From The New Handbook of Texas. FISHER, GEORGE (1795-1873).
Fisher was originally named Đorđe Šagić/Ђорђе Шагић, and also known as Đorđe Ribar/Ђорђе Рибар, which translated into English is George Fisher.
George Fisher, early settler, was born in Székésféhervór, Hungary, in April 1795 and named Djordje Šagic by his Serbian parents. After his father died, he was sent to the Serbian Orthodox Church School at Karlovci, seat of the Serbian metropolitan in Vojvodina, to study for the priesthood.
“Organizer York Rite Masonry Mexico 1825
Secretary San Felipe Ayuntamiento 1830
Tax Collector at Galveston/Anahuac 1831-32
Matamoros Publisher 1832-1835
Secretary to José Mexia 1835
Houston Businessman & Civil Servant 1837-1850
San Francisco Civil Servant & Diplomat”
He left in 1813 to join the Slavonic Legion during the Serbian Revolution. When the legion was disbanded in 1814, he sailed for America as a redemptioner. Upon arriving, because of his lack of money, he was held by the ship’s owners to redeem his contract. He and two companions escaped in the ship’s boat and landed above Philadelphia, where they were later mistaken by suspicious onlookers for fishermen. Here Ribar assumed the English version of his name, George Fisher. Fisher settled in Mississippi before 1819, when he tentatively planned to go to Texas with the James Long expedition. In 1825 he went to Mexico, where he was active in establishing the first York Rite Masonic lodge in that country.
After failing to secure an empresario contract in 1827, he took out Mexican naturalization papers in 1829 and, as a Mexican citizen, contracted to settle five hundred families on lands formerly held by Haden Edwards. Fisher was appointed collector of customs at Galveston in 1829 but failed to receive his credentials; in 1830 he was recognized as administrator of the port of Galveston. After Manuel de Mier y Terán ordered the port suspended in July 1830, Fisher became secretary of the ayuntamiento at San Felipe but was discharged when he was suspected of acting as secret agent for Vicente Ramón Guerrero. Having been reinstated by Terán, Fisher set up the customhouse at Anahuac on Galveston Bay in November 1831. He decreed that all ships leaving Brazoria and certain other ports had to be cleared through Anahuac.
To secure these clearances some shippers had to journey 200 miles overland. Some shipmasters expressed their dissatisfaction by running past the fort on the lower Brazos. During one encounter a Mexican soldier was wounded. As the result of the Anahuac Disturbances, threats by the Texas colonists caused Fisher to return to Matamoros, where, from 1832 to 1835, he published Mercurio del Puerto de Matamoros. The paper was too liberal for the taste of Mexican officials and caused his dismissal from Mexico. In October 1835 Fisher was in New Orleans acting as commissary general and secretary for the Tampico expedition.
In 1837 he went into business as a commission agent in Houston. He served as justice of the peace in 1839, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and was a member of the Houston city council in 1840. He was also president of the German Union, a philanthropic society founded in 1840. In 1843 he was major of the Second Brigade of the Texas militia. He went to Panama in 1850 and to California in 1851. In 1856 he presented his library, papers, and correspondence to the state of Texas. He served in civic posts in San Francisco from 1860 to 1870, when he became consul to Greece. When the Harris County Historical Society was organized in 1870, Fisher sent its president, Ashbel Smith, a record of his activities in Texas. Fisher was married four times: first to Elizabeth Davis of Mississippi in 1815, with whom he had three sons and from whom he was divorced in 1839; second, to Mrs. M. C. Page in Galveston on July 20, 1840; third, to Mrs. Mary Caroline Fleming, in Galveston on April 13, 1848; and fourth, to Mrs. Caroline H. Fisher. Fisher died in San Francisco on June 11, 1873. Flags at all consulates flew at halfmast as a mark of respect.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: George Fisher Papers, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. George Fisher: Secretary and Translator to the California Land Commission (MS, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, 185-?). Bessie Lucille Letts, George Fisher (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1928). Memorials of George Fisher (Houston: Telegraph Office, 1840). Ohland Morton, Terán and Texas: A Chapter in Texas Mexican Relations (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1948). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Claudia Hazlewood
Sketch of George Fisher. From The Lamar Papers no. 1664. Sometime in the 1830’s. [Autobiographical account written in third person by Fisher]
In the Month of March 1833. Fisher left the City of Mexico, by order from the Treasury Department, which did not think proper to accept the Resignation tendered by him the previous year, through the Medium of Genl. Manuel de Mier y Terán, altho’ the said Genl. admitted it provisionally, as it has been already mentioned. This happened under the new Administration of the President, Genl. Manuel Gomes Pedrasa, being Secretary of Treasury Valentine Gomez Farias, with whom Fisher had various confidential Conferences, in relation to the historical, geographical, statistical and topographical situation of Texas, as described by him in his “Exposee” the year previous, and which duty he was required to discharge by an order from the Treasury Departrnent.
