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but continued his labors as surveyor of De Witt's
colony, and subsequently, also, as surveyor of the
Mexican colony of De Leon, next below on the
Guadalupe. To his laborious duties, in January,
1827, were added the entire superintendence of the
affairs of Col. Ben. R. Milam, in his proposed
Southwestern colony.

From 1825 till 1832, Maj. Kerr's house was
the headquarters of Americanism in Southwest
Texas. Austin's colony on the one side, and De
Witt's and De Leon's on the other, slowly grew,
and he stood in all that time, and for several years
later, as a wise counsellor to the people. When
the quasi-revolution of 1832 occurred, he was
elected a delegate to that first deliberative body
that ever assembled in Texas, at San Felipe,
October 1, 1832, and was on several of its com-
mittees. That body of about fifty-eight repre-
sentative men, so strangely overlooked by the
historians of Texas, laid the predicate for all that
followed in 1833-35-36, and caused more sensa-
tion in Mexico than did the better known conven-
tion of 1833, which did little more than amplify the
labors of the first assembly.

Maj. Kerr, however, was a member of the
second convention which met at San Felipe on the
first of March, 1833, and was an infiuential mem-
ber in full accord with its general scope and
design. He presided, in July, 1835, at the first
primary meeting in Texas, on the Navidad river,
which declared in favor of independence.



He was elected to the third convention, or gen-
eral consultation, which met at San Felipe, Novem-
ber 3d, 1835, and formed a provisional government,
with Henry Smith as Governor, and a legislative
council. Being then on the campaign in which the
battle of Lipantitlan was fought, on the Nueces, he
failed to reach the first assembly, but served about
two months in the council, rendering valuable ser-
vice to the country.

On the first of February, 1836, he was elected to
the convention which declared the independence of
Texas, but his name is not appended to that docu-
ment for the reason that the approach of the
Mexican army compelled him to flee east with his
family and neighbors, and rendered it impossible
for him to reach Washington in time to participate
in that grave and solemn act. But riglitfuUy his
name belongs there.

Returning to his desolated home after the battle
of San Jacinto, he stood as a pillar of strength in
the organization of the country under the Republic.
It may be truly said that no man in the western
half of Texas, from 1825 to 1840, and especially
during the stormy period of the revolution, exerted
a greater influence for good as a wise, conservative
counsellor. His sound judgment, tried experience.

fine intelligence and candor, fitted him in a rare
degree for such a field of usefulness.

In 1838 he was elected to the last Congress that
assembled at Houston and was the author, in whole
or in part, of several of the wisest laws Texas ever
enacted. From that time till his death, on the 23d of
December, 1850, he held no oflScial position but con-
tinued to exert a healthy influence on public affairs.

Nothing has been said of his perils and narrow
escapes from hostile savages during the twelve years
he was almost constantly exposed to their attacks.
Many of them possess romantic interest and evince
his courage and sagacity in a remarJjable degree.

While no dazzling splendor adorns his career, it
is clothed from beginning to end with evidences of
usefulness and unselfish patriotism, presenting those
attributes without which in its chief actors Texas
could not have been populated and reclaimed with
the feeble means used in the achievement of that
great work. His name is perpetuated in that of
the beautiful county of Kerr, named, as the crea-
tive act says, " in honor of James Kerr, the first
American settler on the Guadalupe river." His
only surviving son, Thomas R. Kerr, resides in
Southwest Texas, and a number of his grand-
children live in South Texas.

Col. William S. Fisher, the Hero of Mier.

In the revolutionary days of Texas there were
three men of prominence bearing the name of
Fisher. The first and the earliest immigrant to the
country was Samuel Rhoads Fisher, of Matagorda.
He was a native of Philadelphia, and a man of edu-
cation, who came about 1830. He was a leader in
local affairs, holding municipal position, and the
husband and father of one of the most intelligent
and refined families in a community distinguished
for refinement and intelligence. Capt. Rhoads
Fisher of Austin is the junior of his two sons. He
represented Matagorda in the convention of 1836,
and signed the Declaration of Independence ; and
on the installation of Gen. Houston as President of
the Republic in October, 1886, he appointed Mr.
Fisher Secretary of the Navy. In 1838 he lost his
life in an unfortunate personal difflculty, greatly
lamented by the country. His memory was
honored by the high character of his family.

