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John King Fisher

Updated on November 26, 2011

John King Fisher spent most of his life as an outlaw. He was born in 1854 in Collin County near McKinney, Texas. He was the son of Joby and Lucinda (Warren) Fisher. However, by the time he was 15 both of his parents had died and it wasn’t long before he was in and out of scrapes with the law.

While still young he became a cowboy in south central Texas where he learned to bust broncos. He also became quite proficient with a pistol being able to shoot equally well with either hand. He quickly gained a reputation as a gun slinger.

In 1869 he was arrested for horse stealing although the owner, under suspicious circumstances, decided not to press charges. During the lawless 1870's he was frequently arrested for gambling, rustling and even murder. But, he always managed to walk away a free man by using bribery or intimidation. At 5'-9", Fisher cut an imposing figure and few crossed him.

Fisher established his own ranch on the Nueces Strip, an area infested with outlaws, thieves and rustlers, most of who seemed to end up living there. Fisher and those in his employ were evidently running a large cattle rustling operation in Texas and Mexico. A sign at a fork in the road leading to his spread there was a sign which read "This is King Fisher's road. Take the other." Those knowing Fisher knew the sign was deadly serious.

Ben Thompson

Fisher eventually ended up as the most feared and respected cattle Baron in the region. He once claimed to have killed seven men “…not counting Mexicans.”

Fisher was well known for being a flashy dresser. A Texas Ranger once saw him said he was wearing an ornamental Mexican sombrero, gold embroidered black Mexican jacket, crimson sash, boots with bells on the spurs and two silver-plated ivory handled revolvers.

There’s a story about Fisher and a pair of fancy tiger skin chaps he wore. It’s said he held up a small traveling circus, stole their tiger and made the chaps out of it. In those days it was a common misconception all cowboys wore chaps out on the range, but in actuality very few did as they were hot and frequently got caught on thorns and thistles.

It was usually only greenhorns, eastern city slickers and cowboy wannabees which bought them to impress their friends. Real cowboys often got a good laugh out of seeing these “dudes” parading around in a pair. However, they found it prudent not to laugh in John King Fisher’s case. No one knows what became of the tiger chaps.

However, Fisher apparently tired of the life of an outlaw as he grew a little older. He married in April 1876, bought a ranch near Eagle Pass and became a respected law abiding citizen. In 1881 he was appointed a deputy sheriff in Uvalde. When election for sheriff rolled around in 1884 Fisher ran unopposed. However, he wouldn’t live to pin on the badge.

Before the election he was gunned down in an ambush along with famed gunfighter and lawman Ben Thompson at the Vaudeville Variety Theater in San Antonio. The two, who had earlier attended a play at the Turner Hall Opera House, had known each other for several years.

Several years earlier, Thompson had gotten into an altercation with the theater owner, Jack Harris. Thompson shot and killed him. On the fateful night in question Thompson had wanted to meet with another theater owner and friend of the late Harris, Joe Foster. Foster still held a grudge against Thompson and Thompson wanted to put an end to the feud. Fisher and Thompson were ushered upstairs to a theater box to meet with him. They were met with a hail of gun fire from another theater box. As Thompson hit the floor one of the assailants ran up and put another bullet in his head killing him immediately. Fisher was reportedly hit 13 times.

The public demanded justice. But, ironically as Fisher had so often done, the killers walked away scot free. Fisher was buried on his ranch but was later reinterred at the Pioneer Cemetery in Uvalde, Texas


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    • WesternHistory profile image


      6 years ago from California

      A very good hub. Enjoyed reading. It's amazing how many former outlaws including rustlers ended up at one time or another as lawmen. I suppose their talent for handling firearms made them good candidates for the job.


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