FISK, SIMONA SMITH
FISK, SIMONA SMITH (1829–1890). Simona Smith Fisk, participant in the Runaway Scrape and Texas land grant recipient, was born at Mission San Francisco de la Espada, in Mexican Texas, on October 28, 1829, to Erastus “Deaf” Smith, a noted frontiersman who took part in the Texas Revolution, and Guadalupe [Ruiz], whose ancestors first migrated to New Spain (see SPANISH TEXAS) in the late seventeenth century.
In 1822 Erastus Smith moved his family to Bexar. According to some historians and local legends, Smith tried to stay out of the Texas Revolution in part to spare his wife and children the difficulty of choosing sides. It is unclear how much access Simona had to her father after he joined Stephen F. Austin’s troops in 1835, but on December 8, 1835, he was badly wounded at the siege of Bexar when firing his rifle atop the Veramendi Palace (see VERAMENDI, FERNANDO). While he recovered from his injuries, Smith sent his family to San Felipe de Austin and placed them in the care of the General Council and Governor Henry Smith. On January 4, 1836, Guadalupe Ruiz and her children, including six-year-old Simona, reached San Felipe.
Reduced to “destitution” by the war, Simona and her family remained in San Felipe until they learned of the Texans’ defeat at the battle of the Alamo. Fearing the Mexican army’s approach, the family joined other refugees in the Runaway Scrape. Simona with her mother and siblings travelled with the ad interim government of the Republic of Texas to Columbia (later West Columbia), where the Smith family continued to live in destitution until after the war. Columbia, then a village of a few hundred inhabitants, lacked housing accommodations and was unprepared for the influx of refugees, so much so, that even Secretary of State Stephen F. Austin had to rent a shack from a local resident to function as his office and quarters prior to his death there in December 1836. Francis Lubbock recalled having to sleep under a large oak due to the lack of housing or hotel space.
Following her father’s death in November 1837, Simona, then eight years old, likely lived with her mother in Bexar County or with other family members until multiple disasters struck in 1849. Early that year Simona’s sister, Susan Smith Fisk, died from what were likely complications from childbirth. Then in May, Simona’s mother died in the 1849 cholera pandemic (see EPIDEMIC DISEASES) that swept through a number of continents during in the 1840s and 1850s.
On August 1, 1849, Simona married her recently widowed brother-in-law, James Nathaniel Fisk. Simona and James Fisk had ten children together: Susan Fisk, Parma E. Fisk, Cordelia Virginia Fisk, Sam Houston Fisk, Benjamin Sappington Fisk, Erastus Smith Fisk, Zoroaster Fisk, David Bell Fisk, Mary Fisk, and Simona Fisk. James’s two children from his previous marriage to Simona’s sister, Susan, lived with them as well.
An act passed by the Texas legislature on December 21, 1837, allowed donation certificates of 640 acres of land to all persons who had fought in the Texas Revolution or to their survivors. Due to her father’s service in the Texas Revolution, Simona applied for and received land certificates for one-third of the two leagues and two labors of land on March 7, 1854. By an act passed in March 1881, she also received as a widow of a Texas Revolution veteran 1,280 acres of land in August 2, 1881, in Zavala and Dimmit County. From records at the General Land Office, Simona owned 4,990 acres through Texas land grants; she sold much of her land upon finalization of the grants.
On November 11, 1890, Simona Smith Fisk passed away suddenly from heart failure at her home in San Antonio, Texas. According to her obituary she left many daughters, sons, and warm friends to mourn her passing. The San Antonio Daily Light announced her death and referred to Fisk as “a very popular lady and one of our oldest citizens and heads of families.” She was buried at the Alamo Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio. In 1936 a headstone was erected at her gravesite as part of the Texas Centennial celebration.
Steve Baldwin, “Special Edition: The Legacy of Deaf Smith: Famed Soldier, Spy, & Scout of the Texas Revolution,” The Deaf Texan (Manchaca, Texas: Texas Association of the Deaf Publications, 2012). Alwyn Barr, Texans in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990). Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001). Frederick Charles Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio: Genealogies of the Early Latin, Anglo-American, and German Families with Occasional Biographies (San Antonio: Artes Graficas, 1937). Charles Huston, Deaf Smith: Incredible Texas Spy (Waco: Texian Press, 1973). John Holmes Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, Volume 3 (Austin: Presidial, 1973). Louis Kemp, “Smith, Erastus ‘Deaf,’” The Kemp Biological Sketches, San Jacinto Museum of History, San Jacinto, Texas, SanJacinto-Museum.org (https://www.sanjacinto-museum.org/Library/Veteran_Bios/Bio_page/?id=762&army=Texian), accessed February 15, 2019. Rosa Kleberg, "Some of My Early Experiences in Texas," trans. Rudolph Kleberg, Jr., Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 & 2 (April & October 1898). Francis Lubbock, Six Decades in Texas (Austin: B.C. Jones & Co. 1900). Wallace L. McKeehan, “Lista de los Havitantes de la Colonia de DeWitt (Inhabitants DeWitt Colony 1828),” Sons of DeWitt County (http://www.sonsofdewittcolony.org//1828census.htm#deafsmith), accessed February 15, 2019. San Antonio Daily Light, November 11, 1890. Texas General Land Office (http://www.glo.texas.gov/index.html), accessed June 15, 2017. A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas, Volume 1 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1907).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, John R. Lundberg and Elaina Friar Moyer, "FISK, SIMONA SMITH ," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi66.
Uploaded on January 17, 2020. Modified on January 20, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.