Stone carver and merchant, of Providence, R.I.
Family papers, 1796-1855
Size: 4 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 412
Processed by: Harold E. Kemble, August 1986
Updated by Rick Stattler, January 2003
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Joseph J. Fenner (1781-1856) was a Providence stonecutter and merchant, son of Richard Fenner. He wed Harriet D. Manchester (c1790-1839) and they had several children, including:
Edmund Austin (1807-1824)
Harriet D. (c1810-1856), never married
Caroline H. (1817-1841), married Nathan Truman (1813-1886) in 1839
Charles Otis (c1818-1877)
Maria Celia (1821-1893), married Nathan Truman (1813-1886) in 1851
At some time in approximately 1831, Fenner was confined on account of a mental disorder. Although his correspondence and accounts do continue, it is clear that his estate was managed by a succession of court-appointed trustees, while Fenner himself was put out to board with families in Providence and Jamestown.
Cutter, William R. New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, 561. New York, 1915.
Rhode Island Cemetery Database
Rhode Island vital records
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Scope and content:
These papers will be of particular interest to genealogists, as his records include accounts for sales of grave markers, inscriptions made on grave markers, and mention of a few burials. Also of interest are the accounts for such fixtures as mantles, door and window sills and window caps, hearthstones and other stone products that J.J. Fenner made.
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The bulk of these papers were purchased from Associated Appraisers in 1970. They were acquired along with the related Nathan H. Truman Papers (MSS 762).
Thirteen additional documents were donated by Jennifer Madden in 2002. She had purchased them circa 1998 at D.R. Nelson's antique shop in New Bedford, Mass. This latter gift consisted of ten Joseph J. Fenner letters dated: 5/20/1812, 8/5/1812, 6/20/1817, 11/17/1819, 12/8/1819, 12/16/1819, 1/10/1820, 1/24/1820, 3/4/1820, 10/14/1820; an undated contract re house construction; inscription of Thomas Mathewson gravestone, undated; and a letter to Charles Fenner, 9/27/1839.
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JOSEPH J. FENNER
Correspondence. 1798-1855, 1 linear foot.
In addition to the several merchants with whom he dealt, Fenner's papers include letters received from (and a few copies of letters sent to) a variety of family members (see additional entries).
Box 1, folder 1. Undated and fragments
Box 1, folder 2. 1798-1799
Box 1, folder 3. 1800-1804
Box 1, folder 4. 1805-1806
Box 1, folder 5. 1807
Box 1, folder 6. 1808-1809
Box 1, folder 7. 1810
Box 1, folder 8. 1811
Box 1, folder 9. 1812
Box 1, folder 10. 1813
Box 1, folder 11. 1814
Box 1, folder 12. 1815
Box 1, folder 13. 1816
Box 1, folder 14. 1817
Box 1, folder 15. 1818
Box 1, folder 16. 1819
Box 1, folder 17. 1820
Box 1, folder 18. 1821
Box 1, folder 19. 1822
Box 1, folder 20. 1823
Box 1, folder 21. 1824
Box 1, folder 22. 1825
Box 1, folder 23. 1826
Box 1, folder 24. 1827
Box 1, folder 25. 1828
Box 1, folder 26. 1830-1837
Box 1, folder 27. 1844-1849
Box 1, folder 28. 1850-1855
Gravestone names and inscriptions, and sketches of mantles. 0.25 linear feet.
Box 2. Filed alphabetically by name on stone. See also the correspondence and the accounts.
Allin, Shearjashub B.
Barker, son of Hiram and Ruth
Barker, James S.
Barton, James F.
Blake, Louisa Gray
Brown, Patrick H.
Brownell, James F.
(see Grinnell, Charles)
Clarke, Stephen H.
Cooke, Mercy Ann
Curtis, Thomas D.
Curtis, Thomas D.
Graves, Rev. John
Grinnell, Deborah Elizabeth
(see Smith, Benjamin)
Killey, Vinney [?]
