Tombstone Oak

Historical Period: Frontier Texas (1865-1900)
Historical Topic: Law & Order
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Uvalde
Public Access: Yes

This live oak tree and the blaze it wears, about seven feet above the ground, is the tombstone which, for 75 years, marked the gravesite of John King Fisher, one of the most feared and admired bad men in Southwest Texas.

At the age of 11, King Fisher left his home at Paint Rock, Texas, and during the next ten years he advanced well on the way to becoming an outstanding bad man. Charges against him included robbery, theft, bribery, perjury, smuggling, blackmail and murder.

Less than two months after King married Miss Sallie Vivion, on April 7, 1876, he and nine of his associates were arrested by Texas Ranger Captain L. H. McNelly and taken to Eagle Pass to stand trial. On the trip, Captain McNelly gave the young desperado a talk which apparently caused him to change his evil ways.

About 1883, a reformed Fisher moved his family to Uvalde and assumed the duties of deputy sheriff and tax collector.

An account of Fisher's last days, by the late Reverend Bruce Roberts, who knew the Fisher family well, seems most plausible and in accord with the young lawman's conversion.

Leaving Austin after a routine trip to deliver his annual tax report, King boarded the same train as Austin's city marshal, Ben Thompson, another famous outlaw-turned-lawman.

Thompson was going to San Antonio to settle a grudge with Joe Foster, the partner of a gambler he had killed twenty months earlier. Sensing trouble and having been befriended by Foster some years earlier, King went to the theater with Thompson to affect a reconciliation.

Foster and his men were waiting behind a screen at the saloon as King and Thompson entered. Both were killed instantly.

When the city of Uvalde put a street through its cemetery, graves on the east side of North Park Street were moved to a new section, which they designated Pioneer Cemetery. King Fisher's grave was located only after one of Uvalde's senior citizens remembered marking an old oak tree at the time of Fisher's burial. When the grave was opened, Fisher's cast-iron coffin with its glass viewing panel and welded lid was still intact. His body and fancy clothing also were well-preserved.

An iron fence and marker in Pioneer Cemetery identify the new grave of this remarkable young Texan who died with his law boots on.

The Tombstone Oak is located at the rear of the parking lot at 308 W. Leona St., in Uvalde.