Benjamin Franklin Fowler


Contributed by Carol Lackey



B. F. FOWLER, who was well known in the early history of the State as an  educator, is the present District Attorney of Merced county. He was born in New Hampshire, six miles from the city of Concord, August 22, 1844, a son of Benjamin and Hannah (Campbell) Fowler, natives, respectively of Epson and Pembroke, New Hampshire. The first members of the family who emigrated to the North American continent came in 1623; there were three brothers, one of whom settled in Massachusetts, one in Virginia, and Benjamin located in New Hampshire and became a wealthy farmer. He was a man of a superior education, and was particularly proficient in mathematics. He and his wife had born to them seven children, five of whom lived to mature years. There were four sons, all of whom in early life devoted some time to teaching. B. F. Fowler received his education in the common schools of his native county, and later took a course in the Military and Literary Academy at Pembroke, New Hampshire, from which institution he was graduated in 1859, in both the classical and scientific courses. It was his intention at that time to enter Dartmouth, but he was taken ill with a fever from which he was a long time recovering. He traveled through the State of Maine as a book canvasser, but abandoned this employment and started to California. He reached New York city April 11, 1861, and took passage there on the Northern Light for California. He arrived in San Francisco May 10, and proceeded at once to Stockton. He went by stage to Snelling, where he secured employment on a ranch. Agriculture not being suited exactly to his taste, he accepted the position of pedagogue in Snelling, which was then the county seat. These were the primitive days of Merced county; the school was taught in an old wagon-shop which was lined with cheap cotton canvas, and the other appointments were in keeping with this structure. After two years spent in this vocation, Mr. Fowler's health failed, and he was obliged to  retire to the mountains. He worked on a dairy farm, and served as cheese-maker, butcher, peddler and vaquero. He was then engaged in milling, mining and clerking successively. Finally in partnership with four others he sank a shaft at Green Gulch mine; he was then employed as amalgamator in the Benton mills, but later on again engaged in mining in Silver mountains, where he made and lost several thousands of dollars. He went to Nevada, then back to Merced, where he drove a team and also mined in Hunter's valley. He helped locate several coal-oil claims in the Coast Range mountains, and in 1865 he started the first "header" on Merced river, for George Halstead. In 1866-'67 he herded cattle for H. J. Ostrander, and then again entered the school-room at Snelling as instructor; the two years following he taught in Hopeton. In June: 1870, he was appointed Deputy United States Census Marshal for Merced county, and took the census alone. In August of that year he was appointed principal of the Snelling school, and in 1872 he was elected County Superintendent of Schools of Merced county. He was re-elected in I874, and after the expiration of the second term he resumed teaching, following the profession until 1884.

Previous to this date he had been admitted to the practice of law in a justice's court he now turned his attention to a thorough study of law, and in November, 1890, he was elected to his present office. He has made a most efficient attorney for the district, and has given a high degree of satisfaction.

Mr. Fowler was married December 24 1871, to Miss Susan McSwain, a native Missouri, and of this union the following children have been born: Ora, Stella, William and Ultra. Mr. Fowler is a member of Willow Lodge, No. 121, I. O. O. F., and has served as Deputy District Grand Master for Merced and Stanislaus counties for four year Politically he is a Republican.