that the exemplary life and benign influence of such people should have an impression, not only upon the families of their faith, but also upon the entire community. The notable record which was made by this neighborhood in enlistments in the Civil war must be attributed largely to this influence.[i]


The reference to the “Southland” applies in this case as James’ father and grandfather originally were from North Carolina.  Whatever the reason, James entered the Union Army a 5 foot 8 inch, blue eyed young “farmer” with light brown hair.  The light blue eyes and sandy blond hair still show in his descendents.

 A hand colored copy of a tintype believed to be a young James Mc Fetridge


The 33rd Indiana moved to Louisville, Kentucky September 28, then on to Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky where it remain until October 13.  The entire country, north and south, was trying to form armies out of plow boys like James with very little in the way of uniforms, equipment and most of all leadership.  The 33rd was soon assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Ohio.  It later was reassigned in February 1862 to the 27th Brigade, 7th Division until October of that year.  In October 13, 1861 the 33rd moved to Camp Wild Cat where the regiment claims to have been in action on October 21.  For the next year the regiment marched around northern Kentucky passing Christmas at Crab Orchard and maneuvering around Lexington and then, moving east to the Cumberland Gap in June and remaining through September.  By then, however, young James was ill and eventually discharged at Covington, Kentucky as unfit for further military service on October 24, 1862.  It was barely over a year after his enlistment and 6 days before his eighteenth birthday.  He had contracted a disease that devastated the armies of both sides killing many thousands.  The farm boys who had little contact with childhood contagious diseases, little idea of personal hygiene in a large camp and no effective medicines were especially vulnerable.  The 33rd lost 116 officers and men in battle, 182 died of various diseases.  James McFetridge had contracted the measles in November 1861 at Landon, Kentucky and had been evacuated to a hospital at Crab Orchard.  The attending physician was Surgeon James G. McPheeters.  Since he was not discharged until nearly a year later, the disease must have seriously weakened him such that eleven months later he was discharged as an invalid. Measles probably killed more men, North and South, than musket balls – it was as deadly as smallpox.  To this day thousands die in the Developing World of measles.


His return home must have been filled with mixed emotions.  Whatever happened, by March 25, 1864 he had recovered enough to take the $60 enlistment bounty to enroll again, this time in Company B, 58th Indiana Infantry at Princeton, Indiana.  He was mustered in at Indianapolis by J.A. Jones on April 9.  This time he was listed as having grey eyes and standing 5’9”.  The 58th was a veteran unit by 1864, but the three year volunteers would have been getting out at the end of their enlistments.  It had been present at many of the bloodiest battles in the Western Theater including Stones River (Murfreesboro), Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge and the drive to Atlanta.  James would have joined the 58th around Atlanta in April or early May 1864.  The battles around Atlanta were fierce for all the combatants.  The 58th Regiment lost 4 officers and 60 enlisted men killed in the entire war, 2 officers and 192 men died of disease.  Of James’ wartime service we know very little.  He had enlisted for three years (or until the end of the war).  Not long after he arrived in Georgia, he was detailed by Colonel George Buell to the pontoon (portable bridge) train.  He was later detailed again (November 1964 through January 1865 and March through May 1865) during Sherman’s March to the Sea.  He is not mentioned by name in the regimental history, except to list him as a member.  At the end of the Civil War he marched north with the rest of his regiment to Lexington Kentucky where they were all mustered out on July 25, 1865.  James was owed $120, less $6 for a Springfield rifle which he must have lost at some point or perhaps took home with him.


James McFetridge and Amanda Watkins were issued a marriage license on May 7, 1868, and the license was filed 2 June 1868. 

Civil War era tintype, thought to be Amanda Watkins McFetridge

James probated the estate of Daniel Scott McFetridge's selling the belongings and other goods September 7, 1868.  Other administrators were Purnell Watkins (James' father-in-law), and Henry W. Lagaw.  James bought:

            1 Stalk field                             $   6.00

            1 Horse                                   $126.00

            70 Bushels, wheat                   $111.82

            1 Saw                                      $ 10.75


By then, Amanda was pregnant with their first child.  They had a total of six children, only three of whom lived to adulthood.  The first was probably still born as she was buried the same day as she was born on 2 March 1869.  She is identified only as “Daughter McFetridge”.  The next child, also a daughter, Blanche Netta McFetridge, was born in February 1870.  A boy, Purnell, named after Amanda’s father was born February 2, 1872 but died less than six years later on August 25, 1877.  The fourth and fifth McFetridge children were twin sons named Rufus and Russell born January 16 1881.  Rufus lived only two weeks and died February 2.  All of the people mentioned, except Blanche and Russell, were buried together at Hight Chapel Cemetery, Patoka Township, Gibson County, Indiana.  The chapel is long gone but the cemetery is still there and the stone marking the McFetridge and the Watkins families, Amanda’s parents, remains.  The last of James and Amanda’s children was Charles David McFetridge, born May 12, 1883.  James was almost 40 and Amanda was about 32.  By this time, things were not going well for James McFetridge.


On May 1, 1879 he filed a declaration for an invalid’s pension based on his 1862 discharge.  The records are vague, but the only indication of a payment came on 11 May 1899, some 20 years later and 8 years after his death.  One source indicates James was postmaster of Francisco, Indiana, a small village in Patoka Township.  The Indiana census of 1870 and 1880 list him in Gibson County as a farmer; his net worth in 1880 was only $300.  There is no record in the 1890 census, but the family could have been overlooked.  In any event he died December 6, 1891, only 47 years old. A notice was printed in the Princeton Clarion on December 21.  He left little in his estate which was probated January 25 1892[ii].  The estate inventory included the following:


Item                                                                             Value

3 feather beds and bedding                                          $24

4 mattresses                                                                 $12

9 bedsteads                                                                 $27

1 folding lounge                                                          $  1

1 (illegible) and contents                                            $  6

5 tables                                                                        $10

5 stoves                                                                       $12

24 chairs                                                                     $7.50

2 rocking chairs                                                           $3.50

1 sewing machine                                                        $  2

1 clock                                                                        $  1

70 yards carpeting                                                       $14

1 cook stove                                                                $  5

1 cupboard                                                                  $  4

1 kitchen furniture                                                       $20

40 gallon stone jars                                                     $  3

1 barrel vinegar                                                           $  5

1 horse                                                                        $25

3 pigs                                                                          $  9

Total                                                                            $182


When Amanda died April 17, 1898 their three surviving children got less than $21 each from what was left of their mother’s estate.  Within a few years they scattered to other locations, eventually all ending up in Northern Colorado by 1910.



Unidentified picture of an older man

about 1890, possibly James McFetridge

[i] This is from Stormont’s ‘The History of Gibson County’.

[ii] The estate probate is in the Gibson County Courthouse, Princeton, Indiana, box 784, file 40.