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I am trying to get Florence a permanent marker.  The cost for a very small, plain granite stone is about $185.00.  I have donations totaling approx. $100 so far.  If you would like to help by donating for this please email me at  ididaho@msn.com.  I am not a relative, just want her to be at rest.


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.

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 history.

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 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. 

Lieutenant Fenn 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 luckless party.

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 for them.

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.)

Lieutenant Fenn 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, 1877.

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.

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 Kooskia.

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 Fenn’s Country.”

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 ididaho@msn.com

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.  http://www.oregon.gov/oha/amh/osh/pages/cremains.aspx



If you have any records, photos, family information, etc., we would love for you to share.  Or if you have questions or suggestions, please drop me a line. My email address is County Coordinator


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