October Ancestry Challenge – William Thomas Fisher

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 

23 posts/23 days/23 ancestors.

Ancestor #14 – William Thomas Fisher

My 3rd great grandfather was William Thomas Fisher, son of Southy Fisher and Elizabeth Butler. He was born on June 5, 1819 in Alabama, and as far as I can tell from records, he only had three sisters: Martha, Maria, and Permilla.

fisher southyHere is his father’s will:

In the name of God, Amen. 

I Southy Fisher of the county of Lauderdale in the state of Mississippi, of lawful age, and sound and disposing mind and memory, God be praised for it, do hereby make this my last will and testament.

1st  It is my desire that when it shall please God to take, that my body be decently interred.

2nd  It is my desire that my beloved wife Elizabeth Fisher have during her life a negro girl named Harriett, and at her death this said negro girl Harriett is to belong to my belong son William T. Fisher.

3rd  It is my will and desire that my son William T. Fisher shall have all my negroes that I shall own at my death, and which I now own namely Frank, Ned, Harriett, Aggy and Anthony a boy, all slaves for life, and my stock of horses, hogs, oxen, cattle, sheep, goats all my farming utensils, my crop of cotton, corn and small grain either growing or gathered, and all other species of property remaining on the farm, and also my plantation on which I now reside, and all other lands in this and adjoining counties.

4th  It is my will and desire that my Executor whom I shall hereafter name pay my just debts out of the first money that may come into his hands and also that he pay to my daughters, Martha White, Maria Fisher and Permilla Burton the sum of five dollars each as a full and entire interest in my estate.  They having been provided for by a deed of Gift to each of them dated the seventeenth day of April 1855 and duly recorded in deed book letter G. 

5th  I do hereby nominate and appoint my friend Benjamin Y Parke my executor and desire that he may carry out the provisions of my will and to settle up my estate at as convenient and short a time as the law will admit.  In   ——whereof shall —— set my hand and seal the fourth day of June AC 1855.

Southy Fisher (seal) 

 Signed sealed published and witnessed by the said Southy Fisher as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us, who in his presence and at his request and in the presence of each other have with set and subscribed our names as witness here..—-  this fourth day of June AD 1855. 

H.D. Meador, J. Lown, C E Rushing

 (note: Benjamin Parke was the county clerk at that time)


William T. and Ann Elizabeth (Butler) FisherWilliam didn’t marry until the age of 39, and the family story is that he rode to North Carolina, where the family was originally from, and brought back Ann Eliza Butler on horseback. She was 15 years his junior, and Butler was also his mother’s maiden name, so they may have been cousins or something.

After their marriage, William went to Mobile to buy a slave to help Ann in the kitchen. While he was there, he noticed a small black boy with light patches on his skin. He asked the slave traders what they were going to do with the boy, who was about 5 years old. The traders said on their way back, they would throw him overboard to the sharks. William wouldn’t allow that to happen, so he brought the boy home and raised him. The boy’s name was Charlie “Fisher” and he stayed at William’s side even during the Civil War. Charlie drew a pension from the war until his death in 1928.

At the end of the war, William not only freed Charlie, but gave him 80 acres of family land on Fisher Road in Zero, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Charlie’s descendants still live on the land to this day.

Though William seemed to be a warm and loving family man, he didn’t take crap from anyone, which seems to be a family trait that we’ll discuss more below. William was imprisoned at Mississippi State Prison in Jackson, Mississippi about a year before the Civil War. He was imprisoned for killing a man named McGinnis in his corn crib. It was told McGinnis was stealing, but the underlying belief is that it was a card game gone bad and William caught McGinnis cheating and shot him. William had to sell off a lot of land to pay off the judge and lawyers to try and stay out of jail, but he served time anyway. When the war began, he was release to serve as a Captain.

Here’s a great story (condensed by me) about William’s family and a dispute at The Brickyard in Marion, Lauderdale County, Mississippi.


Aunt Muggie’s Dilemma  

In 1846, Marion was a hub of activity as young men signed up for the militia in hope of fighting in the Mexican War. The Brickyard at Marion was the mustering point.

The owner of the brickyard, S. S. Shumate and his wife Muggie, had a disagreement with a man named Fisher. The reason seemed to be over Shumate’s claim to ownership of the brickyard. On at least one occasion the dispute became heated to the extent that the town Marshal intervened and arrested the participants. They were each fined $1, and for a time the dispute ended.

