Fisher, George (1795–1873)

By: Claudia Hazlewood

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 8, 2017

George Fisher, early settler, was born in Székésféhervór, Hungary, in April 1795 and named Djordje Ribar 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. 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 half-mast as a mark of respect.

George Fisher Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. George Fisher: Secretary and Translator to the California Land Commission (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, 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, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Peoples
  • Austrians
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas
  • Republic of Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Claudia Hazlewood, “Fisher, George,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

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February 8, 2017

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