Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fortunatus Gleason (1824-1897)

Portrait from the "Old Northwest" Genealogical Quarterly, Vol. 11.

   The city of Lawrence, Kansas has had quite the colorful history in its 160+ year existence, being a hot point for anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces in the late 1850s during an era known as "Bleeding Kansas." During the Civil War, the still infant city was attacked by Confederate Colonel William C. Quantrill and his "Raiders" on the morning of August 21, 1863, resulting in the deaths of over 140 Lawrence citizens, some of whom were children.     The savage brutality of what was inflicted on the residents of this pro-union town later became known as the "Lawrence Massacre". Fortunatus Gleason, a curiously named New England transplant to Kansas in the 1850s, served as a member of an organized militia to protect Lawrence in the months preceding Quantrill's attack. Following the bloody savagery leveled upon Lawrence in the early 1860s, Gleason would serve his adopted community as a county commissioner and Mayor of Lawrence, being elected to the latter office in 1873.
   Born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire on April 20, 1824, Fortunatus Gleason was the sixth of ten children born to Wilson (1788-1866) and Lucy Atherton Gleason (1791-1852), both lifelong New England residents. Fortunatus is recorded by the Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly as spending his youth in Keene, New Hampshire, where he worked as a clerk in a mercantile store, and would later reside in Rochester, New York and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to continue in the same line of employment. Gleason married in January of 1849 to Mary Foster (1829-1902) and the couple would later have three daughters, Lou, Mary, and Sophia.
   Fortunatus and his family would remove to the Kansas Territory in the late 1850s, settling in Douglass County in 1857. During the dark period in that town's history in the early 1860s, Gleason is noted as having had "his full share in the exciting times in the days of the Kansas troubles", being a lieutenant in a "home guard militia" located in Marion, Kansas. This militia consisted of about thirty persons and is recorded as being called to service "several times" in the year preceding Quantrill's raid, all of which are listed as "false alarms." 
   In the mid 1860s, Gleason first ventured into political life in Douglass County, serving as a County Commissioner between 1864 and 1866. For several years he occupied the post of assistant assessor of Internal Revenue in Lawrence and also began involvement in real estate during this time, becoming a partner in the firm of Gleason and WhitmanIn 1873 Gleason succeeded Washington Hadley as Mayor of Lawrence, Kansas and served one year in office. 

Fortunatus Gleason during his later years, courtesy of the website

   Little else could be found on the life of Fortunatus Gleason's life after his term as mayor. Mention is given as to his relocating to California two months prior to his death to improve his health, and on September 26, 1897 the former mayor died in San Diego at age 73. There appears to be some confusion as to Gleason's final resting place, with to different locations being given.The below notice from the Los Angeles Herald relates that his body was to be returned to Lawrence for burial, but a Find-A-Grave listing for him records his burial location as being at the Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego.....all in all very confusing!!

From the Los Angeles Herald, September 27, 1897.

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