Fettes transformed farm into model apple orchard
Jennie Fette. Source: AncestryUK, johndouglas955
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Jennie May Dubach was welcomed into the family of David and Emmaline Wells Bennett Dubach of Hannibal, Mo., during the most tumultuous period on this nation’s history. Her father opened a planing mill in 1858, and Jennie’s family was living on the north side of Center Street, between Fourth and Fifth as the Civil War progressed.
Born in December 1861, hostilities were raging at the time of her birth, keeping residents on the edge as far as their own safety was concerned.
In order to paint a picture of the frame of mind of Hannibal citizens at the time, excerpts follow from a letter written by a Hannibal resident, 16-year-old Tilden Selmes Jr., to his uncle, Elijah Franklin Benton, on Aug 4, 1861, describing the conditions and attitudes he was experiencing from his home at the top of North street.
“Do the Secession boys take prisoners and put them in a stable for a prison? They do it here – and some boys were misused and their friends found them, locked them in this stable. The secessionists took Mr. Joshua Gentry three nights ago at 12 o’clock and would not let him stop to take a coat or anything; they were 25 in number on horses, the secessionist boys are very wicked and I have nobody to play with. The Union troops have taken six secessionist prisoners as hostages for Mr. Gentry and they keep them in a car at the depot. They are Mr. Hixon (the mayor), Mr. Shoot, Mr. Wm. Collins, Mr. Turner and Mr. Jordan and David Dean.”
Little Jennie was too young to remember the fear that engulfed the residents of Hannibal, but her parents, whose home at the time faced Central Park, were eye witnesses to the atrocities occurring in this public space. In fact, the park across the street was occupied by Union soldiers during much of the war.
Life of luxury
Jennie’s father, David, would rise from these troubling times to amass a sizable estate. Jennie’s life was destined to be one of luxury. And life didn’t disappoint.
Jennie’s mother died in January 1896, and a year later, her father followed his wife in death.
When David Dubach’s will was probated in December 1897, his personal estate was estimated at more than $200,000, and the primary beneficiaries were his two children, son Fred B. Dubach and daughter Jennie Dubach, who at the age of 36 had married Carolus Fette in April 1897.
Jennie made an investment in her own family’s financial future in April 1899, by purchasing partial lots 5, 6, 7 and 8, in the northeast segment of Township 57, Range 19, in Marion County, Mo., from W.R. Pitts. The recorded price tag amounted to $7,000. The land on Palmyra Road would be known for the next 115 years as the Fette Orchard.
The family settled into the historic house on the premises. They would have three children, David Victor Fette, Marian Catherine Dubach Fette, in 1899, and John Carolus Fette, in 1901.
Carolus would expand the family-sized orchard on the property, planting 70 acres in apple trees in the spring of 1899. The Quincy Daily Journal made note of this agricultural item of interest, estimating that it would take 8,000 trees to fill the 70 acres.
“Others will no doubt follow the lead of (Mr. Fette) in a few years Hannibal will be one of the largest apple markets in the state. (Hannibal Post via the Quincy Daily Journal, Saturday, April 8, 1899)
Paladin Club affiliations
Carolus and Jennie Fette were members of Hannibal’s Paladin Club. Established in 1882, the club sponsored quarterly dances in Hannibal, which were well attended by both Hannibal and Quincy citizens.
In February 1901, Mr. and Mrs. Fette attended a dance hosted by the ladies of the Paladin Club at the KFM Hall. The ladies were attired in domino costumes and the opera house orchestra furnished the music.
The Fettes also attended a Paladin dance at the Labinnah Club in mid January 1904.
The St. Louis Republic noted those in attendance in 1904:
Those present were Misses Elizabeth McKinley, Helen Boughten, Jean Eby, Angeline Pendell, Carrie Sonnenburg, Ethel Bacon, Elizabeth Knot, Juanita Kabler, Lois Seaton, Emaline Gerken, Minnie Stockton, Treldauka Wesaelis, Neil Carter, Esther Brewington, Bess Russell, Benie Howard, Anna Metcalf, Palmyra; Estelie Mackey, Palmyra; Grace Meyer Jones, Quincy; Mrs. Robert Mentz, Minneapolis; Messrs. Charles Algers, Carl Sonnenburg, M.G. Carter, A.R. Smith, A.S. Johnson, A.C. Robards, C.E. Paxon, Helm Davidson, J.J. Hawes, C.R. Mason, R.T. Cann, W.P. Baker, C.M. Fette, Med Brashears, H.A. Stillwell, F.E. Browder, J.J. Funston, Charles Catlett, William Fitzgerald, H.E. Wishard, W.H. Dulany, R.W. Pindell, Hurbert Neeper, Keokuk; Doctor Marvin Winn, New London; P.S. Elting, Pine Bluffs, N.Y.; Lieutenant John Schofield, U.S.N.; M. Cain, Sioux Falls, S.D., M. Sadler, Cleveland, O; Messrs and Mmes. R.B. Goodson, F.W. Neeper, F.T. Hodgdon, Doctor and MRs. Ben Stevens, W.T. Loudon, H.G. Conger, L.P. Munger, F.W. Dixson, Doctor and Mrs. C.E. Vandiver.
By 1906, Carolus Fette had built the orchard into a showplace. He hosted the Mississippi Valley Apple Growers’ Association in late August that year.
The event was such a big deal that the Burlington Railroad set up a special rate of $1.35 round trip to bring orchardists from Quincy, Ill., on the 10:10 a.m. train. The Hannibal Business Men’s Association made arrangements to shuttle visitors back and forth to the Fette farm, which was located two miles northwest of Hannibal’s city limits.
Visitors from out of town were asked to bring along a fried chicken or two for the noon meal. “A chicken fry dinner is to be part of the day’s doings and it is suggested that people going down and taking lunch along include a fried chicken or two in the bill of fare. Then they won’t feel lonesome and will be able to divide with visitors who did not have the same forethought,” the Quincy Daily Herald reported.
By 1923, the Fette orchard was considered to be a showplace. The Chicago Packer, in June 1923, described the Apple Growers Meeting at Hannibal:
“Early in the afternoon the Hannibal Commercial Club furnished a line of auto cars for free transportation to the model orchard of C.M. Fette, near Hannibal, this orchard has a commanding position high on the bluffs overlooking a vast outstretching country.
“Prof. Ashleigh Boles of the Missouri State University pronounced Mr. Fette’s home and orchard to be the best and most attractive in Missouri. All in attendance enjoyed visiting and closely inspecting systems and customs, which had made the orchard famous. While Mr. Fette has a good setting of Jonathans and other varieties, his favorite apples are the Red and Golden Delicious and he is making noted success of both varieties.”
While Carolus Fette is the name associated with the orchard, the land remained in Mrs. Fette’s name. In 1919, she paid $602.95 in county property taxes.
Jennie Fette died Dec. 30, 1944. Her husband Carolus Von Mollenkott Fette died in 1949. Their first child, David Victor Fette, died in 1979. Their daughter Marian, a long-time Hannibal school teacher, died in 1970. Their son, John Carolus Fette, died in 1966. Several members of the Fette family are buried at Hannibal’s Riverside Cemetery, along with other members of the Dubach family.
Scott and Jean Meyer acquired a portion of the property at 2200 Palmyra Road when the land was put up for auction in 2014. The Meyers' portion has the historic house which they are restoring as their own home, as well as several outbuildings they are turning into event halls.
Source: Selmes family papers, MS 1021, Arizona Historical Society-Tucson