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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 600~


Edward C. Fennell

This enterprising business man and representative citizen is a native of Fayette county, Iowa, and an honored member of one of the oldest and best known families of Illyria township, where his parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Fennell, located as early as 1849, shortly after the land was subject to entry.  Thomas Fennell was a native of county Tipperary, Ireland; his wife, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Cox, was also of Irish lineage, having first seen the light of day in county Cork. These parents were married in their native land, but sometime in the forties came to the United States and, as indicated above, moved westward in 1849 and first located on forty acres of government land in what is now Illyria township, Fayette county, Iowa, there being at that time only a few scattered families in that part of the county. Mr. and Mrs. Fennell came west poor in this world's goods, the sum total of their possession on arriving at their destination in the wild, unsettled country of northeastern Iowa consisting of two good oxen, a cart, a few household effects and seventy-five cents in money. With this meager and inauspicious beginning they set resolutely to work to improve their small farm and, being rich in health and energy, they faced the future with hopeful anticipation and in time realized the results of their labors in a comfortable home.

Without entering into a detailed account of Thomas Fennell's career, suffice it to state that it was not long until he was able to increase his holdings and otherwise add to his means, and at one time he was the owner of four hundred and ninety acres of as fine land as Fayette county could boast, the greater part of which he reduced to cultivation, using the remainder for pasturage.  He became one of the leading farmers and stock raisers of Illyria township, as well as one of the wealthiest men, and as a citizen he was enterprising , public spirited and a leader in nearly every movement for the material progress and general welfare of the community in which he resided. He is still living and, although rapidly nearing the century mark, is hale and hearty, possessing nearly all of his faculties, mental and physical, and today there are few if any as intelligent and interesting characters to be met with in this part of Iowa as "Uncle Tom Fennell," as he is affectionately called by his friends and neighbors. He has lived to see Fayette county developed from a wilderness to its present advanced state of civilization and for many of the changes that have taken place since his arrival, over sixty years ago, the county is largely indebted to his intelligent forethought and efficient leadership. A devout Catholic and ever loyal to the Holy Mother church, he was one of the leading spirits in organizing the local church at Wadena and it was mainly through his generosity that the congregation was provided with the beautiful temple of worship in which services are now regularly conducted. Mrs. Fennell, or "Aunt Bess," the name by which she is familiarly known, was a fit companion for her energetic husband and all who came within the range of her influence were profuse in their praise of her many lovable qualities. After a long and useful life, devoted to the good of her family, and friends, she entered into rest on the 2d day of July, 1900, leaving to perpetuate her memory, the love and veneration of all who knew her.

Thomas and Elizabeth Fennell reared a family of eleven children, namely: Mrs. Mary McIntee, deceased; John, who is living in retirement at Elkader, this state; Thomas, a farmer of Independence, Oregon; William, of New Hampton, Iowa; James, a farmer and stock raiser of Illyria township; Edward C., of this review; Elizabeth, who lives with her father and looks after his interests; Ella, now Mrs. Arthur A. Hill, of Los Angeles, California, where the husband has been engaged in the mail service for a period of seventeen years; Kattie, whose husband, Oliver Smith, also a resident of Los Angeles, is engaged in mining.

Edward C. Fennell was born October 19, 1859, in Illryia township and spent his early life on his father's farm. After acquiring a practical education in the public schools of Wadena, he turned his attention to agriculture and stock raising, which he still carries on and in which his financial success has been commensurate with the intelligence and energy displayed in all of his undertakings.  In 1890 he began buying and shipping live stock, which has been no inconsiderable part of his business ever since, although in the meantime he has built up other important interests and, as indicated in a preceding paragraph, is now distinctively a man of affairs and one of the representative citizens of the county of Fayette.

In October, 1906, Mr. Fennell assisted in organizing the Wadena Savings Bank, in which he is the largest stockholder and of which he was elected president, a position he has since held. This bank began business with a capital stock of ten thousand dollars and at the present time the deposits amount to ninety thousand dollars, the institution proving popular from the beginning and being highly prized by the citizens of the town and country.  The officers are J. D. Shaffer, vice-president, J. O. Probert, cashier; the board of directors consisting of the following well known professional and business men, namely: Dr. R. P. Berry, J. D. Shaffer, Oakland Probert, Henry Jennings, J. C. Probert, P. H. Hastings, J. H. Wilson, F. J. Schroder and E. C. Fennell.  The present handsome and commodious brick building, one of the finest and best equipped structures of the kind in the northeastern part of the state, was erected in 1908 at a cost of six thousand dollars.

Politically, Mr. Fennell wields a strong influence for the Republican party, but has never been an office seeker, his large and varied business interests requiring all of his time and attention. Aside from serving as a member of the board of directors of the Wadena school district, he has held no public positions, although by nature and training well qualified to fill any office within the gift of the people of his town or county. In his religious faith he was reared a Catholic and has ever been a true son of the church and active in the affairs of the same, being a leader of the local congregation at Wadena, and one of its chief financial supporters.

On May 15, 1891, Mr. Fennell was united in the holy bonds of wedlock with Alma Messerli, daughter of Christ and Marie (Krebs) Messerli, these parents coming to America in 1867 from their native country of Switzerland and settling in Illyria township, Fayette county, where they still live, the father being one of the prosperous and enterprising citizens of the community. Mrs. Fennell is one of six living children, the names of her brothers and sisters being as follows: Lizzie, wife of Louis Wilbur; Amanda, who married G. A. Rice; Christ, Fred, and Clara, wife of W. D. Mattocks.

Mr. and Mrs. Fennell have one child, a daughter, Marie Elizabeth, who was born December 31, 1894, and who is now a student in a parochial school at Elkader.  Miss Marie is a young lady of fine mind, which has been carefully cultivated under the direction of very able instructors, being especially proficient in music, in which she early manifested decided talent. She excels in both instrumental and vocal music, graduating in each from St. Joseph's Academy at Elkader, standing especially high as pianist, being one of the most skilled performers ever sent from that well known institution. She is also an artist of marked talent and is now studying painting under a master of art in the school where she received her other training. She has a lovable disposition, is popular with her schoolmates and friends and her presence in the home gives interest as well as gladdens and makes bright the domestic circle. Fraternally, Mr. Fennell is a Knight of Columbus, being a member of Lodge No. 510, of Dubuque, Iowa.


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