On his way to Texas, Fisher, called at Monclova, then the Seat of’ Government of the State of Coahuila & Texas, and rendered his Accounts to the Governor of Said State, for the Amt of Duties collected by him in Texas in the years 1830.31. & 32. to which according to a Section of the General Tariff of the Mexican Republic, it was entitled: viz 25 cents per each Ton of Measurement on all foreign Vessels that entered the ports of his Collectoral District. The Returns, Accounts & other Vouchers relating thereto having been accepted and Audited, and the usual Receipts having been granted to him by said Government he continuing his journey to Matamoros, where he was ordered by the Treasury Department, to join Genl. Vicente Filisola, Commanding the Army destined to garrison Texas, and from whence he was to march with the Army into Texas.
In the Commencement of the Month of May the Same Year he arrived at Matamoros, and having reported himself in due form to Genl Filisola he appointed him immediately to act as Deputy Collector of said Port, which Office he accepted and the duties of which he discharged until the Commencement of the Month of July, at which time he was appointed Commissary Genl. of War, for the Eastern internal States, composed of Tamaulipas New Leon & Coahuila & Texas, with residence in Matamoros. In this new office he remained until the end of the Month of November, when he was removed by the District Judge Luis Gonsaga Martinez who being recently appointed in Mexico to the Office of Judge of the District of Matamoros & Monterey, on his arrival at Matamoros, called at the Commissariat Department, for the payment of $500 for his last quarters Salary, as being due to him, and for $500 as an advance for the next quarters Salary, in all One Thousand Dollars without exhibiting his Credentials neither in regard to his appointment nor the dues for Salary, and the Commissary Genl. being without any orders from the Treasury Department in relation thereto, he refused the payment of the Judges demand, the Consequence of which was, after some controversy and Official Correspondence between the two mentioned functionaries, that the Judge to carry his pretentions into effect, -upon the plea, of Fisher not having entered into Bond with Sureties for the faithful performance of the Duties of his Office, as required by law, and thus not being duly qualified to act in the Said Office, without the above mentioned requisites, and without requiring him, as he ought to have done, to comply with the provision of the law, had by his “fiat” of Sic volo, sic jubeo, pro protestatem means removed him from the Office of Commissary General of War, and placing an other individual into the Same, who previously compromised himself with the Judge, to yield to his precepts in toto.
Thus vexed, and disgusted for having been on So many Occasions treated by the Mexican Government with injustice and ingratitude and without remuneration for his many important long and labourious services and tasks of difficult and many of hazardous execution in many instances effected at his own expences and Costs, and unwilling to enter Texas with an invading Army to which Country he was twice ordered by the Treasury Department, per Extra Courriers,” and “Executive, orders” directed by the War Department, to the Commandant Genl. and through the Treasury department directed to the District Judge by virtue of a “Mandamus” to carry the Same into effect, under the Administration of Vice-President Valentin Gomez Farias, exercising the Executive Power, in the absence of the President Santa Anna, being received in Matamoros while Acting as Commissary Genl., he determined to retire to private life, relinquishing all his right, and pretentions to preferment, and renouncing his intention to accept of any Office under the Mexican Government, and in the Month of December of the Same Year he established himself in Matamoros as a Public Interpreter and translator of foreign languages, for which profession he was duly qualified by the Government of the State of Tamaulipas, upon the petition of the foreign and Native Merchants, and the Consuls of foreign Nations resident there, and at the recommendation of the local Authorities to the Executive of the State, who commissioned him provisionally, until the next Legislature of the Said State, exacted a law regulating Public Interpretors and Translators of languages, by which law the appointment made by the Executive in Fisher, was recognized and confirmed, and be duly commissioned.