John Fisher was a native of Richmond, Virginia,

and came to Gonzales, Texas, in 1833 or 1834. He
was a man of education, ability and sterling char-
acter, and was also a signer of the Declaration of
Independence, but died soon afterwards.

William S. Fisher, the subject of this chapter,
was a brother of John and, like himself, a native of
Virginia. He was also a man of finished education
and remarkable intelligence and one of the tallest
men in the country. As a conversationalist he was
captivating, ever governed by a keen sense of pro-
priety and respect for others — hence a man com-
manding esteem wherever he appeared. His first
experience as a soldier was in the fight with the
Indians on the San Marcos, in the spring of 1835 —
sixteen men against the seventy Indians who had
murdered and robbed the French traders west of
Gonzales, in which the Indians were repulsed, with
a loss of nine warriors.

His first appearance in public life was as a mem-
ber of the first revoluntionary convention (com-



monly called the Consultation) iu November, 1835.
He was also a volunteer in the first resistance to
the Mexicana at Gonzales and in the march upon
San Antonio in October.

In the campaign of 1836, he was early in the
field, and commanded one of the most gallant com-
panies on the field of San Jacinto, in which he won
the admiration of his comrades. He remained in
the army till late in the year, when he was called
into the Cabinet of President Houston to succeed
(■iren. Busk as Secretary of War, thereby becoming
a colleague of Governor Henry Smith, Stephen F.
Austin and S. Rhoads Fisher in the same Cabinet,
soon to announce the death of Austin in the follow-
ing order: —

" War Department, Columbia, Tex.

"December 27, 1836.

"The father of Texas is no more. The first
pioneer of the wilderness has departed. Gen.
Stephen F. Austin, Secretary of State, expired this
day at half-past 12 o'clock, at Columbia.

" As a testimony of respect to his high standing,
undeviating moral rectitude, and as a mark of the
nation's gratitude for his untiring zeal and invalu-
able services, all officers, civil and military, are
requested to wear crape on the right arm for the
space of thirty days. All officers commanding
posts, garrisons or detachments will, so soon as
information is received of the melancholy event,
cause twenty-three guns to be fired, with an inter-
val of five minutes between each, and also have the
garrison and regimental colors hung with black
during the space of mourning for the illustrious

" By order of the President.

" Wm. S. Fisher,

Secretary of War."

The. services of Col. Fisher were such that when
provision was made for a regular army by the Con-
gress of 1838-9, he was made Lieutenant- Colonel
of the only permanent regiment, of which the vet-
eran Burleson was made Colonel. In this capacity
he commanded the troops engaged in the Council
House fight with the Comanches, on the 19th of
March, 1840, and rendered other important ser-
vices to the frontier ; but in the summer of 1840
he resigned to become a Colonel in the Mexican
Revolutionary or Federalist army in the short-lived
Republic of the Rio Grande. But the betrayal of
Jordan and his command at Saltillo, in October of
the same year, followed by the latter's successful
retreat to the Rio Grande — an achievement which
has been likened to that of Xenophon — was fol-

lowed by the disbandment of the Federal forces and
the triumph of centralism, upon which Col. Fisher
and his three hundred Amercian followers returned
to Texas.

