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Guide to the Fitch Family Papers MS 25
MS 25  
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Collection Details
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  • Arrangement
  • Comments
  • Scope and Content
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition

  • Title: Fitch Family Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 25
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 1.25 Linear feet (3 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1815-1969
    Abstract: This collection contains the personal and business papers of Henry and Josefa Fitch and their descendants.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
    creator: Fitch family


    The items in this collection are arranged by subject.
    Four bound volumes of documents are arranged chronologically in boxes 2 and 3.


    Federico “Fred” Fitch’s diary (Box 1, folder 4) added to this collection following its separation from the Denton Family Papers (MS 175). Notation of removal and copies of Denton related entries filed in MS 175.

    Scope and Content

    The Fitch family papers contain documents pertaining primarily to Henry Delano Fitch and his wife Josefa Carrillo Fitch. The papers include personal and business correspondence, business accounts, land deeds and documentation of legal proceedings, biographical and genealogical information on the Fitch family, and several reproductions of the Fitch map. Select documents refer to Henry and Josefa’s children or later descendants, including their son Federico’s personal diary dated 1858-1860. The collection includes the original Will and Testament of Henry Delano Fitch, copies of the family’s birth and death records from the Fitch family Bible, the land deeds for the Fitch property in San Diego and Sotoyome Rancho, and several biographies on Henry and Josefa Fitch. The collection also includes four volumes of correspondence and accounts documents reproduced in 1937-1938 from the Bancroft Library’s Fitch family collection.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Katrina White on May 10, 2011.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Preferred Citation

    Fitch Family Papers, MS 25, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    The four volumes in boxes 2 and 3 have loose bindings and many pages are curled. Volume 1 is completely detached from binding. (May 9, 2011)

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply. All materials identified as copies from the Bancroft Library are restricted to research use only with no further reproductions permitted.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Henry Delano Fitch (1798-1849) was a sea captain and merchant who, it is believed, became the first North American to settle in San Diego. Fitch arrived as master of the brig Maria Ester in 1826. In 1827, Fitch applied for Mexican citizenship. He remained involved in coastal trading, including the hide trade, and even opened a store in San Diego.
    In 1829, Fitch was converted to Catholicism. After his baptism, he proposed marriage to Maria Antonia Natalia Elijah Josefa Carrillo, daughter of Joaquin Carrillo. Because Fitch was still considered a foreigner, and possibly because Governor Echeandia was also enamored with Carrillo, the marriage was not permitted by the Church. Fitch and Carrillo, with the help of Carrillo’s cousin Pio Pico, eloped aboard the American ship Vulture, and were married in Valparaiso, Chile. Upon returning to California in 1830, the Fitches were arrested and charged with crimes against the church and state. Because of Henry Fitch’s baptism and his request for citizenship, eventually the marriage was declared valid. By the end of the nineteenth century, the story of the romance between Henry and Josefa Fitch had become part of San Diego folklore.
    Returning to San Diego after the couple’s elopement, Fitch resumed operating his store. He also served at various times as alcalde (mayor) of San Diego. In 1832, Fitch was granted the Sotoyome Rancho near what is now Healdsburg, California. In 1845, Fitch made the first survey of the lands of San Diego. The resulting map was used in the Pueblo case (1854-1874) to determine the number of acres to be granted to the pueblo of San Diego by the U.S. government. Upon his death in 1849, Josefa Carrillo Fitch took over control of the Fitch store briefly until she moved to the Sotoyome Rancho a short time later, where she lived until her death in 1893. Henry Fitch’s widow had an incredibly difficult time maintaining possession of the Fitch family property after her husband’s death and was involved in numerous legal cases to petition recognition of her inheritance of her late husband’s property. By 1855, Josefa Carrillo Fitch was deeply in debt and faced several lawsuits over defaulted loans.
    Henry and Josefa Fitch had 11 children, including Anita and Federico “Fred” Fitch. Most Fitches still residing in the San Diego area are direct descendants of Anita Fitch Grant. Many other direct descendants of Henry and Josefa Carrillo reside in Healdsburg, California where the Sotoyome Rancho was located. Fred followed in his father’s footsteps, working as a seaman and land surveyor for the U.S. government, and participated in a surveying expedition of the Sea of Cortes in the Sonora region of Mexico in 1858.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession numbers 851108A and 610803.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Arenas, Luis
    Carrillo, Joaquin
    Clara (Schooner).
    de Echeandia, Jose Maria
    Denton, William
    Fitch family
    Fitch, Charles
    Fitch, Federico
    Fitch, Gilbert
    Fitch, Henry Delano
    Fitch, Josefa Carrillo
    Fitch, Sarah Delano
    Grant, Anita Fitch
    Maria Ester (Brig).
    Morse, E. W.
    Pico, Pio, 1801-1894
    Putnam, F. W. (Frederic Ward), 1839-1915
    Vallejo, Mariano Guadalupe
    Villavicencio, Jose Rosa
    Vulture (Brig).
    California, Gulf of (Mexico)
    Fitch map
    Fitch Rock
    Healdsburg (Calif.)
    La Paz (Mexico, Mexico : Municipio)
    Land titles
    Presidio of San Francisco (Calif.)
    Pueblo Lands
    San Diego (Calif.)
    Sonoma County (Calif.)
    Sonora (Mexico : State)
    Sotoyome Rancho