James Benjamin Fisk (1861)

 Watermelon King

Nickname:J. B. or Jimmy
Born:January 17, 1861, Mississippi
Died:April 25, 1941, Madison County, Alabama
Father of:James Oscar Fisk - James Benjamin (1861) was known as "Jimmy"
Son of:John Benjamin Fisk


•  Married Nancy Ida McCaleb (March 9, 1865-March 28, 1943) in Madison County on March 1, 1881 - Huffman

•  "J. B. Fisk, "The Watermelon King of Madison County", on one occasion drove into Huntsville with a wagon load of melons averaging 49 pounds. One weighed 63 pounds." - Record

•  "In 1929 a flood destroyed the village. Some of the buildings were moved to where Fisk is now, on U.S. 231/431, just north of Hazel Green. There's no sign for the community. Appropriately, it was where Flood Lane meets the highway." - Nilsson

•  "James Benjamin and Nancy Ida became the parents of ten children, one died in infancy, one at the age of two, and one near the age of fifteen. The other seven lived to adulthood, one even to the age of 100." - Huffman

•  "Approximately 200 acres was purchased and a large bam, a blacksmith shop, and equipment and tool building, and storage buildings were built on the place. Three tenant houses were also built in which the tenant farmers or "sharecroppers" lived. Grandpa Jimmy furnished the mules and equipment and the sharecroppers did the plowing, the planting, hoeing, picking and the gathering. The cost of the seed and fertilizer was shared, as was the sales of the crops, one-third to the sharecropper and two-thirds to the owner.
     Grandpa Jimmy always kept 20 to 30 acres for his own plantings. At first his main crop was Watermelons, but later he added a large Burley tobacco crop in 1931 and managed a large tobacco crop for Mr. "Sut" Lowe in 1935 and 1936. But, watermelons were his pride and joy and he always planted 15 acres or more.
     When Grandpa Jimmy first started planting watermelons around 1900, he used the seed from several varieties; Stone Mountain, Rattlesnake, Halbert's Honey, Moon and Stars, and Irish Grey. But it was when he was given a packet of seed by the owner of the drug store on the south side of Madison County (AL) courthouse with the name of "Empire State" on it that he hit the "jackpot". From these seeds he grew the finest melons he had ever raised. Each vine produced 3 to 5 melons averaging 40 to 50 pounds each and the meat was firm, sweet and juicy. Each year Grandpa would pick out three or four of the best melons and save the seed for next year's planting As a result of his fine melons our Grandpa became known as "Jimmy Fisk, the Watermelon King". People all over north Alabama and south Tennessee addressed him with that name.
     By 1925 Grandpa was growing so many melons that it was not possible to get them to market by wagon. By the middle of July that year a new Ford truck was purchased and put into service hauling watermelons to Huntsville and Birmingham, Alabama and Fayetteville, Pulaski, Chattanooga and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My grandfather could not drive, so my older brother drove the truck when he was a very young age (you would not believe) to make these deliveries. Four years later Grandpa bought a new 1929 Model A Ford Town Sedan and paid $727.27 for it, like the Ford truck, my brother Leon Toweiy was the only person in the family who could drive it, until he taught my brother Charles Towery to drive." - Huffman

•  He was sometimes referred to as "Red" Jim Fisk because of his red hair. - Huffman

•  It seems several of the Fisk men were known as "JB". Sometimes this meant "James Benjamin" as is this case (1861). It looks like his father was John Benjamin Fisk (1836). His Great grandfather was "James Benjamin (1779)" - Editor's note

•  His father ran a gin, a grist mill, and a blacksmith shop at Fisk, AL located on the west fork of Flint River. His grandfather was named James Benjamin (1779) and came with his family to Madison County, AL in 1818 and founded the town of Fisk. - Huffman

Related Links:

•  Ancestry.com - Page owned by Chellery1 and can be viewed only with a paid Ancestry.com subscription. (Originally found at http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/7038208/person/6156710045.)

•  ancestry.com 2 - Page owned by wscarpenter166 and can be viewed only with an Ancestry.com paid subscription. (Originally found at http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/26617893/person/12590860107.)

•  Find A Grave - Page created by Sidney Allen

•  Huffman - Article submitted by Janie Mac Towery Huffman for "The Heritage of Madison County, Alabama," Book Committee Chairman is John P. Rankin, page I88.

•  Nilsson - Why Is It Named That?, by Dex Nilsson, 2005, page 15.

•  Record - A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume II, by James Record, 1978, page 119.

The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  James Oscar Fisk
•  John Benjamin Fisk
•  Nilsson
•  Record