However, sometime later the Fishers again appeared at the brickyard. This time they were armed. The Shumates and the Fishers were armed with Flintlock weapons, each a single-shot gun, which took time to load and fire.

When the Fishers made their presence known at the brickyard, one can imagine the hurried preparation of Muggie and her husband to meet the challenge. When prepared, they stepped out into the brickyard and fired.

When Muggie and Shumate stepped out to confront the Fishers, Muggie had two guns, Shumate had one. Apparently, each of the Fishers had a single gun. Muggie was the first to fire and her shot “cut down old man Fisher.” One of the Fisher boys, William, fired at Muggie and missed. Muggie discarded her empty gun, picked up her second gun and fired again, this time dropping William Fisher. Muggie’s husband, terrified by the fighting, immediately dropped his weapon and fled.

Muggie, furious with Shumate for his cowardice, picked up his unfired weapon and shot him down. This was, perhaps, not the wisest choice of targets, since at least one Fisher continued to hold a charged weapon. This remaining Fisher aimed and shot, killing Muggie before she could reload her weapons. 


William and Ann had eleven children, including my 2nd great grandmother Caledonia Fisher who married Joseph Lawson Pickett. The Pickett clan wasn’t much more peaceful than the Fisher clan. You can read about a Pickett gunfight here.

fisher william thomas headstone, callies fatherWilliam died May 13, 1882 at the age of 62. Ann died January 13, 1910 at the age of 75. They are both buried at Fisher Cemetery in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.fisher ann eliza butler fisher headstone


15 responses to “October Ancestry Challenge – William Thomas Fisher

  1. That photo of William and his wife looks so modern. It looks like one of those “old fashion” photos that you can take in tourist towns, yet they lived in the 1800’s!

    Wonderful story how he saved the young boy, Charlie. The worst and the best of human nature in one scene.

    • I thought the same thing about the photo. My cousin found the original in an old chest and only knew who it was because there was another photo hanging in the old house of the same man that everyone knew was WT. His wife’s face wasn’t clearly visible in this 150-yr-old photo, but a restorer fixed it. I’m not sure it’s exactly correct, but it’s as close as we’re gonna get. Maybe the reason it looks modern is she is almost smiling. That was never seen in photos this old, and could be the fault of the restorer.

      • Yes, the smile is what I noticed, too, and what looks like a modern haircut curled with a curling iron. LOL Of course the hair is just a coincidence. The restorer could have taken some artistic liberties (i.e., depending on the damage of the photo, “borrowed” someones mouth), but I use the term “artistic” reluctantly. 😉

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  3. Thank you for this story! I know you posted it several years ago, but I am just now starting my ancestry research and came across this. I am related to William T. Fisher via his daughter, Nancy E. Fisher Taylor. She is my great great grandmother.

    • Well, hi, cousin!! Thanks for stopping by Pam. Nancy’s sister, Caledonia, is my 2nd great grandmother. She married a Pickett. I still keep in touch a bit with the Fishers who live on WT’s property in MS. There’s a really poor picture of Nancy on Ancestry. Do you have it? If not, I can email it to you. I don’t know where it initially came from.

  4. Do you know the father of Thomas P. Purvis who married Sarah Matilda Fisher.
    He was living in Lauderdale County, Ms.
    Born 1862,died 1932. He was my great grandfather.
    Was Southy Fisher the father of Sarah Matilda? I have been to this cemetery before and have seen many Fisher and Purvis graves.

    • Well, hi cousin. I guess we’re probably cousins. 🙂

      Thomas P Purvis’s parents were Daniel J Purvis and Sylpha Ann Sellers (maybe spelled Zilpha). They were both from South Carolina. Daniel served in the Confederate Army in Alabama, and all their children were born in Alabama: Thomas P, Benjamin Franklin, Laura, John William, and Sarah. I don’t have a death record for either Daniel or Sylpha, so I’m not sure where or when they died.

      Thomas P’s brother, John William Purvis, married the other Fisher daughter, Ada Permilla Fisher. So, of the four Fisher daughters, two married Purvis’s, one married a Dean, and the last was my 2nd great who married a Pickett.

      Sarah Matilda’s father was William Thomas Fisher. Her grandfather was Southy Fisher.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m happy to help.