His next appearance was as a Captain in the
Somervell expedition to the Rio Grande in the
autumn of 1842. The history of that campaign is
more or less familiar to the public. There were
seven hundred men. From Laredo two hundred
of them, under Capts. Jerome B. and E. S. C.
Robertson, returned home. At the mouth of the
Salado river, opposite Guerrero, another division
occurred. Two hundred of the men (of whom I
was one) returned home with and under the orders
of Gen. Somervell. The remaining three hundred
reorganized into a regiment and elected Col.
Fisher as their commander. They moved down
the river, crossed over and entered Mier, three
miles west of it, on the Arroyo Alcantra, leaving
forty of their number as a guard on the east bank
of the river. They entered the town at twilight on
the 25th of December, amid a blaze of cannon and
small arms, in the hands of twenty-seven hundred
Mexicans, commanded by Gen. Pedro de Ampudia,
and for nineteen hours fought one of the most
desperate battles in American annals — fought till
they had killed and wounded more than double
their own number, and till their ammunition was so
far exhausted as to render further resistance hope-
less. Then they capitulated, to become the famed
Mier prisoners, or " the Prisoners of Perote ; "
to rise upon their guard in the interior of Mexico
and escape to the mountains — there to wander
without food or water till their tongues were
swollen and their strength exhausted, to become an
easy prey to their pursuers — then to be marched
back to the scene of their rescue, at the hacienda
of Salado, and there, under the order of Santa
Anna, each one blind folded, to draw in the lottery
of Life or Death, from a covered jar in which
were seventeen black and a hundred and fifty-three
white beans. Every black bean drawn consigned
the drawer to death — one-tenth of the whole to
be shot for an act which commanded the admira-
tion of every true soldier in Europe and America,
not omitting those in Mexico, for Gen. Mexia
refused to execute the inhuman edict and resigned
his commission. But another took his place and
those seventeen men were murdered.

The entire imprisonment of the survivors (some
of whom being in advance, were not in the rescue
and therefore not in the drawing) covered a
period of twenty-two months. They were then re-
leased and reached home about the close of 1844.

In 1845 Col. Fisher married a lady of great



worth, but soon afterwards died in Galveston.
Neither he nor his brother John left a child to bear
his name, but the county of Fisher is understood
to be a common memorial to them and S. Ehoads

There was a fourth man of the name — George
Fisher — who figured in Texas before, during and
after the revolution, chiefly in the capacity of clerk
and translator, but he was a Greek and died in

Maj. Richard Roman.

Was born in Fayette County, Ky., in 1810,
migrated to Illinois in 1831, and was an officer in
the Black Hawk war of 1832. In December, 1835,
he landed at Velasco, Texas, and joined Gen.
Houston, as Captain of a company, on the Col-
orado, during the retreat from Gonzales to San
Jacinto, and performed gallant service in that
battle. He was next aide-de-camp to Gen. Rusk,
while he was in command of the army on the San
Antonio and Guadulupe. He settled in Victoria
and several times represented that county in the
Texian Congress ; also frequently serving in expe-
ditions against the Indians.

By the Congress of 1839-40 he was elected one
of the three members composing the traveling
board of commissioners for all the country west of
the Brazos river, for the detection of fraudulent
land certificates by a personal examination of the
records of each County Court and hearing proof,
a high compliment to both his capacity and integ-
rity. He was a senator in the last years of the
Republic and participated in all the legislation con-
nected with annexation to the United States.

In 1846 he entered the Mexican war as a private
soldier in the celebrated scouting companv of
Capt. Ben McCulloch, in which were a number of
men of high character at that time and numerous

others who subsequently won more or less distinc-
tion. In this respect it is doubtful if a more
remarkable company for talent ever served under
the Stars and Stripes. But Private Roman, at the
instance of Gen. (then U. S. Senator) Rusk was
soon appointed by President Polk, Commissary of
Subsistence, with the rank of Major. As such he
was in the battle of Monterey, in September, 1846,
and Buena Vista in February, 1847. The Amer-
ican army evacuated Mexico in June, 1848, and
early in 1849 Maj. Roman started to California.
Following the admission of that State into the Union
in 1850, he was elected for the two first terms,
State Treasurer, and then came very near being
nominated by the dominant party for Governor.
By President Buchanan he was appointed Appraiser
General of Merchandise on the Pacific coast.
About 1863 he became severely palsied and so deaf
as to receive communication from others only
through writing. Never having married, his last
years were made pleasant in the family of a loving
relative in San Francisco till his death in 1877.
He was a man of ability, firmness, fidelity in every
trust and strong in his attachments and, unlike
many men of such characteristics, without bitter-
ness or prejudice. The name of "Dick" Roman
is cherished wherever it was known in Texas.




