Fisk, Greenleaf (1807–1888)

By: Charlotte Laughlin

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 18, 2015

Greenleaf Fisk, Brown County pioneer, was born in Albany, New York, on May 19, 1807, to English immigrants. He served in the Texas army at the battle of San Jacinto and as a member of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas from Bastrop. One of many children, Fisk began earning his own living at the age of twelve when he worked on a dairy farm in New Jersey. Despite the need to work for a living he managed to get a good general education and, at the age of twenty, entered Lane's Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, to prepare for the Presbyterian ministry. He later attended Hanover College at Hanover, Indiana.

For some reason he gave up his plans to enter the ministry and moved to Texas in 1834. He settled at or near Mina (now Bastrop) shortly before Texas independence was declared. There he married Mary A. Manlove before serving as a volunteer Texas Ranger in the Mina Volunteers under Capt. Jesse Billingsley and participating in the battle of San Jacinto. After the war he and his wife and their first son returned to Bastrop, where he served as clerk of the district court (1837) before he was elected to the House of Representatives (1838–39). He served as chief justice of Bastrop County from 1841 to 1844. His wife bore him seven children before her death. In the early 1840s he moved to Williamson County, where he was one of the founders of Liberty Hill and Georgetown. Fisk and his brother Josiah Fisk also founded Fiskville in Travis County. Greenleaf Fisk married Mary Piper Hawkins, whose children from a previous marriage were adopted into a family that eventually totaled fifteen children.

Fisk served as a member of the Third Congress of the Republic of Texas. During the Mexican American War fought with Bell's Regiment of Mounted Volunteers, Capt. Shapley Ross' Company, and John Coffee Hays' Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, participated in the Battle of Monterrey, and filed for his pension in 1887. In 1860 Fisk moved his family to Brown County, portions of which he had surveyed in 1846. He had been granted title to 1,280 acres of land, called the Marcus Hulen survey, in Brown County on December 8, 1846, by J. Pinckney Henderson for his service to the Republic of Texas. In Brown County, between 1862 and the mid-1870s, Fisk served variously as a teacher, chief justice, county judge, justice of the peace, county surveyor, district clerk, county clerk, and county treasurer. Because of his service in these offices he was known as Judge Fisk.

His first home in Brown County was a log house on a slough east of the site of present downtown Brownwood. He is known by local historians as the father of Brownwood, where he ultimately donated one hundred acres , including land for a courthouse, civic center, and community cemetery. He later built a two-story stone home and a stone gristmill, doing the masonry work himself. The gristmill has since been converted into a private residence and is still standing in Brownwood. Fisk also taught what was perhaps the first school in Brown County, and a Brownwood school that existed as late as 1876 was named for him. When a drought left the main settlement without water and a problem with the title of an alternate townsite developed after a few years, Fisk donated sixty acres near his own home for a townsite and an additional 100 acres for county use. The deed of this transaction was burned in the courthouse in 1880, but the move was made sometime between 1867 and 1879. In a replacement deed filed in 1880 Fisk described the deed of the townsite as made by him "about ten years ago." As a teacher and father of fifteen children, Fisk wanted enough settlers to move to the new townsite to provide students for a school in Brownwood. He sold T. D. Harriss 800 acres of land adjoining the townsite at a good price, on the condition that Harriss move his family of many children to the new town. In 1877 Brownwood was incorporated.

At Fisk's death on January 26, 1888, the entire town closed in honor of its founder, whose funeral was conducted in the old First Presbyterian Church in Brownwood. He was buried in Brownwood in Greenleaf Cemetery, for which he had earlier donated the land. On June 21, 2014, representatives from the Greenleaf Cemetery, Former Texas Ranger Association, and local history organizations dedicated a Texas Historical Commission Cemetery Marker for Judge Fisk.

Thomas Robert Havins, Something about Brown: A History of Brown County, Texas (Brownwood, Texas: Banner Printing, 1958). Tevis Clyde Smith, Frontier's Generation (Brownwood, Texas, 1931; 2d ed. 1980). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). James C. White, The Promised Land: A History of Brown County (Brownwood, Texas: Brownwood Banner, 1941).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Charlotte Laughlin, “Fisk, Greenleaf,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 18, 2015