Idaho History Sept 23, 2018

Fenn Family

Idaho County, Idaho

Major Frank Fenn was a very important figure in the history of North Central Idaho. He was a veteran of the 1877 Nez Perce War, and the Spanish American War. He owned and operated a newspaper in Kooskia, “The Kooskia Mountaineer” and he was the superintendent of the forest service. Major Fenn died in 1920 but he left an indelible mark on this area and many places bear his name.


source: Reese Spicer Idaho History 1860s to 1960s
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Idaho Early History By Major Frank A. Fenn

An Emigrant’s Experience

The Kooskia Mountaineer Wednesday, November 24, 1920

By Major Frank A. Fenn

None but those who experienced the trials of a trip by wagon over the old emigrant road across the plains can realize what was endured by the Argonauts of the early 50’s.

Mrs. Rhoda M. Fenn was one of the pioneer women of Idaho County. With her husband, Stephen S. Fenn, and four children she arrived in Florence late in June, 1862, from California whither she emigrated from Iowa ten years before.

Leaving his wife in Dubuque, Iowa to follow him when he had prepared a new home for her in the land of golden promise. Mr. Fenn crossed the plains to California early in 1850. In August of that year Mrs. Fenn became the mother of a daughter, Clara J. Fenn.

After two years of anxious and expectant waiting, the young mother with her baby girl joined emigrant train destined for Nevada county, California, where, at Jefferson Bar on the South Yuba River, the new home had been made ready. The train which was under the direction of Captain M.A. Singleton was composed of some 70 persons. Mrs. Fenn was the only woman in the party but, with her babe in arms, she braved the hazards of the perilous trip through the then wilderness from the Missouri river almost to the Pacific. She was typical of the splendid frontier women who indelibly impressed their characteristics of courage and fortitude upon the population of the entire west.

Council Bluffs was the point of departure for Iowa emigrants. To get there was but a preparatory step which might be retraced, beyond there the course led ever to the westward, there was no turning back. To him who looked longingly toward the New Eldorado, the Missouri river was the Rubicon.

The Singleton train left Council Bluffs in May, 1852, the year which is recorded in emigrant annals as the “cholero year”. Nothing beyond the usual brushes with Indians occurred to the train until it was well out on the Platte Valley, and then, on the night of June 20, the cholera came upon it. Several persons were stricken but that first night none but little Clara succumbed. Early in the morning the mother saw the remains of her only child placed in a rude feed box, which had been detached from the back end of one of the wagons, and buried with scant ceremony beside the road whose course during that frightful year was clearly defined through the fatal Platte Valley by the way-side mounds that registered the awful toll exacted from the multitude whom the lure of gold tempted into the western wilds.

To escape the deadly scourge of the valley the train was forced to hurry on and on ever westward, the length of the marches limited only by the endurance of the teams. Death itself was not permitted to retard the flight for life. The dead hurriedly buried in shallow graves with only the mournful howl of the prairie wolf as a requiem, and the train moved on. While the bereaved mother stood leaning against the wheel of a wagon and looking in mute agony at the new made grave of her loved one. E.S. Jewette, a member of the company, sat up there a little head board, a strip plank, on which was inscribed “Clara J. Fenn, aged 1 year and 10 mos”, and at the same time placed in the mourner’s hand a slip of paper on which was written the following:

“How oft the tenderest tie is broken,
How oft the parting tear must flow,
The words of friendship scarce are spoken,
Ere those are gone we love below,
Like suns they reise and all is bright,
Like suns they set and all is night.

– To Mrs. Fenn, from E.S. Jewette.”

Then the command “forward” was given the teams moved out and the lone and sorrowing woman turned from her own dead to minister as best she might to the living companions to whom Israel whispered the dread summons. She was not called but, spared for others’ sake and after passing out of the valley of the shadow of death at last reached the California home for which she had endured so much. Very few even of her intimate friends ever heard from her the story of her tribulation there in the Valley of the Platte, but she always preserved the little slip of paper on which Jewette had written his sympathetic words and when she passed on she left it as a precious heirloom in her family.

Idaho Early History By Major Frank A. Fenn, Copyright 1920
source: © PBC Idaho County GenWeb – Miscellaneous Published Articles and Newspaper Items From Idaho County and the Vicinity, compiled by Penny Bennett Casey
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Doctoring in an Emergency

The Kooskia Mountaineer Wednesday, January 19, 1921

By Major Frank A. Fenn

Physicians and surgeons were scarce in North Idaho during the pioneer days. Even as late as 1868, there were but two civilian practitioners in all the vast territory north of Salmon River. Dr. Stainton and Dr. Kelly were the two upon whom the people relied for the healing of their physical ills. Both were able and skillful and eminently deserved the implicit confidence reposed in them. Sympathetic and self-sacrificing either might well have been the original of one doctor of the old school of whom we read in the Bonnie Brierbush. Besides practicing his profession, Dr. Kelly also conducted the only drug store in the region.

Shortly before the occurrence which is the subject of this story the public was deprived of the services of Dr. Stainton who was stricken with paralysis. This misfortune doubled the labors of Dr. Kelly whose drug business was entrusted to a clerk, a boy then some 15 years old, whenever the proprietor was absent.