  5. Hey Lori,

    My name is Jay Fisher, and William T. Fisher was my great grandfather. I am trying to go back several generations to William T.’s grandparents but am having trouble validating his grandmother and grandfather based on their dates of birth in the records to which I have access. Might you have any information on Southy Fisher (William T. Fisher’s father) and his parents?

    • Hiya Cuz!!
      I have WT’s parents as Southy Fisher 1795-1858 and Elizabeth Butler 1786-1858, both buried in the same cemetery as WT (Fisher Cemetery in Zero, MS).
      Southy’s parents were Thomas Fisher 1776-1860 and Jenette Virginia “Jane” “Jinny” Rich 1789-.
      Thomas’s will below is from the Sampson Co, NC wills book – (I know the number of slaves they had is quite uncomfortable to read in this day and age, but I believe Item 2 is referring to WT. WT had three sisters, Martha Jane, Catherine Mariah, and Permilla. Catherine Mariah died in 1859 at the age of 26, so that’s why she’s not in the will.)

      State of North Carolina

      Sampson County
      I Thomas Fisher of the county and state aforesaid being of sound and improving mind do make, publish and declare this instrument of writing to be my last will and testament hereby revoking and utterly declaring all former wills by me theretofore made.
      Item 1 I devise to my Jane the following negroes during her life or widowhood Manning, Mary, Abam, Isaac, Tony and Robert. Also two beds and furniture, one horse four cows and calves, four head of dry cattle, tow sows and pigs a sufficient number of hogs to make my wife —– for a one year. Kitchen and —— furniture necessary for housekeeping and farming tools of every description for one —– crop and after the death of my wife Jane, all the above named negroes and the other property of every description with the exception of my negro man Tony I devise to my daughter Cassa Fowler wife of John Fowler.
      Item 2 I devise to my three grandchildren William T. Fisher, Marthy White and Permilla Burton children of my son Suthy Fisher the following negroes Ben, Mariah, John, Bar—–, Peggy, Betsy, Brister, Eady, and Polly to be equally divided by my friend Joseph Herrring and ———– between my said three grandchildren.
      Item 3 I devise to my daughter Ann Hall the following named negroes M——, Denny, Marthy, Jim, Chany, Owen, Silly and Eliza. My said daughter Ann Hall has received all the above named negroes except Silly and Eliza and my said daughter also has received from me in money thirty six hundred dollars.
      Item 4 I devise to my grand son Henry Howard the following negroes William, Therington, Sharlot, Lucinda and Tony after the death of wife Jane.
      Item 5 I devise to my daughter Cassa Fowler wife of John Fowler the following negroes Henry and his wife Sharlot, Guilford and Daniel.
      Item 6 I also devise to my daughter Cassa Fowler wife of John Fowler the following negroes Barhala, Charity, Rachele, Ben, Hattie, Ramer, Mariah, ——–, Brester, Spencer and all the increase of the said negroes. My reason for mentioning the above name negroes is I give to my daughter Cassa when was married the above negroe Barbaba and said daughter Cassa and her husband from the woman of the said woman Barbaba have raised in the balance of the said negoes which does not more than pay my daughter Cassa and her husband for raising said negroes.
      Item 7 I devise to my three grandchildren William Fisher, Marthy White and Permilla Burton, and Ann Hall two hundred dollars each for the purpose of assisting said grandchildren in consigning the said negroes home.
      Item 8 I devise the balance of all my property consisting of money, notes and the proceeds coming from the sale of all the property which I have mentioned be equally divided between my wife Jane, my daughter Cassa Fowler and my grandson Henry Howard.
      Item 9 I constitute and appoint my son in law John Fowler executor to my last Will and Testament.
      In witness whereof I have fix my hand and seal this the 4th day of January 1860.
      Joseph Herring witness
      Signed by Thomas Fisher

      WT’s mom:
      I have Elizabeth’s parents as Robert Asa Butler 1738-1802 and Delilah Royal Rhodes 1740-1826. The interesting thing I ran into was WT’s wife Ann Eliza Butler was the daughter of Robert Adam Butler and Nancy Royal. Robert Adam Butler was the son of the above Robert Asa Butler and Delilah Royal Rhodes. This makes WT and his wife 1st cousins as his mom and her dad were siblings. I knew that he rode to North Carolina and brought her back to Mississippi on horseback from family stories, but I couldn’t figure why he went all the way to NC and why her maiden name was the same as his mother’s maiden name. It took some digging, but that’s what I came up with. So, the good news is, you can trace WT’s maternal ancestry through his wife also. 🙂

      Back to the Fishers, WT’s dad was Southy, and grandfather was Thomas, and I think his great grandfather was also named Southy Fisher 1735-1802 from Duplin, NC, but I keep running into issues confirming which Southy is which around that time. They were in Duplin and later in Sampson, NC. I think his wife was Phoebe Pierce, if I indeed have the right Southy. I also have a record of him serving in the Revolutionary War as Captain in the Duplin County Regiment 1776-1781.

