Fisk Family Papers, 1813-1931


Summary Information
Title: Fisk Family Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1813-1931

Creator:
  • Fisk Family
Call Number: Green Bay Mss 22; PH Green Bay Mss 22

Quantity: 2.8 c.f. (7 archives boxes and 1 flat box) and photographs

Repository:
Archival Locations:
UW-Green Bay Cofrin Library / Green Bay Area Research Ctr. (Map)
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Abstract:
Business and personal papers of four generations of the Fisk Family of Green Bay and Fort Howard, Wisconsin, primarily documenting the operations of the land and lumber company, W.D. Fisk and Co., during the 1870s and 1880s. Business records consist of letterbooks, cashbooks, journals, ledgers, and two volumes listing shipments to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and other customers. The personal papers document only a few members of the family, primarily the line that descended from Joel S. Fisk to his son William Justin Fisk and then to his son Wilbur Driggs Fisk and his children Hiram Fisk and Mary Newton Fisk. Included is fragmentary correspondence; legal account books of Joel Fisk (1838-1842); letters to Eva Cornell Fisk from her maternal cousin, William Haight, a Justice Department inspector; snapshots and letters written by Hiram Fisk during a trip to China and Japan in 1915; a scrapbook, honeymoon letters, and DAR application of Mary Fisk Newton; and miscellaneous letters to and from Martha Driggs Ryan, aunt of Wilbur D. Fisk. Also included are biographical clippings and portraits of a few members of the Fisk and Driggs families. The original photographic prints are available at the Green Bay Area Research Center; copies are in Madison.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-gb0022
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Biography/History

In 1836 Joel S. Fisk (1810-1876), his wife Charlotte A. Green Fisk, and their son William immigrated to Green Bay from New York, thus becoming one of the first settlers of Wisconsin. Joel Fisk drew the plat of Fort Howard, owned a general store, and was the postmaster for the city of Fort Howard for many years. In 1846 he entered the lumber business. He died in 1876, only six weeks from the death of his wife. The Fisks were the parents of eight children: William Justin, Hiram, Valentine S., Elizabeth, Fannie C., Kate P., Julius, and Melaneton Hogeboom Fisk.

Their oldest child, William Justin Fisk, was born in Ohio in 1833 but grew up in the Green Bay area. In 1848, at the age of fifteen, he began working with his father in the Green Bay land office, mapping the improvements of the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers. After attending school in Appleton, he operated a mill that produced shingles. Fisk disposed of his mercantile interests in 1862 and turned entirely to the lumber business. In the next 35 years he became a major supplier of ties and timbers for the construction of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Wisconsin. In 1877 his sons joined him in the business and the company was renamed W.D. Fisk and Company. Previously the company had been known as Fisk and Son. The W.D. Fisk and Co. was a large corporation that employed many workers. In addition, William J. Fisk was active in financial and civic affairs, and at the time of his death he was regarded as one of the best known bankers in the Green Bay area. William J. Fisk was president and director of the Kellogg National Bank, postmaster of Fort Howard (1862-1865), and a state assemblyman from Brown County (1875-1877). In the Assembly he was a member of the Railroad Committee when the Granger Law was revoked.

William married Mary J. Driggs on January 8, 1855 . Mary Driggs was born on December 6, 1834, the daughter of John J. and Susan A. Driggs of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Mary had a brother George W. Driggs (died in 1890), who served in the Civil War, and an older sister, Martha (1827-1907) who married the prominent Appleton judge, Samuel Ryan. Following Mary's death in April 1903, William married Hattie Trowel. William Justin Fisk died on March 1, 1909.

William J. and Mary Fisk were the parents of four sons: Frank S., Wilbur D., Harry G., and G. Wallace. Frank died in 1881 as a result of an accidental shooting. The other three sons eventually joined their father in his business. Wilbur D. Fisk (1856-1936), the oldest son, was born on September 10, 1856. Like his father, Wilbur was entrepreneurial, and he took advantage of business opportunities when they came his way. He worked in the lumber business, was president of the Fisk Land and Lumber Company, and was director of the Kellogg National Bank. He also served three terms as the treasurer of Fort Howard. On January 8, 1885 Wilbur married Eva Cornell of Valentine, Nebraska. Eva was born on February 28, 1857 and died in 1903. Together, Wilbur and Eva had two children, Mary and Hiram Cornell Fisk. Mary Cornell Fisk married Douglas Erle Newton on January 29, 1920 and had a son, Simpson Newton. Hiram Fisk was born October 19, 1885, attended Stanford University, and worked in Washington, D.C. for the Food and Drug Administration. He died during the influenza epidemic of 1918 at the age of 33.

Harry W. Fisk, the son of William J and Mary Fisk, was born March 9, 1866. He became vice president of the Fisk Land and Lumber Company. He also a director of the McCartney National Bank and for eight years, the secretary and bookkeeper of the Green Bay Light and Power Company. He married Amy V. Howland in Chico, California; they were the parents of Elsie, Howland, and Bessie. George Wallace Fisk, the fourth son of William J. and Mary Fisk, was born on March 8, 1868. He was a bookkeeper for the Kellogg National Bank for seventeen years and eventually the secretary of the Fisk Land and Lumber Co. George married Margaret Doty and they had two children: Earl and Ruth (later Mrs. G.A. Walter).

Scope and Content Note

The Papers document several generations of Fisks who were prominent in the business, banking and civic life of Green Bay. The majority of the papers, five of the seven boxes in the collection, concern the family's land and lumber business, W.D. Fisk and Co. Only two boxes contain personal papers about the family. Primarily represented are: Joel and Charlotte Fisk, Eva Cornell Fisk (the wife of Wilbur D), Hiram Fisk and Mary Fisk Newton (the children of Wilbur D.), and Martha Driggs Ryan (the sister-in-law of William J.).

