Monroe D. Fulkerson Montana Pioneer

Monroe, about 1870?
Line of Descent
Guillaume VIGNE and Adrienne CUVELIER
Dirck VOLCKERTSZEN and Christine VIGNE
Volkert DIRCKS and Annetje PHILIPS
Philip VOLKERTSE and Ann VAN CLIEFT
Joseph VOLKERTS and Aeltje RAPALJE
Philip FULKERSON and Margrite ___
Caleb FULKERSON and Deborah TUNISON
Samuel FULKERSON and Jane NORMAN
Monroe FULKERSON

Seneca Lake

Monroe was born at Glenora, Yates County, New York, on 24 Aug 1844. His father, Samuel, lived on Caleb Fulkerson's original 640-acre farm along Seneca Lake. Grandfather Caleb, the old Revolutionary War veteran, lived until young Monroe's fourth year. Monroe's mother, Jane Ellen NORMAN (16 Oct 1808-29 Aug 1883), was the daughter of Solomon NORMAN (b. 8 Feb 1761, at Linthorpe, Cleveland, Yorkshire, England) and Susanna CHARLES (b. 10 Aug 1785, possibly in Delaware). Monroe had one older sister and four older brothers - Ellen (1833), William Wallace (1834), Norman (1837), Samuel (1840) and Harlan (1842) - and one younger brother, Caleb (1849).

From all accounts - or lack thereof - Monroe's family continued in the business of the Fulkerson farm, growing berries and grapes, keeping some livestock and operating one or more water mills. Samuel died on 30 Apr 1851, when Monroe was six years old. Monroe was educated in the public schools and later attended the Starkey Seminary. He must have learned quite a bit on the farm, too, because in later years he claimed he could grow anything in Montana's Bitterroot Valley that was grown in New York.


Oregon Trail

  In 1863, at the age of 18, Monroe rode west on the Oregon Trail with Medorem Crawford's Emigrant Protection Service. This was a 45-man cavalry unit, contracted by the federal government in 1862-63 to provide a military escort for wagon trains. Crawford himself was commissioned as a US Army captain in 1862, which gave him some authority over his men and their westward-bound charges while on the Trail. Their portion of the escort extended from Omaha on the Missouri River to Boise, Idaho on the far side of the Rocky Mountains (Fort Boise was built in 1863, is now the Boise VA). They apparently completed their escort without serious incident - although history tells us the last phase of the Plains Indian wars was heating up in 1863, with the Army and state militias conducting "punitive" expeditions (campaigns of genocide) against the Sioux in the Dakotas and the Cheyenne/Arapaho in Colorado.


West to the Bitterroots

   It's believed that Monroe remained in Idaho to seek his fortune - the Idaho gold rush of 1863 had drawn some 30,000 new miners and settlers into the state - and returned to New York perhaps a year later. For a while he attended Geneva (NY) Medical College, but before long he was drawn back to the West. Monroe was at Stevensville, Montana by 1870, along with his brothers Caleb and Samuel. The town is in the narrow, evergreen-filled valley of the Bitterroot River,
flanked on the west by the steep, rugged slopes of the Bitterroot Mountains. On August 22, 1870, Monroe established his homestead on a prairie between Big Creek and Sweathouse Creek, north of the current town of Victor. Caleb homesteaded an adjoining property (now the Running ET Ranch) and brother Samuel homesteaded the Lone Spring Ranch. Their brother Wallace came west later in the decade, and was listed in the 1880 census as a mail carrier in Missoula County. He was buried in the Victor Cemetery in 1891. Of all Monroe's siblings, only Harlan remained on the Fulkerson farm in New York. He and his descendants continued growing berries and grapes. The farm celebrates its bicentennial in 2005.

  In 1871 Monroe began his first orchard of fruit trees, and was also working at the store of Lumm & Mayette in Stevensville. He bought and sold various buildings in Stevensville between 1872 and 1877, and was elected town constable in 1873. Monroe married Lucinda HARRIS (1857-1904), half-breed daughter of Thomas HARRIS, one of the first pioneers of the Bitter Root Valley, on 1 July 1873. Four years later, their lives were interrupted as Chief Joseph (HEINMOT TOOYALAKET) led his band of Nez Perce across the Lolo Pass and into the valley. While the Nez Perce desired only to buy supplies and travel through peacefully, Montana called for volunteers and Monroe enlisted. He served a brief 28 days in the Army without seeing any action.


Community Leader

  Monroe became a progressive agricultural and civic leader in the valley. Views of his ranch were used on postcards advertising the valley. He raised wheat and stock, had orchards of apples, pears and plums, and grew strawberries, gooseberries and currants. Camps of Indians came down to work his harvest. He planted his first orchards in 1871, most of which were devastated in an 1877 hailstorm, but persisted in this endeavor and became a local leader in the Valley's apple-growing industry. As a charter member of the Montana Fruit Growers Society he helped organize fruit fairs in the early 1890s, which led the Bitterroot Valley to become the "apple capital" of the United States at the turn of the century, before that title moved to Washington State.

  He served as postmaster of Victor in 1882-1883, was the community undertaker (a service he volunteered for free, probably based on his medical school training) and was a member of the school board - serving as its clerk from 1886 to 1892. He was always involved in community improvements, including road improvements. He lined the roads bordering his ranch with tall shade trees, as well as the lane leading from the road to his house. One of these tree-lined lanes was called "Lovers' Lane." It was featured on postcards printed in Germany and sold at the Victor Drug Store for many years.

  Monroe sold some of his produce in the nearby mining town of Curlew. When rich ores began to be found close to his property during the silver boom of 1881, he worked three mining claims near the foot of the mountains: they were called the Alice, Gertrude and Northern Light. He purchased 150 additional acres on 10 July 1883, possibly in connection with these claims (and on the same date his father-in-law Thomas Harris purchased 160 acres). This became a continuing enterprise: he incorporated the Ellen Mining Company of Stevensville on 12 May 1891. 


Turn of the Century

  About 1900 Monroe opened a mercantile business, the Victor Cash Store. His wife Lucinda died in a buggy accident at the north end of town in 1904. Her horse was spooked at a bridge and overturned the wagon, throwing her against a rail. She was carried to her husband's store and died there 30 minutes later. A newspaper of the day estimated that her funeral procession was nearly a mile long. 

  By 1910 Monroe turned the ranch over to his son Harlan and later
Monroe FULKERSON sitting in entrance of his Victor Cash Store, ca. 1904
Grave of Monroe FULKERSON in Victor, Montana
Victor, Montana in the 1990s
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sold it. His Victor Cash Store was sold to the Missoula Mercantile Co., after their store burned down in 1914; it was operated as the Victor Commercial Co. until it burned down on 11 Sep 1917.
NOTE: Victor has experienced some resurgence in the 1990s, boasting residents such as Hoyt Axton and Hank Williams, Jr. The latter owns a black-powder gun store in downtown Victor, just a few steps away from the site of Monroe's old store, named "Deadly Nostalgia" (open by appointment only).

Monroe moved to the (then booming) town of Cle Elum in Washington State, but often traveled to California, Montana and New York for visits with his family. He died at Omak, Washington, 6 Dec 1923, 60 years after his first passage on the Oregon Trail. 

The nine children of Monroe and Lucinda Fulkerson were:


Harlan Fulkerson at the reins