On June 17, 1898, The Covington Leader published a story about the death of Uncle Shirley Fisher, a Black man who they said was already a grown man when arriving in 1823.

He was enslaved by the Dunham and Fisher families before being emancipated. Fisher was also acquainted with both Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson. He is buried at Hall Cemetery and his services were reportedly attended by a large number of people, both Black and white.

It was uncommon at the time to publish such an obituary for a Black man. The obituary appears below in its entirety as it was written then.



Uncle Shirley Fisher, Possibly the Oldest Man in Tipton County, Dies at His Home in Covington Last Sunday Night

Shirley Fisher, colored, one of the oldest, if not the oldest man in Tipton county, died of paralysis at his home in this place last Sunday night and was buried the following day at Hall graveyard near this place. His burial was attended by a large concourse of people of his own race, as well as by some white descendants of his former master in slavery days.

The obituary for Uncle Shirley Fisher was published in The Covington Leader on June 17, 1898.

As nearly as can be reckoned by the direct descendants of his former master, Uncle Shirley, as he was familiarly called by everybody, was in his ninety seventh year at the time of his death and it is fully believed by several of them that he had at least reached the century mark, or was even older than that. Uncle Shirley can to this country as the slave of the late Daniel A. Dunham in the year 1823 and it is known that he was then a grown man. (unreadable) the earliest settlers of this portion of the State and came with his family and slaves from Nashville in the above named year. The trip was made in an old-time flatboat, and the party landed at a point on the Big Hatchie river now known as Pilljerk. Most of the country was then a wilderness and a roadway had to be cut through the virgin forest from that point to this place in order that the party could make the journey. Uncle Shirley cleared off the ground here for the pitching of a tent under which was sold the first merchandise ever handled in Covington and on this spot the first storehouse in the (unreadable) was erected. He also helped clear off the ground for the building of the first courthouse in Tipton county. Uncle Shirley dug the first grave in Munford cemetery, where now sleeps the remains of enough people to make a city almost if not quite as large as Covington. He had often been heard to say that he had killed many deer in the timber which then stood about the Town spring. Uncle Shirley was personally acquainted which that famous pioneer, David Crocket and before he came from Andrew Jackson, or “Old Hickory,” as he always called him. Back in the early thirties he was at one time stolen by the gang of the great outlaw, John A. Marrell, who had reached some point down in Mississippi with him on their way to New Orleans to sell him, when he succeeded in making his escape and returned to his old master in this place.

The above are only a few of the important incidents of Uncle Shirley’s life back in the pioneers days – what he had seen and was familiar with would no doubt make a good sized book filled with thrilling and interesting happenings. He had seen generation after generation come and go, had successively taken care of his master’s children, their children and their children’s children and was a grown-up man before our very oldest citizens were born.

Daniel A. Dunham was the father-in-law of the late Dr. Charles G. Fisher, who came into possession of Uncle Shirley some time in the twenties. The old man was devoted to Dr. Fisher and to all of his descendants and the emancipation proclamation did not abate his love and devotion to them.

Uncle Shirley was one of the most straightforward, upright, and honest of men and withal he was a man of fine common sense, quickness of perception, and a rare sense of the ridiculous. He was also an excellent Christian man and a lifelong member of the Methodist church and a power in the church. The colored people regarded him as a patriarch and looked up to him as a man possessing supernatural powers. By the white people he was universally held in the very highest esteem.

Uncle Shirley was taken sick some five or six weeks before his death, and during this time was able to do but little work. The stroke of paralysis came Friday night and the end came at the time above stated. Up until recently he was unusually active for one of his years, and was still able to do a fair day’s work.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.