George W. Fenimore. After half a century of almost uninterrupted peace and prosperity America is again at war, and in this condition the people appreciate more than ever the splendid services and devotion of those brave boys in blue who defended the Union at the time of the Civil War. That war made America a great and united nation, unexampled in resources and material achievement, and there is a direct logical connection between the victories of the Union troops on Southern battlefields fifty years ago and the present great world struggle, when America, by lending its resources and soldiers to war stricken Europe occupies the dominant position in the world’s affairs and can practically dictate the terms on which national life everywhere shall be reorganized on a basis of permanent democracy.
Hence there is every reason to refer gratefully to the soldiers of our own Civil War, and pay tribute to the guardians of the nation in those critical times. One of them in Champaign County was George W. Fenimore, proprietor of the Fenimore House of Sidney. After a long life of arduous labor and industry he spent his declining years with the tender devotion and care of his wife and daughters, and answered the final summons of death on October 29, 1917.
George W. Fenimore was born in Randolph County, Indiana, February 22, 1842, a son of Pierson and Eliza Fenimore, both natives of New Jersey, of English descent. His parents came to Indiana at an early day, and were married in that state. Pierson Fenimore was a well known road contractor and spent a useful, industrious career.
Second in a family of five sons, George W. Fenimore, at the age of twenty-one, volunteered at Indianapolis in Battery A of the Fourth Indiana Light Artillery. This battery was sent south, first to Nashville, Tennessee, where it participated in one of the struggles of the war, afterwards did guard duty at Murfreesboro, and was in service in that part of Tennessee until the close of the struggle. Only by change of plans was Mr. Fenimore deprived of the privilege of accompanying Sherman on the great campaign from Atlanta to the sea, and he has always regretted that he could not have taken part in that glorious campaign. He was mustered out of service and given his honorable discharge at Indianapolis on August 1, 1865.
He then went back to his old home in Indiana, but in the fall of the same year came to Champaign County, Illinois, and joined friends at the town of Sidney. September 18, 1866, he married Miss Catherine Morgan, who has been his faithful companion and sharer of joys and sorrows over half a century. Mrs. Fenimore is of German and Irish descent and a daughter of Job and Susan (Shrigley) Morgan, both natives of Virginia. From Virginia they moved to Ohio, locating near Zanesville, where her father became a farmer. Mrs. Fenimore was fifth in a family of five sons and three daughters, all of whom were educated in the public schools of Ohio. The Morgan family finally came to Sidney, Illinois.
At the time of their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore located on a farm eight miles southwest of Sidney, near Linn Grove, and began the cultivation and improvement of an almost raw tract of 160 acres out on the broad prairie. They had the courage and enthusiasm of young people and made some additions to their prosperity during the five years they spent in that district. Later they bought eighty acres and remained on and cultivated that farm for seven years. On selling it they bought a place near Fithian in Vermilion County, and after making that their home for nine years removed to Sidney and bought the property then known as the Black Hotel. For thirty years Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore conducted this as a model country hotel, under the name Fenimore House, and they enjoyed a prosperous business and rendered a splendid service to all who were entertained within their gates.
Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore, three sons and five daughters, Alice, William, Otis, May and Minnie, twins, Elizabeth, Anna and Charles. The oldest son William was taken away from the family circle at the age of eleven years. From the first the training and education of these children were matters close to the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore, and they sent the children regularly to the public schools of Fithian and Sidney. Anna became a student of the Normal School at Danville, Indiana, and for several years was a successful teacher in Champaign County. She then married Frank Freeman, and was the mother of two children, Lucile and Carl. Mrs. Freeman died when these children were still young, and both of them were then taken into the home of their grandparents and have received their utmost devotion and affection. Both are now students of the public schools of Sidney.
Otis Fenimore married Pearl Mansfield and they reside in Oklahoma City, where he is successfully engaged in the automobile business. They have two children, Alma and Robert. Otis Fenimore made a splendid record when a young man for his industry. He began his career as a telegraph operator at Sidney, and possessing good and thrifty habits somewhat later removed to Oklahoma and invested his capital in land. He became cashier in a bank at Lambert, Oklahoma, where he remained six years, and then removed to the capital of the state and engaged in the automobile business. May Fenimore married Arthur Busey, who is in the brokerage business in Oklahoma City. Their three children are Elsie, George and Roy. Charles Fenimore is engaged in farming near Salt Lake City, Utah, where he and his wife, whose maiden name was Florence Towne, reside. Their one child is named George.
