Jan 01
Henry Adam Fonda (1820-1896); John Giles Fonda (1822-1910); David Bartholomew Fonda (1834-1903); William Henry Fonda (1834-1910); Ten Eyck Hilton Fonda (1838-1923)
Henry Adam Fonda (1820-1896) Sources: History of Montgomery Co.

Born in Fonda, Montgomery Co., NY; bp. Reformed Dutch Church of Caughnawaga, NY; 1860 Census, Williamsport, Lycoming Co., PA; 1870 Census Milton, Northumberland Co., PA; 1880 Census, Chillisquaque, Northumberland Co., PA; d. Milton, PA; o. Railroad Superintendent/Engineer, Civil War Colonel, Farmer, Banker

Fonda, Henry A., of Milton, Pa., president of the First National Bank of that place and an enterprising and public spirited citizen, was born in the town of Fonda, Montgomery County, NY, which town derived its name from one of his ancestors. After graduating from the district schools of his native place, he entered the Homer, N. Y., Academy, where he devoted two years to the study of the higher branches of English. The science of engineering possessed an attraction for him and at the age of seventeen he adopted it as his life work, entering upon his labors as an assistant in an engineering corps on the Utica and Syracuse railroad. From this road he passed in a short time to the Erie, on which he held at first the position of rod-man, but later on that of superintendent of construction on the section between Corning and Hornellsville. In different capacities, some of them involving great responsibilities, he remained with the Erie road about six years.

Railroad Superintendent & Engineer

Upon leaving it he engaged with the Canandaigua and Niagara Falls road, as superintendent of construction and repairs. After filling this post two years he removed to Pennsylvania and accepted the position of superintendent of construction on the Catawissa railroad, then thirty-five miles in extent. After being promoted to the position of assistant superintendent, and being advanced from that office to the responsible post of general superintendent of the road, he closed his connection with it (then of five years’ duration), to accept the office of general superintendent of the Elmira and Williamsport railroad, to the duties of which he devoted the ensuing three years. In 1864 he became general superintendent of the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg railroad, then under control of the Delaware and Western Railroad Company.

After serving this corporation five years he took a contract to build a railroad from Carbondale to Susquehanna. This contract being completed he took service with the Delaware and Hudson railroad, as general superintendent, and was placed in charge of all the lines of this large corporation from Carbondale, Pa., to Whitehall and Rutland, Vt. At the expiration of four years’ steady service under this company, he retired from active duty and took up his residence in Philadelphia, where he spent several years. In 1887 he removed to Milton, where he established a permanent residence. Having definitely relinquished engineering pursuits, he turned his attention to farming and stock-raising. He is now the owner of a large stock farm and residence on Cayuga lake, near Aurora, and also of five extensive stock farms in the vicinity of Milton. His barn on the largest farm on Cayuga Lake is the finest in the state.

Henry Adam Fonda

Mr. Fonda has paid particular attention to the breeding of Hambletonian stock and has raised many notable specimens of this strain. His success in this later departure in farming and stock-raising is extremely gratifying to him. In them he finds agreeable and interesting relaxation, which is both welcome and beneficial after so many years of active and absorbing railroad life. Since 1885 Mr. Fonda has been president of the First National Bank of Milton, and he divides his time between his duties as a financier and the agreeable occupation of a “gentleman farmer.” His habits are those of a thorough business man, everything confided to his charge being attended to thoroughly and with the strictest regard for the interest of others, as well as respect for their rights.

At a time when real estate in Chicago was low in value and on the rise, he invested largely in property in that city, and has reaped a rich reward as a result of his enterprise and sagacity in this field. After the disastrous conflagration which in 1880 destroyed so large an amount of property in Milton, Mr. Fonda promptly loaned quite an amount of money to rebuild the place, and through this wise and timely action on his part it has rapidly recovered from the damaging blow it sustained, and is making rapid strides to a more prosperous and advanced condition. His public spirited action in this and other matters has had a weighty influence upon the business interests of Milton, and has earned for him a reward in the general prosperity which gratifies him far more than any pecuniary advantage he may eventually reap in consequence. Mr. Fonda started in life without means and has reached his present financial independence and leading position as a citizen, solely through his own unaided enterprise and ability. So far from this fact operating to close his heart to the claims of his less fortunate fellowmen, it seems to exert just the contrary effect, for it is well known that many who were struggling have been helped by his generosity, extended willingly and from a sense of duty as a steward of wealth,

Gentleman Farmer & Banker

rather than through any desire for notoriety or subsequent reward. Men gifted with such admirable qualities raise the standard of life and living, both for themselves and all who dwell within reach of their influence, and may justly be styled the pillars of the community – the strong supports of the higher ideas of duty and citizenship prevailing in a free and enlightened country. Every dollar of Mr. Fonda’s wealth has been amassed by straightforward business operations. Disdaining sharp practices and resolutely declining them, he nevertheless acquired means far in excess of many who descended to petty if not more culpable methods.

