Fister History
The journey of generations

Since the l998 family reunion, we have learned more of the Fister family history. We know for sure that our great-grandfather, John N. Fister was born Jean Nicolas Fister in Viller, Moselle, Lorraine, France. With the aid of our cousins and lots of research by all, we have found documents that trace the roots of our great-grandfather back to the mid 1600s, with hints back to 1400 Norway.

While we do not yet know for sure, we may have descended from master masons in a fjord of Norway, in a village named Fister...spelled just that way. Those footprints are sketchy, but are picked up again in Vandans, Austria with Christien Fister.

As in many cultures and countries, the wages of war played a huge part in the settlement of our Fister ancestors in France. You might remember the story of the Thirty Years War in Europe. In the mid 1600’s the popullation of Alsace-Lorrain France was nearly eradicated by that war. Most of the people of the region had either totally disappeared or had hidden in the forests to avoid the rampaging armies.

The Thirty Years War destroyed not only 90% of the Lorraine population, it left the buildings in total ruin and the farm fields fallow.  The soil was quickly eroding and brambles rolled freely in the wind.

The Duke of Lorraine Charles IV boldly decided to repopulate the region.  With the permission of the French King, he put out a call to all Europeans, first to Catholic master masons for the rebuilding.  He would give them land if they were willing to farm the land according to French government standards. At least three sons of our ancestor Christien Fister -Amboise, Martin and Ottmar- moved fron Vandans, Austria, where they were master masons, and settled in Eincheville, in the region of Moselle, in the province of Lorraine, France. (Some might later speculate that the Duke knew of the Fister talent of procreating.)  Together, the three brothers had at least 28 children.

Ottmar & wife, Suzanne Lorrain, begot Jean who with wife Christine Bayer begot Christophe, who with wife Marguerite Kloster begot Nicolas, who with wife Marie Adrian Kroutsche begot Claude, who with wife Madeleine Sibille, begot Jean Nicolas, our great-grandfather, in the town of Viller. Please do not confuse him with his older brother, Jean, who emigrated to America in 1868.
(Yep, that's right...Claude had two sons named Jean.  He also had three daughters named Marie!!)  While our ancestor Jean Nicolas was formally known as "John," he had the nickname "Nick."  We know that from his youngest son Victor's wife Mary McHugh.  They thought he was called "Nick" as a term of endearment, not because it was his name--LOL.)


As the story goes, while serving in the French cavalry, Jean Nicolas Fister & Jean Decker were sent to deliver documents to generals in Paris. Fister found them playing cards and partying with the Prussian generals, the enemy!!!
In disgust, he quit and returned home to Viller with plans to go to America with his best friend Jean Decker.  Family stories are that he took a Prussian horse with him for the ride home thinking Prussian soldiers were hot on his trail.

Lucky for him but, unfortunately for Decker, the papers that Fister delivered are thought to have restarted the war over Paris.  A few days before, Prussian Crown Prince Frederick III had defeated Napolean III at the Battle of Sedan, leaving the road to Paris totally open to the Prussian army. 


On September 19, 1870, the Prussians surrounded the City of Paris.  Thus began the Siege of Paris...the city was under total blockade with Decker inside and unable to leave.  The Prussians intended to starve Paris into surrender.  Nothing and no one went in or out of the city....except hot air balloons.


Those inside the city walls were forced to eat dogs, cats and horses.  Champion racehorses and zoo animals were not spared.  By late December 1870, two favorites, elephants Castor and Pollox were slaughtered for food.


French chefs tried to make the situation as appealing as possible as they gave fancy names to the food they prepared.   The menu reads:

* Consommé de Cheval au millet. (horse)
* Brochettes de foie de Chien à la maître d'hôtel. (dog)
* Emincé de rable de Chat. Sauce mayonnaise. (cat)
* Epaules et filets de Chien braisés. Sauce aux tomates. (dog)
* Civet de Chat aux Champignons. (cat)
* Côtelettes de Chien aux petits pois. (dog)
* Salamis de Rats. Sauce Robert. (rats)
* Gigots de chien flanqués de ratons. Sauce poivrade. (rats)
* Begonias au jus. (flowers)
* Plum-pudding au rhum et à la Moelle de Cheval. (horse)

During this time, the city of Metz (near Fister's home of Viller) fell to the Prussians.  However, Winter was coming.  Supplies for the Prussian army around Paris were becoming scarce.  The politics of war made it seem to German citizens that the cost of war was growing too much.  Talk even started that the Prussians were incapable of defeating the French.  On January 25, 1871, Prussian King Wilhelm I ordered that Paris be bombarded with heavy canon fire.  Paris surrendered three days later.  Soon, Decker was also on his way home to Viller, looking forward to seeing his friend and most especially leaving France for America.

Fister and Decker sailed from Liverpool, England aboard the SS Cuba and arrived in Manhattan, New York on March 25, 1872.

It was Spring.

It was a bright, sunny, Monday morning. The promise of America was before them.