Select Fisher Miscellany



Here are some Fisher stories and accounts over the years:

The Fishers of Cossington in Leicestershire


This family is of considerable antiquity and was formerly seated at Burton-on-the-Wolds in Leicestershire.  The earliest account - derived from old documents - was that of Robert Fisher, a yeoman farmer who died in 1342.  His descendants continued to live there until 1635 when John Fisher married and settled in Cossington. 

Cossington church has the grant of arms for the Fisher family and memorial tablets to many of the Fishers. John Fisher of this family was a baker and alderman in Leicester in the 1760's.  More recently, the Fishers were clergymen.  Henry Fisher served the parish for forty years in the late 19th century.   The youngest of his ten children, Geoffrey Fisher, became the 99th Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945. 


William Fisher of Barrow

The most important man in Barrow village in the first half of the 19th century was William Fisher.  He was born in Barrow in 1775 and died there in 1861.  He was a Low Furness yeoman farmer, i.e. a wealthy worker of the land.

From 1811 to 1859 he kept a diary of local events: births, marriages and deaths - the "hatchings, matchings and dispatches" column of today's Evening Mail.  He also recorded seed and harvest times, catastrophes and commonplace events. 

The diary is important because it gives us interesting glimpses of how the villagers of this small farming community used to live during a vibrant period of the area's history.  During the 48 years covered by the diary the village of Barrow grew into the industrial town of Barrow, which was founded on the wealth from the red haematite iron ore of Furness and the slate of Kirkby.


Fishers and Fischers to America


Numbers
Per cent
Fishers from England
  1,367
   14%
Fishers from Scotland and Ireland
     557
     6%
Fishers from German lands
     645
     7%
Fischers from German lands
  6,998
   70%
Fischers from Russia
     298
     3%
Total
  9,865
  100%

More Fischers than Fishers came to America.  But once in America most Fishers anglicized their names to Fisher.  The 1920 US census showed Fishers outnumbering Fischers by almost five to one.



An Alternative Origin for the Fischer Name

Fischer is a Jewish as well as a German surname and generally considered to be of Ashkenazic origin.  Martin Fischer in his website has suggested an alternative Sephardic origin.

"Here is my speculative scenario for Sephardic origins of my Ashkenazic Fischer family.  The Hebrew name Chaim is changed to Vives to adjust to secular life in Catalanian-speaking Spain until the expulsion in 1492.  The family then flees to Italy where Vives is transformed to Feyvush, for which an alternative non-Jewish form is Phoebus.

Northward immigration follows into German or Polish-speaking lands and a patronymic (son of) name form is adopted, such as Faiveshevitz or Fajbiszewicz.  Finally, with increasing secularization or assimilation, possibly including mid 19th century immigration to America, the name is shortened to Fischer or Fisher.

This scenario of a name progressing from the Hebrew Chaim to the German Fischer is of particular interest to me because my great great grandfather was identified as Chaim ha-Kahane on his son's gravestone.  Chaim's grandson, Henry Fischer, who was my paternal grandfather, was probably named for Chaim."



The Fishers at the Pennsylvania Frontier


Abel Fisher came to America from Ireland with his wife Rachel in the 1750's and they settled in New Jersey.  While there, he owned a small boat in which he carried oysters to Philadelphia and brought back domestic goods which he exchanged for oysters.

In 1773 he decided to emigrate to the then West.  Procuring a wagon and a team of miserable horses, he started out for the redstone country, near the line between Westmoreland and Fayette counties in Pennsylvania.  After a terrible journey over bad roads and mountains, they reached late in the fall a point one mile west of Fort Ligonier, now Ligonier borough.  Here their team gave out and refused to go any further.

They remained through the winter and finally concluded to make the neighborhood their permanent home. Subsequently Abel Fisher purchased a tract of land containing 300 acres two miles west of Ligonier on the Two Mile Run.  This land remained with the family for more than a hundred years.

