OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-1999, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Samuel Rhoads Fisher | Republic of Texas | David Burket-Index
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Samuel Rhoads Fisher
1830 | 1831-1835 | 1836-1838
S. Rhoads Fisher to
Austin 10 Jan 1831
Harrisburgh January 10th 1831 Dios y Libertad My DEAR SIR My object in coming to this place was to load the Schooner Champion with lumber or freight for Tampico, and I intended to keep her in the coasting trade provided I found it to my Interest, knowing it was decidedly to the advantage of the Colony to have a vessel as well calculated as she is to carry off their produce. But I have to state to you with regret that -unless a different construction of the maritime laws shall be made, or the laws themselves changed, it will be impossible for any vessel to pursue it. I waited on Colonel Bradburn---with the letter you honored me with, and found him as you represented a Gentleman. I stated to him that I had paid in Aransaso Bay a Tonnage duty on the Schooner, and all the other Government dues for which I had a receipt from the Administrador; that after leaving there we entered the Bay of Matagorda in ballast, and finding no loading had come on to this for lumber to proceed to Tampico: he said his instructions were positive, and that I must pay the tonnage duty here, and that had there been an office at Matagorda, the same would have been required there; and further, that the same must also be paid in Tampico: this then, amounts upon the Schooner whose tonnage per U. S. Register is 65, besides other port charges to $552.50 from which 16 p.c. is to be deducted; no vessel can stand this, and unless a change be made the Trade must be abandoned. I am not prepared to dispute the legality of Col. Bradburn's demand, but Mr. Hiram, and several other gentlemen here say they would not pay it, for Colonel Bradburn has nothing to do with this Colony, nor has the ayuntamiento at Austin ever received any official notice of an officer having been placed at Galveston entrance. I have no hesitation in addressing to you, my dissatisfaction, but under the present feeling, between the two people prefer a slight submission (for submission I consider it to be) to being, the means of increasing that feeling. I understood Colonel Bradburn to say his orders were from General Teran, and that as he conceived no vessel upon having payed the Tonnage duty in one Mexican port should be required to pay in another, unless her last clearance was from a Foreign one, he would write to the General upon the subject, requesting him to give instructions to have the payment made here returned in this case and not demanded in future; but God help us! as the fable tells us there are many tracks into the lions den but none out of it---he further added that he would write to the General, to grant to the Schooner a coasting licence for six months, now my dear Sir, if you would back this request by also addressing the General it would oblige me. In the course of conversation the Colonel mentioned that the views of the Mexican Government were such that he had no doubt but all north american emigration would be prohibited in the course of a short time, even to this colony 1 should this prove to be the ease, I shall most truly regret it, for my attachment to this my adopted country, where I have located all my interests, and whose prosperity I consider as identified with my own, is such, that I cannot view without pain a step of such short-sighted policy. The Mexican Government have at all times been most liberal towards us colonists and the people we have ever found to be amiable and hospitable; on the other hand we have been true and faithful citizens, ready at all times to protect the country from Foreign invasion, and Indian aggression, as well as to support the execution of the laws, we have Industry and mechanical and agricultural knowledge wherewith we can enrich the country and set a good example to our Mexican brethren. Any step therefore on the part of the Government which might check this Industry, and the good feeling existing between the Colonists and the native Mexicans I consider injudicious. I shall forward this via Tampico, and. return in a day or two to San Felipe. S. RHOADS FISHER [Rubric] Colonel Stephan F. Austin. [Addressed to Saltillo]
Fisher to Austin 22 Jun 1831
Requests help to acquire 8 leagues of land and explains plans for town of Matagorda.
