1867 – 1938
Prize-winning Cook, Caterer, Entrepreneur
Annie Fisher was one of ten children born to Bob and Charlotte Knowles in 1867. Born just after the Civil War freed slaves, she spent much of her childhood laboring in the fields or serving as a domestic servant in the Dr. Walter Lenoir household. She attended school full-time only until third grade.
Through her domestic work, Fisher began to recognize that she had a flair for cooking. She soon began to make a name for herself, first as a cook and finally as a caterer. By 1904 she was winning awards, including several at the St. Louis World’s Fair for her specialties of country ham and beaten biscuits.
The success of her catering business allowed Fisher to contract the construction of her home at 608 East Park Avenue in Columbia. According to one account, she oversaw all aspects of construction: “She bought the stone, the brick, the lumber, herself; lived in a tent on the place, hired all the workmen and bossed the job.” The home was later described to be as luxurious a home to be found anywhere in Columbia, including those owned by whites. Fisher also expanded her fortune through rental property and her hog farm, which supplied the country cured hams for which she was so famous.
As her catering enterprise continued to grow in size and reputation, Fisher soon owned enough silver, china, and linen to serve more than 1,000 people. A 1926 Columbia Herald article stated: “If a party is being planned, the hostesses call Annie Fisher, first to see if another party is on for the same night, and then to arrange for her to prepare the food.”
In the early 1920s, Fisher inherited property on what is now Old Highway 63, in southeast Columbia. Here she built a dining house called Fair Oaks. The club was a favorite of Columbians and MU alumni travelling to Columbia for sporting events. She was probably Columbia’s first black millionaire – and became so during the Jim Crow era.
Annie Fisher died June 11, 1938 and is buried in Columbia’s Memorial Park Cemetery. She had one surviving heir, a daughter, Lucille.