William F. Fischer

William F. Fisher Born: November 6, 1839, at Woolwich, Kent County, England.

Died: September 30, 1919, at Rigby, Idaho.

Billy Fisher was one of the first riders hired by Howard Egan in 1860 where he rode the Pony Express in eastern Nevada and later in the Utah Territory. In July 1860, Indians went on the warpath and destroyed the stations between Ruby Valley and Salt Lake City. Fisher rode the entire 300 miles, warning the stations along the way of the impending danger, covering the distance in 30 hours using 8 horses.

When the Pony Express stopped running, he worked for the Holladay Overland Mail Company handling horses, putting up hay, and hauling it to various stations. In the latter 1860's he worked as foreman of a construction crew on the Central Pacific Railroad. In 1870 he moved to Bountiful, Utah. Eight years later he moved to Oxford, Idaho, where he was ordained Bishop in 1879. Here he developed one of the finest ranches in the country, raised hay and grain, and bred of of the best race horses of the day.

Dr. William Fisher In 1878-79 he was Secretary of the Idaho Territorial Convention. During the same period he was admitted to the bar of Idaho and that of Utah in 1883. Being a man of multiple capacities and talents, and ready to undertake anything, he bought a complete outfit of deist's extraction instruments in 1890. During the next fifteen years he pulled out about a thousand teeth.

Fisher's great grandson, Dr. William F. Fisher, was an astronaut aboard Space Shuttle Discovery for its mission in 1985. It is interesting to note that there is another astronaut connection with the Pony Express.

Source: Settle and Settle. Saddles and Spurs, The Saga of the Pony Express.

The following story told by his grandmother was provided by Ben Brossard, great grandson of Billy Fisher, July 1998:

"This story my father often told us children.

"He was lost in a blinding snow storm January 22, 1861, while carrying the mail by Pony Express. He stopped near some trees where the wind had whirled the snow away from the ground, leaving it bare. He was exhausted from trying to keep from freezing. He said he was tempted to light a fire with the United States mail, he was so cold, but he couldn't do that. Finally, he became so exhausted and numb that he sat down and leaned against a tree trunk. He was dozing when a rabbit licked his face, but he was too tired to arouse himself. It soon licked his face again. He didn't yet realize he was freezing until the rabbit licked his face the third time.

"Then he thought of his young bride, of three weeks time, at home waiting for him, so he got up and stamped around. By this time it was almost dark and he saw the light in the cabin of an old man who lived across the ravine. By this he was able to locate himself, so he led the horse, which carried the mail, and went to the cabin. As he opened the door of the cabin, he fell in a faint and was cared for by the man until morning, when he continued on with the mail.

"Crossing the Nevada wasteland this summer, en route from California home to Idaho, I could visualize my father's lonely rides when I saw the sign 'To Ruby Valley'."

Stella Fisher Brossard
Daughters of Utah Pioneers in a Historical Pamphlet
Copyright May, 1943

Copies of three letters written by Billie Fisher have been provided by Jill Scott, a great grand daughter of Fisher. Jill says that her grandmother, WFF's daughter - Minnie Jane Fisher Ellsworth, collected stories and had them typed by Jill's sister, Judy Ellsworth Cunningham.

Ruby Valley, Nevada
June 14, 1860
My Dear Millenium,

It is with unspeakable pleasure that I sit down for a few moments, to pen a few lines, to one I love best on earth. I received your very kind and welcome letter dated June 4, 1860 & was very glad to hear that it left you well, as this leaves one quite well at present and I hope it will find you in good health & spirits. Dear Linny, you speak of being very lonesome & sad while I am out here, as you say, exposed to so many dangers which is so but believe Dear Girl I will try and take care of myself if it is only for your sake, so cheer up Linny. I expect to be with you before many months, but how long I shall stay (it will all be owing to circumstances) I do not know, but if you will love me then, I can tell better. I expect you think I am talking nonsense, Lin, well perhaps I am. I received a letter from Rast Egan last night, and he told me you were well. When you write to me Lin give your letters to Ras and he will send them to me by express. Howard is at Rush Valley now. I got a letter from him last night. He said the letter I wrote to you by the last mail enclosed in his he did not get, so I do not know where it went to. I am very sorry you did not get it.

The Indians are raising the devil out here now but I think they will soon stop as the troops have come out to our assistance. Well, Linny, I think I have wrote enough for the present, as I am very tired and sleepy for I came in here at sunrise this morning after riding with the Express nearly all night. I can't think of any news of importance to tell you, so goodbye for the present.