Grotius and Vattel, among the earliest and most
erudite of modern writers upon international law,
who from the pandects of Justinian, the maritime
code of Louis XIV, the laws of Oleron and the Han-
seatio League and other sources, with wonderful
brilliancy of genius and depth of philosophy, laid
the foundation of that science which now regulates
the intercourse of the community of nations, en-
riched their pages by illustrations drawn from the
history of many peoples, and from none more than
from that of the people of Switzerland, to which
they turned for the most striking examples of
fidelity to treaty obligations, jealous defense of
national honor, humanity, magnanimity and cour-

Vattel declares that for more than three centuries
prior to his time, Switzerland, although surrounded
by nations almost constantly at war and eager for
the acquisition of new territory, had preserved her
independence, and enjoyed the confidence and
respect of her neighbors. It is related that in the
oldgn time, fifteen hundred Swiss, acting as the
advance guard of a French army, came suddenly
upon the full force of the opposing Austrians ; and,
disdaining to retreat, although overwhelmingly out-
numbered, charged into the midst of the enemy
and, no re-inforcements coming up, perished, all
save one man, who saved his life by flight and was
subsequently driven from his native canton to die
a despised wanderer in a foreign land.

Who does not remember the story of Martha
Glar ? Her country invaded and the men to defend
it few in number, she called upon the women to
arm and strike with them for the liberties of Swit-
zerland and, later, fell sword in hand with her hus-
band, sons, daughters, and granddaughters upon a
bard contested field. Famous for their valor and
love of freedom, the Swiss are no less renowned for
their kindliness, justice and simple and unaffected
piety. Of this race was the subject of this memoir.

While his native land may well be proud of such
a son, she cannot alone lay claim to him. The
best years of his ripened manhood were spent in
Texas. Such men are true citizens of the world

and the memory of worthy deeds that they leave
behind them is the heritage and common property
of mankind. Deeply attached to the institutions
of the United States and to the people of Texas
and of Galveston especially, he never ceased to
love the land of his birth and his friends of long

" There is a land, of every land the pride,

Beloved by Heaven o'er all the world beside;
There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.

" • Where shall that land, that spot of earth be found? '
Art thou a man ? — a patriot? — look around !
O! thou Shalt find, where'er thy footsteps roam
That land thy country and that spot thy home! "

With this love of country was coupled a venera-
tion for the great and good of all climes. As will
be seen further on in this brief sketch of his life,
he has paid the most substantial tribute that has
yet been paid to the men who fought for Texas
independence, an act peculiarly fitting, as there is
a bond of common brotherhood that binds together
the hearts of the sons of Switzerland and the
defenders of liberty in all lands and that neither
time nor distance can affect.

Broad-minded, generous and true-hearted — a
genuine lover of his kind — the memory of Henry
Rosenberg is dear to the people of Texas. His
name will forever be associated with the history of
the city of Galveston, a city in which he spent more
than fifty of the most active and useful years of his
life. He was born at Bilten, Canton Glarus,
Switzerland, June 22, 1824. His early educational
advantages were restricted. He was apprenticed
when a boy and learned a trade which he followed
until past eighteen years of age, when he came to
America with one of his countrymen, JohnHessley,
reaching Galveston in February, 1843. He was
afterwards associated with Mr. Hessley in the mer-
cantile business, which he enlarged and carried on
for about thirty years, during which time he laid
the foundation for the fortune which he afterwards
accumulated. His latter years were devoted chiefly




to his banking interests, wliieli were founded in 1874
upon the organization of the Galveston Bank & Trust
Co., an incorporated institution of which he was
one of the originators and which he bought out in
1882 and replaced with the Eosenberg Bank, of
which he was thereafter sole owner. Early in his
career he began investing his means in Galveston
city property, and, later, in other real estate, im-
proved and unimproved, elsewhere in Texas and, as
a consequence, in time became the owner of a large
amount of realty, which, gradually appreciating in
value, contributed materially to the increase of his
wealth. Mr. Rosenberg was prominently identified
with many of the important enterprises and under-
takings which served to build up and promote the
growth of Galveston.