It so happened that a miner in Elk City over a hundred miles from Lewiston met with a serious accident and the good doctor as soon as called upon mounted his saddle horse and departed on the journey to Elk to treat the injured man. As fate would have it while the doctor was on his mission of mercy a teamster freighting between Walla Walla and Lewiston one day drove into the latter town and it was discovered that he was afflicted with small pox. News that the dread disease was in town quickly spread and at once everybody wanted to be vaccinated. The drug store had a good supply of the old fashioned real “vaccine matter”, that is, scabs obtained from the teats of cows affected with cow pox. That young clerk was the only available person to do the vaccinating stunt and with a pioneer’s confidence and enthusiasm he undertook the task. Other work was laid aside and lancet in hand he operated on all comers early and late at $2.50 per.

Now there was in Lewiston at that time a dance hall or “hurdy-gurdy house” as it was called, kept by Jimmy Hayes. Four “hurdies” or dance girls regularly made the house attractive. Of course they insisted upon being vaccinated and Jimmy called upon the drug clerk to go to that place and perform his professional duty there. Rush of business prevented the clerk’s going until late in the evening. Arrived at the dance hall he found the girls anxiously awaiting him. They started to bare their arms for the preventive treatment when the young practitioner sagely suggested that should they be thus vaccinated unsightly scar might result and seriously impair the native beauty of arm that were usually unhampered by sleeves during dancing hours. The possibility was frightful to the “hurdies” and they were tempted to brave the consequences of an attack of small pox rather than be disfigured so dreadfully. The embryo doctor was resourceful and came to their relief by intimating that the operation might be performed on any part of the body with equal effectiveness and proposed that it be tried on the calf of the leg where the scars would not be observable. Happy solution unanimously approved.

The girls were vaccinated and proposed and in every case the vaccination “took” splendidly, there was no doubt on that point for it was over two weeks before dances could be resumed much to the chagrin of the victims and greatly to the disappointment of Jimmy Hayes who business languished in the meanwhile.

Jimmy always afterward insisted that I was no friend of his for I was the boy clerk in Kelly’s drug store during Lewiston’s smallpox scare.

Idaho Early History By Major Frank A. Fenn, Copyright, 1920
source: © PBC Idaho County GenWeb – Miscellaneous Published Articles and Newspaper Items From Idaho County and the Vicinity, compiled by Penny Bennett Casey
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An Early Prize Fight

The Kooskia Mountaineer Kooskia Idaho, Wednesday, January 26, 1921

By Major Frank A. Fenn

In spite of the rough and ready character of the people who first came into Idaho they never encouraged the brutalities of the prize ring. Fisticuffs and brawls of all kinds were but too common, in fact, human life was held very cheap as an evidence of which it need only be said that in the spring of 1864 there were over a hundred graves in the little cemetery in Florence and with the exception of about a dozen, who had died of disease or as the result of accidents in the mines, each grave was the resting place of someone who had been shot or knived.

In Lewiston in 1868, as elsewhere on the frontier, gambling was wide-open. Squires saloon in that town was a popular resort and there the devotees of chance assembled in great numbers. One night Harry Lamar and Ike Grostine while playing poker in the Squires place, engaged in an altercation which resulted in blows. Bystanders separated the two combatants before either of them had been convinced of the other’s superior prowess. Each was willing to bet that he was a “better man” than the other. In these circumstances it didn’t take long for interested outsiders to rib up a fight, according to the Queensberry rules. Harry and Ike each put up fifty dollars to back up his good opinion of himself and friends of the respective parties stimulated interest in the coming event by contributing liberally to the purse to be contended for. Negotiations for the fight were progressing nicely when the sheriff got wind of the affair and advised all parties that nothing of the kind could be pulled off in Nez Perce County while he was sheriff. Matters had gone too far to permit the public to be disappointed. Just across Snake river from the city was a fine sand bar in the territory of Washington and although prize fighting was not legalized there it was a long way to the seat of government of Walla Walla county, and it was well known that the two belligerents might fight to their heart’s content on that sand bar and then get back into Idaho safe from the Washington authorities before the latter could get wind of the event.

Consequently the morning after all preliminaries had been arranged; two rowboats transported Ike and Harry with their seconds and other ring officials across the Snake River. A ring was quickly marked out on the sandbar and the apostles of the manly art of self defense simply went to it. There were no niceties of the ring invoked – it was merely a fight to the finish. If a blow happened to be below the belt it was regarded as accidental not as an intentional foul. After about twenty minutes of sure enough fighting the single round of the contest was ended by a smash on the jaw with which Ike put Harry out for the count. The referee decided Ike the winner and the better man. Practically the entire male population of Lewiston was lined up on the Idaho bank of the river as spectators of the affair and they unanimously approved the decision of the referee.

As a matter of fact, however, when the two men had been returned to Idaho soil and a place of safety, it was found that Ike was in mighty bad shape, nearly all his front teeth were gone and it required the skill of Dr. Kelly to extract one of them from Harry’s right fist where the tooth had been lodged in the knuckle of the middle finger. Ike was also badly hammered up about the kidneys and otherwise so bruised that it was necessary for him to lie in the hospital for over two weeks. It was the general belief after all the facts were known that the blow which won the fight was rather accidental than otherwise.