He lives in a manner commensurate with his ample fortune and social position, and not the least of his satisfaction is the consciousness that his success with all that it brings, is the outcome of an upright business life. His farms adjoining the town of Milton, containing in all 700 acres, are models, and upon them is to be found some of the finest stock in the state. In addition to his connection with the First National Bank, he is a director in several other banks, and also of the Elmira and Williamsport railroad company. He has never accepted any political office nor had any aspirations in that direction, but held a commission as colonel on Governor Pollock’s staff during his term as governor of the state of Pennsylvania. Modest and retiring in disposition, he avoids rather than courts notoriety, although never withholding his name or influence from any enterprise having for its object the benefit of mankind. His charities are bestowed quietly, and to many he has been a true friend in times of panic and distress.

Mr. Fonda married, on January 1, 1862, Miss Caroline Louisa Brown, daughter of Isaac Brown, a prominent merchant of Milton. His only child, a son, Lawrence B. Fonda, who was educated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has recently joined the Sons of the Revolution through that patriotic record which has been so faithfully won by his ancestors. Mr. Fonda’s grandfather (Henry Fonda) served as a captain in the War of 1812, and his great-grandfather (Adam Fonda) was lieutenant-colonel under General Herkimer at the Oriskany battle. Adam Fonda was a son of Douw Fonda, who was slain by the Tories during Sir John Johnson’s raid in 1780. What a debt our country owes to this ancient patriotism!


John Giles Fonda (1822-1910) Sources: Illinois in the 19th Century

Born along the Mohawk River in Sand Flats, Montgomery County, New York, John came to Hancock County, Illinois with his parents in 1835. The greater portion of his life was spent as a surveyor and civil engineer. Appointed by the County Court as one of three commissioners to lay off and divide Hancock County into townships in 1850, he was paid an additional $2.50 for making a plat of the county.

Illinois Cavalry - Mexican & Civil War

In 1847 he enlisted as a private in Capt. Stapp’s company of Illinois Mounted Volunteers and went to Mexico. At the close of the war, the following year, he was discharged as a Lieutenant. In 1849, he was married to Mary McConnell, and the same year was elected County Surveyor and settled in Carthage; lived there until 1854, when he moved to Warsaw and was appointed an assistant engineer on the Warsaw & Rockford Railroad.

Surveyor and Engineer

In July 1861, he entered the United States Volunteer Service as a Lieutenant in Capt. B. F. Marsh’s Company of 2d Illinois Cavalry. In January, 1862, he was appointed Major of the 12th Illinois Cavalry, and soon after placed in command of Camp Butler, near Springfield. In October he was made Colonel of the 118th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and in December went with his regiment to Louisiana, where he served most of the time in command of a brigade until the close of the war. With his regiment he participated in all the battles about Vicksburg. After the fall of Vicksburg he had command of a cavalry brigade, and was brevetted Brigadier-General.

After the close of the war, in 1866, General Fonda settled on a farm near Fountain Green in Hancock County, Illinois. In July, 1877, he was appointed a Commissioner of the Southern Illinois Penitentiary. In September 1879, he was appointed Chief Engineer to construct levees between Warsaw and Quincy, to protect the low lands from overflow. The early pages of Fonda’s diary tell briefly how he was reassigned to various positions, until he finally became a Colonel of the 118th Regiment. In the rest of the diary he tells of his entire military experience in that capacity.


David Bartholomew Fonda (1834-1903) Sources: Early Chicago and The Northwest

Proprietor of Dr. Fonda’s Medicines, and a gifted speaker and writer; D. B. Fonda, M.D., physician and surgeon, took a full classical course at the Lisha’s Kill Academy, and after graduating removed to central New York, where he engaged in teaching some four years, at the same time pursuing advanced studies in mental and moral philosophy under Professor F. D. Pierce.

Civil War Surgeon 89th Illinois Infantry

In 1885, he removed to Cook County, Ill., where he engaged in railroading for a time, his health necessitating outdoor employment. He subsequently took the agency in Chicago of the West Elgin Flour Company, a position he retained until the stoppage of the mills in the spring of 1858. He then engaged in teaching at Rose Hill until 1862, when he enlisted in Company C, 89th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. After the battle of Perryville he was placed in charge of an ambulance train and shortly afterward appointed to one of the hospitals at Bardstown, Kentucky.