Just as they commenced to make an improvement on their land, the Revolutionary War came on.  As they were on the frontier and exposed to Indian raids, the family removed to York, Pennsylvania where the women remained until the end of the war.  Mr. Fisher and the two oldest boys returned to Ligonier and lived amidst constant alarms and dangers, the Indains killing some of the settlers every year.  Sometime during the war, Mr. Fisher died in the fort, it was said of pleurisy.


Sebastian Fisher's Journey from the Palatine to Pennsylvania

Conditions in the Rhineland had grown harsh by 1709.   Since 1702 the country had been in war and there seemed little hope for the future.  Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution.  The winter of 1708-1709 had been particularly long and cold.

To go to America became the dream for many, even though it meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an unknown land away from their past and family.  However, by April 1709, the Palatines were boarding their small boats in masses and heading down the Rhine for Rotterdam.  The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold, bitter weather.  By October, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine river journey.  From there streams of Palatines departed for America, most heading for Pennsylvania.

Sebastian Fisher had embarked for England from Rotterdam a year earlier with his wife Susanna and their two small children.  His condition was somewhat different.  He was a refugee, who according to family lore had been forced to leave his home and estate because of trumped-up charges of poaching.

The Fishers did reach New York in June, 1709, although one of their children had died on the crossing.  They found themselves encamped with other German immigrants in small villages along the Hudson river.  However, there was often trouble with the English colonist settlers who lived nearby.

Finally, in the spring of 1723, fifteen families, including Sebastian Fisher, decided to go to Pennsylvania, hoping for better treatment than they had received in New York.  They traveled across the Schoharie valley to the Susquehanna river.  There they built boats and rafts and with their families proceeded down the Susquehanna to the mouth of Swatara creek. a distance of about 150 miles.  Ascending the Swatara they crossed over the watershed into Tulpehocken valley where they settled.

 

Feltie Fisher, The Inn-Keeper at Goderich, Ontario

Feltie Fisher was one of the early settlers of Goderich, Ontario and kept an inn there in the 1830's and 1840's.  This is one account of him that has been handed down:

"Feltie was a character.  His English wife was as clean and tidy as the Dutchman was careless.  She tried to give her guests all the rude comforts possible and went to the length of providing wash basins and ewers.  Feltie pitched them out of the window as innovations unbecoming hardy times, pioneers and wilderness.

In the breadkneck road which was cut down the harbor hill, there was a spring which had worn for itself a basin just below its vent.  By this spring was a trough.

'You vant to vash?' asked Feltie to a party of travellers, English gentlemen who had left York on a fishing tour bound up the lakes.  'You vant to vash?  Vell, I show you goot pure vater, straight from heaven.  The longer it runs the purer it is and the longer you vash the purer you gets.'

He bestowed a towel upon them and left them to wash in public as best they might."



Fishers from Wales on the Dutchess of Northumberland to Australia


In May 1839 Thomas Fisher saw an Emigration Officer and signed the papers that would take he and his family to a new life in Australia.  Just what were the motivating factors are not really clear.  Why would a forty two year old man from Swansea decide to uproot his whole family (including his son John and wife Ann and three daughters) and take them to an unknown colony on the other side of the world?  He may not have been aware of the severe hardships that the journey would entail.

To board their ship in London, the Fishers would initially have had to undertake a difficult trip from their home in Swansea, many long uncomfortable days travelling across rough dirt and cobblestone roads.

The family were travelling on assisted passages.and were housed in the steering section of the ship.  Here, in the midships, the conditions were cramped with four passengers often having an area of little more than six feet square to share.  The bunk in which they lived was also the storage place for their personal belongings.   These cramped and unhealthy conditions may have led to John and Ann Fisher's daughter Anna contracting diarrhoea and dying at the tender age of one year.  This sad event was somewhat lessened by the birth of their first son, Thomas, six weeks later.

The Dutchess of Northumberland had left London on August 6, 1839 and arrived in South Australia 135 days later on November 19.  Conditions at the landing area there were still primitive.  The passengers were required to make the six mile journey by themselves to the town of Adelaide.  They could travel by horse and dray.  However, because of a lack of money, it is more likely that they would have had to gather their lighter possessions and walk the distance, with the heavier items being carried on a wagon.




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