Date Original



This collection contains a letter written by William Meade Fishback to Dr. John Wyley Simpson Leslie on September 6, 1885 discussing local politics.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Meade Fishback (1831-1903) was born on November 5, 1831, in Jeffersonton, Culpeper County, Virginia, the oldest of nine children born to Frederick Fishback and Sophia Ann Yates Fishback. Fishback attended the University of Virginia and taught school after his graduation in 1855. In 1857, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he was admitted to the bar. Around 1858 Fishback moved to Sebastian County, Arkansas, settling near Fort Smith. Fishback was elected Sebastian County delegate to the state convention considering secession due to his Unionist stance. Fishback voted with the majority against secession however, during the second session of convention, following the firing on Fort Sumter, he joined the majority endorsing secession. Armed hostilities in reaction to Fort Sumter caused Fishback to take the oath of allegiance to the Union in Missouri. After Little Rock, Arkansas fell in 1863, General James Schofield appointed him a colonel with the responsibility of forming the Third Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Upon his return to Little Rock, he published a Unionist newspaper, the Unconditional Union, instead of recruiting for the Third Arkansas, but he later recruited 900 men for the Fourth Arkansas Cavalry. After the war, Fishback returned to Sebastian County, reopened a law office in Fort Smith, and spent the next decade building his practice into one of the most prosperous in western Arkansas. On April 4, 1867, he married Adelaide Miller, whose father had been a prominent Fort Smith merchant. They had six children. After his wife’s death on December 6, 1882, he never remarried. Fishback switched to the Democratic Party because of Reconstruction policies. He was a delegate to the 1874 constitutional convention. He was nominated for governor in 1892 and won but due to a national depression lost reelection in 1894.He remained active in his law practice in Fort Smith until he suffered a stroke in early February 1903. He died in his sleep on February 9, 1903, and is buried in Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith.

Physical Description

Document, 8.5" x 11"

Geographical Area






Resource Type



William Meade Fishback letter, SMC.055.018


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

William Meade Fishback letter, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


Use and reproduction of images held by the Arkansas State Archives without prior written permission is prohibited. For information on reproducing images held by the Arkansas State Archives, please call 501-682-6900 or email at


United States History