Mitchell, Anna E.
Nichols, Charles F.
Paine, Elizabeth L.
Pearce, Jonathan E.
Rhodes, Mary P.
Rhodes, Waity [?]
Richmond, Alice A.
Simmons, Capt. Sylvester
Taylor, Caroline F.
Taylor, John S.
Wardwell, Josiah F.
Wheeler, Julia Ann
Whitaker, infants of Arnold
Box 3, folders 1-5. Stone cutter accounts, 1800-1836 and undated (receipts, bills for purchase of stone and for sales of cut stones)
Box 3, folders 6-19. Household accounts and accounts as a merchant, 1799-1837 and undated
Box 3, folder 20. Estate of James Crichton, 1823
Box 3, folder 21. Accounts with Peter D. Greene, 1823-1827
Box 3, folder 22. Accounts of the estate of Sullivan Lincoln, 1822-1826
Box 3, folder 23. Accounts of the firm Manchester & Fenner, 1800-1808, 1816
Volume 1. Journal of general store and stonecutting business, 1806-1812
Volume 2. Journal of general store and stonecutting business, 1812-1816
Volume 3. Journal of general store and stonecutting business, 1825-1837. Also estate of Joseph J. Fenner, 1849-1857
Volume 4. Pocket memo book, 1832-1833
Volume 5. Accounts, 1829. Includes inscription for stone of Abigail P. Fuller.
Volume 6. Accounts, 1823-1828
Volume 7. Accounts due and receivable, 1820-1824
Volume 8. Household accounts, 1823-
Volume 10. Accounts, 1807-1830
Volume 11. Accounts, 1821-1829
Box 3, folder 24. Apprenticeship agreement with William S. Manchester, 1818
Box 3, folder 25. Certificates of exemption from military duty due to poor health, 1807, 1809
Box 3, folder 26. Compositions, some apparently intended at editorial letters, undated
Box 3, folder 27. Contract with Luther & Smith for construction of house for J.J. Fenner, 1821
Box 3, folder 28. Diary re ocean voyage from Providence to Newport to Northampton, undated
Box 3, folder 29. Ephemera
Box 3, folder 30. Licences, 1821-1825
Box 3, folder 31. Property records (deeds, leases), 1813-1830
Box 3, folder 32. Shares in the Middlefield Free Stone Comapny, 1810
Volume 9. Composition book, undated
Estate of Joseph J. Fenner. Accounts as a ward, 1831-1854. 0.5 linear feet.
Box 4, folder 1. 1831-1839
Box 4, folder 2. 1840-1844
Box 4, folder 3. 1845-1849
Box 4, folder 4. 1850-1854
Volume 12. Ledger, 1828-1838
ALBERT FENNER (1814-1834). Son of Joseph J. Fenner
Box 4, folder 5. Miscellaneous papers, 1822-1835:
Poem titled "Tyranny," undated
Three accounts and receipts, 1833-1834
CAROLINE H. (FENNER) TRUMAN (1817-1841). Daughter of Joseph J. Fenner. First wife of Nathan Truman (1813-1886).
Box 4, folder 6. Letters received, 1836-1839
Mostly from sister Harriet D. Fenner, mother Harriet D. (Manchester) Fenner, friend Julia --- of Philadelphia, and suitor James Ward Simmons.
CHARLES OTIS FENNER (c1818-1877). Son of Joseph J. Fenner.
Box 4, folder 7. Letters received, 1837-1849.
Mostly from sister Caroline, friend James Ward Simmons, and "brother" Nathan Truman.
Box 4, folder 8. Miscellaneous:
Diary, February 11 to March 20 1841, addressed to sisters Harriet and Hepza.
Receipts, 1837, 1842
HARRIET D. FENNER (c1810-1856). Daughter of Joseph J. Fenner.
