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Samuel Rhoads Fisher

Matagorda Cemetery Road   SH 60 & S Gulf Road          28°42'0.38"N      95°57'19.42"W
 

 

Arrived in Texas in 1830

Matagorda representative at the Convention of 1836

Signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836

Signer of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas

First Secretary of the Republic of Texas Navy October 28, 1836

Photo courtesy of the Fisher Family.

Samuel Rhoads Fisher          Samuel Rhoads Fisher Family Tree at Star of the Republic Museum

Samuel Rhoads Fisher - Handbook of Texas          Texas Independence: The Delegate Connection

Fisher-Sargent-Gottschalk-Stanley Home
 


GRAVE OF REPUBLIC OF TEXAS SECRETARY OF THE NAVY

S. RHOADS FISHER
(1794-1839)

     STATESMAN-BUSINESSMAN WHO CONTRIBUTED TALENT AND TIME TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN TEXAS INDEPENDENCE.

     A QUAKER; BORN IN PENNSYLVANIA. MOVED TO TEXAS 1830. SET UP MERCANTILE HOUSE AND SHIPPING BUSINESS IN MATAGORDA. STRUGGLED AGAINST ANTI-TEXAS POLICIES OF SANTA ANNA’S DICTATORSHIP IN MEXICO. WON ELECTION AS ONE OF MATAGORDA DELEGATES TO THE 1836 CONVENTION IN WASHINGTON-ON-THE-BRAZOS. SIGNED TEXAS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. IN FIRST REGULAR ADMINISTRATION OF REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, BECAME SECRETARY OF THE NAVY IN CABINET OF PRESIDENT SAM HOUSTON IN OCTOBER 1836.

     BY MARCH 1837 MEXICAN BLOCKADERS WERE TRYING TO REDUCE TEXAS TO STARVATION BY CAPTURING SHIPMENTS—INCLUDING THOSE OF THE U. S. A. – ON GULF OF MEXICO.

     SECRETARY FISHER WENT TO SEA WITH THE TEXAS NAVY TO ATTACK MEXICAN COAST AND DRAW BLOCKADERS AWAY FROM PORTS OF GALVESTON, MATAGORDA, AND VELASCO. TEXAS CAPTURED TERRITORY AND SHIPS OF THE ENEMY; BUT LATER ACCIDENTS AND STORMS DESTROYED THE NAVY AND PRIZES.

     IN LATE 1837 SECRETARY FISHER RESIGNED. BACK IN MATAGORDA HE DIED AS RESULT OF A SHOOTING IN 1839. HE AND HIS WIFE HAD FOUR CHILDREN. SEVERAL LEADERS IN STATE GOVERNMENT HAVE COME FROM THIS FAMILY. IN 1876 A NEW COUNTY WAS NAMED IN HONOR OF S. RHOADS FISHER. (1968)
 




Inscription typed by Faye Cunningham
 


 


Samuel Rhoads Fisher


Samuel Rhoads Fisher, born December 31, 1794, in Pennsylvania came to Matagorda County with Stephen F. Austin's third colony in 1830. He received title to two leagues of land in Matagorda County, one league in Lorenzo de Zavala's Colony in Hardin and Tyler counties, and one league in Harrisburg, Harris County. Samuel Rhoads Fisher married Ann Pleasants, born January 26, 1796, in Pennsylvania. Ann died October 21, 1862, of yellow fever.

Samuel Rhoads Fisher was a planter but he also owned several schooners for shipping various cargoes. Fisher and Bailey Hardeman were elected as delegates to the Convention from Matagorda in February 1836. He was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. In 1836, President Sam Houston appointed Fisher Secretary of the Navy and he was confirmed by the Senate. In October, 1837, however, Houston ordered him removed from office. The President's displeasure came from what Mirabeau B. Lamar later called Fisher's "Plundering, burning and destroying the property of defenseless and unoffending Mexicans; not warranted by laws of wars and nations." The Senate promptly ordered Fisher's reinstatement, although the acting secretary refused to yield the office.

Fisher was shot and killed in Matagorda, March 13, 1839. Albert G. Newton was charged with the murder but was acquitted on March 3, 1840. The district attorney in the trial was William L. Delap and the jurors were Benjamin I. White, foreman; H. T. Davis, John Delap, Charles Dale, Henry Williams, A. C. Horton, William C. McKinstry, H. L. Cook, G. M. Collinsworth, Charles Howard, A. L. Clements, John D. Newell and James Duncan. The grand jury was duly sworn, the Honorable William Jones delivered the charges to the jury, and they retired to the jury room attended by the sheriff, Isaac Van Dorn. The jury returned a verdict of "Not Found" and the defendant was discharged by the court.

Samuel and his wife, Ann, were both buried in the Matagorda Cemetery. A historical marker, which notes he was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and the first Secretary of the Texas Navy, was placed on Samuel's grave in 1964. Fisher County was created August 21, 1876, and was named in honor of S. Rhoads Fisher, "a distinguished officer of the Republic."