S. Rhoads Fisher to Austin 22
My DEAR SIR- Matagorda, Jany 22 1832 I have at last safely arrived with my family, after an unpleasant and tedious passage. I am a good deal occupied endeavouring to fix up some place to go in, and unfortunately am deprived of Mrs Fisher's management in consequence of a fall she received a day or two Since. Could I possibly have left my family I would have gone up to See you as I am very anxious to have a conversation with you. Since my arrival I have learned that our friend Lessassier has abandoned the practice of the Law, and turned teacher. Now school masters are generally needy, and I hope I may not experience delay or difficulty in settling my business with him; he must have collected a considerable sum on my account, and I am already suffering for the means of Settling for my freight and passage. I wrote to him to have it in readiness for me at Brazoria, and perhaps he may have, but as my letters were directed to San Felipe the chances are he has not received them. I write you in confidence that you may advise me. be good enough to write me when you expect to go to Saltillo, and when you will return. enclosed is a letter from our friend Leaming. Present me to Mr. Williams and family and to my padrino S RHOADS FISHER Col. S. F. Austin Enclosed is a letter to Mr. Lesassier which you will please deliver to him, as it contains a request to send me immediately $300 by Mr Jaques, who will return the day after he reaches town. Your suggestion to him of the inconvenience I am put to may probably stimulate him to send it. Judge Cummins has received a good deal of money belonging to me, but has spent it, and says he cannot pay me a dollar. this to say the least is ungenerous, as I paid for him to the Sheriff last year between 2 and 300 drs. S. R. F
S. Rhoads Fisher to Austin 1 Feb 1832
Matagorda Feby 1, 1832 Col: S. F. AUSTIN MY DEAR SIR I wrote you a few lines by Mr. Jaques, mentioning my arrival: We are still entirely in an unsettled state; and I cannot do myself the pleasure to see you. I wrote you from the U. States respecting my land business which I am satisfied your goodness will have promptly attended to. I have now to ask you agreeably to your promise, to send me a power to vote upon your two shares of the Matagorda Town tract. Let me ask you if you have received your quota of the notes arising from the sale of the lots thereof, as I understand there has been a division, tho' I have received nothing. I should very much like to know when you start for Saltillo, tho I hope you may deem it most advisable to remain this season in your own colony. S. RHOADS FISHER Should Mr. Lesassier not have sent me the money that I wrote for, I wish you my Dear Sir to urge him on the subject, as it is absolutely essential I should have it. S. R. F
S. Rhoads Fisher to Austin 2 Feb 1832
Matagorda Feby. 2 1832 Col. S. F. AUSTIN MY DEAR SIR-I have just received your favour of 28 ulto: by Mr. Jaques and hasten to reply to- Mr. Lesassier writes me he has not been able to make collections, but assigns no other reason than the indisposition of Mr. Johnson. It is to me a, most unpleasant thing to write you on a subject in which you have no interest, as it has the appearance of importunity; but could you feel the inconvenience and unpleasant situation in which I am placed for the want of a few hundred Dollars, you would I am convinced excuse it. Arriving with a family in a new country, you are aware that it is one continued expense, and without some means it is impossible to get along; in my last settlement with our friend Lesassier, in consequence of his being disappointed in some funds, I consented to his retaining about $100 after be had collected it, with a full promise he would amply supply me on my arrival in this country. I mention this to you in confidence; not to induce any unfavorable impression on your mind toward Lesassier, but to show you I have been placed in my present situation not from any neglect or want of foresight on my part. I am sorry your arrangement for land has failed; and as I have yet the privilege of locating one league, you would oblige me by permitting the title to be made for the one adjoining mine on Peyton's Creek originally taken by Col: Wallace. Be good enough to inform me, if there be any other court of record in your jurisdiction, than that of San Felipe, also if I cannot settle upon my wife her furniture which belongs to her and a House and lot I intend to erect, I want to secure to her at least a shelter, and Household utensils. Also the mode of doing so. Your advice upon these subjects will materially serve me. I send by Mr: Jaques a letter, maps and a bundle of newspapers for you. In my last letter I wrote for a power of attorney to vote on your Matagorda property and now remention it, lest the other may not reach you. Nothing but the utter impracticability of my leaving here prevents me seeing you; but if it could by any possible means suit you to take Matagorda, in your way to Saltillo I need not say how much sincere pleasure it would give me; for independent of my personal feelings I want to know something of our political relations. Accept thanks of Mrs. Fisher who I am pleased to say has recovered for your remembrances and accept of hers in return. She begs me to say she would be much pleased to see a gentleman of whom she has heard so much in her little cabin. S. RHOADS FISHER Be pleased to tender my best regards to Mr: Williams and family.
