Jonathan Fisk (1778 - 1832)

One of the first lawyers to practice in Newburgh, Jonathan Fisk was born in New Hampshire in 1778, the son of a judge and the grandson of Major-General John Fisk. After teaching school for a while, he studied law in New York City and in 1799 he entered in the profession in Westchester County. The next year he was admitted to practice before the State Supreme Court and the Courts of Common Pleas in Orange and Ulster Counties. He moved to Newburgh, where his practice flourished. During his first year, he later boasted, he tried 43 suits in Common Pleas and 20 more before the Supreme Court, bringing him in the princely sum of $650

In 1801 his income totaled $938, and the next year saw it mount to $1,579 which proved, according to one reporter, "the rapidity with which he rose in the public estimation." At 22 he was one of the leading lawyers in Newburgh, and one of the most forceful. Historian Samuel Eager records that in 1804 Lawyers were men of action in those days."Jonathan Fisk, Esq. horswhipped Jonathan Cooly Esq. publicly in the street; Hugh Walsh, Esq. certified the facts of the transaction in the newspaper." Lawyers were men of action in those days.

Fisk was active in general public affairs, too. An influential Freemason, he was the first Master of Hiram Lodge, chartered in 1806, and he was one of the first directors of the Bank of Newburgh. He was President of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Newburgh in 1811 and 1812 but apparently did not spend much time at the job. "The village government did not require much of his attention probably at that time," one historian generously conceded in 1909, "but be that as it may he was absent, as Representative in Congress, from 1809 to 1815." In that year President Madison appointed him United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. His mansion on Colden Street was known as "an abode of hospitality."

Fisk's final years were less happy. "Loss of hearing compelled him to leave the field of activity," noted one biographer, and "other troubles followed with blighting hand."

He and his wife separated, and in 1830 he wrote dolefully, ''I am fallen from the proud and envied eminence I once occupied as a lawyer, a politician, and a citizen.... I am now unable to prosecute any business but farming, and scarcely this. My deafness renders intercourse with my neighbors exceedingly difficult; and my wife and children refuse to comfort me."

He died, alienated from neighbors and family, in July 1832. His inscription (#429) reads "The trumpet shall sound, And the dead shall be raised." He was buried beside his implacable wife, who had passed beyond comforting him only four months earlier (#430). They lie next to the grave of their daughter Mary Marcella, who had died in 1827 "aged 11 years, 3 months & 14 days" (#431).
Little Mary's stone reads poignantly,
            "Farewell, dear child, a short farewell ere long,
            And we shall meet on yonder shore, where trees of life bear fruit immortal."