Clinton Bowen Fisk

1828 - 1890

From the N.Y. Times, July 10, 1890:


General Clinton Bowen Fisk, soldier, financier, railroad man, and Prohibition leader, died unexpectedly yesterday morning at his residence in the Lisbon apartment house, 175 West Fifty-eighth Street. His death was caused by fatty degeneration of the heart, complicated with a recurrence of influenza, from which he suffered last Fall and never fully recovered. About a month ago he went to Coldwater, Mich., to attend the funeral services for his wife's mother, and contracted a cold, which has confined him to his house ever since his return.

Gen. Fisk was born in Griggsville, Livingston County, N.Y., Dec. 8, 1828. His parents were natives of Rhode Island, who moved to the Genesee Valley some years before his birth. His father, Benjamin Fisk, bore the title of Captain, and his great-grandfather was a Major General in the army of Washington. He was named Clinton after New-York's Governor and was the sixth son. While little more than an infant his parents removed to Michigan and settled in Lenawee County, at a place they called Clinton. When Clinton was six years of age his father died and his mother shortly afterward lost the bulk of her property. Thus it happened when nine years old Clinton apprentices himself until he should be twenty-one to Farmer Wright.

The farmer was to give him three months' "schooling" each year, and Clinton improved the long Winter nights by reading borrowed books in the fire light. The death of his younger brother led him to secure his release from Farmer Wright after he had served little more than a year. When he was thirteen his mother married again, and his stepfather, William Smith, a well-to-do farmer of Spring Arbor, sent him to Albion Seminary. WEhile preparing for Michigan University his eyes failed him, and he resolved to go into business. He became a clerk for L.D. Crippen, merchant and banker at Coldwater, Mich., and in 1850, after marrying his daughter, was taken into partnership. He showed marked business ability, and when the financial crash of 1857 came his firm was one of the few that was able to meet its obligations. But the bulk of his wealth was swept away and his health was severely shaken.

These circumstances led him to go to St. Louis, where he was appointed Western financial agent of the AEtna Insurance Company, a position which involved his traveling from end to end of the Mississippi Valley. In this way he made a wide acquaintance with men, from Abraham Lincoln down. He had from early youth been an earnest opponent of slavery as well as the liquor traffic, and when the war broke out he offered his services to the Union as a private under three months' enlistment.

Before the end of the year, having re-enlisted, he rose to the Colonelcy of the Thirty-third Missouri Volunteers. Nov. 24, 1862, he was commissioned Brigadier General, and in June 1863, was placed in command at Helena, Ark. He served under Grant in the siege of Vicksburg. Later he was placed in command of the District of St. Louis, and, while holding this position, defeated Price in his attack on Jefferson City. He was made Brevet Major General of Volunteers in 1865. At the close of the war he was sent to Nashville as Assistant Commissioner under Gen. Howard to carry out the work of the Freedman's Bureau. His service in the restoration of order and industry were heartily appreciated by both whites and blacks. His observation of the needs of the negroes led to his founding, in 1867, the Fisk University for the education of colored youth.

In 1866 he resigned from the army and became Vice President and Treasurer of the Missouri Pacific and Atlantic and Pacific Railway Companies, positions which he held until 1876. In the last fourteen years he had been interested in a number of banking, mining, and land operations, and had added materially to his previously large fortune. His country house and grounds on Remsen Hill, near Seabright, N.J., are among the finest in the country, and are said to be worth $250,000. His latest venture was the organization about a year and a half ago, with W.W. Hopper, Charles T. Hopper, and C.W. McMarran, of the New-York Accident Insurance Company, of which he was President. He held numerous offices of public and private trust. In 1873 Gen. Grant appointed him a member of the Indian Commission, and he was Chairmanof the board until his death. He was President of the Board of Trustees of Drew Theological Seminary, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn.; the Fisk University, and Albion College, Michigan. He was also one of the Vice Presidents of the Evangelical Alliance, a Trustee of the American Missionary Association, and a Manager of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In politics Gen. Fisk was a Republican until 1884, when he withdrew and took the stand of an uncompromising Prohibitionist. He spoke and voted for St. John for President in that year. In 1886 he himself was the Prohibition candidate for Governor of New-Jersey, and polled nearly twenty thousand votes. In 1888 he was the Prohibition nominee for President.

Gen. Fisk leaves a wife, two sons, and one daughter. One of his sons is West. The other is a student at Columbia College. His daughter is the wife of Dr. Edgar V. Park of this city. The funeral services will be held in the Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church Friday, at 3 P.M. The interment will be at Coldwater, Mich., Saturday.

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