Fisher, John King (1854–1884)

By: Paul Adams

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 10, 2016

King Fisher, rancher, outlaw, and lawman, was born in Collin County in 1854, the son of Joby and Lucinda (Warren) Fisher. Just before the Civil War the family moved to Florence, Williamson County. In 1869 Fisher was accused of stealing a horse after he borrowed it without telling the owner. He was arrested by a posse but reportedly escaped with the help of the horse's owner, who had decided not to press charges. Fisher made his way to Goliad, where he was arrested again, this time for housebreaking, and sent to prison. After being pardoned four months later, he moved to Dimmit County and established a ranch on Pendencia Creek. The region, known as the Nueces Strip, was a lawless area, where cattle rustling was the major industry. Fisher, relying on both patronage and intimidation, quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the Strip, and his ranch became a haven for drifters, criminals, and rustlers in the region. He was an imposing figure, once described by Texas Ranger N. A. Jennings as wearing an ornamented Mexican sombrero, a black Mexican jacket embroidered with gold, a crimson sash, and boots, with two silver-plated, ivory-handled revolvers swinging from his belt. In the section where he reigned, Fisher was feared and respected. A certain road branch bore the sign: "This is King Fisher's road. Take the other." Fisher reportedly placed the sign to distinguish between his private road and the public road, but many at the time viewed it as evidence of the extent of Fisher's power and control.

In addition to operating his ranch, Fisher was evidently engaged in cattle rustling in Texas and Mexico, and his escapades led more than once to violence. He was arrested at various times by the famous Texas Ranger captain Leander McNelly and his successor Lee Hall. Charged with murder and horse and cattle theft, he managed to avoid conviction, but his legal ordeals took their toll, and Fisher decided to live a quieter life. He married in April 1876 and later bought a ranch near Eagle Pass. In 1881 he was appointed deputy sheriff of Uvalde County. He became acting sheriff in 1883 after the sheriff was indicted. He turned out to be an efficient and popular lawman and made plans to run for the office in 1884. But on the night of March 11, 1884, in the Vaudeville Variety Theater in San Antonio, Fisher and his companion, noted gunman Ben Thompson, were involved in a shootout brought on by a quarrel between Thompson and the theater's owners. Both Fisher and Thompson were killed in the melee.

George Durham, Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly's Rangers (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962). Ovie Clark Fisher and Jeff C. Davis, King Fisher: His Life and Times (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Outlaws, Criminals, Prostitutes, Gamblers, and Rebels
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Military
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

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

Paul Adams, “Fisher, John King,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

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June 10, 2016