Samuel Rhoads and Ann Pleasants Fisher had six children:

Samuel W. Fisher (May 29, 1819 - September 15, 1874) married Ann Elizabeth Ophelia Smith August 16, 1848. Their children were Samuel Rhoads, Fred Kenner, Coleman, Walter Pemberton, Nettie P., William Compton and Henry Mansfield.

Ann Pleasants Fisher, the second child, was born May 2, 1823, in Philadelphia, and married James Wilmer Dallum, October 1, 1845, in Matagorda. After his death she married John W. Harris, on July 1, 1852.

Israel Pleasants Fisher, died May 6, 1848. He never married.

Rebecca was born July 6, 1830, in Pennsylvania, and died September 26, 1862, of yellow fever. She married Doctor J. C. Perry, on October 3, 1850. Doctor Perry was born October 26, 1818, and died October 12, 1861. Christ Church records list three children of this couple: William Bechincornt, born December 23, 1851; Ann Fisher, born February 4, 1854; and Louisa Hankocle, born June 6, 1859.

Rhoads Fisher (March 18, 1832 - 1911) was the chief clerk of the General Land Office under William C. Walsh. He married Sophia Rollins Harris (1840 - February 5, 1889). She and Rhoads are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas. Their children were Annie F., who married Thomas L. Ormand; a daughter, who married Dayton Moses of Fort Worth; a daughter, who married Andrew Moses of Washington, D. C.; and Lewis Fisher, who married May Masterson.

Elizabeth Rhoads died as an infant in 1836.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, page 66
 


Will of Samuel Rhoads Fisher

Ne Varietur

Silas Dinsmore
Judge of Probate

In the name of God. Amen.

I S. Rhoads Fisher, a Citizen of the Republic of Texas, being of sound mind and body and in good health, but mindful of the great uncertainty of life and the certainty of death do ordain this last Will and Testament.

Item = I desire that after my death my body be decently buried and all my Debts justly due by me to be paid first out of such money or funds as may be in hand at the time of my decease and of the proceeds of the sale of such property as my Executrix hereinafter named may be pleased to sell.

Item = I give and bequeath to my wife Ann Pleasants Fisher one Fifth of all property both real and personal, over and above the one Third part to which she would be entitled by due course of Law, as a portion of which fifth part I bequeath to her my place of residence in Matagorda or Block No Four, Tier number One, on the plat of said City and I desire and will that the balance of my property be apportioned and divided among my children Viz-Samuel W. Fisher, Ann Pleasants Fisher, Isreal Pleasants Fisher, Rebecca Fisher and Rhoads Fisher, in such manner and proportion as my wife may think proper.

Item = I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann Pleasants Fisher the sum of Five hundred Dollars in such property as my Executrix may think proper to pay the same. This bequest being in consideration of a Piano Forte sold by me which had been presented to her, the value of which was the above sum of Five Hundred Dollars.

Item = I do hereby declare my wish and will that my wife Ann Pleasants be and is hereby appointed the Sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament, also Guardian of my children aforementioned with full power to appoint under her or for her assistance such other person or persons as Executor or Executrix of this Instrument with full, complete and absolute control of all my children above mentioned so far as regards their proportion of property, and with power to give to my children or either of them, their portion if she may think fit or proper previous to their coming of age. Also to sell and dispose of any or every description of property she may think proper in the same manner as I myself might or could do without awaiting the tardy process of the Law or for the time when the minor children or any one of them should become of legal age, giving her full and sufficient power to do and transact all and everything relating to my property in the manner as I myself could do if personally present and in being.

I also by this act do revoke and annull all former Wills, Testaments, Codicils or Bequests which I have hitherto made bearing a previous date to this.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal in the City of Houston the ___ day of December Anno Domini Eighteen Hundred and Thirty Seven.

Witnesses.
Jas. Collinsworth
B. T. Cage
Wm. Tho. Brannum
Thomas M. Dennis
Geo. Wheelwright
Richard Cochran M. D.
Lud Colquhour?

Ne Varietur
Silas Dinsmore
Judge of Probate

George Wheelwright being sworn, says the Will annexed he recognizes to be the same Instrument shewn to him by the deceased S. Rhoads Fisher at the time it purports to have been written & which the deceased declared to him, to be his last Will & Testament - that he saw the said Fisher sign the same, who requested him & the other Witnesses to sign as Witnesses to the said Will & recognizes his signature thereto as his own proper writing, & saw the other Witnesses sign at the same time. Knows by report & information that Jas. Collinsworth & B. F. Cage are both dead & none of the other Witnesses except T. M. Dennis & himself reside in this place.

Geo. Wheelwright

Sworn & subscribed before me
this first day of April 1839 in
the town of Matagorda.

Silas Dinsmore
Judge of Probate

Thomas M. Dennis being sworn repeated the same evidence given by George Wheelwright after having heard it read with the exception that he knows of his knowledge of the witness B. F. Cage's death, having seen his corpse.