By Major Frank A. Fenn, Copyright 1920
source: © PBC Idaho County GenWeb – Miscellaneous Published Articles and Newspaper Items From Idaho County and the Vicinity, compiled by Penny Bennett Casey
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Fenn Put Name on Idaho’s Map

by Bill Loftus

— Rancher, military man, politician, lawyer and early forester Maj. Frank A. Fenn trained at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., served as Idaho’s first speaker of the House and lent his name to several features in the upper Clearwater River country.

Fenn arrived in Idaho as a 9-year-old in 1862 when his father, Iowa native Stephen S. Fenn, moved from California’s gold fields to Florence to establish a store.

Frank Fenn attended the first public school in Idaho as part of a class of seven. His education continued at Lewiston and Walla Walla, culminating with an appointment to the Naval Academy. He was dismissed from the academy for hazing in 1872, according to Cort Conley’s book ”Idaho for the Curious.”

Returning to Idaho County in 1875, Fenn taught school and ran a ranch. In 1877, during the Nez Perce War, he served as a first lieutenant in the Idaho Militia. He joined in skirmishes at White Bird and Cottonwood.

He married Florence Holbrook, one of his students, in December 1877. In 1885, he was elected Idaho County Stockgrowers Association secretary during a July 20, 1885, meeting at Mount Idaho, where he also served as postmaster.

Fenn was elected to the territorial legislature the following year, representing Idaho County. In 1890 he was elected to the state legislature, where he served as speaker of the House.

In 1891 Fenn was appointed chief clerk of the State Land Board and the family, which by then included four children, moved to Boise. In 1896 he was re-elected to the legislature, this time representing Ada County. He began to read law and was admitted in 1897 to the Idaho Bar.

In 1898, Fenn volunteered to serve in the Spanish-American War, where he attained the rank of major while serving in the Philippines. He left the Army in 1899 and resumed his law practice at Boise.

In 1901 he began his career with the fledgling U.S. Forest Service, serving as superintendent of Idaho and eventually Montana forest reserves.

While living at Kooskia, he also served as the first supervisor of both the Clearwater National Forest, beginning in 1907, and of the now defunct Selway National Forest in 1911, when it was split from the Clearwater and Nezperce forests. In 1914 he was named chief of lands at the Forest Service’s regional office at Missoula.

He retired in 1921 and moved back to Kooskia, practicing law and helping found a newspaper with his son, Lloyd. He lived there until his death in 1927.

The Fenn name dots Idaho’s landscape. The town of Fenn north of Grangeville was named after the family in 1915. … Fenn Ranger Station, the Selway Ranger District’s home, occupies Goddard Bar along the Selway River. The station was originally to be named for early prospector Goddard until reservations about his reputation arose and Fenn won out.

Fenn Mountain, the tallest of the Selway Crags, also bears the family name. The Clearwater National Forest’s Major Fenn Picnic Area east of Lowell was named in his honor. Florence Lake recalls his wife, and Rhoda Creek his daughter.

source: Lewiston Tribune May 6, 1990
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A Brief History of the 1st Idaho Volunteer Infantry

This is a photo of a company H of the 1st Idaho Volunteer Infantry. The officer seated in the front row, the fourth man from the left is Captain, later Major, Frank Fenn.

A photo of some of the officers of the First Idaho Volunteer Infantry. Seated in the center of the front row is Frank Fenn. Fenn was appointed Captain of Co. H, First Idaho Volunteer Infantry and served as acting Major from April 1899 to Sept. 1899 when he was promoted to Major. Fenn had previously been with Perry at Whitebird, during the 1877 Nez Perce Indian Uprising. In this photo, a piece of canvas was used as a background. Behind the men appears to be a river. Fenn lived in Kooskia, Idaho after retiring from the Forest Service in 1920. He died in 1927 and was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery at Kooskia.

Credit: Spicer, Reese, Photos and data concerning Frank Fenn.

source w/more info: By Patrick McSherry
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Major Fenn

Major Fenn is seated

source: Reese Spicer Idaho History 1860s to 1960s
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Major Frank Fenn Reports to Washington

(excerpts from introduction)

In 1901 Major Frank Fenn was given the political appointment of Superintendent of all of the Forest Reserves of northern Idaho (i.e., Priest River and the Bitterroot). He made his headquarters at Stuart, a town on the Clearwater River named after the great Nez Perce surveyor, James Stuart (the village was renamed Kooskia in 1909). A man of real integrity, Fenn was a perfect hire for the fledgling Division R of the Land Office. …

Frank Fenn was born in California in 1853, but moved with his parents to the Idaho Country mining settlement of Florence in 1862. He attended school there, and later at Walla Walla. Fenn’s father was a store keeper, and at various times the family also lived in Warrens and in Lewiston. In 1869, he was given an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, which he left in 1872.

