Asa Fisher was a pioneering businessman, whose former residence served as the State Governor’s Mansion from 1893-1960.
Fisher got his start by co-founding Shaw, Cathcart, and Fisher in Boston with a couple of partners. Together with W.B. Shaw, they relocated the store to the new town of Edwinton – now Bismarck – in May 1872.
Upon arriving, Fisher became acquainted with John P. Dunn – a fellow merchant who later establishes North Dakota’s first drug store. Fisher opened the city’s first billiard hall right next to Dunn’s new general store on Main Avenue, between 4th and 5th Streets.
Fisher’s wealth largely came from wholesale liquor, when he acquired the business furnishing to the army posts north of Bismarck. His liquor operation later expanded, establishing franchises in other cities.
In 1879, Fisher partnered with other investors to established Bismarck’s First National Bank, of which he later was president.
Fisher diversified his wealth through real estate investments. His liquor business ceased in North Dakota in 1889 when it was admitted to the union as a dry state. Soon after, he relocated to Colorado to resume in liquor trade. In Colorado, he continued diversified investments, including a principle owner of Findley Consolidated Mining Company in Cripple Creek.
Fisher was born on May 27, 1846 near Medway, Massachusetts.
Fisher was married to assumed widower Adelaide (Addie) Steele. Addie’s first husband, Henry W. Steele, was presumed dead after he left to join the Civil War in 1863 never to returned.
Asa Fisher died August 30, 1911. His estate was valued at over $1 million. In his will, he bequeathed his fortune to his wife and stepdaughter. Addie had preceded him in death, leaving his fortune to his stepdaughter… Lillian, Addie’s daughter.
A cousin of Fisher seeking to acquire the fortune contested Asa’s will. He presented evidence that Addie’s first husband was actually still alive, and that their marriage was not legal. The court later ruled in favor of Lillian.
Former Governor’s Mansion
The home that would later be used as the Governor’s Mansion was built in 1884. Without a doubt, it was among the largest and most expensive residences in Bismarck at the time. Today, the home is a historic museum.
The Fisher Addition, located immediately east of the Capitol, was named for him. He still owned hundreds of local lots, including the land now bearing his name, upon his death. The area would remain largely undeveloped until the 1950s.