Sworn & subscribed before me the
1st day of April A. D. 1839 in
the Town of Matagorda.            Thomas M. Dennis

Silas Dinsmore
Judge of Probate

Republic of Texas                     Probate Court March  Term 1839
County of Matagorda                        April 1st 1839.

In pursuance of my Decree of this day I Silas Dinsmore Chief Justice of the County Court for the County aforesaid & Ex officio Probate Judge caused the last Will & Testament of S. Rhoads Fisher, deceased to be brought before me in open Court at about three O'clock (3 o'clock) in the afternoon of this day at the Court House in this Town.

The said Testament was presented under an envelope, with three seals & subscribed on the back thus "The enclosed is my last Will & Testament signed & sealed in the presence of the individuals whose names are hereon endorsed "S. Rhoads Fisher"  with the following names as Witnesses. "Jas. Collinsworth, B. F. Cage, Wm. Thos. Brannum, Geo. Wheelwright, Thomas M. Dennis, Richard Cochran, M.. D. & Lud Colquhour." The said Will was opened with my own hands by breaking the seals & in the envelope was found the Will which is here attached and signed by the said deceased & the Witnesses before names. After the opening said Will I proceeded to the proof of the same & for which purpose the subscribing Witnesses Geo. Wheelwright & Thomas M. Dennis were called & presented themselves in open Court, none of the others Witnesses being in the jurisdiction of this Court (& two of them being dead) I proceeded to take the testimony of the two witnesses before named & who were present after administering to them separately the oath required by Law & after being interrogated they answered & said that they recognized the instrument hereto attached, as the same which the decedent had shown to them in the presents of all the witnesses whose names are attached to it, & that they saw the decedent sign said instrument & all the other witnesses signed with them at the request of the said decedent & he declared to them that the same was his last Will and Testament & that he had called them to witness to the same, which testimony is fully set down on the Will itself. The said Witnesses called being Geo. Wheelwright & Thomas M. Dennis who appeared before me in open Court & made their statements on oath, verbally & the same was written down by the Clerk of this Court on the back of the Will in my presents & by the said witnesses signed with their own proper hand. After the said Will was proven as above named, the same was read by me in an "audible" & "distinct" voice to the witnesses & the audience present in Court, and after the same was read I signed said Will "Ne Varietur" at the top & bottom of such page & ordered by my Decree that the same  be executed, recorded & deposited according to Law & granted Letters Testamentary to Anna Pleasants Fisher, as sole Executrix named by the Will. In testimony I sign this as the Law requires, Matagorda April 1, 1839.

Silas Dinsmore
Judge of Probate

Recorded April the 18th A. D. 1839
Thomas M. Dennis
Clerk of Probate

Matagorda County, Texas Will Record, Volume A, Dec. 21, 1827 - Aug. 21, 1894, pages 12 - 15
 

 


 
H
Memoirs of
Mrs. Annie P. Harris

 
H

 


Memoirs of Mrs. Annie P. Harris

Matagorda County Genealogical Society publication, Oak Leaves, Volume 3, No. 4, August 1984
Originally contributed by: Mrs. Rafael Jossyfy of Fredericksburg, Texas, a niece to Annie P. Harris

The subject of this sketch was born in Philadelphia May 2nd, 1823. Her parents were also Philadelphians, belonging to the Society of Friends, or Quakers, as they are often called. Her father must have possessed an inclination to roam, for very soon after his marriage he made his way out to Missouri, which at that early period was not even a state, was only a territory. Not being successful in this country, he returned to Pennsylvania, and it was at that period that the subject of this sketch was born.

Mrs. Harris' maiden name was Miss Annie Pleasants Fisher. Her father was Mr. S. Rhoads Fisher, and her mother, Miss Ann Pleasants. When the little daughter, Annie, was only five years of age, the parents made another move, this time to go to Tennessee. She remembers that while in Nashville, she saw President Andrew Jackson and his wife; also General Sam Houston, at that time quite a young man.

It was some time in the year 1830 that Mr. Fisher joined Stephen F. Austin's colony to go to Texas, and as early as that period he had decided to settle in the town of Matagorda. He did not, however, move his family out to Texas until the winter of 1832. They then embarked for New Orleans on a large and handsome ship, The Archer, but as she was new and untried, she came very near being lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras. Between the dates of Mr. Fisher's departure for Matagorda and his family's embarking for the same place, they had been spending their time with Mrs. Fisher's father, Mr. Israel Pleasants in Philadelphia. Besides the parents the family that went out to Texas consisted of the little daughter, Annie, between eight and nine years of age, little Israel Pleasants, six years old, and the baby Rebecca, two years of age. The oldest child of the family, Samuel W. Fisher, was left in Philadelphia to attend school.

After arriving in New Orleans, they were obliged to re-embark for Texas. This they had to do on a very small, dirty, uncomfortable schooner.