For the next thirty years Fenn lead a rich and amazing life, immersed in virtually every key event of frontier Idaho. He participated in the 1877 Nez Perce War at Whitebird and Cottonwood, served in the Territorial Legislature, was chief clerk of the Idaho State Land Board, and served as a militia volunteer in the war with Spain in the Philippines (earning his rank of Major). In June of 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt gave him his Division R appointment with the GLO in Kooskia, where he lived off and on until his death there in June of 1927. His obituary in the Kooskia Mountaineer, written by his son, tells us that “Major Fenn was one of the first Idaho citizens to take the lead in forest protection and reforestation policies.”

Major Fenn faced many challenges in administering the Bitterroot Forest Reserve, the biggest being the efforts of mining interests to shrink or eliminate the new Reserve. These groups were led by Judge (and later U.S. Senator, 1902-12) Weldon B. Heyburn. Heyburn was a Silver Valley attorney and politician with financial interests not only in that valley’s mining industry, but also to the south. The Idaho County mining regions of Newsome, Elk City, and the Buffalo Hump area were of special concern to Heyburn. As the petition that follows argues, Heyburn and his mining industry clients felt that the inclusion of mining districts inside the Forest Reserve meant that too many restrictions would be imposed on their operations.

In the end, Senator Heyburn won this skirmish. Both Elk City and Buffalo Hump (often shown as “Concord” on early maps) were withdrawn from the Reserve in 1904. Buffalo Hump was later restored to what became the Nez Perce National Forest, and in 1979 small portions of the old mining district were included in the Gospel-Hump Wilderness Area.
(page 2)

source: The Early Years of the Bitterroot Forest Reserve
Transcribed from the original manuscripts in the National Archives. Editing and introduction by Dennis W. Baird. Published by the University ofldaho Library, 1999. Northwest Historical Manuscript Series
– Original record source: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. RG 49 (General Land Office), Division R files, E. 918, Box 12, Bitterroot Forest Reserve Records.
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Stories of the 1910 Fire

The Spokesman-Review August 26, 1910 Page 2


But Cool Weather and Cool Heads Make Headway Against the Flames.


Situation Still Critical, but the Smaller Blazes Are Rapidly Being Brought Under Control.

Lewiston, Idaho, Aug. 25, [1910] — The forest fire situation is much improved tonight. Cool weather in the fire zone, with a light snowfall on some of the higher mountains last night, has rendered the conditions less acute, and the rangers and volunteers are making appreciable headway against the flames.

The Elk City fires are still burning vigorously, but there are no new blazes reported, and it is believed the worst has passed, unless the wind should rise again, but weather reports from the different government stations in the northwest indicate small possibility of such an occurrence.

Major Frank A. Fenn, superintendent of the Clearwater reserve, in which the extensive fires are located, stated over the long distance telephone tonight that the outlook was more favorable than for a number of days. Cool nights and calm days have enabled the fire fighters to get several small fires under control, and the men were being mobilized for attack on the more extensive ones.

Three parties, totaling 25 men, are surrounded in the Clearwater mountains, but no apprehension for their safety is felt, as the leaders are experienced mountain men, thoroughly familiar with the country and with conditions, and if the less experienced follow their instructions there is no question but they will come through all right. One of the parties is at camp 62; another is at Cook’s mountain, 15 miles from the Selway, between Weitus and Cayuse creeks; and the third is at Old Man’s creek. The men at Cook’s mountain are well supplied with provisions and the two others are in a region abounding with fish, and while it is admitted they have little or no provisions, there is no necessity of their starving.

Major Fenn states he has 500 men in the reserve, but with the exception of the 25 mentioned all are safe and in constant communication with headquarters.

More men are being sent in every day, for the situation is still critical, and while the weather conditions are favorable the fight is being waged as vigorously as possible.

Neal Parsell in his 1990 work, “Major Fenn’s Country”, describes the fire situation on the Clearwater in 1910 and work done in years following the 1910 Fire to improve the fire control situation:

By 1910, forest crews had completed a substantial number of improvements. The wagon road from Kooskia had been extended to Middlefork Ranger Station (Number One). Cabins had been built at Pete King, O’Hara, Selway Falls, Teepee Creek, Tahoe, and other places. A ferry was built in 1907 to cross the Lochsa at Lowell, and the first river trail to Moose Creek was finished in 1909. A trail up Rye Patch ridge connected the Lochsa with the Lolo Trail. Rangers at Selway falls and Cedars cabin could talk to the supervisor in Kooskia on the telephone.

Fire activity was light during the years this work was done, but that changed in 1910. Although the winter was normal and rainfall in May was above normal, June and July were hot and dry. By late July, numerous large fires were burning that the Forest Service didn’t have manpower to control.

These fires became larger, and on the evening of August 20 gale-force winds began. All of the fires blew up, and fighting them was impossible. The winds continued day and night until the afternoon of August 22. Then temperatures cooled and a little rain fell to quiet the fires. Heavy rains and snow on August 27 ended the fire season.