The collection is divided into BIOGRAPHICAL MISCELLANY, BUSINESS RECORDS, and PERSONAL PAPERS AND CORRESPONDENCE. The BIOGRAPHICAL MISCELLANY consists of clippings and photographs about various members of the family. Additional information about the family may be found in the GAR membership application in Mary Fisk Newton's papers. It traces the Fisk lineage to a Revolutionary War soldier, Nathaniel Selleck. The photographs, which are housed in Green Bay, include portraits of Wilbur D. Fisk, several unidentified Fisk family members, George J. Driggs (brother-in-law of William J.), Martha Driggs Ryan (sister-in-law of William J.), and Polly Driggs West. Also included are nineteenth century photographs of the William J. and Wilbur D. Fisk homes. The career of Hiram Fisk is represented by a large group of photographs taken in China in 1915.

BUSINESS RECORDS, which span the period 1853-1908, comprise the majority of the collection and they document the firms J.S. Fisk & Son (Joel Fisk and William J. Fisk) and W.D. Fisk and Co. The earlier records are incomplete, consisting of two poorly identified volumes. While some of the entries clearly concern business operations, others concern the Fort Howard Cemetery, home construction, and other topics of a personal or civic nature. The W.D.Fisk & Co. records are more complete, particularly for the 1870s and 1880s, consisting of letterbooks of outgoing correspondence, cashbooks, journals and ledgers, and two volumes listing shipments to customers such as the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The letterbooks suggest a more complicated history for the company than is found in the standard nineteenth century biographical sources. The volumes indicate that prior to the formation of W.D.and Co., the firm operated as the Elmore and Fisk partnership.

The PERSONAL PAPERS AND CORRESPONDENCE consist of personal material about only a few members of the family. There is some information here on the Fisk Family women. The documentation concentrates on the line that descended from Joel Fisk to his son William J. Fisk, then his son Wilbur D. Fisk, and then to his son and daughter, Hiram Fisk and Mary Fisk Newton. The folder entitled General Correspondence consists of letters whose writers could not be identified.

Joel and Charlotte Green Fisk are documented by two folders. One contains property documents and miscellaneous letters, highlights being an 1834 letter from Charlottte to her sister Alida written in Brunswick, Ohio, which she describes as “a letter beyond the West” and an 1843 letter to Charlotte and Joel from a sister in Plattsburg. Joel Fisk's career is represented by two account books dating from 1838 to 1842. Both record fees for legal services. It is not clear if Fisk was acting as justice of the peace or attorney in the litigation. (Accounts noted include J.D. Doty, Daniel Bread, A.G. Ellis, and Daniel Whitney.)

About Eva Cornell Fisk, wife of Wilbur D., there are a few letters from her father, and several from her maternal cousin William Haight, who was an examiner in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., who traveled widely during the 1880s. The Hiram Fisk material consists of letters from China and Japan dated 1915 (as well as the aforementioned photographs), and sympathy letters received by the family at the time of his death. Mary Newton Fisk is represented by a souvenir scrapbook primarily relating to her education at West High School and letters written during her honeymoon in 1920. (Three decorated paper napkins from this scrapbook have been removed to the SHSW Paper Ephemera File). The Driggs family is represented by letters to and from Martha Driggs Ryan, the sister-in law of William J.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. Edwin Simpson (Mary Fisk) and Myrtle Fisk, Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1970-1981. Accession Number: M70-195, M81-607


Processing Information

Processed by Joanne Hohler, 1970; and by Maureen Drennan (2001 intern), Susan E. Davis, and Carolyn J. Mattern.


Contents List
Green Bay Mss 22
Series: Biographical Miscellany
Box   1
Folder   1
Clippings
Photographs
Box   8
Folder   1
Original prints
Box   8
Folder   2
Driggs Family
Box   8
Folder   3
Fisk Family
Box   8
Folder   4
Hiram Fisk China pictures
Box   8
Folder   5
Wilbur Driggs Fisk
PH Green Bay Mss 22
Photocopies
Green Bay Mss 22
Series: Business Records
J. S. Fisk & Son
Box   1
Folder   2
Account book: Ledger, 1853-1856; Unidentified journal, 1861-1908
Box   5
Folder   4
Account book, 1861-1862; Unidentified ledger, 1864-1874
W.D. Fisk & Co.
Correspondence
Box   1
Folder   3
Loose correspondence, 1873-1881
Letterbooks
Box   1
Folder   4-7
1876-1882
Box   2
Folder   1-2
1882-1888
Cash books
Box   2
Folder   3-4
A-B, 1878-1882
Box   3
Folder   1-2
C-D, 1882-1891
Box   3
Folder   3-5
Journals, A-C, 1878-1887
Box   4
Folder   1-4
Ledgers, A-D, 1878-1890
Box   4
Folder   5
Reports, 1881-1884
Box   5
Folder   1
Bills, 1881-1887
Box   5
Folder   2-3
Journal of lumber shipped, 1873-1887
Box   6
Folder   1
Miscellaneous business papers, 1855-1897
Series: Personal Papers and Correspondence
Box   6
Folder   2
General correspondence, 1833-1931
Box   6
Folder   3
Driggs Family, 1845-1906
Box   6
Folder   4
Eva Cornell Fisk, 1879-1902
Joel S. Fisk and Charlotte Green Fisk
Box   6
Folder   5
Correspondence, 1813-1857
Box   6
Folder   6
Record book, 1838-1842
Box   6
Folder   7
Hiram Cornell Fisk1915-1918
Mary Fisk Newton
Box   6
Folder   8
Papers, 1901-1920
Box   7
Scrapbook, 1901-1920