Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: Brookville’s Renaissance Man

Matson Insurance has partnered with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look into Jefferson County’s past. Today, Brookville’s Renaissance Man is highlighted.

(Submitted by Carole Briggs, Jefferson County Historical Society.)


“Renaissance Man” Ira C. Fuller was a farmer, timberman, investor, oil and natural gas speculator, photographer, traveler, hotel owner, mill owner, storekeeper, banker, and author. A Renaissance man is one with broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.

In fact, Fuller’s friend Alfred Truman wrote upon his death in 1913, “ …he became scholastic in bearing and a man of world-wide conception and information…Mr. Fuller’s business career was varied in the extreme, the writer failing to recall another in any sense its equal in comparison.”

Raised on a farm in Winslow Township Ira Fuller had the gumption and an eye to the future, he farmed and timbered and very quickly made substantial profits, profits that would be wisely invested. At the age of 26, he married Ann A. Fryer, the middle of the five children of Samuel G. and Mary Ann Fryer. Five years later, when Edwin Drake discovered oil in Venango County, Fuller recognized its potential and invested immediately in the black gold. He also applied his interest in both the arts and sciences and his hand at photography.

By the end of the Civil War, Fuller had amassed enough money to join other stockholders to form the First National Bank of Brookville. Philip Taylor was the president. The bank voluntarily dissolved in 1874, two years after Taylor’s death.

What would the 46-year-old Fuller do with the profits reaped from the First National Bank? W. F. Clark and his son had built and operated a private bank in the building where Ferringer’s Flowers* is today. When Clark’s son died, and that bank closed, Fuller established his own banking house there. Then, two years later, he joined others to establish the National Bank of Brookville in the “Stone Bank Building,” one of the “three banks in a row” on Main Street.

Fuller bought the American Hotel and operated it for four years. That same year, he bought the “Red Mill” from Reid Taylor, and two years later, a store in Winslow Township. Never one to rest on past laurels, his interest in things scientific led Fuller to install a new roller process in the mill.

Ira C. Fuller also was a writer! 1899 was also the year he published The Romance of Jude, one of four books he wrote. The others were The Mysteries (1900), Tutelary Gods and Ancient Spirits and Poems and Essays. (The History Center is interested in locating copies of the last two.)

As the end of the 19th century drew near, and Fuller entered his 70s, he was drawn to the Spiritualist Movement. Friend Alfred Truman wrote, “His labors on metaphysical investigation largely comprised his work in after life, serving to keep his mind active and afford him solace throughout his declining years.”
Ira C. Fuller, Jefferson County’s Renaissance Man, died in 1913 at the age of 85 with “his mental faculties unimpaired.”

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

[Photo below: At the end of his life, Jefferson County’s Renaissance Man turned to spiritualism and writing. The “Romance of Jude” is one of four books he wrote. (Courtesy JCHS)]

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