Huge areas were blackened all over northern Idaho and there were at least 86 fatalities. No loss of life was recorded in the Lochsa-Selway country, but there were some narrow escapes; firefighters were overtaken and had to submerge themselves in Moose Creek until the flames subsided. One fire that started in what is still known as Fire Creek burned up the south side of the Lochsa to Boulder Creek and Fish Lake. This fire also crossed Coolwater Ridge and burned from Slide Creek to Stuart Hot Springs on the Selway. Other large fires burned from Sixty-Two Ridge east and north of Moose Creek, and there were many smaller ones that would be considered large in a normal year.

The 1910 fires were a sobering experience for the five-year-old Forest Service. Firefighters since the creation of the Bitterroot Reserve had not had to deal with critical fire conditions, and when they came, the organization was overwhelmed. Fire planning obviously had to be totally overhauled.

This was undertaken immediately. One of the first conclusions reached was that some of the forests were too large for effective administration. One of these forests was the Clearwater, and in July 1911, all of the Lochsa-Selway country was split off from it and became the Selway National Forest. Charles Fisher was sent to Orofino to supervise the Clearwater Forest, and Major Fenn remained in Kooskia as supervisor of the Selway.

[The Selway National Forest] took in all of the Lochsa drainage and almost all of the Selway, about 1.8 million acres. No one knew how many for sure; no accurate maps existed. One mile of wagon road had been built within its boundaries, and most of the few trails were barely passable. A journey from the Supervisor’s Office to the most remote ranger station took at least six days. Messengers furnished the only communication with some stations on the Selway National Forest in 1911.

The Forest Service learned from the 1910 disaster. Fire detection and suppression had to be improved, which meant that better transportation and communication had to be developed. C. H. Shattuck, a professor of forestry at the University of Idaho who toured the Forest in 1910, offered a typical example of what had happened. A fire started on the Lochsa and:

“By the time a ranger located this fire, it had assumed such proportions as to require a fighting force of at least 20 men for several days. At this time, about 65 men were at Packer Meadows, 30 miles away . . . These should have reached the fire . . . Two serious difficulties rendered this impossible. In the first place, there was no telephone. In the second, there was practically no trail from Powell down the Lochsa . . .”

When this fire was finally reported, 12 men were sent to build a trail to it, but by the time supplies could be sent in, the fire had blown up and the crew could do nothing to stop it.

While the Forest Service’s national leadership hammered away at Congress for more money to build trails and telephone lines, Major Fenn organized the new Forest into nine districts. Boundaries of these districts were imprecise; most “ranger stations” were log cabins where tools were stored and men were posted during the fire season. Backcountry stations were not occupied during the winter. In addition to Number One, Pete King and O’Hara, stations were located at Tahoe, Bear Creek, Three Forks (of Moose Creek), Powell, Fish Lake, and Elk Summit.

Some of the men who worked out of these stations were sent to mountaintops, where they more or less remained for the season, and others rode the ridge tops; all looked for fires and were prepared to fight them. No lookout buildings yet existed; tent camps were used. If a fire got out of hand, someone had to call for help on the nearest telephone, which was often many miles away.

These men were expected to remain in the backcountry throughout the fire season, and they had to be supplied. The only way this could be done was to pack the supplies to the ranger stations on horses and mules. Commercial pack outfits which before had packed supplies to mining camps and to railroad surveyors did part of this, but the Forest Service also began buying stock and hiring packers.

source: Stories of the 1910 Fire
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Home at Last – Prominent Citizen Has Final Resting Place After 56 Years

By Penny Bennett Casey


Florence E. (Holbrook) Fenn was laid to rest beside her husband Major Frank A. Fenn in Kooskia’s Pine Grove Cemetery on December 18, 2012. Her remains have been on a shelf in the Walla Walla, WA, coroner’s office, unclaimed since her death in 1956. …

Given my love for the history and genealogy of Idaho County, I felt that I needed to get Florence back home where she belonged. After all, the Fenn family is an important part of our county history. …

On a cold, windy afternoon several of us gathered and with the assistance of Keith Fludstad of the Pine Grove Cemetery, she is now resting along side her husband.

The Fenn Family


The following history of the Fenn family was taken in part from “Major Fenn’s Country”, a history of the lower Lochsa, the lower Selway, the upper Middlefork of the Clearwater, and surrounding lands, by Neal Parsell. Also from “The Fenn Family Experience”, by Reece Spicer, and other sources.

The story of the Fenn Family in Idaho cannot be told by just a few paragraphs in the history section on the back page of the local newspaper. In reality, it would take a book to do justice to the many things that the members of this family have accomplished since arriving in Idaho.

Steven Fenn, the great grandfather of Frank A. Fenn, was born 1769 in Waterford, Connecticut . Stephen grew up in Connecticut and at the age of 25 he married Miss Philomila Southmayd. Their son, George, married Miss Sarah Givens.

George and Sarah’s first born was Stephen Southmayd Fenn, a man whose pioneer spirit and an outlook toward the future began the Fenn family’s Idaho adventure.

Steven Fenn was born in Watertown, Connecticut, March 28, 1820. He was the son of George and Sarah (Givins) Fenn and the grandson of Stephen and Philomila (Southmayd) Fenn, natives of Connecticut. He spent much of his younger days in Lockport, New York, and at twenty years of age he went to Dubuque, Iowa, and then on June 14, 1848, he married Miss Rhoda Gilman. After hearing of the gold strike in California, Stephen crossed the plains to that country, settling on the Yuba River and taking up mining and general merchandising. His family joined him in 1852.

