Many members of the Fetterman family have attained local prominence in a number of professions, principally in law. Originally from Germany, the Fetterman family owned mills in Hessen-Darmstadt. The unknown American ancestor acquired lands and mills in the Harrisburg region, at or near Lock Haven on the Susquehanna River.
The first member of the family on record, Washington Wilfred Fetterman married Hannah Plumer, the daughter of Nathaniel Plumer. In 1633, the Plumer family had immigrated to Newburyport, Massachusetts. Jonathan Plumer, Hannah's grandfather settled in the Pittsburgh area near the site of the old Allegheny arsenal. In 1755 he was commissary to General Braddock. He subsequently served under Gen. Forbes and then Gen. Bouquet. Near the end of the century his son Nathaniel Plumer purchased a large tract of land in what is now Mt. Lebanon. Nathaniel's daughter, Hannah, married Washington Wilfred Fetterman.
The children of Washington Wilfred and Hannah Fetterman were Washington Wilfred F. (b. c.1802; d. December 12, 1838), Nathaniel Plumer F. (b. February 4, 1804; d.?) and George Plumer F. (b. c.1807 d. young (sic)). George Plumer Fetterman graduated from the military academy at West Point and attained the rank of Captain in the U. S. Army. He married and had two daughters and one son--William-- also a captain in the army. After serving as a recruiting officer in Pittsburgh, William was killed in a massacre at what is now known as Fort Fetterman, Wyoming.
Washington Wilfred F. was born in 1802 and died. December 12, 1838. During his life he became a very prominent lawyer in Pittsburgh and throughout western Pa. As well as property in Pittsburgh, his extensive land holdings included, at various times, from two to four thousand acres in West Virginia. He established the town of Fetterman, W. Va. After his marriage in 1822 to Sarah de Bulan, grand daughter of Baron de Bulan,. Baron de Bulan was ambassador to the United States until the death of Joseph the Second of Austria. Washington Wilfred Fetterman converted to the Catholic faith and subsequently donated the site of the old St. Paul's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. He served as the first vice president of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.
They had two daughters (both of whom died young) and three sons: Wilfred B., Gilbert Lafayette Bulan, and Colonel (sic) Fetterman, a member of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, who died as a result of wounds received in three years of active service.
Born in 1824, Gilbert Lafayette Bulan Fetterman received a classical educational at Mount St. Mary's College, he then studied law in the offices of Judge Baldwin, and was admitted to the bar in 1850. He set himself up in a law partnership with his uncle, Nathaniel Plumer Fetterman. He married M. Augusta Gloninger, of Baltimore, Maryland. They had two children: Alice Grace (married John Leo Walsh of Pittsburgh) and Wilfred B. Fetterman.
Nathaniel Plumer Fetterman (one of two main sources of the materials in this collection) was born February 4, 1804 in the Plumer homestead. He entered the practice of law at his brother's (Washington Wilfred Fetterman) firm and was admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania on August 14, 1825. He subsequently moved to Bedford, Pa. and resided there for several years. While serving as a representative in the lower house of the state legislature for three successive years, he was instrumental in setting up the current common school system in this state. On December 28,1828, he married Anna Dillon, the Daughter of Humphry Dillon of Bedford, Pa. Together they had ten children. Upon leaving public life, N. P. Fetterman resided in Beaver, Pa. from 1830 to 1849. He then moved to Pittsburgh and established a law firm in partnership with his nephew Gilbert L. B. Fetterman, an association that lasted for several years. Nathaniel took part in almost every important case in the area of the times. Originally a registered Democrat, during the Civil War, he switched party affiliation to the Republicans. After the war he served as the chair of committee to certify all attorneys admitted to the bar in western Pa. He died in Philadelphia, Pa. on December 12, 1838.
Charles Sylvester Fetterman (the second major source of the papers in this collection), the son of Nathaniel Plumer Fetterman and Anna Dillon Fetterman was born May 19, 1840 in Beaver, Pa. His family moved back to Allegheny county when he was 10 years old. Charles attended the common schools on the South Side and his education was supplemented by an academic program at which he excelled. He completed his law studies and was admitted to the Allegheny bar in 1864. Charles' first marriage, to Mary Douglass, lasted only till her death a few years later. They had one son, Charles D. On November 17, 1870, he married Eliza McElroy. They had six children: Emilie Blake F. (married James Ernest Fulton), Dr. James McElroy of Hawthorne Pa., Agnes M. (married Thomas McCleary), Valeria J., Robert D. (died July 4, 1902) and Jacob Henrici. From March 21,1877 to January 7, 1878, he served on the Court of Common Pleas to fill the remainder of the term of Judge James P. Sterret (Sterret had been appointed to the state supreme court). Fetterman was nominated on the Republican ticket the following fall but lost the election. In 1891, he was again defeated in a bid for the bench on the "Straight Out" ticket. Subsequently, Fetterman served as assistant city attorney for Pittsburgh for a number of years until he declined further appointment to concentrate on his private law practice. He was president of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania from 1888 to 1892. Charles S. Fetterman died of heat prostration on August 17, 1900.