Fisher to Austin 14 Nov 1832
Explains necessity to be absent on a trip to the United States.
Fisher to Miller 13 Jul 1835
Hall of the Ayuntarniento, Sir, Your Excellency's communication under date of Ist: Inst: was received on the 7th, and orders immediately [illegible] to carry its objects into effect - and permit me here to observe the delay which may result and the inconvience which may occur-in carrying the orders of your Excellency into operation from the absence of our Alcalde and 2nd Regidor - and our first Regidor- residing Fifty miles distant. Our Alcalde had been absent from the Jurisdiction for several months, and I learn with the instruction to remain until near the close of the year; and the 2nd Regidor is in the restated of the months. From the electoral returns made for your office, you will perceive that the next highest on the list for Alcalde is Ira Ingram, and for the 2nd Regidor Thomas T. Jones; and I would beg to suggest to your excellency whether it would not be expedient in our present situation to have these gentlemen notified of their election and to come forward and take the oath of office. God & Liberty Matagorda July 13th 1835 I have the honor to be S. Rhoads Fisher Secretary [Addressed:] To His Excellency Dr. J. B. Miller Chief of Department San Felipe de Austin
Fisher to Austin 29 Oct 1835
Matagorda October 29th 1835 Genl. S. F. Austin Head-quarters Dr. Sir, As Chairman of the Committee of Safety of this place, I have been instructed to enclose the accompanying letter to your address, with a hope that the importance of its content may be communicated without delay. We have learned that it is from Mr. Ferris, late vice-president, and delivered by his private secretary; who left the Brazos to have an interview with you, about twenty days since; so that we are in daily expectation to hear something of public importance issue from you. S. Rhoads Fisher Chairman &c
Hall to Austin 23 Nov 1835
Columbia Novr. 23rd 1835 Genl. S. F. Austin Dear Sir I arrived in Brazoria on the l3th Inst. and found that the heavy piece of cannon had been put on board the San Felipe which had gone in pursuit of a Mexican Armed Vessel and was lost inside the Matagorda Bay. The guns was however saved and landed on bird Island on getting this information I despatched Mr. Tanner to Matagorda with letters to the Committee of that place requesting any assistance that might be necessary to get it to the main land and to forward it on to the Camp with all speed, intending to follow on myself so soon as I could provide some means by which a Company of Volunteers from New-Orleans could be enabled to join the army they had arrived some days previous and was very much disatisfied at the delay. I left on the 18th calculated on joining the cannon at Matagorda or on the road on My way I met Mr Patton directly from Matagorda who told me that the Schooner William Robbins had sailed on the 13th Inst-from that place with the Intention of taking the Cannon on board and bringing it round to the Brazos I have therefore delayed and have sent expresses to both places-and so soon as I can learn at what point the cannon can be found I will use every exertion to get her to Bexar-the weather has been excessivly bad and the roads are very muddy however nothing shall be wanting to expedite matters---I wrote you on the 18th inst tendering my resignation at the saem time I shall be proud and ready to execute any orders in my power and to give any pecuniary aid that my means will justify. William Hall
Fannin to Smith 11 Dec 1835
Matagorda, December 11, 1835 His Excellency Henry Smith, and General Council.