Letters are mostly from cousin Eliza M. Fenner of Northampton, 1823-1849; friend Caroline Burrill (Potter) Farnum of Worcester, Westborough, and Philadelphia, 1824-1841; brother-in-law Nathan Truman in Matanzas, 1841; and brother Charles O. Fenner, 1841-1849. Of particular interst is a letter by her to Dr. Rufus Wyman re her father's condition, December 14 1832. A run of letters in 1836 are from sister Caroline Fenner, addressed to Miss Harriet, but mostly beginning "Dear Mother". They were apparently intended for family consumption.
Box 5, folder 1. Letters received, 1823-1825
Box 5, folder 2. Letters received, 1826-1827
Box 5, folder 3. Letters received, 1828-1829
Box 5, folder 4. Letters received, 1830-1831.
Box 5, folder 5. Letters received, 1832-1833
Box 5, folder 6. Letters received, 1834-1835
Box 5, folder 7. Letters received, 1836-1837
Box 5, folder 8. Letters received, 1838-1839
Box 5, folder 9. Letters received, 1840-1841
Box 5, folder 10. Letters received, 1842-1843
Box 5, folder 11. Letters received, 1844-1845
Box 5, folder 12. Letters received, 1846-1847
Box 5, folder 13. Letters received, 1849
Box 5, folder 14. Letters received, undated
Box 5, folder 15. Acrostic by Madeline M. Manchester, undated
Box 5, folder 16. Cash book, 1835-1847
HARRIET D. (MANCHESTER) FENNER (1790-1839). Wife of Joseph J. Fenner.
Box 4, folder 9. Letters received, 1801-1837.
Mostly from sister Madeleine H. Manchester of Roxbury.
ISRAEL FENNER. Brother of Joseph J. Fenner.
Box 4, folder 10. Deed, 1823; two receipts, 1796 and undated
MARIA C. (FENNER) TRUMAN (1821-1893). Daughter of Joseph J. Fenner. Second wife of Nathan Truman (1813-1886), amrried in 1851.
Box 4, folder 11. Letters received, 1841-1852.
Mostly from brother Charles O. Fenner, sister Harriet D. Fenner, and father Joseph J. Fenner (1850-1852).
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This is a list of subjects and principal topics covered in the collection, but is not a full index.
Atwell, Samuel. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1813.
Barstow, Nathaniel. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner, 1847-1849.
Bullock, Nathaniel, 1779-1867. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1818.
Chaffee, Zachariah, 1785-1840. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1821.
Crichton, James. Estate papers, 1823 Box 3, folder 20.
Diaries - Undated. Diary kept by Joseph J. Fenner re ocean voyage from Providence to Newport to Northampton, undated Box 3, folder 28.
Diaries - 1841. Travel diary of Charles O. Fenner, February 11 to March 20 1841, addressed to sisters Harriet and Hepza. Box 4, folder 8.
Farnum, Caroline B. (Potter). Frequent letters from Caroline Burrill (Potter) Farnum of Worcester and Philadelphia, to friend Harriet D. Fenner, 1823-1841. Box 5, folders 1-9.
Fenner, Albert, 1814-1834. Letter to father Joseph J. Fenner, 1834; journal, 1828-1833; daybook, 1822-1829; poem titled "Tyranny," undated; three accounts and receipts, 1833-1834 Box 1, folder 26; box 4, folder 5.
Fenner, Caroline H., 1817-1841. See: Truman, Caroline H. (Fenner), 1817-1841 .
Fenner, Charles Otis, c1818-1877. Folder of letters received, 1837-1849; diary, February 11 to March 20 1841, addressed to sisters Harriet and Hepza; receipts, 1837, 1842; letters to sister Harriet, 1841-1849. Box 4, folders 7-8; box 5, folders 9-13.
Fenner, Eliza M.. Letter to grandfather Joseph J. Fenner, 1837; frequent letters to cousion Harriet D. Fenner, 1823-1849 Box 1, folder 28; box 5, folders 1-13.