The family was two weeks making the voyage from New Orleans to Matagorda, two weeks on that wretched little schooner. When at last, they arrived, they found a great disappointment awaiting them. Mr. Fisher had left plans and money for building a house for the reception of the family, but on their landing, so far from finding a home of their own, it was with difficulty they found a shelter of any kind. When Mr. Fisher applied to the agent whom he had entrusted with the money, to learn why the house had not been built, he answered, "I had other uses for your money, Sir. My brother was in difficulty, and I required your money to clear him."

The walk from the landing was fully two miles, over a trackless waste of wild grass, up to a house which was situated on what was called a "bluff," which was only a slight elevation above a marsh. The house was not a house of entertainment, but belonged to a kind-hearted woman, who was willing to put herself to inconvenience to accommodate strangers. It consisted of only one room, about eighteen feet square, raised on posts about four or five feet in height, and it was not even finished, for it had no floor. As a substitute for planks, clapboards had been laid from sleeper to sleeper, and over these was spread an old rag carpet. There were two rough bedsteads, not pieces of furniture, but planks nailed against the wall in opposite corners of the room. One of these corners was given up for the Fisher family, and the other to another family, fellow-passengers on the schooner.

Of course it was very crowded, but the general feeling was one of thankfulness for that much accommodation: and when later on they were asked down to supper, served under a shed attached to the house, all felt that it was a most delicious meal. It consisted of fried chicken, hot biscuits, butter and honey. They learned next morning that the family, Mr. and Mrs. McFarland and their two children, had slept on a pallet under this same shed, an example of true hospitality. On the first night of the Fisher's arrival there was quite a commotion made by Mr. Jacobs, their fellow-traveller, falling between the clapboards down to the ground. Fortunately he was not hurt as the height was only five feet.

Just here we must digress long enough to make some remarks concerning the undesirable location of Matagorda for a town. Although situated on Matagorda Bay and at the mouth of the Colorado River, neither circumstance was of any advantage. The navigation of the Bay was obstructed by Dog Island bar six or eight miles below the town, so the passengers and goods had to be sent ashore in small boats called "lighters;" and the navigation of the river was obstructed by a large raft in the river a short distance above the town. In addition to this, there was no back country, only an uncultivated prairie stretching between the town and the rich plantation land of Caney and Peach Creek. So it is apparent there was every disadvantage instead of inducement to settle there.

But to return to the Fisher family, Mr. Fisher was so anxious to have his family established in better quarters before cold weather set in, that he persuaded two young men to give up to his use a small building which they had constructed for their own accommodation. This was a mutual advantage, as it was arranged for they young men to take their meals in Mrs. Fisher's well-ordered home. This building was merely a frame structure of about fifteen by twenty feet, with a large open fireplace at one end, and in this very primitive house they lived comfortably and happily for the following three months while Mr. Fisher's own house was being constructed. This one small room served as bedroom, kitchen and dining room. ...cooked the meals at the large open fireplace, and the table was set between the fireplace and the bedstead in the corner of the room. Mrs. Fisher was such a neat housekeeper and had the meals served so invitingly that the young gentlemen guests very much enjoyed being inmates of the family.

The young men kept the only store in town and received from the upper country the bales of cotton when they were sent down for shipment. In order to protect this cotton from the weather, they had it piled in two opposite piles, and planks laid across forming a roof. This improvised shelter was the only shade on the lot, and the children of the Fisher family availed themselves of it as their play place. Annie was sent there with the younger children to keep little Rebecca out of the sun and to read aloud to little Israel. Mr. Grassmeyer, one of the gentlemen friends, used occasionally to some and sit under the shelter and listen to Annie while she read aloud to her brother. He afterwards told her mother that she was the best reader for a child of her age he had ever known. In the evening after the table was cleared, the two young gentlemen would join Mr. and Mrs. Fisher in a social game of cards until time for them to return to their quarters in the store. This association laid the foundation of a life-long friendship. During the day Mr. Fisher was, naturally, much interested in superintending the building of a part of his own house, for he had neither the lumber nor the workmen to build the whole house at one time.

On the 29th of the following May the family moved into their new home, consisting of one room and a kitchen. The living room was eighteen feet square and raised on posts six feet in height. From the time they took possession of their new home there was some improvement constantly being made on the place, as for instance, a blacksmith shop in one direction, and a log cabin storehouse in which Mr. Fisher stored the tobacco and salt which he expected to trade with the Mexicans. In this way passed the first year of their life in Texas.

During that year there had been some noticeable changes in the town. At the time of the arrival of the Fisher family, there were quite a number of dwellings and another store. In all this time, however, there had literally been no society for either Mrs. Fisher or Annie. The latter had for her playmates the children of the Carancua Indians. The portion of the tribe was peaceable, having been subjugated by the white settlers of the surrounding country shortly before the arrival of the Fisher family.

