Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thomas Fenton of Ellicottville, NY: Son of an Irishman

Despite the burning of the Fenton House (see post here) in 1895, Thomas Fenton continued on in the hotel business. The 1900 Federal census shows Thomas Fenton and his wife on Washington Street in Ellicottville (Cattaraugus County, New York). (Note that all census information cited herein were accessed through Familysearch.org). Thomas was listed as a hotel keeper. His brother Timothy was in the same household with the occupation of hotel bartender. Four servants and four boarders are also listed, including Ashley Ditcher. The photograph below from the Ellicottville Historical Society dates the Hotel Fenton to 1898. The Ellicottville Post Newspaper dated August 15, 1900 mentions that "Landlord Thomas Fenton of Ellicottville has completed extensive changes and improvements in his hotel and has changed the name from Hotel Crawford to Hotel Fenton." This brick structure was known successively later as the Hotel McKenzie, Hotel Ellicott, the Lincoln Hotel, the Ellicottville Inn and in the year 2010 operated under Ellicottville Inn Condominiums at 8-10 Washington Street. 

Lizzie Fenton
The August 26, 1903 edition of the Ellicottville Post notes under 'town topics' heading that "James McKinzie of Pittsburg purchased Hotel Fenton and took possession Tuesday." As an innkeeper, Thomas Fenton and family were enumerated as in nearby Great Valley (Cattaraugus County), NY by the 1905 state census and was operating the hotel there as the Fenton Hotel (click here to read a current news article regarding that building). During the 1910 census there, twenty-year-old Lizzie M. Fenton (b. ca. 1890), their niece, also resided with them along with James Field (age 22) and Anna Brown (age 25) both listed as servants. (Lizzie was listed as a milliner in Ellicottville in 1892.) Thomas and Katherine were born in New York of Irish parents. Thomas’ occupation was listed as “proprietor.” 

In the years prior to the Fenton Hotel and the burning of the Fenton House in 1895, Thomas was affiliated with another hotel: In the 1880 Federal census, Thomas Fenton was listed in the household of Frank Crawford who was a hotel proprietor as well. Mr. Crawford ran the Crawford House which stood on the site of the later Hotel Fenton. The Crawford House burned in 1890 and replaced with the brick structure (noted in the first photograph above).
Thomas was listed as one of the sons of Susan Fenton in the 1875 New York State Census as well as in Susan’s household during the Federal Census of 1870 in Ellicottville. Also listed in both census records were siblings Elizabeth, William, Francis (Patrick F. in 1870) and Timothy. Thomas’ birthplace was given as Cattaraugus. His mother’s birthplace was given as Ireland. The family is not readily found in the Cattaraugus County area in 1860 or 1865. Although most records indicate Thomas was born in the year 1856, it appears that the two-month-old infant Thomas listed in the household of William (born in Ireland) and Susan Fenton in the town of Otto during the 1855 state census was one and the same.  (It appears that the family was in the town of Dayton, Cattaraugus County, NY in 1850). Thomas had older siblings Margaret, Daniel, John, Michael, Eliza and William. His brother Daniel was 13 and born in Ireland according to this census which also showed his brothers John and Michael, ages 12 and 9 respectively, born in Canada. A listing of burials in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Ellicottville provided by the Painted Hills Genealogy Society indicate that William (died 1860) and Susan were both buried there along with Thomas Fenton, his wife, his son Raymond and a few others of that family.

A website of information on civil war soldiers in the town of Otto in Cattaraugus County provides data on Daniel Fenton and John Fenton. According to this website, Daniel was born 12 September 1841 in Ireland and John was born in Canada 20 March 1843. Although on that website their parentage is given as "Michael and Catherine Keef," the other evidence suggests that these are actually two of William and Susan’s sons. 

Thomas died in August of 1928. His obituary, published in the Ellicottville Post on Wednesday, August 15, 1928, stated he had died on Friday and that he was born in the town of Otto (further evidence that he was probably the son of William who lived in Otto in 1855). Thomas' obituary also confirmed that he “For many years was proprietor of the Whitney House here which later burned.” It went on to say that he “then assumed proprietorship of the Crawford House which is now the Hotel Ellicott [1928] and conducted this hostelry for many years.” His obituary noted that after leaving Ellicottville, Thomas “assumed charge of the hotel in Great Valley where he remained until he retired several years ago…”  In addition, it was noted in 1904 and ’05 Thomas Fenton was president of the village of Ellicottville and later was street commissioner (he at one time ran for office of town superintendent of highways but was defeated). He was survived by his wife, named as Catherine Jordan Fenton, his son Raymond, a sister Elizabeth Fenton and a brother Timothy of the village. The obituary for Thomas Fenton's wife was published in the Ellicottville Post on Wednesday, December 31, 1947 and listed several nieces and nephews surviving her including Mrs. D.C. Flint. A marriage record listed at familysearch.org indicates that Devere C. Flint, son of Irving Flint and Ellen Congdon, married Myrtle Fenton, daughter of William Fenton and – Reynolds in Cattaraugus County in 1911.(See my post here for information about Devere Flint and his sister Ada.)
            Thomas and Catherine’s son Ray, who was carried out in his nightclothes on the morning of the 1895 fire, was born Thomas Raymond Fenton on January 8, 1885, according to his draft registration card.   At the time of registration, Ray was a telegraph operator for the B. R. & P. Railroad in Ellicottville. His wife Carrie L. Fenton of Elizabeth Street in Ellicottville was listed as his nearest relative. He died in 1944 and his obituary stated that for the last twenty years he had been the railroad station agent at Great Valley. His only named survivor was his mother. In 1920, Ray and his wife Carrie lived with her parents, John and Mary Ludwick, on Mechanic Street in Ellicottville. Ray was living alone with his mother in Great Valley in 1930. 

The Great Valley Station (courtesy of Ellicottville Historical Society)

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