      2/27/1776 battle
      Moore’s Creek Bridge Duplin County Regiment of Militia led by Col. James Kenan, Lt. Col. Richard Clinton, Maj. Robert Dixon, Maj. James Moore, and Maj. Thomas Routledge, with ten (10) known companies, led by:
      – Capt. David Dodd
      – Capt. Southy Fisher
      – Capt. Nathan Hall
      – Capt. Francis Hill
      – Capt. Gabriel Holmes
      – Capt. Michael King
      – Capt. Abraham Moulton
      – Capt. Alexander Outlaw
      – Capt. William Taylor
      – Capt. Frederick Wells

      I have a possible great great grandfather for WT named Bailey Fisher married to a Charity (last name unknown). Southy had a brother named Bailey, and Thomas also had a brother named Bailey, so I’m feeling pretty confident that this Bailey is WT’s great great.

      If you can ever unravel all those Southys, let me know what you come up with. Hope I gave you some info to follow up on.
      Keep in touch!

      • Hey Cuz !

        It is so good to connect with you and see my tree grow! How do you fit into the Fisher family tree? I see that the branches have solid roots in Tennessee! I am still stuck down south in the swamps of Louisiana, dodging alligators and suffering incessant swarms of mosquitoes. But I do so love the hills and waterways of the more hilly states north and east of me. Oh well, I will just have to settle for occasional visits to God’s country for the time being.

        I now understand why Mariah is listed in her father’s will but not her grandfather’s. In the 1850 census she is listed as Mariah F. Fisher, but you refer to her as Catherine Mariah, to which I cannot find any reference. Might you have any more information that will clear that up for me?

        Now, to add more to my confusion, you (and most other sources I have uncovered) have Southy Fisher 1795-1858 being sired by Thomas Fisher 1776-1860 and Jenette Virginia “Jane” “Jinny” Rich 1789-?. That would put Thomas fathering a child at the age of 19 ( very understandable ) but Jane pregnant at the unlikely age of 6 ! Might there be a more realistically aged ‘mother’ out there for Southy, and for that matter, his sister Catherine?! I have come across a Martha Corkern in Ancestry.com, but I take all listings in Ancestry.com with a grain of salt until I can verify the information with multiple references. Martha Corkern has a Southy b: 1790 but also a brother John A. Fisher b:1801. I will ‘invite’ you to view my tree on Ancestry so be looking for that invitation.

        As to Thomas Fisher’s ancestors, I have much confusion in my tree! It appears to be more of a vine than a tree at this point, but I will continue to explore the sources and try to get it all straightened out. I have attached a page for John Fisher, listed as the father of Thomas, John, and Bailey among others. Could Bailey be William “Southy” Bailey Fisher? I realize I am playing Scrabble with my family tree names, but I feel that if I shuffle them around enough the right one may appear !!


        • Jay,
          Send to loricranehess@gmail.com.

          My Fisher line is from WT. He’s my third great. His daughter Caledonia Fisher, wife for Joseph Pickett, is my 2nd great. Their son Benjamin Berry Pickett, spouse of Eula Keene, is my great. They’re all from the Meridian, MS area, as am I. I moved north as a child, got myself a yankee husband, and moved back south. I couldn’t take him all the way to MS; too much of a culture shock. LOL. So, we ended up in the Nashville area about 8 yrs ago.
          I’ll look over the stuff you wrote and see if I can figure out the discrepancies, as yes, 6 is a little young. 🙂

  6. Well, Jay, we know that Thomas is WT’s grandfather because of the will, but I’ve been struggling for years over the grandmother. Besides Jinny/Jane Rich, I’ve also seen some Fisher children with Sophia Butler as their mother, but she was married to Sanders Fisher. So she can’t be ours, with Thomas’s will. I also remember a Penelope Fisher who claimed Choctaw heritage, but that would also have to be a different line than ours. I’ve had my DNA done, and no Native American blood here. I’ll keep looking and let you know if I connect any of these dots.

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