William Logan Fisher papers  1749-1861
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The Logans and Fishers were among the most prominent families in American Quaker society during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Descendants of John Fisher, who had accompanied William Penn to Pennsylvania in 1682, the Fishers were a particularly large and affluent family, many of whom became known for their philanthropy. Their various commercial endeavors, fostered through a network of family members and fellow Quakers throughout the northeastern seaboard, resulted in the establishment of several prosperous and highly profitable firms as one generation succeeded another in manufacturing and shipping.

In March, 1772, Thomas Fisher, originally from Lewes, Del., married Sarah Logan, daughter of William and granddaughter of James Logan. Following in the footsteps of his father, Joshua, Fisher established himself early in life as a merchant, engaging in trade with Britain and her West Indian colonies before the Revolution intervened. In 1777, Thomas and his younger brothers Miers and Samuel were among several Quakers arrested by American radicals after refusing to swear an oath of allegiance. Although their refusal to do so was based upon religious principals, they were nevertheless suspected of loyalism, were locked into the Masonic Hall, and finally exiled to Winchester, Va. All three Fishers survived this ordeal with their businesses more or less intact, and after the war Thomas Fisher renewed his diverse interests in shipping and brewing, and gained a local reputation for his philanthropy. Thomas and Sarah Fisher fled Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, to a property called Wakefield, near Germantown, that they had inherited from Sarah's father. Taking a strong liking to this country estate, the Fishers built a house on a portion of the property and settled there in 1795.

The Fishers' third child, William Logan Fisher, was born in Philadelphia in 1781. Twice married, first to Mary Rodman in 1801, with whom he had three children, and secondly to Sarah Lindley, with whom he had an additional three, Fisher remained most of his life at Wakefield. In 1829 his son, Thomas Rodman Fisher, would build a small house of his own called Little Wakefield (Wakefield burned in the 1980s but Little Wakefield still stands on the campus of LaSalle University). From his early twenties, William Logan Fisher distinguished himself as an industrious manufacturer and merchant, assuming a brisk trade in wool and woolen products, and promoting the indigenous manufacture of gloves, stockings, woolen apparel, and broad cloth, with his mill at Germantown serving as a prototype of American ingenuity and enterprise. The most important and longest lasting among several commercial partnerships of Fisher's was the one with his brother-in-law, Charles Waln Morgan (Morgan's wife, Sarah Rodman, and Fisher's first wife, Mary Rodman, were sisters). The two became close friends, working together both in the wool trade and as partners in the Duncannon Iron Works, a major operation in Clark's Ferry, Pa., that included a blast furnace, rolling mill and nail manufactory. Both, too, were devout, politically and doctrinally liberal Quakers.

In the 1820s, the Society of Friends in America entered a period of extreme crisis. Doctrinal disputes between conservative and progressive factions, centering on the relative importance of scripture versus personal revelation and the influence of the "new" evangelism, dominated Quaker discourse, and resulted in a series of major schisms in the church. This volatile mixture was further fueled by disputes between politically conservative Friends and progressive to radical Friends, divided over such issues of national importance as slavery or race- and sex-equality, as well as issues specific to Quakers, such as Friends' "peculiarities" in speech and dress. The Hicksite schism of 1827, the Wilburite-Gurneyite schisms of the 1830's, and the separation of the Progressive Friends in Philadelphia in 1848 were all products of these disputes, and the rifts that developed in meetings were years in repairing.

Fisher, Morgan, and most of Fisher's correspondents were committed to the "liberal" ideas exemplified in the preaching of Elias Hicks, and opposed to the narrowly scripture-centered, evangelical-influenced Orthodox doctrine prevalent in the New England Yearly Meeting and present in a sizable minority in Philadelphia. Typical of many "Hicksites," Fisher also espoused politically radical points of view. Later in his life, Fisher became well known in Quaker circles as a controversialist, authoring books on Owenite socialism, the history of Sabbath observance, the laws of the Society of Friends, and a history of the Society. Others of his friends were no less controversial: most notably, James B. Congdon, who wrote the doctrinally radical Quaker Quiddities. Fisher died in Philadelphia in 1862.