In 1862 the Fenns moved to the Salmon River mines and to the town of Florence. This area was part of Washington Territory and later became Idaho Territory. In 1867 they moved to Lewiston and remained there until 1872. President Johnson appointed Stephen as first register of the land office in Lewiston. Mr. Fenn was the prosecuting Attorney for two terms, represented Idaho County in the legislature five sessions and was a delegate to Congress from the territory, serving from 1874 to 1878.

Stephen became quite senile in his later years and was placed in the asylum for the insane in Blackfoot, Idaho. He died there at age seventy-two on December 8, 1892. Children of Stephen and Rhoda Fenn are: Frank A. whose story is next, George G., Walter A., Stephen S., Jr., and Nettie M., who was married to a Mr. Hansen.

Frank A. Fenn, newspaper owner/editor, soldier, statesman, lawyer and conservationist, was born September 11, 1853 in Jefferson, Nevada County, California. His father had crossed the plains to the gold fields on the Yuba River in 1850, thence to the Salmon River, Florence area, in 1862.

Frank was one of seven children who attended the first public school in Idaho. After continuing his education in Lewiston and Walla Walla, he received an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md, in 1869. Frank left the academy in 1872 to voyage off to foreign ports.

Frank returned to Idaho County to ranch and teach school, which is what he was doing when the 1877 Nez Perce War broke out. He was appointed a first lieutenant in the Idaho militia and engaged in several noteworthy battles.

… December 16, 1877, Frank Fenn married one of his students, Miss Florence E. Holbrook, daughter of Russell & Margaret (Rice) Holbrook, early day pioneers from Douglas County Oregon and the Camas Prairie. Florence came to Idaho County with her parents during the Nez Perce Indian War of 1877 and helped mould bullets during the siege of Mt. Idaho. Florence was a member of “Women of Woodcraft”.

The Fenns took up farming and raising their family five miles north of Mt. Idaho. During this time Mr. Fenn was postmaster at Mt. Idaho, Deputy District Court Clerk of Idaho County, and in 1886 he was chosen to represent the county in the Territorial legislature. He raised sheep in Whitebird until he sold out and was admitted to the Supreme Court in Boise to practice law. The Fenns resided in Boise from 1890 until 1901. In 1890 he was elected to the first state legislature and held the important position of Speaker of the House.

From April 1891 to 1896, he was Chief Clerk of the Idaho State Land Board, and in 1896 was elected to represent Ada County and was the only Republican in the entire legislature. …

full story: Penny Bennett Casey, Idaho County GenWeb
Copyright Notice: All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions.
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Stephen Southmyd Fenn

Photo added by John “J-Cat” Griffith

Birth: 27 Mar 1820 Watertown, Litchfield County, Connecticut
Death: 12 Apr 1892 (aged 72) Blackfoot, Bingham County, Idaho
Burial: State Hospital South Cemetery Blackfoot, Bingham County, Idaho

US Congressman. He was admitted to the bar in 1862 and opened a law practice in the Territory of Idaho in 1863. From 1864 to 1867, he served as member of the Idaho Territorial council, was district attorney for the first judicial district in 1869 and as a member of the Territorial House of Representatives in 1872. He successfully contested as a Democrat the election of Thomas W. Bennett to the Forty-fourth Congress in 1876 and was reelected to the Forty-fifth Congress, serving until 1879. Not a candidate for re-nomination, he continued the practice of law and engaged in mining until his death.

Bio by: John “J-Cat” Griffith

Added by Eric Scott

source: Find a Grave


Rhoda M Gilman Fenn

Birth: 18 Dec 1827 Vermont
Death: 13 Jun 1884 (aged 56) Idaho
Burial: Mount Idaho Cemetery Mount Idaho, Idaho County, Idaho

Photo added by Lynn Erb

source: Find a Grave


Frank A. Fenn 1853–1927
Nettie M. Fenn Hanson 1862–1911
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Maj Frank A. Fenn


Birth: 11 Sep 1853
Death: 19 Jun 1927 (aged 73) Kooskia, Idaho County, Idaho
Burial: Pine Grove Cemetery Kooskia, Idaho County, Idaho


Stephen Southmyd Fenn 1820–1892
Rhoda M Gilman Fenn 1827–1884


Florence Elmira Holbrook Fenn

Birth: 13 Jan 1861 Hillsboro, Washington County, Oregon
Death: 29 Mar 1956 (aged 95) Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington
Burial: Pine Grove Cemetery Kooskia, Idaho County, Idaho


Frederick Danner Fenn 1878–1960
Homer Eugene Fenn 1881–1969
Lloyd Alfred Fenn 1884–1953
Rhoda Margaret Fenn Willey 1890–1970
Florence Allene Fenn Quist 1892–1977