In July, 1863, he was honorably discharged and, returning to Rose Hill, shortly afterward entered Rush Medical College, attending lectures in 1863-64-65 and 1866. The breaking out of the cholera epidemic and consequent death of Dr. Brainard and other members of the faculty caused him to quit the college. In 1867 he engaged in practice, at the same time being appointed county physician, a position he retained until 1871. During this time he attended one course of lectures at the Bennett Medical College, from which he graduated. He was elected a member of the Board of Trustees for Jefferson Township in 1874 a position he retained until 1877, being president of the board during the entire period. He then graduated from the Eclectic College of Medicine & Surgery, Chicago, 1878. He was elected health officer when tire ordinance passed in 1880, and elected a member of the school board in the spring of 1883, still filling both of these latter offices.

Safecracker Nabbed

“A Mysterious Impulse”, Chicago Tribune, Aug 3, 1887

Lawyer M. H. Reynolds, of Jefferson, went to his friend Dr. D. B. Fonda’s house, in that town, early Sunday afternoon, to help in making out some business papers. And together they worked for several hours. Suddenly Dr. Fonda looked up and exclaimed: “Mark, I’ve got an idea somebody’s about the store – something’s wrong with the safe. Just put on your hat and come along. I’m going to see about this.” They started together, Dr. Fonda leading the way until his drug store, in the centre of the village, was reached. They unlocked the door, and on the moment of their entrance they heard a rustle. The druggist walked around the prescription counter, and there caught a six-foot thief bent down so that the top of his head just showed over some vases. Fonda ran to grapple him, but the thief dashed around the prescription counter again and into the front of the store with his hands fall of five-dollar and ten-dollar bills. Here the lawyer clinched him, the two rolling with the money on the floor. Their cries brought help, and the thief was overpowered and $200 in bills taken from him. Before Justice Heustis the prisoner told how be had climbed in through a side window in the afternoon, almost under the noses of the people on the street, and opened the safe, and how he had the money in the store all in his possession and was ready to go when the key rattled in the door and his captors entered.


William Henry Fonda (1834-1910) Sources: History of Calhoun County

Civil War Soldier, Farmer, Innkeeper, Deputy Postmaster, Railroad Agent, Personal Secretary; born in Poughkeepsie, New York. William was reared to the occupation of farming and early became familiar with the duties and labors that fall to the lot of the agriculturalist. He was educated in the public schools and after putting aside his text books assumed the management of his father’s farm which he operated while the father and brother worked in the shops of Nichols Shepard in the city.

Steam Railroad Ticket Agent - 1870's

He continued to occupy the homestead until 1861 when his father purchased what is now the Clifton Hotel and then Mr. Fonda, senior, in connection with his son William Henry, conducted the business for a year and a half. It was purchased at the price of twenty-seven hundred dollars.. and eighteen months later was sold for seventy-five hundred dollars.

After leaving the hotel business, William H. Fonda became deputy postmaster and filled that position in a most creditable manner for nine years under five different postmasters. In 1873 he became private secretary to President Dibble of the old Peninsular Railway Company, now the Grand Trunk, and continued with him for five years. Since that time Mr. Fonda had served as ticket agent for the Grand Trunk Railroad, and was also cashier of the freight department and ticket agent for the Michigan Central Railroad.

In 1865, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Fonda and Miss Mary E. Caldwell of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and unto them had been born one child, Helen M., who is now the wife of Edson D. Clarage, manager of the Crucible Steel Company of America at Cleveland, Ohio. They also have a daughter, Eleanor. Mr. Fonda gives his political support to the Republican party and his wife is identified with the Presbyterian Church. They are both people of sterling worth and the hospitality of many of the best homes of the county is graciously and freely accorded them.

Battle Creek, Michigan - 1890

Mr. Fonda served as city assessor of Battle Creek for three years, but had never been active in search for office, preferring to devote his time and energies to business affairs. He is now a stockholder of the Agricultural Company and gives considerable attention to the supervision of his realty interests. In 1892 he platted the Fonda addition, which is one of the most desirable additions to the city.

With the growth of Battle Creek there came a demand for further property within its border and the old family homestead was subdivided and is now upon the market. Already much of this had been sold, but Mr. Fonda still retained valuable property holdings, both in the city and country.

No history of the pioneer families of Calhoun county would be complete without mention of our subject who for sixty-five years had been a witness of the growth and development of this locality. He had seen the forests cut down and the wild lands transformed into beautiful homes and farms, while in their midst, cities and villages have sprung up, having all the advantages of the older east. In the work of progress and improvement he had taken a just pride in what had been accomplished and by reason of his success in Business and his unblemished character he may well be called one of the leading citizens of Battle Creek.


