(1768-1847) was, according to The Art of Jonathan Fisher, 1768-1847, “an uncommon common man, the nineteenth century pastor of a little Maine town. More than his occupation or the locale may suggest, Fisher was a universal man–inventor, farmer, architect and builder, surveyor, linguist, naturalist. Above all he was an artist, translating his vision of the goodness and orderliness of God’s creation into paintings and woodcuts.”
Fisher was born on October 7, 1768 in New Braintree, Massachusetts. His father died in the Revolutionary War and he was sent at age nine to live with his Congregational minister uncle Joseph Avery, who gave him lessons in Latin, Greek and theology. Accepted to Harvard and poor, Fisher worked his way through as a waiter in the commons, in the library, and by selling items he made himself. He graduated in 1792 and finished divinity school in 1795.
Here are the closing lines from his 65 line poem “Oppression,” published in Portland’s The Christian Mirror in 1829:
Nor to these alone
Our neighboring Red Men should we give the hand
Of kind regard, but to the darker race
Who dwell enslaved among us. That foul blot,
The name of Slavery, from a land so free
In civil institutions, we should strive
With one consent to cancel and erase
And banish it forever.
In 1796, having spent two summers in Blue Hill, he became its pastor and the first settled minister east of the Penobscot River. In addition to delivering thousands of sermons and ministering to surrounding communities, Fisher produced many sketches, paintings and engravings. He was also concerned about public affairs, writing letters to newspapers about the plight of the Indians and slaves in America.
The Jonathan Fisher Memorial in Blue Hill maintains the extensive collection of papers, diaries, publications, paintings, sketches and artifacts that document his life.
Candage, R G F Rufus George Frederick. Memoir of Rev. Jonathan Fisher of Blue Hill, Maine… Bangor, Me. B. A. Burr. 1889. [Bangor Public Library]
Chase, Mary Ellen. Jonathan Fisher, Maine Parson, 1768-1847. New York: MacMillan. 1948. Lines from “Oppression,” p. 248.
Jonathan Fisher: Pioneer Painter and Printmaker. Rockland, Me. Farnsworth Art Museum. 200-? [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
Smith, Raoul N. The Language of Jonathan Fisher, 1768-1847. University of Alabama Press. Published for the Society by University of Alabama Press. c1985. (Cataloger Note: Publication of the American Dialect Society ; no. 72.
Weren, Edith. The Decoding of Jonathan Fisher’s Journals. Blue Hill, Me. Jonathan Fisher Memorial, Inc. 19– [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum. The Arts and Crafts of the Versatile Parson Fisher, 1768-1847: 1967 Summer. Rockland, Me. c1967.
Winchester, Alice. Versatile Yankee: The Art of Jonathan Fisher, 1768-1847. Princeton: The Pyne Press. 1973.