“Maj. Frank A. Fenn

It has been given to Major Fenn to uphold most fully the high prestige of a name that has been identified with Idaho history in a specially prominent and distinguished way, from the early pioneer era in the territory to the present days of opulent prosperity and progress. He has been a resident of Idaho since his boyhood days and has marked the passing years with large and worthy achievement—accomplishment such as would naturally be expected on the part of one of so marked ability, loyalty and progressiveness as designate the man. His career has been varied and interesting and he has been specially influential in public affairs in his home state, where he has thrice served as a member of the legislature, in which connection he had the distinction of being speaker of the house in the first general assembly after the admission of Idaho to the Union. As a youth he served in the United States navy, and he was an officer of an Idaho volunteer regiment which took active part in military operations in the Philippine islands incidental to the Spanish-American war, besides which he saw active service in the Nez Perces Indian war. He is a representative member of the Idaho bar and attained to definite precedence in the work of his profession, but since 1901 he has held the office of forest supervisor in the United States Forest Service in Idaho, a position in which he has accomplished most effective work in protecting and conserving the magnificent forests of the state. Few citizens of Idaho are more widely known and none has more secure place in popular confidence and esteem, so that it may readily be understood that there is all of consistency in according to Major Fenn specific recognition in this history of Idaho.

“Maj. Frank Alfred Fenn was born at Jefferson (an early mining town on the South Yuba river, later washed out by hydraulic works), Nevada county, California, on the 11th of September, 1853, and is a son of Hon. Stephen S. and Rhoda M. (Gilman) Fenn, the former of whom was born in Connecticut and the latter in Vermont, both families having been founded in New England in the early colonial era of our national history. Stephen S. Fenn came to the West as a young man, in 1844, and he was one of the intrepid argonauts who made their way to California soon after the discovery of gold in that state. There he established his home in 1850 as one of the pioneer gold seekers of that great commonwealth, and there he continued to reside until 1862, when he came to that part of the territory of Washington now included in Idaho. (Idaho was not then known; the territory was created in 1863.) He was among the first to exploit the gold mining industry in Idaho, lived up to the full tension of life on the frontier and became one of the prominent and influential citizens of the territory, his noble and devoted wife sharing with him in the vicissitudes and deprivations incidental to pioneer life. He also became one of the early law practitioners of the territory and was called upon to serve in various offices of public trust, the while he contributed in generous measure to the civic and material development of the territory and state, his death having occurred about two years after the admission of Idaho to the Union. He was a dominating figure in the political affairs of the territory, as a staunch adherent of the Democratic party, and was twice elected as territorial delegate to the United States congress, in which body his earnest efforts did much to foster the best interests of the embryonic commonwealth which he ably represented. He served several terms as a member of the territorial legislature and also held other important offices – preferments which emphatically attested the unqualified confidence and esteem in which he was held in the territory. He was a man of exalted integrity and great intellectual power, was a natural leader in thought and action, and his name merits a prominent and enduring place on the roster of the honored pioneers of Idaho. He was affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was a Universalist in belief, and his wife was a zealous member of the Baptist church. Of their thirteen children four sons are now living, and Major Fenn, of this review, who was the third in order of birth, is the eldest of those surviving the honored parents. Stephen S. Fenn was summoned to the life eternal in 1892, at the age of seventy-two years, and his remains were laid to rest in the cemetery at Blackfoot, Bingham county. His loved and devoted wife passed away in 1884, at the age of fifty-six years, and interment was made at Mount Idaho, in Idaho county. The family home was first established at Florence, Idaho county, whence removal was made to Lewiston, Nez Perce county, in 1866, and Stephen S. Fenn was prominently identified with industrial development in various other parts of the state, the while he gained prominence as one of the able and pioneer representatives of the bar of the territory. His life was ordered upon a lofty plane and he had the strength of purpose, the indomitable will, the versatility in expedient and alert progressiveness which combine to make the ideal pioneer. His career was marked by earnest and productive endeavor, by fidelity to every trust and by high sense of stewardshipt so that the angle of his influence continues to widen in beneficence now that he has passed from the stage of his mortal activities, in the fullness of years and well earned honors.

“Major Frank A. Fenn gained his rudimentary education in the public schools of California, under the conditions of the pioneer days, and was a lad of nine years at the time of the family removal to Idaho in 1862, about one year prior to the formation of the territorial government, so that he has witnessed the development of the commonwealth from the condition of a wild and thinly populated frontier region into one of the great and prosperous states of the Union. He had the privilege of attending the first public school established in the territory, the same having been in Idaho county, and its teacher having been Miss Statira E. Robinson. Thereafter he continued his studies in schools established at Lewiston, and in 1869 he received appointment to a cadetship in the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. There he remained until the autumn of 1872, after which he passed three years in voyaging to the various foreign ports, having virtually circumnavigated the globe and having met with many interesting experiences, through which he gained a broad fund of information.

