John Fuller (1835 – )

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”John Fuller.—The historian or reviewer of this volume of Nemaha county historical annals can think of no more apt term with which to designate John Fuller, pioneer tinsmith, coppersmith and merchant of Seneca, Kans., than to give him the well deserved title of ‘Sage of Seneca.’ His has been a life well rounded and useful beyond that of ordinary men ; although four score and one years have passed since John Fuller first saw the light of day, his mental vigor is still unimpaired, and of late years he has added to the long list of his accomplishments that of lecturer. A man of broad vision and inherent capabilities, he has become a scientist and teacher and author of more than ordinary renown.

John Fuller was born in Horsham, Sussex county, England, March 25, 1835, and is a son of James and Deborah (Ware) Fuller. James, his father, was a member of the Church of England, and was a general sheet and metal worker, who taught his son, John, his trade. Deborah (Ware) Fuller, his mother, was a Quaker, whose sweet womanly counsel and careful training did much toward making John Fuller the man he is today. One of the touching things which Mr. Fuller remembers concerning his mother is that she made a sampler with her own hands when a girl, and inscribed on it the following original poem:

‘Deborah Ware is my name,
With my Needle, I work the same.
By this work you can plainly see
The care my parents took of me.’

After learning the trade of sheet metal worker under his father’s tutelage, John Fuller worked as a tinman and brazier and general sheet metal worker until he attained the age of seventeen years. He then took up the trade of coppersmith, which he followed for sixteen years. In 1868, he journeyed to London, England, and again took up brazery work and also followed sheet iron work while attending the night schools of that great city. Previous to this, he had had little opportunity to secure an education, and his sole reason for leaving home and going to London was to attain an education. Few boys worked as hard as he to attain his ends. Working long hours, he would quit his bench at 5:30 p. m., walk five miles to the night school and study diligently until ten o’clock in the South London Workingmen’s College, of which Huxley was the chief patron. The oldest son of Mr. Fuller has the highly prized certificate issued to Mr. Fuller by Huxley, and which has appended to it the patron’s own signature. Mr. Fuller remained seven years in London, supporting his family of five children, born in Ashford, Kent, England, and in this great city one of his children was born. In 1870, he immigrated to America, joining a colony which had been formed in England under the auspices of the Mutual Land Immigration Operative Colonization Company, Limited. This company brought numbers of settlers to Kansas, and Mr. Fuller was among those who settled near Goff, Kans. He remained but a year on the farm, however, raising nothing but weeds after much arduous labor. The next year he spent in Centralia, Kans., working at his trade and any honest employment he could procure to keep the wolf from the door. In 1872, he came to Seneca and engaged in the hardware business in partnership with Aaron Roots. This partnership continued for two years, and then Mr. Fuller purchased his partner’s interest. As his sons grew up they became associated with their father in the business, which is one of the landmarks of Seneca, under the firm name of Fuller & Son. The Fuller establishment is one of the prosperous and enterprising concerns of Seneca, and has made money for its founder and proprietor.

The most interesting phase of the life career of the ‘Sage of Seneca’ is his career as a scientist and author and his accomplishments in the field of letters is the more remarkable when we learn that he had no school advantages from the time he was nine years old up to his marriage, after which he secured a good, broad education while rearing and supporting his growing family in comfort. In the year 1889, Mr. Fuller wrote and published ‘The Art of Coppersmithing,’ an instructive vocational volume, which had a wide sale, and has run through four editions, and was copyrighted in 1904 and in 1911 by its author. This work is a standard text on the coppersmithing art and contains 485 illustrations drawn by Mr. Fuller in order to more clearly bring out the various instructive points. The volume was published by David Williams Company, and bears the distinction of being the only text book on coppersmithing as an art-ever issued. The book was greatly eulogized and praised by book reviewers of the country upon its appearance. Mr. Fuller completed another attractive and instructive volume in 1904, called ‘A New and Original Treatise on the Geometrical Development of Round and Oval Cones,’ with easy examples of application. This work is a very fine affair and is intended for the use of beginners in metal working and practical sheet iron and tin plate workers. For many years this versatile patriarch has been a contributor to various newspapers, and has frequently called attention through the newspaper columns to undeveloped and waste resources generally overlooked by the public. He frequently lectures in the Seneca High School on scientific subjects, and the students are always eager to listen to the words of wisdom which fall from his lips. His favorite lecture is ‘Wealth is Not Worth,’ and is well worth reading or hearing. He is a deep thinker and a profound philosopher, whose material needs have not been neglected during the many years he has spent in Kansas. From a poor boy, he has become wealthy, and occupies a high place in the esteem of his fellow citizens. It is a fact that at one time this highly regarded and wealthy citizen was in such reduced circumstances during his early struggles in Kansas that, in order to get sufficient solder with which to do his tin work, he gathered up a pile of discarded tin cans, melted them, and thus obtained the solder which he needed so badly.

There is no doubt but that much of the success of John Fuller is really due to the inspiration and assistance of the noble woman who became his wife on January 1, 1856, when Mr. Fuller was united in marriage with Miss Ann Fagg, born September 22, 1834, in England, the eldest daughter of Henry Fagg, formerly an engineer .on the Southeastern railway in England. To this union have been born eight children, as follows: Henry William, associated with his father in the hardware business; John died in 1914; William Edward and Walter are with the firm of Fuller & Son; Martha Jane, at honie with her parents; Helen Florence died in September, 1870; Herbert Moreton, born at Centralia, June 24, 1871, and now engaged in business with his father; Mrs. Beatus Filia Williams, born in Seneca, Kans., and resides there.

Mr. and Mrs. Fuller are members of the Episcopalian denomination. Mr. Fuller became a Mason soon after settling in Seneca, and has served as master of the local lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and he enjoys the distinction of being one of the oldest Odd Fellows in Kansas, having become a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in his native country in April of 1852, and never having been delinquent in his dues during all of the sixty-four years he has been a member of the order. For the past twenty years he has been affiliated with the Knights of Pythias. John Fuller is a remarkable man, who has had a unique and interesting career.

One of the highly prized possessions in the Fuller domicile is a copper kettle, which was made by Mr. Fuller over fifty years ago, and is a masterpice of the brazier’s skill. The proudest day’ of the young manhood of this fine old gentleman was when he showed to his father the kettle, after it had been made with his own hands from the copper.”

Source:  History of Nemaha County, Kansas, by Ralph Tennal, Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kansas, 1916, pages 340-2


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