Fenner, Harriet D., c1810-1856. Letters received, 1823-1849, mostly from cousin Eliza M. Fenner of Northampton, and friend Caroline Burrill (Potter) Farnum. Also letters to father Joseph J. Fenner, 1851; Box 5 (her papers); Box 1, folder 28.
Fenner, Harriet D. (Manchester), 1790-1839. Letters received, 1801-1837, mostly from sister Madeleine H. Manchester of Roxbury . Box 4, folder 9.
Fenner, Israel. Letters to brother Joseph J. Fenner, 1798-1809; deed, 1823; two receipts, 1796 and undated. Box 1, folders 2-6; box 4, folder 10.
Fenner, Jeremiah . Letter to Joseph J. Fenner from brother Jeremiah of Cranston, 1821.
Fenner, Maria C., 1821-1893. See: Truman, Maria C. (Fenner), 1821-1893.
Fenner, Sion . Letters to brother Joseph J. Fenner, 1798-1809.
Fenner, Welcome. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner from brother Welcome, 1849-1850.
General stores - Rhode Island - Providence. Account books and loose financial papers of Providence stone carver and general store owner Joseph J. Fenner, 1799-1837.
Gibbs, Elijah. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1824.
Jamestown, R.I. - Social life and customs. Personal papers of a Providence stone carver who was declared incompetent and sent out to board in Providence and Jamestown from 1837 to his death 1856.
Lincoln, Sullivan. Estate papers, 1822-1826 Box 3, folder 22.
Manchester, Alexander S. . Letters to cousin Joseph J. Fenner, 1802-1822 .
Manchester, Harriet D., 1790-1839 . See: Fenner, Harriet D. (Manchester), 1790-1839.
Manchester, Hepza, d. 1811. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner.
Manchester, Madeline H.. Letters from Madeline Manchester to sister Harriet Fenner, 1801-1837. Box 4, folder 9.
Manchester, William, d. 1813. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner.
Mental illness - Rhode Island. Personal papers of a Providence stone carver who was declared incompetent and sent out to board in Providence and Jamestown from 1837 to his death 1856.
Potter, Caroline B.. See: Farnum, Caroline B. (Potter), c1816-1888.
Potter, Elisha R., 1764-1835. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1816.
Providence, R.I. - Commerce. Extensive business records and personal correspondence of a general store owner and prolific gravestone carver, active from 1799 to 1837. Also personal correspondence and other papers of his wife Harriet and several of their children.
Sampson, Charles. Letter to Joseph J. Fenner, 1812 .
Sampson, George . Letters to Joseph J. Fenner, 1813-1817.
Sampson, Stephen. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner, 1807-1810.
Sepulchral monuments - Rhode Island. Extensive business records and personal correspondence of a prolific gravestone carver, active from 1799 to 1837. Includes dozens of inscriptions (listed in inventory).
Stevens, James. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner from Newport gravestone carver James Stevens, 1819-1820 and possibly others Box 1, folder 16.
Stevenson, James. Letters to Joseph J. Fenner, 1820-1825.
Stone carvers - Rhode Island - Providence. Extensive business records and personal correspondence of a prolific gravestone carver, active from 1799 to 1837. Includes dozens of inscriptions (listed in inventory).
Truman, Caroline H. (Fenner), 1817-1841 . Letters received, 1836-1839. Letters sent to sister Harriet, 1836. Box 4, folder 6; box 5, folder 7.
Truman, Maria C. (Fenner), 1821-1893. Letters to father Joseph J. Fenner, 1850-1855; letters received, 1841-1852, mostly from brother Charles O. Fenner, sister Harriet D. Fenner, and father Joseph J. Fenner (1850-1852). Box 1, folder 28; box 4, folder 11.
Truman, Nathan, 1813-1886. Letters to sister-in-law Harriet Fenner, 1841. Also, papers of both of his wives, Caroline (Fenner) Truman and Maria (Fenner) Truman. Box 5, folder 9.
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