The Fenners of Ruscomb

photo: Adam Fenner (Jr.) and his wife Agnes Irwin. Likely done from their wedding photo 4 Feb. 1886)

My father, as you can probably tell by my last name, is a Fenner.

The Fenners have been in Ruscomb ever since Great Great Grandpa Adam Fenner arrived from Germany, sometime between 1840 and 1850. I haven’t been able to find the exact date.

I do know he was in Ruscomb in 1850, because I found the marriage record to his first wife, Anna Barbara Wolfe. I know it’s the same person because a) he was the only Fenner in Essex County at the time and b) Christian Simon was a witness at his wedding, and the Simons to this day still own land next to the Fenner farm.

As far as I can tell, he came to Canada by himself. I’m guessing he knew the Simons and the Knisters back in Germany. Otherwise, why would he have chosen this little tiny German settlement over the more populated German settlements of Ontario? Why would he decide to come to a little tiny place that wasn’t even a village yet if it was a random choice on a map? Ruscomb wasn’t even ON the map at that time. Which is why I think somebody he knew must have moved there and written back home to friends and relatives in Germany.

I have found records saying that at least two of the German families from Ruscomb came from Hesse Kassel. There are still more Fenners in Hesse Kassel today than in any other part of Germany. So I think that’s the area of Germany the Fenners are from. Also, since all the Germans in Ruscomb were Protestant. There was also a German settlement up near Woodslee (the Fuerths and Diemers are of that German settlement). But they were a) Catholic and b) Loyalists who were originally in the States. The Ruscomb Germans were directly from Germany and were Lutheran (they became Methodist soon after coming to Canada since there was no Lutheran church).

(The other five German families in Ruscomb were: Knister, Simon, Dornte (later Dornton); Hedrick and Geisel.)

Anna Barbara and Adam Sr. had a child who was stillborn in 1851. That’s what the Census says. I think Anna Barbara must have died, although I can find no record of her death.

The next census lists Great Great Grandpa Adam as married in 1853, but living with John Fenner, Augusta Fenner and their two children. Later censuses indicate that John and Augusta arrived from Germany in 1858 and established a farm near the crossroads in Comber. Because they showed up in the same household in Ruscomb in the 1861 Census, I’m thinking that John and Adam must have been brothers; and that John and Augusta were living with Great Great Grandpa Adam because there was no house yet on their farm (which was likely still all bush) near Comber.

The mystery deepens with the next census, which finds Great Great Grandpa living with three children — William Henry, who is listed as having been born in Germany sometime around 1862; Adam Jr. (my great grandfather) born in 1865; and Mary Ann, born in 1866. I thought it was odd that a man of 50 years old would be living in a household with small children where it appeared there was no mother. A further look at the census revealed a note “his wife is in the asylum”

As near as I can figure out, the wife in the asylum was the wife who he married in 1853. It’s an intriguing and sad story to put together. From what I can tell, the second wife’s name was Mary. Mary Detreig is listed as the mother of daughter Mary Ann on her marriage certificate. (She married John Dalton of Comber in 1882.) Elizabeth Dietrich is listed as the mother of Adam Jr. on his marriage certificate to Agnes Irwin on the 4th of February 1886.

My grandma Wallace’s Fenner family tree says that Adam Sr. had a fourth child, Elizabeth (who married Robert Hull of Comber). Grandma’s family tree says that her mother was Elizabeth Fenner, and also that Elizabeth (the mother) died when Elizabeth the daughter was only one day old. Since the baby didn’t show up on the 1871 census, I think she must have been raised by a neighbour.

Putting all this together, I think it likely that Mary Fenner and Elizabeth Fenner (the mother) was actually Mary Elizabeth Dietrich Fenner. And that she really didn’t die when her daughter Elizabeth was one day old.

Because Mary Fenner of Essex County was admitted to the London Insane Asylum in 1870. She died there in 1901.

To be continued .. what I’ve found out about Great Great Grandpa and Grandma Fenner … and the questions which I’m still trying to answer.

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Posted on February 17, 2012, in Essex County Families, towns and villages and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I am researching John Henry Fenner born 1796 from a family of Bakers.I believe they came from Hesse-Cassel in Germany.The name Adam crops up a few times throughout my research.

    • I would love to hear more about what you’ve found out. Hesse Cassel is probably where my great great grandfather came from, since all the neighbours in the little village he moved to in Canada were also from Hesse Kassel. I haven’t found any Adam Fenners in Germany .. So I would really like to hear more. My great great grandfather was born in 1815. He was maybe named after his father since Adam (my gg grandfather ) also named his son Adam (my great grandfather), and his brother John also named a son Adam. So I figure it’s a name that was passed on from generation to generation.

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