Founder Howard Fisher honored at County Livestock Market

Suzette Lowe

Sometimes it only takes one person to make something big happen. This is especially true if that person has the vision and determination to achieve a goal.

Howard Fisher was just such a man.

When the Ripley Livestock Market closed in the early 1970s, Fisher dedicated himself to establishing a new market that would provide local farmers an outlet to buy and sell their farm animals.

Fisher’s efforts can be easily classified as truly a grass-roots campaign. He went door to door, asking neighbors and friends to invest in shares for the new venture. Knowing Fisher’s reputation and integrity, eventually 400 shares were sold.

The next step was for the entrepreneur to purchase 203 acres in Fairplain. After several months, the groundbreaking on Fisher’s promise to provide a Jackson County Livestock Market came to fruition in 1973.

In December 2020, Fisher’s memory and contribution were honored with the dedication of the Howard Fisher Memorial Auction Arena.

Fisher’s background would cause those who knew him to never doubt that the livestock market would be established.

He was always one to find a way to support himself and his family. During the Great Depression, young Fisher caught rabbits and carried them to Charleston to sell for twenty-five cents. While stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Center during World War II, he would give haircuts and sell trinkets to send money back to his family in West Virginia.

He worked full-time for United Carbon in Charleston, but still worked on his own on weekends with plowing gardens, bailing hay, mowing, and raking to save money. When he was laid off from the company, he and his wife, Myrtle, purchased a farm in Given. He began farming full-time which also included raising and selling, or in Fisher’s words “trading,” cattle, pigs, and veal calves.

When the new livestock market got under way, it thrived for over 20 years under the leadership of Fisher and the board of directors. During that time, the corporation added the I-77 Speedway and the Fairplain Jamboree (now the site of The Fairplain Yacht Club) which hosted country bands and dancing for many years.

At the time of his death in 1998, Fisher owned the majority of the corporation’s shares. In 2001, two of his children, Dean Fisher and Connie Fisher Hayes, purchased the market, leasing it to Roger Mitchell and his sons. The Fisher children continued adding to the property and built the Appalachian Moonshine Distillery in 2012.

Hayes, after purchasing her brother’s shares, is now the sole owner of the Jackson County Regional Livestock Market. Still managed by the Mitchells, the sales continue to provide a welcome outlet to local farmers.

Hayes said her father would be proud to see the livestock auction continuing. She is just as proud to be able to honor her father and his legacy.

“He was determined that Jackson County would have this opportunity, a way to help the local farmers,” she said. “I’m so happy that his name will be associated with this livestock auction forever with the dedication of this plaque and the naming of the arena.”