Saturday, September 12, 2015

“The Bridal – The Burial!” - Sophia Swain Fisher

Along with the Fisher family bible, and all the unexplained obituaries pasted inside the front cover, the family has a newspaper clipping from an unidentified newspaper.

On the occasion of the demolition of “the old Fisher house” at Brady and Third Streets, someone is moved to write a column titled “The Bridal – The Burial!” about one of the house's former residents, the beautiful Sophie Fisher, who apparently died just before her wedding. The column notes that Sophie Fisher “rests entombed in Monument Cemetery, Philadelphia,” and indeed, this was where many of the Fishers in our family were buried, and she was in fact interred there.

Brady and 3rd streets never meet in Philadelphia, but they do in Davenport, Iowa. And a Sam Fisher did live there in 1845, according to The History of Scott County, Iowa, 1882. It's describing a painting by John Caspar Wild:
"The third figure is Sam Fisher, as he was familiarly called by every acquaintance. He then lived the house now owned and operated by Mr. George L. Davenport, at the corner of Brady and Third streets Sam Fisher was the best fisher in the town, a good story teller, and had a most marvelous memory of past times and incidents, facts and dates, which united to some peculiar eccentricities of character exclusively and honestly his own, made him a conspicuous character.He is standing with his pants drawn up to the top of one boot, and down to the sole of the other,using a favorite gesture, and is evidently doing the talking, of course.” - The History of Scott County, Iowa (1887), page 648 
So we have an address that is in the article, and that Sam Fisher was the head of the household. The history notes that the painting “came into the possession of Judge G.C.R. Mitchell”, and was passed onto the State historical society (from which I've ordered a print - available online scans are not very good).

Here are the names of “the hearts gathered there” to remember Miss Sophie:

Judge Mitchell
James Thorington
L.A. Macklot
A.H. Miller
George L. Davenport
Col. Evans.

George L. Davenport is the son of the man for whom the city is named (George Sr. was murderd in 1845). Thorington was the mayor of Davenport. Macklot was a partner with Davenport in a mill. In the 1860 city directory, his address is the NW corner of 2nd and Brady – a block from the former Fisher residence.

With Davenport and these few names in mind, I was able to search more thoroughly for Sophia Swain Fisher, 1827-1847.

She moved to Iowa sometime after 1840 (her sister Martha was born in Philadelphia in 1840, and the family is on the census there), and made enough impact that we find her mentioned in several accounts of the early days of Davenport.

Andrew W. Griffith of Keokuk mentions her in is 1882 autobiography, according to The History of Scott County, Iowa. He describe the first and only duel to be fought in Davenport:
“The difficulty grew out of Mr. Hegner's and Mr. Ralston's being engaged to dance the same set with a young lady by the name of Sophia Fisher.  Mr. Ralston held the fort and Hegner challenged him to fight a duel.  Ralston accepted and selected pistols at twenty paces, the battle to be fought on Iowa soil on the bank of the father of waters one mile below what was then the town of Davenport, but now in the city, at sunrise the second morning following the challenge.  Mr. Ralston selected Flinch for his second and Mr. Hegner selected Sperry; Dr. Craig of Rock Island, surgeon. Jack Evans, of Davenport, and myself being anxious to see the fun, were on the ground at sunrise, found the combatants on the ground, thirsting for blood. “ You may recall “Col. Evans”; in an 1859 edition of the Davenport Gazette, the editors note that their old friend, Col. Jack Evans, had become a “government officer” in Minnesota. 
Her death is noted in passing on page 498 of the History of Scott County:
Old citizens well remember that year, for in it occurred the death of Mr. David Hoge and Miss Sophia Fisher. 
After some digging around, I found David Hoge, born in 1808, died October 8, 1847 in Davenport. He died just a few weeks before Ms. Fisher.

Her death notice was published in the Davenport Gazette on November 4, 1847:
In this place, on Thursday morning last, Oct. 28th after an illness of one
week, Miss Sophia S, daughter of Samuel H and Eliza B Fisher, aged 20 years.

She was memorialized in the Davenport Gazette on December 2, 1847:
Miss Sophia S. Fisher, who [sic] death we were called to mourn a few days since, was born in the city of Philadelphia, removed to this place in the year 1840, where she has since resided up to the time of her death, except during a few months prior to last spring, which she spent in her native city. She grew up among us from childhood, and her lovely, kind and amiable disposition endeared her to every one who knew her. By nature frank, open hearted, generous and possessed of the kindliest feelings of human nature, none knew her but to love her and it may safely be asserted that she had not an enemy in the wide world.

Suddenly cut off in the flower of youth, with the brightest prospects in life before her, how mournful her fate!

Her death has created a void no easily to be filled.

If the sympathies of the entire community and the deep and lasting regret al all who knew her can afford consolation to the relations of the deceased, they will be consoled.
Many die and are soon forgotten, but the subject of this obituary will live in the memory of her friends long after her form has moldered into dust.

Her body was received for burial by Monument Cemetery in Philadelphia on May 2, 1848. There is a notation that the body was received from New Orleans, which makes sense, as the most direct route was by steamboat down the Mississippi, then by ship back to Philadelphia.

Samuel Fisher and his family were enumerated in the 1850 census of Philadelphia.

Here are scans of the newspaper clipping:

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