The learned professions call for individual talent and ability as no other lines of business do. An industrial or commercial enterprise already established and in successful operation may be taken up by one not hitherto connected with it, and without previous training he may carry it still further forward toward successful completion, but in the line of medicine or the law one must be specially qualified for the work, and strong mentality, comprehensive knowledge, close application and indefatigable energy must serve as a foundation upon which to rest the superstructure of professional success. It is therefore evident when one attains prominence at the bar that he possesses ability that enables him to advance, unaided by what others may have done before him. To-day Henry Fetzer, of Streator, ranks among the leading lawyers of LaSalle county, and is enjoying a large clientage. He began practice here in 1894, previous to which time he had been identified with the business interests of the community in various ways.
Mr. Fetzer came to the county in 1874 from Ohio, but was a native of Virginia, his birth having occurred in the Old Dominion, near Winchester, April 11, 1854. His parents were William and Catharine (Stickley) Fetzer, and the great-great-grandparents on both sides of the family were of German birth, the families being founded in America at about the same period in the colonial history of the country, the Fetzers becoming residents of Pennsylvania, while the Stickleys located in Frederick City, Maryland. Their descendants emigrated to Woodstock, Shenandoah county, Virginia, and thus the families became united through the marriage of William Fetzer and Catharine Stickley. The paternal grandfather of our subject was Joachim Fetzer, who was born in Virginia and resided near Woodstock, in the Shenandoah valley. William Fetzer, the father, was a farmer by occupation, and followed that pursuit throughout his entire life. He passed away in 1887, at the ripe old age of seventy-eight years.
Henry Fetzer spent the first fifteen years of his life in Virginia, and during that time enjoyed only limited school advantages. Fie worked as a farm hand in the neighborhood of his home, his wages going to his father. His ambitious spirit, however, was not content with such a life, and hearing that better wages were paid in the west he asked permission to leave home, promising to give his father just what he could make in Virginia. Consent was withheld, however, and therefore he "ran" away, going to Ohio, where he readily found employment in Belmont county. There he worked on a farm for three seasons, and in the winter attended school, which was his first experience in the educational line. In order to secure this privilege he worked nights and mornings for his board; nor was he content to end his studies there. He found a true friend in James Frazier, who, noticing his willingness to work and his close application to his studies, wisely advised him to continue his education in Franklin college, meeting his tuition with the little money he had been enabled to save from his wages. Acting upon this advice Mr. Fetzer pursued his studies until his small capital was exhausted, when he was again forced to labor for his daily bread. The taste for study has never left him, and his wide reading and close observation have made him a well informed man.
In 1874 Mr. Fetzer arrived in LaSalle county, where he taught school for some time, and then went to Grinnell, Kansas, where he served as postmaster and carried on general merchandising for a short time, but the tornado of 1879 destroyed all that he had saved, and in 1880 he again came to Illinois, where he engaged in teaching until 1883. The confinement of the school-room, however, undermined his health and he turned his attention to buying and shipping stock, which business he successfully followed until 1891. Through all these years it had been his ambition and desire to graduate at some good educational institution, and in the fall of 1892 he entered upon a law course in the Northwestern University Law School of Chicago, being graduated with the class of 1894. It had not been his intention to engage in practice, the course having been taken up more for self-improvement; but, becoming deeply interested in the science of jurisprudence, he opened an office after his return from college, and has since been an esteemed member of the LaSalle county bar. He has steadily worked his way upward, and his devotion to his clients' interests, his careful preparation of cases and his thorough knowledge of the law have gained him a large practice and won him many notable successes before the court. His political support has generally been given the Republican party, but he is not strictly partisan and has no ambition for office. He is truly a self-made man, and though opposed by a seemingly adverse fate he has steadily worked his way upward until he occupies a leading position among the citizens of his adopted county.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 18-20.