Charles Fitch was born in 1805 in Hampton, Connecticut. After graduating from Brown University, he was ordained as a minister in the Congregational church and served in Abington Connecticut, Warren Massachusetts, and Hartford Connecticut. He was a strong opponent to slavery as revealed by a pamphlet he produced entitled, Slaveholding Weighed in the Balance of Truth, and Its Comparative Guilt Illustrated.
In 1828, at the age of 23, he was married. Little is mentioned of his family life.
In March of 1838 Fitch wrote William Miller stating that he had read Miller’s Lectures and did not doubt the correctness of his views. However, for approximately three and a half years, he held back from preaching the Millerite message.
Eventually, because he preached the doctrine of “holiness” and was exhorted by his church not to do so, Fitch felt it necessary to separate from the established church. This separation caused him to be less influenced by the fear of man regarding the Millerite understanding of the advent.
It was Josiah Litch, who had known of Fitch’s experience, that went to visit him and encourage him. Litch left him more literature to study and requested he correspond as to the result of his study. This study led to his accepting the advent doctrine. From then on he was one of the most fearless, aggressive, and successful Millerite leaders.
On December 5, 1843, Fitch lost his son. He wrote: “This day I have laid in the grave my dear Willie, a little boy that would have been seven years of age the 15th of the present month. I need not tell you that my heart aches, and I cannot tell you how much. Some ten months ago, he took an inflammatory rheumatism, which left him with an organic disease of the heart. He was comfortable through the summer, and went east with us. He kept about until the last of October. While I was absent at that time, he was prostrated. On my return the physicians said there was no hope of his recovery. Oh, how my heart was pained at the prospects of seeing his life wrung out of him with anguish, of then following him away to the cold grave. . . It has been painful, painful; but the Lord sustains us. But we have hope in his death.” –The Midnight Cry, Vol. 5, Nos. 20, 21, Dec. 21, 1843. Letter to Brother Himevangelizing. In August 1844, Samuel S. Snow reinvigorated the Millerite movement by predicting that Jesus would come on October 22, 1844. Charles Fitch continued to preach es
In early 1842, the Spirit of God had moved upon Charles Fitch to devise the prophetic chart, which was generally regarded by Adventists as a fulfillment of the command given by the prophet Habakkuk, ‘to write the vision and make it plain upon tables.’” –The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 241. Fitch, assisted by Apollos Hale, designed the widely used “1843” prophetic chart, painted on cloth, which he presented to the Boston General Conference of May 1842. After some discussion regarding the chart at the General Conference, it was voted unanimously to have three hundred similar to this reproduced, which was soon accomplished.
After the first initial disappointment that occurred when Jesus did not come by the spring of 1844, Fitch traveled east to continue and baptize, even into the colder autumn months. In early October after baptizing three groups of believers in a brisk wind and the cold waters of Lake Erie, he contracted a high fever and died on Monday October 14, 1844, just eight days before he expected Jesus to come. He was 39 years old. He died in full faith that he should awake in a few days in the likeness of his Redeemer.
Will Charles Fitch be in heaven? In her first vision Ellen G. White travelled to heaven. “We all went under the tree and sat down to look at the glory of the place, when Brethren Fitch and Stockman, who had preached the gospel of the kingdom, and whom God had laid in the grave to save them, came up to us and asked us what we had passed through while they were sleeping. We tried to call up our greatest trials, but they looked so small compared with the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that surrounded us that we could not speak them out, and we all cried out, ‘Alleluia, heaven is cheap enough!’ and we touched our glorious harps and made heaven’s arches ring.” –Early Writings, p. 17.
Why did the Lord lay Charles Fitch to death just before The Great Disappointment? As Ellen White stated, “God had laid in the grave to save them.” Would he have apostatized after 1844? Josiah Litch did and Josiah was instrumental in bringing Charles to the Adventist faith. Only God knows and when tragedies as such happen, we have to trust God that it was for the best. May God help us to be faithful until the end so we can meet Charles Fitch in heaven one day.