The appointment of Auctioneer for said Port was also granted to him, in which Capacity Connecting thereto a General Agency Commission Business, with a Book & Stationary Store, attaching to it a Job Printing Office, he was enabled not only to gain an honorable and honest decorous livelyhood, but aided by his many friends acquired by unremitting perseverance, industry and enterprising disposition he soon began to rise into notice in his Commercial Connexion with the interior of the Eastern internal States, and his means to augment in proportion to his uninterrupted labours, and prudent economy.
In his “Exposee” to the General Government of Mexico made in and existing on file in the Treasury Department, as above mentioned, he urged to the Consideration of the General Executive, with a view that he may lay it before Congress, the passage of a Law, permitting the Cultivation of Tobacco in Texas, from whence the whole – Mexican Territory might be supplied with; Also the passage of a law authorizing the President to grant permission to my individual or association, with Certain privileges & restrictions to open a Communication by water, connecting the Sabine River, by Sabine Bayou, and East Bayou with Galveston Bay, also the West Bay of Galveston by way of Oyster Creek, and East Union Bayou, with the Brasos River, at Velasco.
He urged likewise the necessity of repealing certain Sections of the Revenue Laws, as established by the Tariff of 1826. whose effects were very injurious to the rising interest of Texas. viz : the prohibition System, of not permitting the importation of foreign Grain, Provisions, Groceries, Clothing, Blankets, Lumber, Tobacco, Powder, Lead, Shott, Salt, Soap, Candles, Coffee, Sugar, Saddlery, Boots, Shoes, Hats, and Sundry other Articles, of prime necessity for the use of the Emigrants as also the reduction of the exorbitant duties on various articles of prime importance in a New Country viz: Nails, & Casting at 25 cents per pound. Furniture at 40 per cent advalorem duty. He also advocated in the Strongest terms the necessity of establishing Post offices, and Post roads throughout Texas, with a weekly mail from Monclova, via Rio Grande, Bexar, Gonsales, San Felipe, and Nacogdoches to Gains ferry, on the Sabine, and from Matamoros, via San Patricio, Refugio, Goliad, Victoria, Matagorda, Brasoria, Harrisburg, Lynchburg, Liberty, and Fort Teran, to the Sabine on the road to Opelousas.
The extending a line of Military Cantonements, in forts or Block Houses, (Presidia”) as it was during the reign of Spain, all along the “Rio Bravo del Norte”; commencing from the “Presidio del Rio Grande” and terminating at Taos, in the Territory of New Mexico with the object of checking the incursions of the Barbarian tribes of Indians and paralysing the Commission of those depredations of these Savages, which they have so frequently and Successfully effected, and whose constant continuance is the dayly scourge of the unfortunate and exposed inhabitants of those frontiers, ever since the garrisons of those Presidia have been for want of the necessary means on the part of the Government to maintain them on the permanent and imposing footing which the object of their institution requires, disbanded, was one of the points upon which lie had dwelled, with great Solicitude in his “Exposee.”
The object of the highest importance to the promotion of the interest of Texas, and thereby to the Revenue Department of Mexico, which a Measure of that Kind would have effected, would have been the increase of the Commerce of Texas, in the Augmentation of the Import and Export trade by the formation of a Company of enterprising Individuals in Texas, who would have opened a Road from Bexar to Santa Fee New Mexico, as it was premeditated by the late Genl Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Austin’s Colony, also by the late Col: James Bowie, and his father-in-law the late Martin Veramendi, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Coahuila & Texas and acting at that time as Executive of the State, by the demise of the Governor José Maria Letona: thus opening at once a wide field for Speculation to the trade of Texas, by supplying through her ports the whole of the Northern States of Mexico with foreign Goods, wares, and merchandise, and with Tobacco the growth of Texas, and receiving in return the Specie from the interior, at that time passing through Matamoros, and which by this new Channel migh[t] be directed to Texas, and there exchanging it for Cotton for Exportation which would serve as Returns for the Goods imported would have yielded both way a lucrative trade and supplied the Country with a sound currency filling the Coffers of the Texian farmers and planters and leaving its proportionate quota, for import & export duties, in favor of the General and State Governments, according to a revised and more moderate rate of duties, for Texas, as for the other parts of the Mexican Territory, taking the Californias, Chiapas, and Yucatan, as precident for the “Exparte” Legislation upon the Mexican Revenue laws and the Tariff of 1826.
