Oliver W. Fisher.
A practical, ordinary lumberman does not bother his head very much about the theory of predestination, nor, for that matter, about any theory which does not seem to have a visible effect upon him personally. Those who do believe in this theory may find in the biographies of several well known lumbermen confirmation of their belief. Many lumbermen who, in their early life, followed other occupations with varying success, won their greatest laurels after they had ultimately settled on the lumber business as a career. Oliver Williams Fisher, of Birch Tree, Missouri, may be placed in this class.
In his early life he paid more attention to purely mercantile pursuits and, in fact, gave no thought at all to the lumber industry. His first employment was in a sawmill, but he drifted away from that into milling and eventually into merchandising. Later in life he went back to the lumber business and since that time he has made his name known not only in Missouri but among lumbermen throughout the entire South. It has, moreover, been the result of his own efforts entirely; and, when once he settled upon a chosen career, he made rapid progress. He is a young man still, despite his age, and apparently has yet to reach the zenith of his success.
Mr. Fisher was born in Scioto County, Ohio, September 2, 1842, his parents being Peter and Lucretia Fisher. He entered school at the tender age of four years and his scholastic training ended at the age of eight. Soon thereafter he went to work in a sawmill which cut about three hundred feet of lumber a day an old fashioned portable mill at 'a place called Pine Creek, in Scioto County. In 1854 he was apprenticed to Uriah Nurse to learn the trade of a miller, and remained with him until 1857. The next three years he worked at Springville, Kentucky, and for a short time he was employed in the circular sawmill of A. McManaway, in the Scioto Valley, Ohio, near Portsmouth.
In 1862 Mr. Fisher entered the army, enlisting in the Thirty-ninth Ohio Infantry, which was already in the field. He joined his regiment at Corinth, Mississippi, and was in active service for nine months. He was in the battle of Iuka and Corinth and at the latter place was captured by Forrest's men and taken to Trenton, Tennessee. He was paroled at Camp Chase, Ohio.
Determined to see some of the country, Mr. Fisher in 1865 started out and for the next ten years was occupied principally in traveling. He has said that the first ten years of his active life after the war were greatly taken up in " going somewhere" not looking for the pot at the end of the rainbow, but for the groove into which he might fit for life. In crossing the plains and mountains to California, an incident of the trip was the meeting with his old employer, Uriah Nurse, who likewise was seeking his fortune in the West.
In 1866, when Mr. Fisher had attained the age of twenty-four, he was herding horses between Oroville and Marysville, California. He also drove mules over the mountains from Marysville to Virginia City, Nevada. In the fall of 1866, being ill, he started back to the place of his birth. He was twenty-one days making the trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On returning east he traveled by rail and lake to London, Ontario, and there his illness restrained him from going farther. Later, having somewhat recovered, he proceeded to Komoka, near London, where he worked in a grist mill for some time.
Thus far his connection with the lumber industry had been purely incidental. He worked in a sawmill only when he could not get work in a flour mill, for flour-making was his real trade. Mr. Fisher subsequently went to Portsmouth, Ohio, where he worked for some time in a flour mill. Later, however, he returned to Canada, where he leased a flour mill and operated it for several years. His next venture was in the hotel business at Hyde Park Corners, Ontario. Once more he returned to the States and located at Springville, Kentucky, where he ran a grist mill.
In 1869 Mr. Fisher's cousin, L. Dodge, bought a sawmill near Louisville, Kentucky, and the young man was given its management by the owner. For three years Mr. Fisher ran this mill, cutting poplar, oak, black walnut, beech and maple. His next move took him to Missouri, his present home. He settled at Orleans, in Polk County, and bought a small stock of goods, but stayed there only a short time, returning to Louisville. He took a wood contract from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company in the fall of 1872, but the financial panic caused a cancellation of his contract by the company. He decided to return to Canada and he was at Longwood from 1873 to March, 1876, and then returned to Kentucky. This time he went into business for himself, buying forty acres of timber near Louisville, selling the wood in advance. His next location was at Orleans, Missouri, where he repurchased the store and laid the foundation of the substantial fortune which has since come to him.
A combination flour mill and sawmill was in 1877 bought by Mr. Fisher. He had at various times carried on the operation of one or the other, but neither singly paid as well as did the combination. This mill was at Humansville, in Polk County. He bought the mill on credit and was given four years in which to pay for it, but he succeeded in canceling the obligation in two years. He remained at Humansville until 1882, when he sold his mill and bought a half interest in the business of Barnett & Paxton. He started the Farmers 7 and Merchants' Bank of Humansville and was president of the institution until 1900. His last connection with the flour mill business was in 1882, when he operated for a year a flour mill at Bolivar, Missouri. These were all active years for him.
Mr. Fisher is now a stockholder and director in the Ozark Lumber Company, of Winona, Missouri, and secretary and treasurer of the Cordz-Fisher Lumber Company, of Birch Tree, Missouri, by which connection he is best known to the trade. He is also vice president of the Missouri Lumber & Land Exchange Company, of Kansas City, Missouri, and president and general manager of the Louisiana Long Leaf Lumber Company, at Fisher and Victoria, Louisiana, in the organization of which he was one of the leading spirits. He is at the head of the Shannon County Mining & Development Company, of which his son, O. D. Fisher, is general manager and secretary. He is general manager of the Fisher Mercantile Company, which does business at Missoula, Bozeman, Red Lodge, Butte and other Montana points, and he has had some experience in railroad building, having furnished the ties for the Current River Railroad, along which three of the plants in which he is interested are situated. He built a portion of the road, which was begun in 1887 and finished in 1888.
O. W. Fisher and his sons in September, 1903, bought the flour milling plant operated by the Gallatin Milling Company, at Belgrade, Montana, and the title was changed to the Gallatin Valley Milling Company and the business incorporated with a capital of $75,000. The mill was remodeled to give it a daily capacity of three hundred barrels, and a steel elevator capable of holding 300,000 bushels was built. Mr. Fisher is president of this company and the principal stockholder. He is a heavy shareholder in the Gallatin State Bank, of Bozeman, Montana, also. He now divides his time between his interests in Louisiana, Missouri and Montana, but spends most of his summers at his magnificent residence at Bozeman.
He married Miss Euphemia Robinson, a young lady whom he met while located at Komoka, Ontario. He has a family of five sons and one daughter. Will P. Fisher, Burr Fisher, and Dan Fisher, three of his sons, are respectively president, vice president and secretary-treasurer of the Fisher Mercantile Company. His daughter is Mrs. Lula Fisher Warren, wife of W. W. Warren, general superintendent of the Louisiana Long Leaf Lumber Company's plants at Fisher and Victoria, Louisiana.