Rebecca Jane Gilleland Fisher, preservationist, was born in Philadelphia on August 31, 1831, the daughter of Mary (Barbour) and Johnson Gilleland. Around 1837 the family arrived in Texas and settled in Refugio County near the Don Carlos Ranch. In 1840 Comanches attacked the home, killed the parents, and captured Rebecca and her brother William. The children were rescued by Albert Sidney Johnston and a detachment of Texas soldiers and taken to Victoria, where they stayed with William C. Blair until they could be sent to live with Jane Trimble, an aunt in Galveston. Rebecca Gilleland attended Rutersville College from about 1845 to 1848, when she married Orceneth Fisher, a Methodist minister. The couple had six children. In 1855 the Fishers left Texas for the Pacific coast, where for nearly sixteen years Fisher served as a pastor in California and Oregon. They returned to Texas about 1871 and eventually established a home in Austin, where Fisher died in 1880.
Mrs. Fisher was a charter member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and served as its state president for eighteen years. She was also president of the Austin chapter. She delivered an oration at the unveiling of the Sam Houston monument at Huntsville and aided Clara Driscoll in saving the Alamo from destruction. For several years she gave the opening prayer when the Texas legislature convened. She was the only woman elected to the Texas Veterans Association and was its last surviving member. Her portrait was the first of a woman to be hung in the Senate chamber at the Capitol. She died in Austin on March 21, 1926. Her body lay in state in the Senate chamber, where funeral services were held. The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution in her memory and draped her portrait in mourning cloth. Honorary pallbearers included the two United States senators from Texas and four former governors. She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.
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The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Elizabeth Brooks, Prominent Women of Texas (Akron, Ohio: Werner, 1896). Rebecca J. Gilleland Fisher, "Capture and Rescue of Mrs. Rebecca J. Fisher, née Gilleland," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 3 (January 1900). Annie Doom Pickrell, Pioneer Women in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1929).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Fisher, Rebecca Jane Gilleland,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 1, 1995
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