Sometime in December of the year Mr. and Mrs. Fisher became uneasy lest a lameness which developed in Annie might become something serious. Accordingly it was decided that Mr. Fisher should take his daughter over to New Orleans to consult with a physician, there being no doctor in Matagorda. Again the voyage had to be made on a miserable, dirty little schooner, and this time Annie was the only one of her sex on board. The voyage occupied two weeks, and they arrived in New Orleans somewhere about Christmas. As it was too late in the day for Mr. Fisher to hunt up a boarding house, he took his little daughter to the home of a friend. This friend was a French lady, very hospitable and pleasant, and she insisted on Annie remaining with her during her entire stay in New Orleans. As soon as practicable, Annie was submitted to the examination of a noted French physician, who happily for all concerned, decided that the lameness was nothing serious.

Annie's visit in this French family was very pleasant The young lady of the household took kindly notice of her and taught her bead work, which was then quite fashionable. For the practice of this art, her father bought her a bead loom and a quantity of many colored small beads, all of which proved later on a source of occupation and amusement.

While Annie was a guest in this family, her father was engaged in making business arrangements in the city. He had engaged their passage on a neater and much better arranged vessel, one on which the captain had his wife and two children. The schooner was ready to sail on New Year's Day, 1833, and when Annie's father called for her, she was in the midst of a New Year dining, and her kind friend, Mrs. West, thought it so hard that she should be obliged to leave under those circumstances, that she obtained a large bag and filled it with all the luxuries of the table, fruit, cake, candy, nuts, and everything of the kind. In addition to this kindness, Annie was the recipient of several beautiful gifts from different members of the family. Her father, too, had provided her with quite a library of entertaining books to read on the passage, and to crown all, on their way to the boat, he stopped in a store of fancy articles and brought out a large paste-board box, in which he said there was something for her which she was not to see until their arrival at home. This, of course, was very trying to Annie's curiosity, but to put temptation out of her way, she pushed the box far under the berth, and did not attempt to open it. On her arrival at home, she learned that her father had put her to this test in order to try her patience. On the opening of the box it was found to contain a beautiful French doll. Annie' return was an occasion of peculiar happiness to her mother, for at the time of her leaving, it had been thought possible that she might be sent on to Philadelphia, and her appearance in person was the earliest information which her mother could have received. There was no mail communication at that time.

An incident of Annie's return should not be omitted. The schooner on which they had embarked ran aground at the entrance of Matagorda Bay, but Mr. Fisher was so impatient to reach his home that he engaged a couple of sailors to row them up the Bay in small boat, but the distance being forty, they could not possibly accomplish it in one day. Therefore, they were obliged to seek some place on the peninsular where they could spend the night. Mr. Fisher had taken the precaution to put in the row-boat a mattress from one of the berths of the schooner. He also took provisions. It was difficult to find a landing, as the coast along the peninsula was very swampy, and the two sailors had to wade about for a considerable time until they could find a place dry enough in which to lay the mattress. When this was done, Mr. Fisher carried Annie in his arms, and then lay along side of her as she was very much alarmed by the yelping of the coyotes nearby. Next morning, they pursued their way and arrived at home a little before dusk. This was in January. In the following March, 1833, another little boy was added to the family, named for his father, Rhoads.

The house at that time was larger, another room having been added, and Annie was for a time elevated to the dignity of housekeeper. She was also installed as nurse for the new baby. It has already been said that Annie's companions were the Indian girls, and when they saw her engaged in her bead work, they were much fascinated, would crowd around, holding out their hands, and begging for beads, which Annie gave them liberally.

White on the subject of the Carancua Indians, it might be of interest to give some account of what they called their "fandangos." These occurred in the full of the moon. The Fisher family was occasionally invited to be present, but could never determine whether these occasions were religious worship or hilarity. The chiefs and old men of the tribe would assemble, squatted around, with their faces against the covering of the tent, and their heads bowed in solemn attitude, while they muttered in low and prayerful tones. All this seemed like worship; but on the other hand at a certain part of the ceremony the young people on the outside of the tent would join in a wild kind of dance, singing at the top of their voices; they could often be heard a mile away. One feature of the ceremony was that these chiefs and old men performed upon rude musical instruments, such as a gourd full of pebbles which was shaken in unison with the beating of their improvised drum, which consisted of a piece of hide stretched over a hoop. Another musical instrument was fashioned of a notched stick, over which the old chief rattled another stick. During one part of the services, the young women of the tribe came into the tent, and catching hold of a the strings depending from the top of the tent, gave expression to their feelings in the wildest howlings. The Carancuas were not at all a dressy tribe, the men using no adornment whatever, nor did the women after they they became mothers, but the young girls decorated themselves attractively. They wore skirts of dressed deer skin extending from the waist to the knees. The lower part of the skirt was cut into a fringe, from every piece of which was suspended some little tinkling ornament, such as a shell, a piece of glass, a bead, or a bit of tin. These gave a jingling sound with every movement. The bare necks of the Indian girls were adorned with long strings of the red bean of the lignum vitae. They would string yards upon yards of these red beams and wrap them many times around their neck. In addition to this decoration, they wore wristlets and anklets of undressed deer skin. The Indian girls were expert swimmers, and Mr. Fisher being anxious for Annie to learn to swim, entrusted her to them, but she was too timid a nature to learn.

