Guide to the Fisk Family papers
1858-1901

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Fisk Family
Title: Fisk Family Papers>
Dates: 1858-1901 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 5.4 linear feet of shelf space
Collection Number: MC 31
Summary: The Fisk Family gained prominance in Montana as emigrant guides and prominant newspapermen. Collection consists of correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs. Topics presented include the Civil War, the Fisk expeditions of the 1860s, newspaper publishing in Helena, Montana, local politics, and pioneer life.
Repository: Montana Historical Society Research Center
Archives

225 N. Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT 59620-1201
(406) 444-2681
mhslibrary@mt.gov

Languages: English 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical Note

These papers center on four of the six sons of James B. and Jerusha T. Fisk, namely, Andrew Jackson, James Liberty, Robert Emmett, and Van Hayden Fisk, and on Robert's wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Chester Fisk. The brothers' involvement in Montana politics and their accomplishments in private enterprise combine with their work as emigrant guides to make the Fisks one of Montana's more historically notable families. Through her extensive letters to her family in the East, Lizzie Fisk documented the activities of her family and the milieu in which they lived.

Born ca. 1835, the eldest of the Fisk brothers, James Liberty Fisk, is noted primarily for organizing and leading emigrant expeditions from Minnesota to Montana, 1862-1866, using the "Northern Route." He was accompanied on one of these expeditions by his wife, Lydia (Burson) Fisk, and his daughter Dell. James was editor of the Helena Herald for a period in 1867 and was also active in the Montana militia. Withdrawing from the newspaper, he later promoted various projects in Montana, Dakota, Minnesota, and Washington. He died at the Minnesota Soldiers Home in Minneapolis in 1902.

Robert E. Fisk was born in Pierpont, Ohio, in 1837. He spent his early life as a newspaperman in Indiana and New York before becoming an officer in several New York volunteer regiments, beginning in 1861. During the Civil War, he corresponded with Miss Elizabeth Chester of Vernon, Connecticut, and she later became his wife. He served as second-in-command under James during the 1866 Fisk Expedition to Montana and arrived in Helena in September of that year. He was an owner and editor of the Helena Herald for 36 years and actively promoted the Republican cause in Montana. He died in Berkeley, California, in 1908.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Chester Fisk was born February 18, 1846, in East Haddam, Connecticut, of staunch Presbyterian and Republican parents. Following her marriage to Robert in 1867, Lizzie settled with him in Helena, and while running a large household, which included six children, she managed to write long, detailed letters to her family in Connecticut. Her correspondence, described her daily life in Helena and such occurrences as the fires that periodically devastated Helena's downtown area, vigilante lynchings, political crises and scandals, and major social events. Lizzie Fisk died April 21, 1927, in Berkeley, California, having spent her last 25 years in that state.

Andrew Jackson Fisk was born in Cattaraugus County, New York, in 1849. After military service, he too arrived in Helena with the 1866 Fisk Expedition. He soon entered into a partnership agreement with Robert, and together they began publishing the Helena Herald in November 1866. Andrew married Clara A. Wilcox on July 26, 1873. In 1898, he was appointed postmaster of Helena by President McKinley. He also served as adjutant general of Montana Territory during the administration of Governor B.P. Carpenter. He was very active in fraternal organizations, the Montana Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the Society of Montana Pioneers. He died February 3, 1910, in Helena.

Van Hayden Fisk was born in Ohio, December 19, 1840. An active soldier and frontiersman, he accompanied his brother James on two of the Fisk expeditions and served as wagon master in 1866. In Montana, he engaged in mining and farming and also worked at the Helena Herald in various capacities. He was at one time owner and publisher of the Townsend Tranchant. He died April 19, 1890, in Helena.

Content Description

The collection consists primarily of intrafamily correspondence, the largest percentage of which is the incoming and outgoing correspondence (1857-1906) of Elizabeth Chester Fisk. The collection also contains correspondence (1859-1905) of Robert Fisk including letters from Montana Territorial Secretary James E. Callaway and Governor Benjamin F. Potts; the Civil War letters (1862-1865) of Robert and Van Hayden Fisk; letters (1870-1891) between Robert and Lizzie Fisk's children (Asa, Florence, Grace, James K., and Robert) and Elizabeth's mother, Mrs. Isaac Chester; and a photocopy of a letter (1864) to James L. Fisk from the Secretary of War, appointing him to lead an expedition via Fort Benton. Also included are diaries (1864-1873) written by Andrew J. Fisk, chronicling the Fisk expeditions (see also Microfilm 81 for 1864-1873 diaries), and photocopies of writings (1858-1860) by James Liberty Fisk.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

by series

Acquisition Information :  

Acquisition information available upon request


Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection

Andrew Jackson Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Biographical Materials
Box/Folder
1 / 1 Autobiographical notes; obituary n.d., 1910
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
1 / 2 Fisk family 1861-1865, n.d.
Outgoing Correspondence
Box/Folder
1 / 3 To Charles N. Kessler 1901
Diaries
Box/Folder
1 / 4 Diaries [2] 1964-1870
1 / 5-8 Diaries [typed transcripts] 1866-1870
1 / 9 Diary 1871, 1873
1 / 10 Diary [typed transcript] 1871, 1873
1 / 11 Diary: "Mem. of trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1881. Also mem. of other trips" 1873-1896
Clippings
Box/Folder
2 / 1 Scrapbook #1 (re Fisk Family, Yellowstone Park, Montana history, Helena buildings, obituaries; also includes a few original letters, cancelled checks, Algeria Shrine membership lists, photos of Fisk Family and Helena scenes, calling cards, etc.) [no apparent order] n.d.
3 / 1-2 Scrapbook #2-3 (re Fisk Family, general Montana history, art, Yellowstone Park, ; also includes roster of First Regiment U.S. Volunteer Infantry, 1898; "Rambles in the Rockies" by F.R. Wallace; photos of Fisk Family and Helena scenes; ribbons; maps; certificates; etc.) [no apparent order] n.d.

