John King Fisher was born in what is now Collin County in 1854 to Jobe Fisher and and the former Lucinda Warren who died when King was two years old. Jobe remarried Minerva Coffee in 1855 and she helped raise King and his brother and the three children born to her and Jobe. Minerva died in 1868 and Jobe followed her in death two years later in 1870, both in the Goliad, Texas area. In the 1870 census, King was 17 years old and was listed as living with a Anna Damron Fisher, his grandmother who was 70 years old, along with several of his siblings.
When King was still a teenager, he was accused of stealing a horse. Fisher is believed to have eventually served some time in jail for this event but was later pardoned. He is then thought to have engaged in ranching for a while. Fisher was also known for being quick with a gun and there are various accounts of his ability in gunfights. When King was in his early twenties, his name began to be mentioned in Texas newspapers as an outlaw. One such report in the Dallas Daily Herald issue of March 12, 1876 related “On the night of the 7th, one King Fisher, a noted desperado around Fort Duncan, with a party of men, went into the town of Fort Duncan, and fired indiscriminately into the dwellings of the citizens. The fire was returned and one of the outlaws killed. Colonel Shafter, of the United States army, at the request of the citizens, marched into the town with twenty-five men, and the desperadoes left.”
A few months later, this paragraph was posted in the Austin American-Statesman on June 7, 1876, “King Fisher’s Crowd Captured – The Adjutant General has received information that Capt. McNelly last Sunday captured King Fisher and ten of his men and turned them over to the sheriff of Maverick county. The men are said to be noted desperadoes and outlaws.” Their specific crimes were not mentioned. One week later the same newspaper reported that the men had been released on bond at Eagle Pass.
More information was provided by the Austin American-Statesman on June 20, 1876. The article said that two brothers named Smith were captured in Atascosa county and charged with having operated along with Fisher in association with the [John Wesley] Hardin gang. Two days later, the Galveston Daily News reported further developments on the charges, stating that King Fisher’s men had “enclosed pastures of two or three thousand acres; that they robbed citizens, shot into dwelling houses, and killed whoever interfered. Fisher himself has killed nine men within less than a year.” The article continued to say that at the time of their arrest, the gang was in possession of seven to eight hundred head of stolen cattle and listed several more complaints against them including raids with Mexican bandits, horse theft and other crimes.
There are accounts of numerous other trials, none of which ever produced a conviction. At some point soon thereafter however, King Fisher is known to have abandoned his former criminal ways and become a normal citizen, by all appearances. He had married and began to operate a ranch near Uvalde. Fisher was hired as a deputy sheriff in Uvalde County and in 1884 had also decided to run for the office of sheriff. He had a reputation of being an effective lawman though as things developed, he did not serve in that capacity for very long.
On a business trip to Austin in 1884, Fisher and a former associate named Ben Thompson had taken a train for a side trip to San Antonio and were out for the evening. The San Antonio Light reported on March 12, 1884 that the pair were at the Vaudeville Theater to see a scheduled review. They had a drink at the bar and took their seats for the performance. While in the theater, they engaged in conversation with two proprietors and security guards of the establishment. One of the other individuals, a man named Foster, had a grudge against Thompson. At some point, the conversation got heated with Thompson allegedly calling one of the other individuals (Foster) by derogatory names as they began to walk down the stairs. A gunfight ensued resulting in both Thompson and Fisher receiving mortal wounds and at least two of the other individuals receiving light to serious injuries. Fisher and Thompson both died at the scene. There were cries for the arrest of some of the survivors, but no arrests were ever made.
Fisher had married the former Sarah Elizabeth Vivian in 1876 and the couple had several daughters. When he died, King was not quite thirty years old. Sarah Elizabeth would survive him by more than sixty years. After King’s death, his remains were first interred on the ranch before they were removed to Pioneer Park in Uvalde.
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