I am induced to address you on a subject of vital importance to the country, and which, it is trusted, will be speedily noticed, A short time since, the American schooner Hannah Elizabeth, freighted from N. Orleans to this colony with merchandize, was chased ashore on the west end of the peninsula, by the Mexican armed vessel Bravo, and after being boarded and robbed of some portion of the cargo, and a lieutenant and prize crew left on board, and nine passengers taken off, she was retaken by a few of the citizens of this place, under the following circumstances, as I am told by many of the eyewitnesses. One of the Bravo's parties, in passing fom the schooner in their small boat, was capsized in the breakers and with difficulty got on board again; and their boat drifted ashore, which was discovered by a man named Somers and two companions. They immediately got possession of the boat, and with their firearms kept it, and prevented the Mexicans from retaking it, and by this means prevented an escape to the Bravo of the whole party, who had been ordered to rob, and afterwards burn and desert the schooner. In the mean time, a party from this town was got up, and proceeded below with the schooner William Robbins, recently purchased and armed for the public use. S. Rhoads Fisher commanded the marines, and captain Hurd, recently of the schooner San Felipe, the crew of the William Robbins. The William Robbins anchored opposite the wreck, in order to cover the advance of Fisher's party with his artillery. When said party landed and marched across, they found Somers and party walking their regular rounds, having kept up a guard for about two days, the lieutenant and crew having previously agreed to surrender, when an officer should appear to receive his sword, and thus save Mexican honor. He accordingly surrendered his party; when captain Hurd and Fisher commenced having the goods landed, which being in part done (those likely to damage being taken out) a sale was ordered, without survey or any sort of notice, even to the whole party who were out on the expedition. Great pains being taken to keep on board the wreck, those most likely to purchase dry goods, whilst the sale was to go on shore. It was also promised, that the goods should be forwarded to this town for sale, when indeed measures were being taken to arrange it to "suit purchasers." When offered and sold, no attention was had to the contents, or any kind of memorandum of the marks of the respective boxes and packages. In like manner, the vessel was sold, with all on board, without going on board and exposing the goods to the public eye. Captain Hurd appointed Fisher his agent, and between the two parties, all was claimed as a lawful prize, and bought in, and no one to receive one dollar. They purchased in all the goods, and not one dollar has been paid by the purchasers. Thus the private property of individuals, citizens of Texas (Carabajal and De Leon) has been seized, and unjustly appropriated to the use of these men. It may not be amiss to inform you, that when the Bravo was in chase of the schooner Hannah Elizabeth, Messrs. Carabajal & De Leon had on board a quantity of powder and lead for the use of the colonists, and when they discovered they were likely to be taken, cast it all overboard, and thus prevented its falling into Mexican hands. They had also three cannon, and several boxes of rifles for the public use. The former were all cast into the deep, and the latter taken off. I am, with sentiments of high consideration, J. W. Fannin, Jr.
Smith to Council 16
San Felipe, December 16, 1835 Gentlemen.---I herewith transmit for your information documents received from various persons, touching a wrecked vessel near the port of Matagorda. That the unfortunate should receive as indicated in those communications, is truly to be lamented, and, if possible, should be remedied. If, however, your body should not consider it in their power to reach the present case, but leave it for the investigation of the constituted authorities, it would at least be well to take the precaution to prevent in some efficient manner a recurrence of similar conduct. Our sea coast, for years, has produced nothing but a scene of fraud, corruption and piracies, to the unfortunates who, either by misfortune or design, have been driven upon our shores. So well have we already establshed our character abroad for having a piratical sea coast, that it is with difficulty insurances can be effected and always at an unusually high rate, and frequently not at all. This state of things has grown entirely out of our disorganized situation, not having the proper laws enacted to restrain the vice. I confidently hope that your honorable body will take this matter into consideration, and pass such laws as will prevent a recurrence of these evils, by making it highly criminal in any person who will either embezzle or attempt to defraud the unfortunate by an unlawful seizure or sale of their property. They have very appropriately been termed the "bone-pickers," who are engaged, ever hovering round to pounce upon their unfortunate prey. It is now high time that Texas should retrieve her character in that respect, by passing laws for the protection of wrecked property, whether found immediately at the wreck, or elsewhere on the sea coast; and designating the means by which salvage should be adjuged and settled, and that a proper disposition be made of the balance for the benefit of whom it might concern. Having lived, since my first settlement in the country, contiguous to the sea coast, and frequently been called upon, in an official capacity, to extend protests and other documents relative to wrecked vessels, I am well aware of the intrigue, management, and downright roguery which has universally been practiced by the unprincipled speculators, and always to the great injury, and frequently total ruin of the unfortunate, without having it in my power to remedy the evil; which makes me now the more solicitous that your honorable body give the subject that attention which it justly merits. I am, gentlemen, Your obedient servant, HENRY SMITH, Governor.