I remain as ever, Your devoted
William

To Miss M. Van Etten,
G S. L. City, Utah

P.S. Dear Linny, will you ever send me out your miniature likeness. I think if you knew how much I wanted it you would send it to me.

W.

To One I Love

I fain to thee would sing and a fitful tribute bring
And twine a wreath of roses, for they brow gentle one
But no muse will condescend. A poet's gift to lend,
And the petals of the rose lie scattered now gentle one.

Yes! Such hearts as thine I love; for a radiance from above
Does shed a halo round thee, which I deem almost divine;
And when I'm lone & sad, To make my spirit glad,
I long again for those sweet music - healing words of thine.

And to one as pure as thou, Heaven grant many never know
What tis to weep oe're faded dreams, and priceless treasurers flown;
And may thy future be, from darkening shadows free.
Any thy life sun set in beauty, as it rose in early morn.


Pony Express Experiences
By
William Frederick Fisher
who rode between Rush Valley and Salt Lake City, Utah
also Ruby Valley and Egan Canyon, Nevada
(Exact verbatim copy of an old fading pencil description

In the early part of July, 1860, after the death of the war chief, Leatherhead, it was supposed that the Indian war between Rush Valley and Reese River was over, and the U. S. troops under Lieutenant Weed and Perkins were ordered home to Camp Floyd, and all the soldiers that had been detailed to help guard the various Express stations were ordered to join their respective companies at Ruby Valley, and get ready to march to Camp Floyd.

When I left Ruby Valley for Salt Lake City with the Pony Express on July 3, 1860, Will Dennis, a brave, true rider, filled my place to ride and carry Express between Egan Canyon and Ruby Valley.

It was about the 15th of July the command started from Ruby for Camp Floyd and camped that night at Butte Station, about 18 miles east of Ruby Valley Station. I must here give you an idea of how Egan Canyon Station was located. It was situated in a very pretty little valley about a half-mile across either way. On the east was a canyon between steep, high, rugged mountains, with a stream of water running through towards the east and emptying into Steptoe Valley. About 200 or 300 yards west of where you emerged from the canyon was a large mound or knoll about 100 feet high, the emigrant road running on the north side of it. The station was about 200 yards south of the knoll so that when you got even with the knoll, the Station was out of sight from the road. Coming from the west we came through Nipcut Canyon and rose to the mound and then diverged south to the Station, and the rider could not see the Station until he got past the mound.

On the 16th of July the only men at Egan Canyon Station were Mike Holton, station keeper, and Wilson, rider, who took the Express from Will Dennis who had my ride from Ruby east, and carried it to Schell Creek. The soldiers had left and the other three employees of the Express Co. who had been there for a month past, were sent to work on other portions of the route, as we all supposed the Indian war was over. But on the day referred to about 80 of the renegade Reds, who had fought under Leatherhead, in all their war paint, rode through Egan Canyon up to the Station and demanded of the boys, flour, bacon and sugar. The boys handed out the provisions knowing it would not do to refuse. Mike then started out to gather the Express horses up and put them in the stockade corral. One big Indian, who could talk some English, told Mike to go in the house, that the Indians would take care of the horses and them too after they had had their feast.

Holten and Wilson were brave men, well-armed, and expecting to be massacred by the murderous red devils after their pow wow was over, closed up their door and barricaded the only door and window they had in the log cabin with grain sacks, leaving a few chink holes to shoot through, determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible. It was a trying time for those two men, but they had nerves of steel and expected to make several reds bite the dust before they lost their hair. They knew that it would soon be time for Dennis, the Pony Rider from the west, to arrive and they thought as he did not show up that the Indians must have waylaid and killed him, but such was not the case.

After Dennis came through Nipcut Canyon, which was steep and rocky, he rode fast with the Express until he came even with the knoll I have referred to. He pulled up his horse for a moment to get his wind, as we usually would let our horse walk until we came in sight of the Station, then go in a-flying. Dennis caught sight of the Indians before they saw him. He comprehended the situation instantly and whirled his horse out of sight of the redskins. He had passed the soldiers who were on the road to Camp Floyd, about 5 miles back, so he rode back as fast as possible to the command and informed Lieutenant Weed of the situation, who immediately started for Egan Canyon with 60 dragoons. They rode fast until they got to the knoll. Orders were then given to Corporal Mitchel to take 20 men and go on to the mouth of Egan Canyon and cut off the retreat of the redskins. But, in the excitement of the moment, Mitchel got his orders mixed up and instead of going to the mouth of the Canyon, he led his men around on the east side of the knoll and charged the Indians. As soon as Lieutenant Weed heard the shooting he rode around the west side of the knoll and charged right into the fight.

