By Lynn Duane Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The names of most cemeteries in these parts tend toward the geographic (Red Butte Cemetery in Aspen or Cedar Hill Cemetery in Gypsum), the idyllic (Sunset View Cemetery in Eagle) or the generic (Evergreen Cemetery in Carbondale).
Apparently only one is named after a person or family. It’s Fisher Cemetery at Spring Valley, located a few miles beyond Colorado Mountain College.
Who was the Fisher family?
George and Patricia (Fisher) Kotsch, of Rochester, Washington, delve into the Fisher family history, and much more, in their new 244 page online book, “Coming Home: The History of Our Fisher Family, Including the Trimble, Deere and Davidson Families.”
“Nobody (in Spring Valley) knows anything about the Fisher family,” Patricia told The Sopris Sun.
This reporter counted approximately 50 grave markers during a recent visit to the cemetery, dating from the 1880s up to fairly recent times, including a combined marker for A.J. Fisher 1831-1903, Aceneth Fisher 1837-1917 and Wm. Fisher 1873-1885, and a nearby marker for Green Clark Fisher 1876-1958.
The book includes several pages devoted to the Fisher Gang, which in the mid-1890s operated out of the Spring Valley area and was known far and wide as cattle rustlers, thieves, armed robbers and general mischief makers.
The Fisher Gang
According to various published reports in the Aspen Daily Times, New Castle News, Aspen Tribune, Glenwood Post & Weekly Ledger and others, the Fisher Gang possibly numbered as many as seven members, and included Dave Fisher (born in 1868), his half-brother Green and George Lewis.
The first newspaper story about the Fisher Gang came from the Aspen Daily Times on Sept. 27, 1895 and was headlined “Garfield County ‘Rustlers’ Are Still at Large.” It seems Sheriff Ware and his posse rode up to Spring Valley the previous Monday but was unable to bring in the gang because he didn’t have enough men to surround the gang’s cabin.
The New Castle News on Saturday, Sept. 28 reported that the previous Sunday, sheriff Ware returned to a ranch at the head of Coulter Creek (southeast of Glenwood Springs) with more men, and also help from Sheriff Grumley of Eagle County and 20 of his men. A shootout at a cabin ensued.
“They (the gang) fired from the cabin until the posse got too close … then they took to firing as they ran.” In all, an estimated 100 shots were exchanged. Nobody died, although “Charlie Messick’s horse was killed under him.” The gang escaped.
The next Fisher Gang news was reported in the New Castle News on Saturday, Oct. 5. The news reported “the cattle rustlers” quietly came to the county seat to surrender “ … while Ware was out hunting for them in another part of the county.” Dave and Green Fisher came in alone, “ … the third party having skipped.”
When the Fisher brothers were convicted of cattle rustling in Glenwood Springs in November 1895, the Aspen Tribune headlined the story “CATTLEMEN ARE JUBILENT.” Dave received a three-year sentence in state prison, while Green, 20, was sent to the state reformatory.
After their release from their respective prisons, Dave returned to the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale areas where he was employed as a farm hand and laborer. The 1930 census lists him as about 60 years old. “Not a lot is known about Dave,” Patricia told The Sopris Sun, including his final resting place.
More is known about Green. According to a timeline in the book, he married Mary Katherine (Deere) Garfield County in 1898. From 1899-1904 they had two children (Andrew J. and Evelyn Violet). They homesteaded 160 acres near Green’s father’s homestead and divorced in 1904. In 1930, Green was living in Durango, Colorado, married to Viola B. Fisher. The census lists his occupation as coal miner. He died in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1958; his remains are buried in Fisher Cemetery.
Footnote: After her divorce from Green, Mary took Andrew J. and Evelyn, and first moved to Nebraska, and later to Montana. Andrew J. earned a degree in engineering from the University of Colorado and went on to become the general manager of the Bethlehem Steel plant in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “From jail (the father) to Yale (the son)” the Kotsches write in their book. Andrew J. Fisher died in 1959. “We think he put the Fisher marker at the cemetery,” Patricia told The Sopris Sun. “He was the only person in the family with money to do it.”
Rest of story
Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Fisher was born in Tennessee in 1828. Aceneth (Trimble) Fisher was born in Edgar County, Illinois in 1837. A.J. married Aceneth in 1874. In 1879, they moved to Twin Lakes in Lake County, Colorado. From 1885 to 1917, the Fishers lived at “Fisher Hallow.” What later became Fisher Cemetery was part of their homestead. Patricia Kotsch is the great-great-granddaughter of Andrew Jackson Fisher.
According to “Coming Home,” the Crystal River Ranch Co. quit claimed to the Haff Family Trust the Fisher Cemetery and access road on Sept. 22, 1995. This was part of a land swap between Crystal River Ranch owner Sue Rogers and the Bureau of Land Management. “The Crystal River Ranch owned the Fisher ranch property, which included the cemetery,” the book says. “Mrs. Rogers didn’t want the BLM to own the property … ”.