Fisher to Government 17 Dec
Matagorda, December 17, 1835 To the Honorable the Provisional Government of Texas. Gentlemen, I had this honor, under date of 2d instant, and shall give you below, an extract, and then proceed with the leading facts relative to the schooner William Robbins. Sometime early in November last, we understood that our coast was blockaded by one or two Mexican armed vessels, and the Committee of Safety of this jurisdiction considered it important that a vessel should immediately be armed and equipped, to attack and drive them off. The schooner William Robbins was at that time in this bay, and by a resolution of this committee, Ira R. Lewis, Esq., and myself were appointed to negotiate the hire or purchase with her captain and owner, William Watlington, who however, positively declined making any other disposition of her than that of a sale. This, then, we were compelled to do, and the price was thirty-five hundred dollars. She was then placed under the command of captain Hurd, and considered a government vessel. From a former conversation with T. F. M'Kinney, Esq., I was induced to believe that a draft on his house would be accepted, on behalf of the public; and in accordance with that belief, I gave my exchange as chairman of the committee, in virtue of a resolution of the body, to captain Watlington for the amount, taking a bill of sale, and holding the register; and in order further to satisfy captain Watlington that he would be paid, the following named gentlemen entered into a written obligation to hold themselves individually responsible to captain Watlington or his assigns, to the amount respectively affixed to their names, to wit:
Howard and Fleury $800; Robert H. Boyce 300; S. Rhoads Fisher 500; Ira R. Lewis 500; J. E. Robertson 200; S. B. Brigham & Co. 500; Horton & Clements, pr. agent 500; George Wheelright 200; $3500 Making the amount of money specified above.
Thursday, the 19th ult. at night, information was received in this town, that a vessel, supposed to be an American, had been driven on shore at Passo Cavallo, pursued by a Mexican armed vessel; and early the next morning, a number of our fellow-citizens embarked on board the William Robbins, a small schooner, commanded by captain W. A. Hurd, armed and equipped to repel the enemy, or afford such assistance as the case might require. On the evening of the 21st, we came to anchor off the pilot house, at the pass, and having sent a boat ashore, ascertained that the Mexican vessel was in possession of a prize crew. The volunteers, to the number of about twenty, were immediately landed under my command, where we augmented our force to twenty-three, besides captain Hurd and his crew, I think three in number. A list of the names of the volunteers, with their temporary rank, is appended, and numbered 1. On presenting ourselves, the prize master, a lieutenant of the Bravo, as he states, and not the Montezuma, delivered his sword, and surrendered himself and men as prisoners of war. The total was twelve, one of whom, from expsure consequent on drunkenness, has since died. After taking the vessel, it was necessary for all hands to turn to and discharge her cargo: this was effected in part with great difficulty, exposure and labor; and the remainder had to be left in consequence of the vessel having rolled out her masts in the breakers, I think on the night of the 23d ult., and ripped up her deck. Captain Hurd then proposed that the part of the cargo which was landed, should be taken to Matagorda, and there sold: it was objected to principally by one Peter Kerr, a passenger on board, and who claimed a large amount of goods, although he produced no bills of lading as evidence: he wished them sold on the spot that he might purchase. Partly in compliance with his wishes, and partly from the impracticability of getting them to town for the want of lighters, captain Hurd agreed to it, not knowing how soon the Bravo or her boats might return, it was considered most prudent to sell the goods without delay, and each individual purchaser be at the risk. Captain Hurd then ordered the sale for cash, (the usual mode of proceeding in such cases,) but as it was not presumed our fellow-citizens were prepared with the money, he agreed to take their notes, payable on demand, or