In the year 1833, Mr. Fisher had received from the Mexican Government the position of Alcalde, corresponding with that of District Judge. In order to have a place in which to hold court, he had a small frame building erected on the adjoining lot, and it had a bedstead and mattress for the accommodation of any guest he might have. Mr. Fisher was extremely hospitable, and about this time felt called upon to entertain two strangers from New York, one of whom was a cultivated Englishman, sent out by a society to write a description of Texas. His name was Dr. Coley, and he was accompanied by a young man, John Bartlett, son of the editor of the "Albion," a prominent New York paper of that period. They were disappointed on their arrival at not being able to find transportation. They were so inexperienced in the rough travel of a new country, that Mr. Fisher persuaded his young friend, Mr. Cazneau, one of the two store-keepers already mentioned, to accompany them. During the time of waiting and preparation there grew up between Dr. Coley and Judge Fisher a warm friendship; in fact, Dr. Coley decided to bring his family to Matagorda and settle there. This, however, was destined not to be, for as Dr. Coley was traveling West, he was met by a deputation of Mexicans who begged him to come into Gonzales and treat the cholera which was raging there. This he did and finally fell a victim himself. Had it not been for the presence and friendship of Mr. Cazneau, Dr. Coley's body would not have received decent burial. In order to obtain a coffin, even of the roughest kind, Mr. Cazneau had to buy from the Mexicans the doors off the Jacal in which the Doctor had died, and to protect his body from being carried off before the coffin was made, he stood over it with a loaded pistol.

After this, Mr. Cazneau and young Bartlett returned to Matagorda, the latter leaving soon after for New York. The painful duty of breaking the news of Dr. Coley's death to his wife devolved on Judge Fisher, and this led to a correspondence and intercourse of which there will be more said hereafter.

Judge Fisher's hospitality sometimes led him to entertain rather singular characters. There came about this time to Matagorda a woman adventuress, bringing with her a colony of German immigrants. She expected to settle them on a league grant of land which she had received from the Mexican government. On reaching Matagorda she found it impossible to procure the means of going any further, and this caused dissatisfaction among the colonists, who broke their contract, and decided to settle in Matagorda. In the meanwhile the lady, who went by the name of Mrs. McManus, and who was young and handsome was insistently urged by Judge Fisher to make her home in his family, for he said, very truly, there was no decent place of accommodation, besides which, she had brought a letter of introduction to him from a gentleman in New York. She remained in the family several months, making herself so useful and agreeable that all became quite fond of her. Mrs. McManus seemed possessed of much fascination, and Mr. Cazneau became romantically in love with her.

In 1835 the troubles between Mexico and Texas were brewing, and Judge Fisher at that time had occasional interviews with gentlemen from Brazoria County, who came to Matagorda to discuss with him and others concerning the state of the country. Of these gentlemen, Annie remembered distinctly Dr. Branch T. Archer, Col. John A. Wharton, and Judge Williamson, or "Three Legged Willie" as he was called. By this time Matagorda had become a much larger town and even attempted some social entertainments. The first party Annie ever attended was when she was between twelve and thirteen years of age. She was persuaded by friends of the family, Col and Mrs. Lewis, to go under their chaperonage, as Mrs. Fisher held herself aloof from such occasions. Mrs. Fisher was so impressed with the idea of Annie's natural timidity that she charged her on leaving on no account to be persuaded to try to dance. Her friend, Col. Lewis, was, however, determined she should be initiated, and he put her through the mazes of the Virginia Reel with such success that she became perfectly fascinated with the enjoyment, and from that time she was ready for anything of the kind that presented.

Young ladies were so scarce in the town that, though only a child, Annie was in demand. The festivities of that period were, however, short lived, as there were several serious cases of sickness in the town, one of which was the illness terminating in the death of Mrs. Fisher's baby girl, of nine months. It was at her funeral that Annie was taken down with scarlet fever, and a few days afterwards her life was despaired of. Her illness was the cause of Judge Fisher's absence from the signing of the Declaration of Texas Independence, March 2nd, 1836.