“In the spring of 1875, Major Fenn returned to Idaho and established his residence on an extensive ranch near Mount Idaho, Idaho county. He remained in that section of the state until 1891, and in connection with successful operations as a farmer and stock grower he found requisition for his services in the pedagogic profession, in which he taught several terms in the local schools, besides which he served as deputy in county offices. He has ever been a stalwart and effective advocate of the principles and policies of the Republican party and early became influential in public affairs in Idaho county. In 1886 he was elected to represent his county in the territorial legislature, and he was likewise elected a member of the first state legislature, in which he served as speaker of the house. He had much to do with formulating and directing the basic legislation in the new commonwealth, proved a most able and popular presiding officer, and added new laurels to the honored name which he bears.

“In the spring of 1891 Major Fenn was appointed chief clerk of the newly established state board of land commissioners, and he thereupon removed to Boise, the capital of the new state. He retained this position until 1896, when he resigned, as he had been again elected a member of the legislature in the autumn of that year, as a representative of Ada county. In the ensuing general assembly he had the unique distinction of being the only Republican member of the assembly who advocated the gold standard, all other members of both house and senate having been in favor of the free silver policy. After the close of his term in the legislature Major Fenn began the study of law, and he made most rapid and substantial progress in his absorption and assimilation of the science of jurisprudence, with the result that he was admitted to the bar of the state in 1897, becoming eligible for practice in all of the Idaho courts, both state and federal. He became associated in practice with the well known firm of Kingsbury & Parsons, of Boise, and successfully followed the work of his profession in the capital city until the inception of the Spanish-American war, when he subordinated all other interests to tender his services as a volunteer. He was made captain of Company H, First Idaho Volunteer Infantry, and in the summer of 1898 accompanied his command to the Philippine Islands, where he took part in a number of engagements with the Spaniards and the insurrectos, and was otherwise actively concerned in military operations. He returned with his regiment to San Francisco, and there was mustered out, with the rank of major, in September, 1899. His continued interest in his former comrades in arms is indicated by his membership in the United Spanish American War Veterans’ Association, in the affairs of which he takes a lively concern.

“After the close of his military career Major Fenn resumed the practice of his profession in Boise, and he thus continued his labors until 1900, when he was chosen chairman of the Republican state central committee. He showed great discrimination and ability in maneuvering the political forces at his command in the campaign of that year, and in 1901 he entered the government forest reserve service, in which he has since continued and in which he holds the office of forest supervisor. Upon assuming this government post he removed from Boise to Kooskia, Idaho county, where he has since maintained his home and official headquarters. He still takes a lively interest in political affairs, but is not active in party work, owing to his holding office under the civil service regulations. He is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and the Modern Woodmen of America, and is liberal in his support of all religious denominations, without being formally identified with any church organization, his wife being a zealous member of the Christian church and a leader in the social life of her home community, where her circle of friends is coincident with that of her acquaintances. Major Fenn is most liberal and public spirited in his civic attitude, is ever ready to give practical co-operation in the furtherance of enterprises and policies tending to advance the social, moral, educational and material welfare of the community, and he is at the present time giving most admirable service as president of the board of education of Kposkia. Vigorous, alert, big of heart and big of mind, Major Fenn is essentially one of the representative men of the state that has been his home for virtually his entire life, and in which his friends are equal in number to his acquaintances. Thoroughly informed in regard to the resources and advantages of Idaho he is one of the state’s most enthusiastic exploiters, and his admiration for the manifold scenic attractions of this favored commonwealth has been heightened through his many exploring expeditions in the beautiful mountains and valleys, with many of which he thus became familiar in his youthful days and when Idaho still was on the verge of civilization.

“On the 16th of December, 1877, in Whitman county, Washington, was solemnized the marriage of Major Fenn to Miss Florence E. Holbrook, daughter of Russell and Margaret K. Holbrook, honored pioneers of that county, Mrs. Fenn having been born at Hillsboro, Washington county, Oregon. The five children of this union are: Frederick Danner, Spokane, Washington; Homer Eugene, Ogden, Utah; Lloyd Alfred, Orofino, Idaho; Rhoda Margaret, now Mrs. W. B. Willey, St. Maries, Idaho; Florence Allene, now Mrs. F. E. Quist, Kposkia, Idaho.

“The experiences of Major Fenn included valiant service in the Nez Perces Indian war, in which he participated in the Idaho campaign. In a reminiscent way he has referred to one of the most pleasant incidents of his career, the same having been in connection with his service as speaker of the first house of representatives of the state legislature. He was called upon to decide a very technical point of parliamentary law. In a strictly partisan contest in the house he failed of requisite support on the part of his Republican colleagues, who were in the majority. The lamented Hon. Frank Steunenberg, who later met his death by assassination while serving as governor of Idaho, was at that time a member of the lower house of the legislature, and though he was a staunch Democrat, he recognized with all of promptitude the correctness of the stand taken by the speaker, and, with his characteristically keen and intense sense of justice, he abandoned for the nonce his partisanship and sustained the ruling of the speaker of the house. Afterward there existed between Governor Steunenberg and Major Fenn a most cordial and loyal friendship, and the Major ever speaks with deep appreciation of the support thus given him in his official stand by Governor Steunenberg, whose name, is written large in the annals of Idaho history, where his memory shall ever be revered”.

[History of Idaho: a narrative account of its historical progress…, Volume 3 by Hiram Taylor French (1914)]

source: Find a Grave

updated Aug 14, 2020