Ten Eyck Hilton Fonda (1838-1923) Sources: Pearce Civil War Collection

Ten Eyck was born in Fonda, New York, and served as a United States Army telegrapher during the Civil War. He moved his family to Illinois and then Nebraska in 1878 for railroad work and he died in Omaha, Douglas, Nebraska.

Telegraphers served under the quartermaster and were mostly civilians. Although they were integral parts of the army and vitally important to the country, they were unfortunately not given the same status as soldiers. The job was perilous, and in the course of the war over three hundred telegraphers lost their lives in the line of duty. Ten Eyck Hilton Fonda, called “Nike” by family and friends, was one of the young men responsible for the Union’s telegraphic lifeline. In the days just before the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the Union and Confederate armies groped toward one another, Fonda was the telegrapher who received an urgent message from Washington; he recounted his experience to a local newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska, 50 years later (1913). The newspaper printed the text of the telegram:

Civil War Telegrapher "the agent that began the conflict"

To Major General Meade, Commanding Army of the Potomac: On March: The advance guard of the confederate army under General Early have entirely evacuated Wrightsville and other points on the Susquehanna river, and are making a forced march to join General Lee’s main army at a point between Hanover and Gettysburg – part of their forces now at Hanover – and they confidently expect to be able to form a junction with General Lee’s main army not later than tomorrow evening. Circumstances and conditions permitting, I would urge you to assume the offensive is quickly as possible on Lee’s divided forces. – E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

At midnight June 30, 1863, Fonda personally delivered the telegram transcription from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to General George Meade of the Union Army warning him of the advancing Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee toward Gettysburg and commanding Meade to assume the offensive. Fonda is credited with delivering this important warning, which allowed the Union armies to prepare for the approaching Confederates. An Omaha, Nebraska newspaper, during the fifty-year reunion of the battle of Gettysburg, named Fonda “the agent that began the conflict.”

Fonda described his “every effort” in this letter to his brother (Douw Henry Fonda), written on telegraph message blanks: My Dear Brother, I suppose you have had plenty of war news of late as I have sent many pages by telegraph within the last two days. The report of today’s Herald from Carpenter (I suppose it’s published I sent it to Washington to censor) was I think sublime. He wrote it here in office flanked on the right by a bottle of bourbon whiskey (to keep his ideas bright) and on the other side by seven or eight noisy operators. From some cause our line has not been built from here to the front. This being the nearest telegraph office to the army our business is immense. When the army moved forward from this place there were no troops left here not even an orderly to carry dispatches to the front.

Dispatch for General Meade - Battle of Gettysburg - 1863

On the 30th Washington War dept. received an important dispatch from Gen. Couch at Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] informing Secy. Stanton that the enemy were falling back from Harrisburg and were concentrating at Gettysburg and to inform Gen. Meade in any way possible. I was the individual selected to carry it to Gen. Meade. Having rode from Leesburg the day before I felt rather unlimbered but consented to go without any excuses – I left here at one o’clock a.m. – full moon making the night almost day. I had little or no thought of reaching Meade’s Headquarters as the country was full of the Rebel scouting parties and we did not know exactly where Headquarters were but supposed somewhere in the neighborhood of Middleburg 25 miles from here.

I had orders to spare nothing, horseflesh and money was of no account if I would only deliver the message. I tell you I made the old horse get. To Woodburg 12 miles I made in less than an hour as I heard a clock strike 2 as I was watering my horse.

Thus far I had not met a single person. I saw one straggler asleep along the road, four miles from this place I heard some one coming towards me at last. I saw him coming on a walk one of our men I suppose he was dressed in our uniform – saber carbine & revolver. I was going 240 and halted within twenty feet of him and halted him, he said friend – I saw his heart was way up in his mouth and too scared to do much damage. I rode up to him and asked him the way to Headquarters, which he said was Middleburg. The horse was exhausting heavy now. His feet & mouth made noise enough for a whole cavalry regiment. I soon came into Middleburg but my spirits were soon dampened by finding the last of the army had passed through there that day at four o’clock some towards Tullytown, others to the left & right. I thought Headquarters would keep the centre and made for Tullytown, seven miles away. Three miles this side of that place I came to a train of wagons parked – many pickets had they out on this road. I learned Gen. Meade’s Headquarters were one mile beyond Tarrytown – which place I reached delivering the message to him in person taking a receipt timed at 5.15. He gave me a fresh horse and an escort of fifty cavalry and I came back same day.

Secy. Stanton sent me a message thanking me kindly for energy &c. but I suppose he has forgot it by this time. When you read this destroy it for if you send it home every man Father comes across he will show it to. It is quite natural – but I don’t want to become notorious. I shall probably be home in a month or two to remain for a short time, Love to all. Ever Your Bro., Nike. Frederick Md., July 4th 1863.


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