By the adoption of the above Hated Measure, the immense lucrative trade, which is now and has been for years carried on between Missouri and the territory of New Mexico, and whereby neither the Mexican General Government nor that of the frontier States has been benefitted would have found its channel into and through Texas, as the case will and must be, whenever the Government of Texas shall adopt proper steps to secure the benefits arising from this dayly increasing & lucrative commerce. The above stated Measures he not only advocated, as an officer under the Mexican Government, but subsequently as a Public writer he propagated in his Journal “The Mercurio del Puerto de Matamoros,” as it will be Stated in the sequel.
He was not permitted, long to enjoy the peaceful pursuits of private life, before he was again plunged on the boisterous billows of political contentions;- His foreign and native friends in Matamoros insisted upon him, to establish a Newspaper in that City, advocating the rights of man, and endeavoring to crush the rising giant of the central Consolidated Government, “alias the Military usurpation of Power by Santa Anna,” just emmerging from the political horizon of Mexico, into its existence, and threatening destruction to the existence of the federal institutions of the Republic, and the Dissolution of the political and Social Compact of the Mexican Nation- No remedy was left to him, the entreaties of friends the, feelings of a Republican Spirit, prompted by a Soul and Sentiment of a high minded honourable freeman, and the desire of Sustaining the liberal principles, by the Stern opposition against tyranny, oppression, and military misrule, at last have prevailed & yielding to interest, and selfishness and the sacrifice of personal Comforts and the Sweets of the walks of private life, at the Altar of Liberty have been the consequences, and banishment from his adopted Country and nation the recompence.
On the 6th of November 1834, he issued the first number of his Periodical, a weekly paper, under the title of “Mercurio del Puerto de Matamoros,” (in Spanish) with the following appropriate Motto, “Concordia res parvae crescunt, Discordia Maxime dilabuntur” which in english is as near as “United we Stand Divided we fall.”– The Sentiments of this Motto were allusive to the State of Affairs, in which at that time the Mexican Republic was, and more particularly in relation she stood with Texas, where difficulties were about to Commence, between the Civil Authorities of the State of Coahuila and Texas, and the Commandant General of the Eastern Internal States, Martin Perfecto de Cos, in regard to the disarming the Militia and by this preparatory step paving the way towards the overthrowing the federal Institutions and establishing a Central form of Government in Mexico, which would invest the General Executive with Dictatorial Power and enable him to put down the liberties of the people and establish himself as an Emperior, Dictator, or Despot.
The “Mercurio” was received with universal applause, and it appeared as a “thief in the night” without a Prospectus, or any previous Notice, or advice to the public, or any Manifestation of its Political creed. The first number contains under an “Editorial” a species of Introductory Remarks in regard to the Political course it meant to pursue, from which during the whole period, of the direction, control & Editorship of Fisher never has swerved, altho’ great efforts and overtures have been made by the Commanding General of the frontier,- The Governor of the State of Tamaulipas,-and some of the Authorities of the City of Matamoros, but the faithful and bold Found it has taken from its Commencement in favor of the Rights of Man, never has abandoned, even in the darkest hours of persecutions, followed by One thousand Dollars fine, and Bannisment of the Editor from his adopted Country, thus Sustaining an indirect loss in his interest, of more than Ten thousand Dollars, caused by those unlawful, and unwarrantable proceedings had against his person and property, by virtue of the Military misrule, and the perversity of corrupt judicial functionaries, yielding unqualified obedience to tyranny, oppression, and Slavery.
The first attack made in the “Mercurio” upon the Subaltern authorities of the State of Tamaulipas, who favored the views of Santa Anna, and cooperated in the Execution of his plan to form a Central Government was, the deprecating the appointment of Francisco Lojero of Matamoros, to the office of political chief of the Department of North of the State of Tamaulipas, contained in No. 6.- The exposing the means resorted to, and the purpose, intended for, in the above Stated Appointment, to the public view, has filled the good people of that State and particularly of the Department, with indignation against the Governor and the Legislature, and recourse to arms was taken by the people of that Department of North, demanding in the Strongest terms the Deposing of the newly appointed political Chief, and insisting upon the Executive to retrace his Steps, and contain himself within his Constitutional sphere. The matter was finally, but not without blodshead, compromising by the yielding of the Governor of the State, to the just Clamours of the people, by the Dismissal of the newly nominated political Chief of the Department.