Monday, December 5, 2016

Merchant, Developer, and Industrial Commissioner George Fisher [otd 12/05]

Commissioner Fisher.
J. H. Hawley photo.
George Howard Fisher, Bancroft merchant and first Commissioner of the Idaho Industrial Accident Board, was born December 5, 1872 in Richmond, Utah (5-6 miles south of Franklin, Idaho).

His father, William F. “Billy” Fisher, was one of the first riders hired in 1860 for the Pony Express. Billy was best known for his gallop from Ruby Valley Station (50-60 miles southeast of today’s Elko) in Nevada across three hundred miles of desolate territory to Salt Lake City. His message summoned troops to quell an Indian uprising.

Billy later settled in Utah, where George was born, and then moved to Oxford, Idaho. George completed his early schooling in Utah and then joined a brother in raising purebred racing horses. In 1893, he served a three-year mission in the Hawaiian Islands for the LDS church. While there, he learned the Hawaiian language and visited the leper colony on the island of Molokai.

Back on the Mainland, he taught school for a time and also attended the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). In 1898, the Democratic Party offered George the nomination to the Idaho House of Representatives and, according to H. T. French, he “was elected by the largest majority ever polled by a candidate for this office in this district.” At the time, he was the second-youngest member elected to that body.

After his return to private life, George went on the road to sell farm and ranch equipment. The regional companies he represented had customers in Utah and all over Eastern Idaho. During his rounds, George saw an opportunity in Bancroft (located on the rail line about 15 miles west of Soda Springs).

He moved there in 1906 and within a year had purchased a general store, which he later ran in partnership with his son-in-law. In time, he would own considerable farmland and other real estate in the area, as well as a “commodious” two-story brick home.

Fisher served as Bishop of the Bancroft Ward starting in 1907. During his tenure, he directed the construction of a meeting hall as well as a church in Bancroft. He relinquished those duties when he was appointed to the Industrial Accident Board.
Garage, ca 1920. University of Idaho Special Collections.

In 1910, George was elected to one term in the the Idaho Senate. Then the 1917 session of the state legislature passed the state’s first comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Law. Among other provisions, the Law authorized formation of the Idaho Industrial Accident Board.

Governor Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13] appointed Fisher to be a member of that Board. That group immediately selected him as Chairman, making him the first Commissioner of what is today the Idaho Industrial Commission.

He held that position by reappointment until 1923. Fisher took the stand that the Board’s job was to enforce the laws, as passed by the legislature, not “make” them. Still, he was quite willing to advise (lobby) legislators on changes he felt were necessary in the laws.

After his two terms on the Board, Fisher retired from public service to focus on his real estate, mercantile, and farming interests. Late in life, he moved to Salt Lake City, where he passed away in December 1946.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Timeline of Commissioners,” State of Idaho Industrial Commission, Boise.

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