John Fottler, 1815-
From American Series of Popular Biographies. Massachusetts Edition. This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston: Graves & Steinbarger, 1891.
JOHN FOTTLER, the elder of that name, has been one of Dorchester's best known citizens for a great many years. In 1830, or near that date, at about fifteen years of age, he came here with his parents, Jacob and Barbara Fottler who were natives of Bavaria on the Rhine. They came from Europe with the intention of making a home in what was then considered the Far West, Indiana: and soon after their arrival here the Western journey was undertaken. Arriving at Cincinnati, Ohio, they were thence embarking on the ill-fated steamer "Moselle." The sinking of that steamer just as she left the wharf, owing to an explosion of her boilers, was a catastrophe then almost unparalleled, and to the present day it is often alluded to with horror by old residents of Cincinnati and vicinity. That accident cost hundreds of lives; and among those lost were Jacob Fottler, the father, one of his sons, and two young daughters. The others of the family returned to Boston and here the mother, Barbara, died many years since, her age being over eighty years. The surviving children were: John, the subject of this sketch; Jacob; Peter; and one sister, Elizabeth. At the present time John and Peter alone are living, the latter having resided at Hingham, Mass., for over forty years.
At the age of nineteen John Fottler accepted a position in Quincy Market, where he remained some three years. In 1838 he married Miss Mary Donald, a native of England, but of Scottish descent, her mother's maiden name being Mary Bell.
It was in the following year that Boston's Public Garden was first opened, and Mr. Fottler delivered on those grounds, from the Dorchester hot-houses of the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, the first load of plants ever set there. After Mr. Fottler's marriage he took as a farm the greater portion of Dorchester's well-known "Savin Hill." At that time there were but two small houses on the entire tract of land. At the end of about two years he became superintendent of Hovey's Nurseries at Cambridge. During succeeding years, he had charge of several large estates, notably that of John P. Cushing at Belmont, since known as Payson Park. He also for a time conducted a large farm belonging to the late Jacob Hittinger in the same town.
Many years ago Mr. Fottler had the unusual experience of turning over with the plough some seven acres of Boston's famous Common, and afterward seeding it down to grass.
Mr. Fottler is in all respects a self-made man, and very few have a more enviable record for public-spirited work. Away back in the seventies he was one of the first to conceive the grand idea of public parks for our city, and to no man, living or dead, is greater credit due for the establishment of our magnificent park system. The first dollar ever spent for the purpose of creating these pleasure grounds came from his pocket, and he also gave much time and incessant work to this object until our parks were an accomplished fact. His title as "The Father of our Parks" has never been disputed.
In later years he took up the matter of the widening of Blue Hill Avenue; and to his efforts, more than to all other combined influences, is due the success of that undertaking. The first land for the widening and improvement of that avenue was presented to the city by Mr. Fottler. In recognition of his work a grand banquet was given in his honor, a beautiful watch and chain presented to him, and the Mayor of Boston presented to him a pen with which the city's order for the improvement of Blue Hill Avenue was signed.
Mr. Fottler's business for the most part has been the growing of vegetables and small fruits for Boston market, and he has also a most thorough practical knowledge of the treatment of plants under glass, including the growing of hot-house grapes. Besides these he has had much experience in tree planting and is a thorough nursery-man. He retired from active business several years ago.
His family consisted of a wife and seven children. His wife and one daughter died several years since. His children now living are as follows: Jacob, the eldest son, at present engaged in business at Quincy Market, has served the State as a member of the General Court, and has also held various positions in Boston's city government; the second son, John, who has for many years been engaged in the seed trade on South Market Street, is a well-known resident of Dorchester; William, the third son, is a lieutenant of police, and has served on the Boston force many years; the other son, Charles resides near his father in Dorchester. Two daughters --Mary (Mrs. J.F. Cook) and Belle (Mrs. C.M. Hickey)--are also living in Dorchester.
Mr. Fottler was born in 1815, the year of the battle of Waterloo, and is now in his eighty-fifth year. Very few men now living have witnessed so many great changes in the condition of Boston and its vicinity as he has seen.
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Created: November 1, 2004 Modified: November 1, 2004