Biography of M. Fenwick

M. Fenwick. Among the families of more than fifty years’ residence in Champaign County, one which is well and favorably known is that represented by M. Fenwick, a prosperous business citizen of St. Joseph, who has made his home in this community since 1868. Mr. Fenwick was born in Indiana, June 14, 1842, a son of William and Mary (Gilbert) Fenwick. His maternal grandfather was an early frontiersman of Ohio, and in that state, in Ross County, Mr. Fenwick’s parents were married. William Fenwick was born in Highland County, Ohio, and his father’s birthplace was Fenwick’s Island, Delaware.

The Fenwick family can be directly traced back to the days of bow-and-arrow warfare in Scotland, when members of the family, loyal Scots all, were among the best archers, there being at one time 500 of the name so armed fighting for the rights and liberties of the land of heather. Sir John Fenwick, one of Mr. Fenwick’s ancestors, was beheaded in England for his patriotic activities, and it is thought that the original Fenwick in America, Thomas, who arrived in Virginia in 1630, came to this country to escape a like fate. In the Encyclopedia Et Heraldica it is found that the armorials of the family are deposited at the Lion office of Edinburgh, Scotland. The original orthography of the name Fenwick was given in 1567 as Fynwyk, this being changed in 1723 to Finwick and in 1793 to Fenwick. The first record given of the family in this country was in a reference made in the work, entitled “Southern Quakers and Slavery,” by Stephen D. Weeks, Ph. D., published by Ballentyne, 1896. In the court records of Norfolk County, Virginia, the name of Thomas Fenwick is frequently found, either as a prosecutor or a defendant, and while his record shows that he surely led a stormy life, some of the penalties, fines and causes for proceedings were both laughable and absurd. He was granted at different’ times several thousand acres of land by the Virginia governors as recompense for bringing settlers into the county, and at one time transported sixty persons, for which service he was given 3,000 acres, a part of which was subsequently called Fenwick Island, lying off the coast of Delaware. The court record of May 21, 1679, shows that one Malachi Thruston received judgment against Thomas Fenwick for 365 pounds of tobacco; on September 5, 1679, Thomas Fenwick received a judgment against Nathaniel Brangwing for 400 pounds of tobacco; on February 15, 1680, Thomas Fenwick obtained judgment against Edward Wilder for 337 pounds of pork, and in another case Henry Creek obtained judgment against Thomas Fenwick for 130 pounds of tobacco and 108 pounds of pork. On October 15, 1684, William Porter obtained judgment against Thomas Fenwick for 1,000 pipe stems, to be paid at “Fenwick’s Landing.” In the land office at Richmond, Virginia, Liber. VII, folio 423, Francis Lord Howard, governor, is shown to issue to Thomas Fenwick a grant of 350 acres for the transportation of seven persons, and later it is shown where Thomas Fenwick traded a negro slave woman for 200 acres of land. On November *17, 1685, “Whereas, Philip Howard did detain a servant of Thomas Fenwick (named Humphry Dorman, who had three years to serve) for the loss of a bull hired to said Fenwick in which hire the servant ran away, and if Howard do not return said servant within six months to Fenwick, he pay Fenwick 600 pounds of tobacco and costs.” Later in 1700, he was made a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature and with other members was appointed at different times to call upon the governor and to present bills for consideration. In the Pennsylvania archives it is shown that Thomas Fenwick was appointed justice of the peace for Sussex County, and that on May 4, 1703, one Edward Page was fined five shillings for swearing in his (Fen wick’s) presence. Fenwick’s Island is referred to in the celebrated case between William Penn and Lord Baltimore. The will of Thomas Fenwick is recorded at Georgetown, Delaware, Liber. A, folio 77, as follows: He first willed his soul to God and to his heirs his real estate, slaves and chattels; his daughter, Margaret Stretcher, and heirs his spinning wheels, cards and utensils, her choice of beds and his youngest negro girl; to Anna Clifton, his sea bed; to Margaret Hepburn, his old horse “Lodge” and four barrels of Indian corn; to Sarah Clifton, his silver baker; and to Thomas Clifton, half of his mares and an increase on Fenwick’s Island.

From his native state of Ohio William Fenwick removed to Indiana and subsequently to Illinois, but after seven years in this state returned to Indiana and there passed the rest of his life. His son, M. Fenwick, was twenty-six years of age when he came to Illinois, being at that time the possessor of a common school education and the trade of carpenter, and settled in St. Joseph Township, Champaign County. He subsequently built the first house at St. Joseph, as well as the first ticket office at this point; likewise built the first house and ticket office at Ogden, Illinois, and scored and hewed the first ties used on the Union Pacific Railroad at Omaha, Nebraska, but after several years in the trade turned his attention to farming, a field in which he won enviable success through industry and good management, backed up by sound integrity in all transactions.

In 1871 Mr. Fenwick was married to Martha E. Johnson, who was born near Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana, daughter of William and Catherine (Ladd) Johnson, a member of a notable family which traces its ancestry back many generations in this country, and a granddaughter of a cousin of President John Quincy Adams. To Mr. and Mrs. Fenwick there were born the following children: Gary C., W. J., Inez C. and Zula B., all graduates of the St. Joseph High School, where they made exceptional records, and all now worthy and honorable citizens of their communities. Gary C. Fenwick married Juniata Graham, who was born at Vevay in southern Indiana, daughter of Robert and Martha (Lester) Graham, a family which owned and operated the ferry at Vevay. She has been granted a Government license as pilot on the Ohio River, dated August 9, 1915. Gary C. Fenwick is one of the foremost carpenters and contractors of St. Joseph Township, having built some of the finest structures in this part of the county, including the brick Christian Church at St. Joseph, of which he and his family are members and liberal supporters, he having served as superintendent of the Sunday school. Mr. Fenwick is one of his locality’s honored citizens and the possessor of a refined wife and attractive home. W. J. Fenwick married Irma Martin of Louisa, and has one child, Louise. He resides at home and is engaged in assisting his father with the work of the homestead. Inez C. Fenwick married Alexander Penny and resides at Skykomish, Washington, where Mr. Fenwick is connected with railroad shops. Mrs. Penny was formerly for one year worthy matron of the Order of the Eastern Star at Urbana, Illinois. Zula B. Fenwick married Charles Davis, a farmer of St. Louis, Michigan, and has one child, Martha.

In various ways M. Fenwick has been a factor in bringing about the development of Champaign County, and his assistance has been constant in support of worthy measures. He has served as road commissioner and school director, and when the first drainage system was installed was elected drainage commissioner, and with his helpers dug and completed forty miles of open and tile ditches within three years in one township, a feat which is one that stands out as a great accomplishment in the history of this section. In political matters he holds to broad views on various subjects and refuses to allow himself to be confined to party lines, his support being given to the men whom he believes best qualified for the office and to the policies that he feels are best for the general welfare. He has been a generous donator to the Christian Church, of which he and his family are members. For fifty years he has been identified with Masonry, in which he has attained to the thirty-second degree, and his son has also been a member of this order for some years. In every respect Mr. Fenwick is a representative citizen of his community, a man whose excellent reputation has been built upon a long period of straightforward dealing and clean living, and a worthy bearer of this honorable family name.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top