The Fenners of Ruscomb – Part 2
Recap: It is 1871. Great Great Grandpa Adam Fenner, according to the census, is a single father. The oldest child, William Henry, is nine years old and is said to have been born in Germany. Adam Jr. is six years old, Mary Ann is five. The census does not show it, but further records show that a fourth child, Elizabeth was born in 1868. My grandma Wallace’s records show that Mary, the children’s mother died when Baby Elizabeth was one day old. But we know through other records that she was not physically dead — she was in the newly opened London Insane Asylum. But for all intents and purposes, it was like she was. I’ll get into that in future posts. For now, back to the Fenner farm at the crossroads in Ruscomb)
Great Great Grandpa Fenner died in 1880 at the age of 65 years old. Adam stayed on the farm and married Agnes Irwin of Albuna and had eight children . William Henry moved to Tilbury, married Lillian Hobson and had a lot of kids too (eight also, I think … need to check that out). Mary Ann married John Dalton of Comber and had three children. Elizabeth, I am speculating, must have been raised by another family in the area. Her marriage certificate to Robert Hull of Comber, lists two of the members of the Ludlam family as witnesses … I am wondering if that’s a clue since there was a family name Ludlam living down the road Comber way.
I know more about “Aunt Lib” than any of the other bunch since she lived to a good old age. She was the longest-lived of all of them.. Mary Ann passed away in her 20s, leaving behind three small children (John Dalton remarried at least once more, maybe twice and had more children). My great Grandfather, Adam Jr. died of a ruptured appendix at only 45 years old. And William Henry, the mystery brother, died soon after my great grandfather in an accident in the tiling factory where he worked.
Things did not go well for those first generations of Canadian Fenners, I can see that. Nonetheless, my grandfather’s generation settled in and did very well for themselves. That is likely because of the good example set by Adam Jr. and Agnes. It looks like the Fenners of my great grandfather and my grandfather’s generation were hard workers and good money managers.
From a modest 50 acres in 1850, the Fenner land holdings grew to more than 300 acres. My dad told me that his grandparents set up each other their children with their own farms, all in the Ruscomb/Woodslee area. My great grandfather’s obituary in the April 6, 1910 of the Essex Free Press say that my grandfather was admired, and was considered a leader in the community. When he died, the paper said, he left his wife and children well provided for, with landholdings and a life insurance policy of $2000 (not sure what that would be in today’s dollars, but it was probably a nice little chunk of money).
My own grandfather, Ivan (second youngest) was doing well enough that he and my grandmother were able to renovate a whole house in the height of the Depression and fill it with new furniture. We always had a “hired man” and I have heard many times that my Grandpa would frequently hire men who stopped by the farm looking for work.
The Fenners were also the first farmers in the township to put tile drains on their land. It’s only through reading historical accounts about the swampy condition of the land that I realize that this was an important development.
Adam Jr. and Agnes’s children were: Orville, Stella, Lila, Beatrice, Carlyle, Opal, Ivan and Vester. Orville married Grace Lee; Stella – Albert Royal Trimble (great name eh?); Lila – John (Jack) Brown; Carlyle – Dora Armstrong; Opal – Sam Totten (my grandma Fenner’s brother); my grandfather Ivan married Edith Totten; and Uncle Vester married Aunt Lavina (Millen).
I knew all of the great aunts and uncles when I was a kid, except Uncle Orville and Aunt Stella, who died before I was born. I have a lot of second cousins and am really enjoying being in touch with some of them recently through all these family explorations I’m doing. We were especially close to Aunt Lavina and Uncle Vester — being the two youngest, Uncle Vester and my grandfather also appeared to be close friends.
The Fenner family homestead, built out of the bush by Great Great Grandpa Fenner is still in the family. It is owned by Uncle Vester’s grandson John. I’m glad it’s still there …