HOME AT LAST – PROMINENT CITIZEN HAS FINAL
RESTING PLACE AFTER 56 YEARS
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.
Some of you may recall a news article last year about
unclaimed cremains at the Oregon State Hospital. In September of this year there was a similar article in the
Union Bulletin from Walla Walla about the unclaimed cremains of over 300
people at the Walla Walla coroner’s office.
The article sparked the interest of Ryan Moore of
Oregon. He has always had an
interest in repatriating unclaimed remains for proper burial. He started researching relatives of the deceased.
Approximately 65% have had relatives contacted, but sadly, a very
small percentage have been claimed. The
list included Florence Fenn.
Mr. Moore began researching Mrs. Fenn.
He contacted the Idaho State Historical Society who did not seem
interested but gave him a contact at the U of I Archives in Moscow.
They, in turn contacted the USFS and one morning the chain of
emails landed in my inbox.
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
I did an internet search to try and locate a relative
of the late Mrs. Fenn. I
finally received a response saying a family member would be claiming her
remains. The following day I
received another email from them stating that they would rather I took
care of it instead. I sent
other emails asking their name and address so that I could let them know
when she was laid to rest, but have never received any response.
I wondered why no one had claimed her so many years
ago. In my research I found
that at the time of her death she had been living with her daughter,
Allene Florence (Fenn) Quist in Washington State.
Doing more research, it was brought to my attention
that Mrs. Fenn’s son-in-law, Fredrick Quist, had passed away the
previous year and his cremains were also there, unclaimed.
Perhaps her daughter could not handle the loss of both her husband
and mother so close together. We may never know. . . Someone has since
claimed the remains of Mr. Quist. Mr.
Quist was a very prominent citizen of the Kooskia area.
Even though I am not a relative I felt that Florence
needed to be with her husband so I contacted Richard Greenwood, Walla
Walla Coroner and asked if he would forward her to me.
He was very pleased that she would finally have a resting place.
A short time later a package arrived at my door, it was Florence!
She has a beautiful brass urn, in the shape of a book.
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 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
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
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
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.
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.
was with the volunteers that rescued the survivors of the Norton and
Chamberlain families, who had been attacked by Indians in the middle of
the night. John Chamberlain and his wife, with two children in a wagon
loaded with household goods, had tried to make a run from Cottonwood to
Mount Idaho. They prevailed on Ben Norton to go with them and about five
miles from Grange Hall, (now Grangeville) the Indians caught up with the
Writing about his
part in the rescue, Lieutenant Fenn told of finding ten-year old Hill
Norton skulking through the tall grass, trying to get to the Grange Hall
ahead of the Indians. Taking the boy to the hall, Fenn and two more
volunteers headed out to find the rest of the party and do what they could
Mrs. Norton was
found under the wagon, shot through both legs and helpless. Her husband
was a few feet away, dead, and Lew Day and Joe Moore were in the wagon,
wounded and near death. (They both died a few days later.)
was with Colonel Perry as a volunteer on his fateful and disastrous trip
into Whitebird Canyon. Years later, as owner/editor of the newspaper, the
Kooskia Mountaineer, he would write about an incident in which he could
only watch as a grizzled old sergeant fell to the advancing Indians.
The name of F. A.
Fenn is engraved on a monument dedicated to the memory of the “Brave
Seventeen,” a group of seventeen volunteers led by Captain D. B.
Randall, who held off a much larger force of hostile Indians on July 5th,
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
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
When the Spanish
American War broke out he offered his services and was appointed Captain
of Company H, First Idaho Volunteers which took part in the Battle of
Manila, August 13, 1899; Santa Ana, February 5, 1899; Colcocan, February
10-11, 1899. In September, 1899, he received an honorable discharge as a
Major and returned home to his family.
June, 1901, Major
Fenn was appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Forest Reserves in Idaho and
Montana. He was responsible
for establishing the Forest Service in the Clearwater country.
He was admired and respected by his employees and the community.
Pinchot called him “one of the very best forest officers the west
has produced.” Frank
retired from this position in 1920.
Major Frank A.
Fenn died June 20, 1927, at his home in Kooskia, leaving behind his wife
Florence and their children, Fred of Los Angeles, California, Homer of
Sacramento, California, Lloyd, who was superintendent of the Kooskia
Public School, Rhoda of Great Falls, Montana and Allene Florence Quist of
The Spokane Daily
Chronicle reported the death of Mrs. Florence (Holbrook) Fenn, April 3,
1956. She was born January
13, 1861, in Oregon and died at Walla Walla, Wa. March 29, 1956. Survivors
included two sons, Fred Fenn, El Cajon, Calif., and Homer Fenn, Dunsmuir,
Calif; two daughters, Mrs. Rhoda M. Willey, College Place, Wash., and Mrs.
F.E. Quist, Walla Walla, Wa, with whom she had been living at the time.
Maj. Fenn left behind a legacy that endures to this
day. He was one of the first
to advance the proposal for a highway connecting the Clearwater Valley to
Montana through Lolo Pass. After
his retirement he told reporters “The Lolo Pass Highway is my only
hobby.” He was owner/editor of the Kooskia Mountaineer newspaper for
a while. The house he built
in Kooskia still stands and the interior has not changed much from the
days when Florence Fenn lived there.
There is a mountain, a town and several places in the
region that bear his name and the names of some of his family. Fenn Ranger
Station; Major Fenn Picnic Area on the Lochsa; Fenn Mountain is 8,021 ft
and the highest of the Selway Crags in the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness;
Florence Lake named for Mrs. Fenn;
Lloyd Lake named for their son, who was briefly a ranger and
followed in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, politician, newspaper
publisher and educator; When the trail through Jesse Pass and the Crags
was completed in the early 1900’s, Major Fenn, took his family on a pack
trip over the new trail. On reaching this large, unnamed creek, called it
Rhoda Creek for his daughter, who thought it so beautiful;
Friday Pass was named in 1917 after Lloyd Fenn, who was known as
“Man Friday” by the Forest Service survey chief.
Fenn Lakes were later renamed, Kettle, Stove and Pipe Lakes.
The Fenn family definitely left their mark on Idaho
and that may be the reason why some old timer’s call it “Major
I have been asked why would you do this for someone
that you are not related to? Because
it is the right thing to do! I
only hope that if my ashes are sitting on a shelf some day that someone
would show me the same kindness.
A small metal marker has been purchased for Florence.
If you would like to make a donation for a small granite marker, please
contact Penny Casey at 983-6094 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember our local funeral homes have many unclaimed,
but Idaho law does not allow for a listing to be published. Loved ones
should not be forgotten.
Visit the unclaimed remains listing at the Walla
Walla coroners office website http://www.co.walla-walla.wa.us/departments/cor/UnclaimedRemains.shtml
and also the Oregon State Hospital website.