William Fischer, general merchant at Augusta, Des Moines county, Iowa, where he has been engaged in business since 1868, and where he has occupied the office of postmaster during the major portion of the time since 1878, is one of those indomitably courageous Americans who found in early poverty the stimulus to exertion and the starting point on the road to success. Of German nativity, Mr. Fischer was born March 13, 1836 at Limburg on the Lahn, in the dukedom of Nassau, now the province of Hesse-Nassau, a son of George and Anna Marie (Koch) Fischer.
Mr. Fischer remained at home with his parents and attended school until he was fourteen years of age, when he went to Cologne on the Rhine to engage in learning the drug trade. There he remained, meantime utilizing his spare time to acquire a reading and writing knowledge of the English language, until the year 1854. He then decided to emigrate to the land of more abundant opportunity on this side the Atlantic, and taking passage at Antwerp, after a voyage of six weeks' duration he landed at New York. Thence he went to Buffalo and secured work in a butcher shop, where he continued until January, 1855, the date of his coming to Iowa. For a short time after his arrival in the West he stayed with relatives in Keokuk county, Iowa, but being eager to begin his active career, he went to Burlington in the spring and there secured a position as clerk, which he continued to hold until 1868, making many friends and establishing a reputation for efficiency and ability in practical affairs. As a young man he exercised constantly the virtues of care and economy, never throwing away the fruits of his labor in useless dissipation or pleasure, and thus in a few years he found himself the master of independent resources. In 1868 he came to Augusta, and with his earnings purchased an established mercantile business, in which he has ever since been engaged with excellent success.
At Burlington, in October, 1857, Mr. Fischer wedded Miss Mary Louise Brun, a native of Alsace-Lorraine, and to them were born seven children, of three of whom they were bereaved in the course of a single week through the agency of the dread typhoid fever. One daughter and two sons grew to maturity. Louise, who married Charles Lauer, resides at Winfield, Iowa, and they have two children. Arnold and Ada Edmund, who married Miss Agnes McKibbin, had his home in Nebraska, where his death occurred in 1895, he being survived by two children. Forest and Fay Arnold, now residing in Denmark, Iowa, married Miss Margaret Gallagher, and they have three children, Mirl, Frieda, and Floyd. The mother of the family is now deceased, having died in 1896, and was buried in Aspen Grove cemetery in Burlington.
Mr. Fischer has since remarried, the date being Sept. 27, 1898, when he was united in bonds of holy matrimony to Miss Ida L. Kinzie. Mrs. Fischer was born in the village of South Augusta, Denmark township, Lee county, Iowa, in the year 1857, a daughter of Alexander and Emily (Shoester) Kinzie. She early received a good education, and for a time she was engaged in the work of the teaching profession, teaching two terms in the home school. At the expiration of that period she became a dressmaker, and this she continued until the time of her marriage. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kinzie, came to the West from Delaware county, Pennsylvania, in 1840, soon after their marriage, and immediately settled in Augusta township. Mr. Kinzie was comparatively wealthy at the time, but he invested in a flouring mill, which he located on the south side of the river; but this enterprise proved unsuccessful, and he lost a large part of the capital which his business ability had enabled him to acquire prior to that time.
At various times since 1868 Mr. Fischer has added to his property in Augusta, so that at the present time his material interests here are quite extensive. In 1877 he bought the old Moffett mill at this place, and conducted it for a period of twenty years, at the end of which time he tore down the building and disposed of the machinery. This institution played an important part in the early settlement of the West, being the first mill to be established within the borders of the present State of Iowa. A few years ago Mr. Fischer raised the old burr of the mill from the river bed, it being the first of the kind to be brought across the Mississippi River, and presented it to the trustees of Crapo park, at Burlington, where it may now be seen, a reminder of pioneer days and an evidence of commendable public spirit on the part of Mr. Fischer. This tendency on his part has been characteristic of him ever since his arrival in America. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and participated in the election in 1860, supporting the Republican ticket, headed by Abraham Lincoln; and even prior to that time he had taken an active part in politics, being a member of the Republican marching club in 1856, and taking an active share in the campaign for the election of John C. Fremont for the presidency. He has frequently served his party as delegate in county conventions, and his fellow-citizens early showed their appreciation of his services and his ability and integrity by electing him to the office of township clerk, in which he served for a number of years, or until the pressure of private business compelled him to refuse further honors. Fraternally, he is a member of Hiram Lodge No. 7, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in which he has held the office of secretary, and also been active for the advancement of the local interests of the order.
Mr. Fischer's career is one full of lessons for struggling youth, for when he came to America as a young man he was entirely without means, except enough to supply the barest necessities for a short time; but by industry, honesty, and a right use of his natural ability he has risen to a position of prominence in the community, and achieved a business success of no small proportions. He deserves the highest praise for his resolution in pursuing for long years one undeviating path of endeavor, and moreover he has won by his course the admiration and regard of a multitude of friends.