James Edwin Fitch
J. E. Fitch (1830-1926) was an early Washington Territory pioneer and Methodist clergyman. In the late 1850s Fitch was in Wisconsin, working in cooperation with a Baptist missionary “for the purpose of showing to the world how well Christians could agree, and to show their love for the churches; and a revival ensued whereby many were saved from the sin of the world, taken into the Churches.” About two hundred converts were added to the Methodist church during the first year (1857-1858) of Fitch’s ministry in Wisconsin. In 1868 Fitch was in Iowa. His ministry within the Methodist church seems to have been successful.
In 1882 Fitch was living in North Prosser, Washington. Fitch read Food for Thinking Christians and was convinced by it. He recounted his conversion to Watch Tower doctrine in a letter to The St. Paul, Minnesota, Enterprise: “The Holy Sprit led my companion and self out of darkness into light, 36 years ago, by reading and studying that blessed little booklet, ‘Food for Thinking Christians,’ and the later restitution publications, ‘Searching the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.’ We have never doubted these precious harvest truths from that day to this.” He and his wife left the Methodist Church which he later referred to as the “barren desert of Methodism.”
We did not find a reference to Fitch in The Watch Tower, so his work within the Watch Tower movement is unclear. However, we run across him in one of the first person interviews that sometimes contribute to our research. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the elder of us interviewed surviving members of the Hazen family, long time residents of the lower Yakima River Valley. Kermit Hazen, an elder in the Pasco, Washington, congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses recalled his father’s interaction with an aged and infirm former colporteur. Though the connection is tenuous, we think this is Fitch. He lived in the right place, near Prosser, Washington. The aged colporteur’s family opposed Watch Tower teachings. Fitch’s family presents him as a Methodist. The 1900 United States Census notes Fitch as “a preacher,” hence a colporteur within Watch Tower parlance.