The Souvenir of Western Women/Ezra and Lucy Taft Fisher
Ezra and Lucy Taft Fisher
By SARAH FISHER HENDERSON
MY parents, Ezra Fisher (born January 6, 1800) and Lucy Taft (born March 21, 1805,) were natives of Wendell, Franklin County, Mass. They were married at Wendell, February 7, 1830.
Ezra Fisher was a descendant, in the seventh generation, of Anthony and Mary Fiske Fisher, of the parish of Syleham, County Suffolk, England. Anthony, their second son, came to New England in the ship Rose, June 26, 1637 and through this line we trace our ancestry. We have no early record of the Taft family.
My father, when eighteen years of age, accepted the tenets of the Baptist faith, and soon began fitting himself for the ministry. Lack of means and a severe illness conspired to hinder his progress, but he took the classical course at Amherst, supplementing that with theological studies at Newton.
His first two pastorates were at Cambridge and Springfield, Vt. During the pastorate at Springfield he received and baptized eighty converts.
In November, 1832, the American Baptist Home Missionary Society commissioned Rev. Ezra Fisher to take up mission work at Indianapolis, Ind. There, at Quincy, Ill.; Davenport and Muscatine, in the then Territory of Iowa, and lastly at Rock Island, Ill., he prosecuted his work of organizing and strengthening churches and building meeting houses. His services in that rapidly developing section of the Middle West covered a period of about twelve years.
Sent as missionaries to Oregon, he and Rev. Hezekiah Johnson, on May 20, 1845, began the journey across the wilderness which lay between them and the goal of their desires. For mutual safety some fifty families traveled in company. After enduring many privations, the two missionaries reached the point on the Columbia River where now stands the city of The Dalles. While camped in that vicinity my father preached to his first Oregon audience.
At the cascades of the Columbia the flatboat upon which the two families depended for their transportation, was lost in the attempt to shoot the rapids. Left without the means of continuing their journey, two men were sent to Dr. McLoughlin, asking help. He sent a batteau to the Lower Cascades, and in that all were brought to the Willamette Valley.
Deacon D. T. Lenox, who came to Oregon in 1843, had sent his son, Edward, to pilot my father to Tualatin (then called Tuality) Plains. Mr. Lenox's family of ten lived in a two-room log cabin, that had a small addition on one end. A widow occupied the small room. One of the principal rooms was partially vacated for my father's use, and December 22, 1845, we (six) went into winter quarters there. All cooking was done by the open fire. Boiled wheat was our staple article of diet.
During that winter my father taught a school. In the spring of 1846 he spent some weeks traveling in the interests of the denomination. He served a few months as pastor of the West Union Church, but soon removed to Astoria. Old residents of Astoria tell that he erected there a house built of clapboards, all of which were split from the trunk of one fir tree. At Astoria he organized and superintended a Sunday school, preaching also on Sundays.
The first day school for the children of the pioneer settlers on Clatsop Plains was taught by my eldest sister, L. J. G. Fisher, during the winter of 1846-47, and early in 1847 my father removed to Clatsop Plains. There he built a house for school and church purposes. During his stay there he maintained preaching and Sunday school services, my sister continuing to teach the day school.
In the spring of 1849 my father, feeling hampered in his work by lack of means, joined the number of goldseekers who were flocking to California.. He realized there his modest expectations, and soon returned to his family.
In the fall of 1849 he removed to Oregon City, and with my sister for his assistant for two years taught the school that was being carried on in the little Baptist meeting-house. In 1851 he was appointed exploring agent for the Home Mission Society. My mother was ill able to assume the added responsibilities imposed by her husband's frequent absences from home; but she bore this, as all other trials, with rare Christian fortitude. We hold our mother's memory sacred, not alone because she was our mother, but also on account of her gentle, self-sacrificing life. I cannot remember ever hearing her speak an unkind word. January 20, 1854, she was taken from us.
On June 27, 1854, my father married Mrs. Amelia Millard, a pioneer of 1851. She conscientiously discharged toward his children the duties of a mother, and endeared herself to all.
In 1856, my father, finding his health much affected by exposure, ceased to act as exploring agent. During his four years' service in that capacity, he penetrated almost every sparsely settled section of the Willamette and Rogue River Valleys, preaching and organizing churches and Sunday schools among the pioneer settlers.
From November, 1856, to about 1870, he served weak churches near Sodaville and Washington Butte, Linn County, and at The Dalles, Wasco County, supporting his family mostly upon the proceeds of dairy, nursery and garden, working often sixteen hours on week days and preaching and teaching in schoolhouse or courthouse on Sundays.
When about seventy years old he removed to the neighborhood of San Diego, Cal., hoping to end his days in that equable climate; but a year later was persuaded to return to The Dalles to fill the pastorate of that church, for which he had previously done so much. After returning to Wasco County he was elected superintendent of the public schools, adding this to his other responsibilities.
In the discharge of his duties as school superintendent he contracted the disease that proved fatal, November 1, 1874. Throughout his life he had conscientiously striven to perform his whole duty toward his fellow-men and his God. At his death he was honored by all who knew him.