Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Friday, January 3, 2014

Finding the Fenners - An Update

Over two years ago now, I ran across the name of a book about the Fenner Family, The Fenner Forebears.  Privately published in 1987 by Ruth Leslie Barrett, now deceased, the book is currently out of print. So on a whim, I called the New Bern Historical Society in New Bern, North Carolina, where I knew the family had lived at one time, to see if the organization might have a reference copy.  A helpful person who answered the historical society's phone quickly referred me to the Kellenberger Room of the New Bern-Craven County Public Library. I chose to call rather than use the research room's online resources, since I wanted to ask a researcher some specific questions about Richard John Fenner and his wife, Anne Coddington Fenner. Richard and Anne Fenner, early New Bern residents, are likely my Irish-immigrant ancestors. Although the book was not available, Victor T. Jones, Jr., the research department head, gave me the legal description (Lot 89 of the Town of New Bern) for the old Fenner House. 

I told a friend of mine who lived in New Bern at the time about the house, and she offered to take a photo and send it to me. At the time the photo was taken, the owners, who are Fenner family descendants, were in the process of restoring the house. The town of New Bern, with three separate historical districts that contain some beautifully restored properties, takes preservation of historical structures seriously. And it shows throughout this beautiful old town. 

Digital Photo by Amy Vaupel

The Fenner House, located at 217 Hancock Street, is within an easy walk of downtown shops and sightseeing adventures that include historic cemeteries, Tryon Palace, the Territorial House of North Carolina, Its lovely gardens, and a waterfront with comfortable benches for people watching and restaurants that overlook the water. One can only imagine how New Bern looked in the mid 1700s when the Fenner family occupied this colonial residence. Missing its original small front porch, the remodeled/restored structure now resembles a New England salt box styled structure. According to various historical accounts, Richard John Fenner may have been appointed to a position in the North Carolina territorial government, a position he occupied until his death in 1756. 

During the past two years, I continued to search for a copy of Mrs. Barrett's book so that I might learn more about my maternal third grandmother, Rachel Fenner, who married William Neatherlin in Wilkes County, Georgia. My search finally paid off when John T. Leslie, a distant cousin contacted me by email and told me he owns a copy of the book. It seems that John T. (as his family calls him) and I are descended through two of the three sons born to Richard and Anne Fenner. Later, we talked by phone, and John T. generously offered to scan and email digital copies of the book's pages, which he has now done. And sometime soon, we plan to meet and further discuss our Fenner connections.

What a way to start off the New Year.....meeting a new cousin and getting to read a much-searched-for family history book! 

1 comment:

  1. What you will find amazing is what happened after the Leslie/Fenner union was formed. Even after compiling the Fenner book Ruth produced one on the Leslie brothers as well. I will give you most of it when we tour Bailey and Grove Hill Cemetery. Ruth's father, Samuel Fenner, was amazing but even Ruth continued the line of greatness. Her husband was a scientist who headed the research team at A&M that developed the compound that was responsible for the control of screwworms when it reached epidemic proportions.