Saturday, March 15, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 16

Orceneth Fisher Leaves New Orleans for California March 22 1855
The career of Orceneth Fisher shows that in at least one case, Texas not only received missionaries, it also sent them to other mission fields.

Fisher was born in Vermont in 1803, but moved west when still a teenager. He joined the Missouri Conference and served a number of appointments in Illinois. In 1839 he located for health reasons and moved to Brazoria to take advantage of a warmer climate. He was soon pressed into service as a local preacher there. He returned to Illinois a widower (evidently Texas was not really all that healthy for Mrs. Fisher) but soon returned to Texas as a transfer to the Texas Conference.
Fisher found time while serving as pastor to write several books dealing with baptism to strengthen the Methodist cause of infant baptism against the Baptists. In 1848 he remarried. His new wife was the 17 year old Rebecca Gilleland, a student at Rutersville and member of a pioneer Texas family. Fisher was forty-five at the time.

In 1855 he felt called to the mission field again, this time to California and Oregon. He and Rebecca sailed from New Orleans on March 22, 1855 and arrived safely. He spent fifteen years in the West. He was a preacher, presiding elder, and editor. He also helped found Corvallis College in Oregon.

In 1870 he was elected a delegate to the MECS General Conference in Memphis. He used that event to transfer back to the Texas Conference and served a variety of local churches and districts. He died in Austin in 1880. Rebecca became quite famous in her own sphere—that of Texas history. She was one of the founders of the Daughters of the Texas Revolution and helped save the Alamo from destruction. She died in Austin on March 21, 1926. Her body lay in state in the Senate chamber. Honorary pallbearers included both U. S. senators and four former governors of Texas.


Anonymous Howard Fisher said...

Thank you for remembering Orceneth Fisher in your blog. I am descendent of Rev. Fisher and have read everything I can find in order to learn more about his life.

As you noted he came to Texas in 1839 for health reasons. I would add that he did not bring his family with him on this first trip to Texas and only stayed for a few months during the winter of 1839 to 1840. Upon returning to Illinois he published the book Sketches of Texas in 1840. This book served as a guide for those wanting to immigrate to Texas. It is a most interesting book for any Texas or Methodist history buff and there are a few reprints still floating around.

Rev. Fisher soon returned to Texas and this time brought his family. You are correct to note that they did not find Texas all that healthy. It was in the year 1847, while pastor in Houston, that he lost his wife to the yellow fever epidemic. It is believed that she was buried in a mass grave, along with other victims, on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. He also lost a son a few months later, and he himself became sick but managed to survive. He lost many members of his congregation to the disease, but carried on with his duties as pastor and often played the roll of doctor as well.

I have found differing accounts as to the route he took when traveling from Texas to San Francisco. Some sources indicate that he traveled by ship from New Orleans and across Panama. In the book A Foundation is Laid it states that he and his family traveled overland by way of El Paso and Yuma, because he could not afford the high cost of traveling by ship.

What I find most inspiring about his life was his unflinching desire to be a missionary for Christ. He faced many burdens along the way and in spite of ill health, the dangers of his extensive travels, and a nation (and church) divided by civil war, he did not wavier from his calling.

3:15 PM  
Blogger texman said...

Thank you so much for filling in more details about Rev. Fisher. Those details should help readers give a better picture of one of the real giants of 19th century Methodism. His life (and that of his family) was so full of interesting events I will probably highlight him again in some future blog. My source for the New Orleans departure was the Texas Christian Advocate.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this bio. There are writings in Oregon at Willamette University (ME) in the religious section of their library (tho Rev Orceneth Fisher was MES). One published Methodist book had a couple letters from Orceneth, one to a son, and one to another minister. One of them explained why MES pulled out of ME Conference ca 1843 when ME chose to stand up against slavery.
Corvallis College was purchased by state of Oregon and is Oregon State University. Also at Willamette University are the ME archives and there is a small booklet with indepth description by one of the ministers who traveled with Orceneth by mule, etc, over Mount Shasta, etc to get from Stockton, California to Corvallis, Oregon. My gr grandfather, Rev James Kelsay, MES, was one of Rev Fisher's ministers in 1859, first in Corvallis, then moved to Yamhill County when Rev Fisher had returned from his year of organizing the many MES churches in Oregon. -Pam Hillman, Seattle, WA

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Steve Bonnell said...

Concerning Orceneth Fisher's book
"Sketches of Texas in 1840",
do you know any more exact dates of when he was writing it and when it was ready for publication??
What months of 1839, 40, or 41 ??

Steve Bonnell

10:25 AM  
Blogger jerah said...

I am a great, great, great grand daughter of Orceneth Fisher. I am looking for a copy of his biography, "A Foundation Is Laid" Do you have any resources for me?


12:24 PM  
Blogger jerah said...

Here is my email :

12:28 PM  

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