when they should arrive in town. However, before the sale commenced, Mr. Kerr , who seemed more like a crazy than a sane man, begged captain Hurd that his property might not be sold, but that he would, in lieu thereof, pay as salvage, fifty per cent, on the invoice cost: to this captain Hurd also agreed, provided the assemblage were willing; and at Mr. Kerr's request, I made his proposal public. It was acceded to, and captain Hurd then gave Mr. Kerr permission to select what he claimed and roll it to one side, and to take it under his own charge: the quantity and invoice cost, as furnished me by himself, will be found annexed, numbered 2. Mr. Cazneau, the auctioneer, then commenced the sale; and at the close, captain Hurd publicly appointed me his agent: the bills were all made out, and the notes drawn in that manner. As the hull of the vessel, her spars, sails, &c together with a small portion of the cargo, remained unsold, it was considered most prudent to close the business and sell the vessel, tackling, &c., with her contents, as she lay; it was so done, publicly and regularly. Each individual took such care of his own property as he could, and then returned to town: we were absent about eleven days. These, gentlemen, are the facts, and can be substantiated. I cannot refrain from observing that, it appears to me, the capture of the Hannah Elizabeth by the boat of the Bravo, was the result of the most shameful cowardice; and here furnish you a statement given me by Don Mateo. He says, "the Hannah Elizabeth had on board fifteen Americans and five Mexicans, besides a woman; three cannon upon deck, mounted, two sixes and a four; eighteen kegs of powder; two boxes of muskets, rifles, and other arms; and that about 7 p.m., he boarded her in the breakers with one boat and twelve men, himself included; not a gun was fired nor the least resistance made; indeed, they had thrown the cannon, powder, and arms overboard. A number of the Americans and two of the Mexicans, were taken on board the Bravo; the Mexicans were J. M. J. Carbajal, and Fernando de Leon."
Allow me to advise you that I have, under date of 6th inst., addressed Mr. Royall a member of your honorable body, partly on this subject, requesting him to communicate the same, but fearing the letter may have miscarried, (as the hurry of business, on the part of the government, has prevented their establishing a mail route to this place) I will offer you the extract Ere this, I should have sent the government a full detail of all the proceedings connected with the re-capture of the Hannah Elizabeth, as taken down at the time, and the information received from the prize-master, on Mateo, as written on the night of the capture, but it was left in possession of Mr. Catlett, who went round in the William Robbins, for the Brazos, to get an outfit, and has not yet returned. I would be pleased if you would communicate the same to the government. I was appointed agent by captain Hurd, for all whom it might concern, and shall therefore contend that she was a legal prize to the captors and to the government, who are owners of the vessel: the proportion belonging to them and the captors, the government itself will decide. I have a list of the names of all concerned, and their rank, and presume it will be settled according to the usages of the United States' navy. Let me also mention, that as Mr. Kerr did not pay any of the amount he agreed to, I left the property in the hands of Mr. Daniel Decrow, at the Pass, with instructions to deliver the same to him on his complying with his contract and own proposition; or to deliver to him one half and return the other. Having now, gentlemen, communicated all the facts attending the purchase of the William Robbins, and the re-capture of the Hannah Elizabeth, I have the honor to submit them to you for your adjudication. Whether it be a question of salvage, or whether she be a legal prize, she is, undoubtedly, the property of the salvors or captors, and as such, I present myself to you as the agent of the party interested. Trusting you will give the subject your earliest attention, compatible with your many and arduous duties, I have the honor to be, With highest respect, Your obedient servant, S. Rhoads Fisher
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