The three remaining daughters, Alice, Elizabeth and Minnie, remain at home with their mother and their presence is a constant source of comfort to her. By their loving and unselfish devotion they have done much to smooth out life’s pathway, and have repaid in a generous measure some of the parental love and watchful care bestowed upon them as children.
The Fenimore family are active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Politically they give their allegiance to the Republican party. Mr. Fenimore was one of the charter members of the Grand Army Post at Sidney, was active in its organization and for years served as commander of the post.
In addition to the above, compiled from material while he was living, it is fortunate that an estimate of this valued old citizen of Sidney can be published as written in the words of a friend. With some repetition, it will serve to complete a well rounded account of his life.
Again the Lord of battle has given command, taps have sounded and another “boy in blue” has been “mustered out.” George Washington, son of Pierson and Eliza Fenimore, was born February 22, 1842, near Huntsville, Randolph County, Indiana, and died at his home in Sidney, October 29, 1917, aged seventy-five years, eight months and seven days. He was the second of five sons, three of whom grew to manhood. His early life was spent in the Indiana home and not unlike the boyhood of other boys. Facilities for school were meager in those days, and he attended a subscription school that was opened in the vicinity. When the Civil War broke out it was his intention to enter the army. Twice he applied for admission, but not having the required chest expansion was rejected. He was determined to overcome this disability and did. He enlisted in Company A, Fourth Indiana Light Artillery at Indianapolis early in 1864 and served until the close of the war. He started with Sherman on his famous march to the sea, but was cut off by General Hood at Murfreesboro. Mr. Fenimore was not in the thick of this battle, but did valiant and commendable service in caring for the dead and wounded. It was always with enthusiasm that he recalled these war experiences, and great was his pride that he had given service to his country in its time of need. He received his honorable discharge at Indianapolis, August 1, 1865.
In October of that year he came to Illinois and made his home with relatives the family of Richard Bloxsom near Sidney. On September 18, 1866, he was married to Miss Catherine Morgan. The early years of their married life were spent on a farm near Lynn Grove. In 1879 they disposed of this farm and purchased land near Fithian, where they lived until 1887 when they removed to the present home. The “Fenimore House” has become a landmark in and about Sidney, and its genial host will be sadly missed, not only by the residents of this community, but by a large traveling public. Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore were accorded a happy privilege in the celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary on September 18, 1916. Mr. Fenimore is survived by the widow and the following children: Otis and Mrs. Mae Busey of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Charles of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Alice, Minnie and Elizabeth at home. Two grandchildren, Lucile and Carl Freeman, have lived in the home since infancy, and one of Mr. Fenimore’s great desires was to be spared to see this girl and boy able to care for themselves. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Other grandchildren left are: Elsie, George and Boy Busey, and Alma, Robert and George Fenimore. Two brothers, Edward and Samuel, live at Rockville, Missouri. One son, Willie, died in 1880 while the family lived near Fithian, and a daughter, Anna, died at home October 1, 1907.
Sidney Post G. A. R. has lost a stanch and loyal member. This comrade, who has gone, was very proud to wear the little brown army button, to give service to the soldier living and to do honor to the soldier dead. Memorial Sunday and Decoration Day in Sidney will not be the same with Mr. Fenimore away. He was converted and united with the Methodist Church in Fithian. His chief thought was always for others, and he enjoyed having his family and friends about him and he did gladly for them all that he could. All during his long and painful illness he was patient and grateful for everything that was done for him. He had a firm belief in an allwise God and a life eternal, and repeatedly gave assurance that “all is well.” For
“He who marks the sparrow’s fall
Knows where each hero lies,
And humble blood for justice shed,
By Him is not despised;
And when in the last reveille
The dead ranks throng about,
Foremost among the just shall stand
These soldiers mustered out.”