When Holten and Wilson saw they were about to be rescued they did rapid shooting themselves. The fight was soon over; 18 Indians fell to rise no more, and the rest of the murderous horde made their escape through the canyon. Had Corporal Mitchel not made any blunder the whole band of Reds would have been killed. The soldiers got 60 of the Indians' horses; three soldiers were killed and several wounded. Corporal Mitchel receiving 3 shots - one through the back. He recovered from his wounds, but died about 6 months afterward.

After that battle, the Indians sued for peace but did not keep it as they committed many murders on the road after that and during the next summer. It was lucky for me that Dennis had my ride as I might have been discovered by the Indians and not permitted to ride back to the command.


Copy of a letter written by
WILLIAM FREDERICK FISHER
date: unknown

My name is William F. Fisher. I was born in the County of Kent, England, November 16, 1839. I came with my father's family to Utah in 1854. I took the first Pony Express going east at Ruby Valley, Nevada and on April 6, 1860 the rider next west to me brought it from Robert's Creek, Nevada - 60 miles west of Ruby Valley.

I carried it east 55 miles to Egan Canyon and delivered it to Will Dennis who took it on to the next rider. I was 5 hours making the 55 miles. Major Howard Egan was Superintendent of the Express Route from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.

I rode once a week each way, carrying the Express matter until about the first of July, when the Shoshone and Goshute Indians broke out on the war path, killing our brave riders, burning the stations, and stealing the stock.

They commenced their ravages by killing John Ouldcott (Alcott?) at Simpson's Park, following it up by killing Ralph Locier and John Applegate at Dry Creek.

I was at Robert's Creek at the time of the massacre. Two of the boys, Lafayette Ball and Silas McCanless, they having made their escape at Dry Creek, chased by the Indians for 10 miles. They came to Robert's Creek about 2:00 o'clock in the morning.

Robert's Creek was baracaded (original spelling) and prepared for trouble. I had ridden to Robert's Creek on account of the rider that should of gone west, being sick. As soon as the Dry Creek boys got rested and fed we all started for Ruby Valley. I took the Express from there to Salt Lake City - 300 miles in 30 hours, using 8 horses and mules. Several stations were burned up on the road and animals stolen. I took the news of the Indian outbreak. I arrived in Salt Lake City the night of July 4, 1860. After that they put on Express riders twice a week each way, and I rode from Salt Lake City to Rush Valley, 75 miles, once a week each way, using 4 horses on the route.

Two companies of soldiers, dragoons under Lieutenants Weed & Perkins were sent out to Ruby Valley (from Camp Floyd) to quell the Indian troubles.

They made Ruby Valley their headquarters. They had several battles with the Indians, but finally made them sue for peace.

The Indians committed great atrocities -- burning some of their victims on woodpiles, scalping some and badly mutilating others. They had a good many bloody fights.

I rode from Salt Lake to Rush Valley until the telegraph line was built. In November 1860, I took the presidential election returns from Salt Lake City to Rush Valley, going west, 75 miles, using 5 horses, in 13 hours and 45 minutes.

The names of the Indian chief who headed the outbreak were Pocatello, Buck and Leatherhead.

January 22, 1861, I was lost between Camp Floyd and Port Rockwell's point of the mountain "half-way house" in a blizzard for 20 hours. Leaving Camp Floyd at 4:00 o'clock p.m. and arriving at Salt Lake City at noon the next day pretty badly exhausted, as I was fighting the storm all the way. I could tell of a great many heroic acts of the "Pony" riders.

My health is very poor and I find it quite a task to write this. If you will submit a list of questions to me I will take pleasure in answering them as far as I know. My memory is getting very poor. My age while carrying the express was from April 6, 1860 to July 1, 1861*. Write for any other information you may want. I think your poem is beautiful. I would like a copy of it (book) when published.

Accept my best wishes for your success.

Yours truly,

W. F. Fisher

*My age while carrying Pony Express was 20 to 21, on November 16, 1860 I was 21.


The Journal of William F. Fisher is a fictional report prepared for an American studies class which combined the English and history requirements for a student's junior year.