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Asa J. Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Outgoing Correspondence
Box/Folder
4 / 1 Fisk family; miscellaneous 1898, 1901

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Elizabeth Chester Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Biographical Materials
Box/Folder
4 / 2 "The Autograph Quilt" by Florence Fisk White (tells the story of quilt made for Civil War soldiers, and how it led to Elizabeth meeting her future husband)
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
4 / 2a-11 Azuba Chester (Mrs. Isaac) 1871-1892
4 / 12 Fisk family 1880-1886, 1892
4 / 13-17 Robert Emmett Fisk 1864-1867
5 / 1-7 Robert Emmett Fisk 1868-1881, 1886, 1906
5 / 8 Grandmother 1857-1867
5 / 9 Sarah E. Lord; U.S. Bureau of Pensions 1859, 1880, 1909
Outgoing Correspondence
Box/Folder
5 / 10-15 Miscellaneous (arranged chronologically; includes typescript copies) 1867-1868
6 / 1-11 Miscellaneous (arranged chronologically; includes typescript copies) 1869-1876
7 / 1-10 Miscellaneous (arranged chronologically; includes typescript copies) 1877-1886
8 / 1-8 Miscellaneous (arranged chronologically; includes typescript copies) 1887-1893
Miscellany
Box/Folder
8 / 9 Report cards; invitations; valentine 1859-1860, n.d.
8 / 10 Pencil sketches of trip up the Missouri River (copies; originals transferred to Museum) 1867, n.d.
Writings
Box/Folder
8 / 11 Impressions of Montana events (with an additional copy by James K. Fisk) n.d.

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James Liberty Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
9 / 1 Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War (re Fisk's Expedition via Fort Benton; photocopy) 1864
Diaries
Box/Folder
9 / 2 Journal of Fisk Expedition of 1864 (typescript copy) 1864
Writings
Box/Folder
9 / 3 "Record of Original and Selected Miscellany" (photocopy) 1858-1860
Miscellany
Box/Folder
9 / 4 History of Dell Fisk, with photo of James Liberty Fisk family (photocopies) n.d.
9 / 5 Testimonial signatures; 1866 expedition subscription list (typescript copy); soldier's certificate signed by Fisk 1862-1865

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Jerusha Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
9 / 6 James Liberty Fisk n.d.
9 / 7 Van Hayden Fisk 1863

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Robert Emmett Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
9 / 8 B (correspondents include T.C. Bailey, U.S. Surgeon General; Alex C. Botkin; Seth Bullock) 1873-1874, 1901
9 / 9-10 James Edmund Callaway 1871-1877
9 / 11 C-E (correspondents include S.A. Douglas, R. Cowen, Thomas H. Carter, Daniel C. Corbin, J.R. Edwards, R. Emmett) 1860-1905
9 / 12 Andrew J. Fisk 1859-1901
9 / 13 Asa F. Fisk; Daniel W. Fisk 1861, 1899-1901
9 / 14-17 Elizabeth Chester Fisk (includes typescript copies) 1864-1901
10 / 1 James Liberty Fisk 1860-1861
10 / 2 Fisk family 1860, 1900- 1901, n.d.
10 / 3 H-P (correspondents include O.D. Howard, J.W. Maginnis, Lee Mantle, John H. Mitchell, John L. Murphy, Benjamin F. Potts, Thomas C. Power) 1870-1877, 1892-1895
10 / 4 R-W (correspondents include Alexander Ramsey, John E. Rickards, Charles Rumley, Wilbur F. Sanders, W.S. Scribner, Andrew J. Smith, U.S. Post Office Dept., W.L. White, Oliver M. Wilson, unidentified letter re territorial politics) 1872-1895
10 / 5 Letters of recommendation (mostly handwritten copies) 1861-1897
Outgoing Correspondence
Box/Folder
10 / 6 Miscellaneous 1859-1892
Diaries
Box/Folder
10 / 7 Diary of prospecting expedition to Sun River under James Fisk (typescript copy) 1866
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder
10 / 8 Miscellaneous 1863-1864
Miscellany
Box/Folder
10 / 9 Miscellaneous certificates (additional material in OVERSIZE) 1873, 1881
10 / 10 "History of the 132nd N.Y. Infantry as reported to the N.Y. State Historian by P.J. Claassen" n.d.

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Robert L. Fisk
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
10 / 11 Azuba Chester (Mrs. Isaac) 1881

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Azuba Chester (Mrs. Isaac)
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
10 / 12 Carrie Alfred 1870
10 / 13-15 Fannie Chester 1870-1871
10 / 16 Asa Fisk 1886, 1889
10 / 17 Florence Fisk 1886, 1889, 1891
10 / 18 Grace Fisk 1875-1888
10 / 19 James Fisk 1886, 1891
10 / 20 Robert L. Fisk 1886
10 / 21 Jennie E. K. Howe 1870

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Subjects

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Montana Historical Society Archives catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search under these terms.

  • Subject Terms :
  • Fisk Expeditions, 1862-1871.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Frontier and pioneer life--Montana.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Gold mines and mining--Montana--Lewis and Clark County.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Newspaper publishing--Montana--Helena.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Overland Journeys--[1866]
  • Subject Terms :
  • Prospecting--Montana.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Steamboat travel--Missouri River.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Women pioneers--Montana--Helena.
  • Geographical Names :
  • Helena (Mont.)--Commerce.
  • Geographical Names :
  • Helena (Mont.)--Social life and customs
  • Geographical Names :
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Geographical Names :
  • Missouri River--Description and travel.

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