Rebecca J. Fisher Papers
An Inventory to the Collection
Born August 31, 1831 in Philadelphia, Rebecca came to Texas along with her pioneer parents, Johnstone and Mary Barbour Gilleland, and a younger brother, William McCalla in 1836. The family eventually settled in Refugio County. In 1840 Rebecca was orphaned when Comanche Indians killed her parents. Rebecca and her brother William were taken prisoner and later left for dead. The children were rescued by Albert Sidney Johnston and a detachment of Texas soldiers and taken to Victoria, where they stayed with William C. Blair until they could be sent to live with Jane Trimble, an aunt in Galveston.
Rebecca attended school in Galveston and finished at Rutersville, the only girl’s college at that time. She married Rev. Orceneth Fisher, a prominent Methodist minister who was much older than herself. The couple had six children. A missionary, Rev. Fisher took his wife with him on a voyage across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to reach California. For nearly sixteen years Rev. Fisher served as a pastor in California and Oregon. .
The Fishers returned to Texas about 1871 where Rev. Fisher edited the “Christian Advocate,” acted as pastor of the Shearn Methodist Church at Houston, and was chaplain of the last two Senates of the Republic of Texas. They established a home in Austin where Rev. Fisher died in 1880.
Rebecca Fisher is known as “The Mother of Texas.” She was a charter member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and served as its state president for eighteen years. She was also president of the Austin chapter. She delivered an oration at the unveiling of the Sam Houston monument at Huntsville and aided Clara Driscoll in saving the Alamo from destruction. For several years she gave the opening prayer when the Texas legislature convened. She was the only woman elected to the Texas Veterans Association and was its last surviving member. Her portrait was the first of a woman to be hung in the Senate chamber at the Capitol. She died in Austin on March 21, 1926. Her body lay in state in the Senate chamber, where funeral services were held. The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution in her memory and draped her portrait in mourning cloth. Honorary pallbearers included the two United States senators from Texas and four former governors. She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.
SOURCE: Adapted from the Handbook of Texas Online
ACCESSED: 2011 December 6
The papers (1842-1941, 96 items) consist mostly of correspondence (1847-1923, 27 items) and general materials (1891-1913, 39 items) such as calling cards (undated, 28 items) and invitations (1913-1941, 5 items). Items of interest include a calling card signed by Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America, and letters from Elisabet Ney, a prominent artist.
Also included in the papers are a few creative works (1928, undated, 3 items) by Mrs. Rebecca Fisher and a notebook of poetry from Lillie Terrel Shaver (1902). Other materials include financial records (1859-1888, 4 items) and printed material (1903-1923, 5 items).
Correspondence and ephemra belonging to Mrs. Fisher's daughter, Rebecca J. Blandford (1860-1936, 12 items) and Mrs. Fisher's granddaughter, Fannie Little (1892-1908, 4 items) are also included in the collection.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
On two different occasions during the spring of 1962, Mrs. Harry M. Little of Houston gave letters and other materials to the Library as a gift from the following great grandchildren of Mrs. Rebecca Jane (Gilleland) Fisher: Dr. Harry M. Little of Houston, Mrs. Reba Goodman of New York City, and Mrs. Hugh McMath and Dr. Benjamin F. Wright of Austin.
Rebecca J. Fisher Papers (AR.A.002). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1962/015
Donation Date: 1962
Final Processing and Finding Aid by Alisha Little on April 10, 2003.
Detailed Description of the Collection