Before entering upon the political state of the country at that time, we will go back to some of the earlier reminiscences, and tell of the excitement caused by the Mexican traders coming to town and camping around Judge Fisher's residence. These traders brought Cavallades of Mexican Mustangs, which were to be broken into pack horses for the tobacco and salt they were to carry away. This system of breaking these wild little animals was very exciting and cruel. The poor mustangs were lashed and spurred unmercifully until they were broken in spirit. The Mexican trader himself was frequently invited to take his place at the table for, as we have said, Judge Fisher was exceedingly hospitable, and this led to Don Flores making a present to Annie of a Mexican pony, which he said had been a pet with the children of his family. The name of the pony was Lapapeachy. In return for this gift, Judge Fisher presented Don Flores with his handsome riding horse, Santa Anna. It seems that it was customary among the Mexicans, when they made a present, to expect one in return. Don Flores' party, however, was the last of the traders, and this came to grief on their way back to Mexico, for they were waylaid, murdered and robbed by a portion of the tribe of Carancua Indians. When the news of this reached Matagorda, the citizens held a mass meeting and conveyed word to the tribe that if they did not make immediate restitution of the stolen goods, the white men would begin a war of extermination. This threat had the desired effect, and a short time thereafter the Indians presented a formidable array, riding into town on the gayly caparisoned horses of the Mexicans, made still more showy by the brilliantly colored Mexican blankets. As the Fisher house was the first they had to pass on the way to the town, Mrs. Fisher felt somewhat nervous lest their intentions might not be altogether peaceable. This portion of the tribe were comparative strangers in Matagorda, their range being the country between Matagorda Bay and Corpus Christi. They had once before caused an uncomfortable feeling by arriving wholly unlooked for at Mrs. Fisher's house. It was on a quiet Sunday that they made this first appearance, Mrs. Fisher was seated in her arm chair reading aloud to her two children, Annie and Israel, the story of Robinson Crusoe. She had just come to the part where Crusoe rescues his unfortunate prisoner about to be tortured by the Indians, when she heard strange voices, and looking up saw the room filling with Indians, strangers to her. The two children were so frightened they crouched behind their mother's chair, but she told them not so show any sign of fear, as the Indians had asked for tobacco, and that was a peaceable sign. In the meantime, while the men were rolling their cigarettes in the room above, the women were making themselves very much at home under the house by building a fire and preparing to camp. As soon as Mrs. Fisher discovered this, she was greatly excited, fearing that the house might be set on fire. She, therefore, went for Mr. Cazneau to come and explain to the Indian women the danger of their proceeding, and have them move outside of the enclosure. Judge Fisher was away at the time. This portion of the tribe were then strangers, but they soon became acquainted, and it was not long before they brought to Mrs. Fisher one of their chiefs to be doctored by her. Old Francisco was dying of consumption, and as a last resource his son and nephew brought him in a blanket and placed him in a sitting posture against one of the posts supporting the house. In that position he very soon died, though Mrs. Fisher had hastened to make him some comforting and strengthening gruel. So, soon as his family, who were seated on the ground around him, saw that the breath had left his body, they began their lamentations, which, however, were not prolonged, as the son and nephew seemed anxious to dispose of the poor old man's body very quickly. They stretched him on the ground, broke his bow and arrows, and his rough musical instrument, and wrapped him in his blanket, first binding these broken articles in a rough bundle on his chest. Having obtained a rope, they bound this around the body, and literally dragged it off for burial. All this seemed to the Fisher family very unfeeling. All the chiefs of the Carancua tribe had Mexican names, having been captured at different times by the Mexicans, and christened with names of their choosing. There was Francisco, Jose Maria, Antonio and Delgado.

After this long digression, it is time to return to the winter of 1835, which was becoming full of excitement. Preparation for war and rumors of the approach of the Mexicans engaged the time and attention of everyone. Annie saw somewhere about that time several of the men who afterward became heroes--Col. Fannin, who very soon thereafter was massacred at Goliad, and Travis and Bowie, who met their fate in the fall of the Alamo. When the news of this calamity reached Matagorda, orders were given that the women and children should immediately leave the town, as it was said there was a large Mexican army on its way to take possession. The only mode of departure was by the several little vessels that happened to be lying in the Bay at the time.

Mrs. Fisher and family were invited to take passage on the Brutus, one of the vessels belonging to the Texas Navy, but which, not being fully equipped had put into Matagorda for supplies. The Captain of the Brutus was an acquaintance of the Fisher family, and felt under obligation for hospitality extended to him. Accordingly, he invited the family on board the man of war.

Judge Fisher was not at home at the time, having gone to attend a general convention, so Mrs. Fisher had all the care and trouble of making their hurried arrangements to leave. Their departure was on March 17th, 1836, and their object was to go to New Orleans, where the Brutus was to be more thoroughly equipped for active service.

The voyage around to Galveston Bay occupied ten days or two weeks during which time there were several excitements on board in anticipation of engagements with Mexican cruisers. As soon as a vessel was sighted in the distance, preparations were begun by opening the port holes and thrusting out the cannon. The surgeon of the boat was kept busy preparing lint and bandages for probable wounds. These excitements occurred several times, but after awhile the Brutus arrived safe in Galveston Bay. At the same time the other three vessels belonging to the Texas Navy (so called), the Independence, the Invincible and the Liberty were also in the harbor. The Invincible was commanded by Commodore Hawkins, the Independence and the Liberty by two brothers of the name of Brown. These men, as well as Captain Hurd, commander of the Brutus, were all plain men, evidently accustomed only to the management of trading vessels, but Commodore Hawkins may have had a naval education. He certainly put on a great deal of style, and always appeared in naval uniform. He was a handsome man, and fully conscious of the fact. It was while all four of the vessels were lying inactive in Galveston Bay that news was received of the Battle of San Jacinto. After this event, Judge Fisher, having received some business commission to New Orleans, decided to go over with his family on the Brutus. Now occurred the discovery of a loss, which under the circumstances, was very serious. On Judge Fisher's last departure from Matagorda, he had left with his family three hundred dollars. This sum Mrs. Fisher carefully concealed in one of her trunks, and supposed, of course, that she would find it there when needed. On arriving on board the Brutus Judge Fisher asked his wife for the money, and she had the trunk brought out from the hold of the vessel, where it had been stored, but on opening it, no money could be found. Mrs. Fisher always suspected that it had been taken from the trunk the night before they left their home by the mate of the Brutus, whom she had invited to spend the night as a protector, and the unlocked trunks were in the room he occupied. He was an unprepossessing and disagreeable man and there was no one else to suspect of being the culprit. Of course, Judge and Mrs. Fisher could not give expression of their suspicious, especially as they had free passage on the Brutus. On arriving in New Orleans, Judge Fisher made arrangements with some of his friends for obtaining the money necessary for sending his family to New York. They were in New Orleans on May 2nd, 1836, Annie's birthday. She was then thirteen years of age.