Prominent among these: —

The First National Bank — of which he was one
of the organizers and for many years the vice-
president; The Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Rail-
way, — of which he was one of the organizers,
president from 1875 to and including 1878 (during
which period the first fifty miles of the road were
constructed), and of whose board of directors he
was an active member for ten years thereafter ;
the Galveston Wharf Company, — of which he
was a director for a long term of years, and for
three years vice-president, and the Galveston City
Railway Company, of which he was president in
1871. He was tendered re-election to the last
named position but declined to accept that honor
as other important business interests demanded his
attention. He was an active and influential mem-
ber of the board of aldermen of the city of Gal-
veston in 1871-72 and again in 1885-87. As a
result of his industry, strict application to business
and superior practical sagacity, aided by circum-
stances, he succeeded in amassing a fortune of
about $1,200,000.00. He contributed to and
took stock in nearly every worthy enterprise. He
was keenly alive to the interests and especially
proud of the city of his adoption, manifesting
a deep concern in everything relating to its wel-

Mr. Rosenberg was long'known among his more
intimate acquaintances as a man of generosity
and great kindness of^heart, though he often times
appeared otherwise to strangers. " Henry Rosen-
berg," says an old and prominent citizen of Gal-
veston, " was one of the best men I ever knew.
He was pure, truthful, upright and just. He was
strict in business and demanded honesty in others.
He despised frauds and shams.

" In fact, he was cordial and companionable and
full of good nature in his social life. In the ordi-

nary business relations, he was exact and just,
but, impatient and aggressive when subjected to
unfair, unjust or unreasonable treatment, or de-
mands, from others. His superb gift to the chil-
dren of Galveston, the Rosenberg Free School
Building, erected in 1888, seating 1,000 pupils,
his donation to Eaton Memorial Chapel of Trinity
Church in that city and his erection of a church in
his native village in Switzerland attested his interest
in the cause of education and Christianity and are
the best remembered of his more important acts of
benevolence in which the public shared a knowledge
before his death. It was not, however, until after
his death and the provisions of his will became
generally known, that his character was fully ap-
preciated." After bequeathing to his surviving
widow, relatives and friends $450,000.00, he left
the remainder, about two-thirds, of his entire for-
tune, to educational and charitable purposes, the
bulk of it going to the people of Galveston. After
remembering his native place with two bequests,
one of $30,000.00 and the other of $50,000.00, he
made provision for the city of Galveston as fol-
lows: The Island City Protestant Orphans' Home,
$30,000 ; Grace Church parish (Protestant Episco-
pal), $30,000; Ladies' Aid Society of the German
Lutheran Church, $10,000; for a Women's Home,
$30,000 ; the Young Men's Christian Association,
$65,000; for a monument to the memory of the
heroes of the Texas Revolution of 1835-6, $50,-
000 ; for drinking fountains for man and beast,
$30,000; and the residue of his estate to the
erection and equipment of a great free public

The following extract from the residuary clause
in his will providing a large sum for a public library,
is pertinent in the latter connection: "In making
this bequest I desire to express in practical form
my affection for the city of my adoption and for the
people among whom I have lived for many years,
trusting that it will aid their intellectual and moral
development and be a source of pleasure and profit
to them and Iheir children and their children's
children." The wisdom exercised by him in his
bequests is no less worthy of admiration than their

Mr. Rosenberg's death occurred May 12th, 1893
Every appropriate mark of respect was shown to
his memory in Galveston and his death was taken
notice of generally by ihe press throughout the
State. Now that he has laid aside his earthly bur-
dens he has left behind him on earth the imperish-
able memory of worthy deeds.

No marble monument, stately monolith or princely
sarcophagus can add to the merits of such a man.




The Galveston News of May 13th, 1893, contained
the following editorial: —

" Early yesterday morning the earthly career of
Henry Rosenberg closed after a painful illness. In
his death Galveston has lost a worthy and re-
spected citizen. Elsewhere will be found a sketch
of his public life and actions, but the News desires,
besides this, to briefly add its testimony to the
private virtues and charitable excellence of this
good man who has gone to his reward. In the
donation of the school which bears his name, to the
youth of Galveston, Mr. Rosenberg associated
himself with the city's best interests. He did not
leave this act to be performed after he himself had
passed away and was himself done with the world's
means and the world's ways, but in the vigor of his
own manhood and from means of his own acquiring

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 27 of 135)