Elizabeth Margaret Acheson Fisher

Free Stater and Rescuer

Elizabeth Margaret Acheson was born in New York City on January 25, 1826. By the time she had become a young woman, Elizabeth and her family had moved to Steubenville, Ohio, where she was involved in a large Sunday school program. Here Elizabeth met and married Hugh Dunn Fisher, who worked in the school while preparing for the ministry. The Fishers eventually had four sons by birth and an adopted daughter. Elizabeth and Hugh moved to Kansas Territory in the 1850s both for his ministerial work and to help advance the free-state movement.

Soon after the Civil War began in 1861, Hugh became chaplain of the 5th Kansas Cavalry and participated in raids into Missouri, where he gained fame for sending “contrabands” (Black people escaping slavery) to Kansas and other free states. Unfortunately for Rev. Fisher, he happened to be home in Lawrence on sick leave when Quantrill’s raiders attacked. Hugh barely had time to tell his older sons to run and to hide himself in the cellar before four raiders entered their home. When they demanded that Mrs. Fisher bring her husband up out of the cellar, she coolly told them he had run away and handed them a lamp to search the cellar themselves. 

"They came within eight feet of where I lay,” Hugh remembered, “but my wife’s self-possession in giving the light had disconcerted them, and they left without seeing me.”

The men set four different fires around the house, but Elizabeth, her six-month-old son in her arms, put them all out. The frustrated raiders finally set another fire and threatened to shoot Elizabeth if she tried putting it out. As assailants surrounded the home to catch a fleeing Rev. Fisher, Elizabeth covered her husband in cloth, got him out of the cellar, and brought him to a spot in their yard, where she surrounded him with rescued items from their burning home. Hugh Fisher survived the Lawrence Massacre thanks to Elizabeth’s courage and ingenuity—an incident that he and several other survivors mentioned in their accounts.

The following year, Elizabeth and other local women formed the Ladies Aid Society to care for Black freedom seekers. Elizabeth Fisher died on February 8, 1901, as one of the oldest and most-respected heroes of an infamous day.