Now began a new life for the Texas refugees; Mrs. Fisher and the children as Judge Fisher had returned to Texas from New Orleans. As soon as the Saratoga reached the pier, reporters came on board and the list of passengers was published in the New York daily papers. In this way, the arrival of Mrs. Fisher and family from Texas became known to certain relatives of hers in New York, several of whom came on board with hospitable invitations. She gladly accepted the hospitality of a wealthy Quaker relatives, Mrs. Frances Leggett, but she did not remain there longer than a few days. From the papers, Mrs. Fisher's son, Sam, learned of her arrival and came from Philadelphia to greet her. Besides the warm welcome she received from her cousin, Mrs. Leggett, she was most affectionately greeted by Mrs. Coley, the widow of the gentleman mentioned in the earlier part of this narrative.

There was also another old acquaintance anxious to renew former associations, Mrs. McManus, the adventuress. Altogether, there was much excitement and confusion. Mrs. Fisher was thankful when her son made arrangements to take her to her father's home in Philadelphia. At that early period, the cars between New York and Philadelphia were entirely different from those we see now. They consisted of a train of single coaches, each holding no more than six persons. While Mrs. Fisher was anxious to see her father and the rest of the family once more, she could not help feeling troubled at taking her family of four children to stay for an indefinite period of time, for her father was old and not in affluent circumstances.

While in New York, Mrs. Coley had persuaded her to send Annie to her as a pupil, for after Dr. Coley's death, she had opened a boarding and day school. Accordingly, early the following September Annie was sent on from Philadelphia to school in New York and Israel was placed at a boarding school for boys in the neighborhood of Philadelphia. Thus, Mr. Pleasants' family was relieved for a time of these two, but when the summer vacation began, the children returned to their grandfather's. In this way passed the years of '36, '37, and '38. Annie's life at boarding school was a delightful experience. She was interested in her studies, and became extremely fond of Mrs. Coley. Her life was brightened, also, by the kind relatives already mentioned, who occasionally gave her little holiday treats. With her mother's cousin, Mrs.. Newbold, she passed nearly every Saturday and Sunday, enjoying the luxury and style in which they lived.

Mr. Newbold was an aristocratic and dignified old gentleman, a typical New York banker, suffering with gout from high living. In consequence of this he was driven every morning to his bank.

There was very little young society in the Newbold home, as Mrs. Newbold had only one child, a son, a large boy at the time. One of the treats alluded to as connected with Annie's school life was a visit to her cousin, Mrs. Leggett, at Flushing, Long Island. Here she was invited to spend the Fourth of July, and it ended by her remaining for ten days, because in that home there were girls of her own age, and many circumstances to make the visit delightful.

In the meantime, however, Mrs. Fisher was becoming extremely anxious to return to Texas, and was urging her son, Sam, then a youth of eighteen years of age, to make arrangements for their departure. She decided to take Annie with her, but to leave Israel at boarding school under the general supervision of one of her brothers. It was not until the month of November that they could leave, and then it was on a small schooner crowded with other passengers.

Despite all these disadvantages, they arrived safe in Galveston Bay, being obliged to stop there before going to Matagorda. Mrs. Fisher and Annie were much surprised to see the changes which had occurred on the island during their absence. At the time they left, in May, 1836, there was not a house on the island, and when they returned in November, 1838, there was quite a flourishing little town called Galveston. The schooner was detained in the Bay considerable time discharging the portion of her cargo intended for that place. So, it was not until nearly Christmas that the Fisher family arrived at their home. Annie was at that time a well grown girl in her sixteenth year, and here we will close the reminiscences of her childhood.

At the age of twenty-two, in the year 1845, she married a young lawyer from Baltimore, Wilmur Dallam, son of a prominent Baltimore family. In August, 1847, Mrs. Dallam was left a widow, with one little baby girl born in March of that year. She remained a widow until 1852, when, on July 1st, she married Mr. John W. Harris, a Virginia gentleman, who had come to Texas to practice law, and was well known and highly respected.
 

 

Copyright 2011 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Sep. 10, 2011
Updated
Sep. 10, 2011
   

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