Indian wars and pioneers of Texas Page: 354 of 894
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INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
JOHN RUTHERFORD FENN,
J. R. Fenn, one of the leading citizens of Houston,
a Texas veteran and a patriot whose fidelity to
the principles of liberty has often been evinced
upon Texas soil during the past half century, is a
native. of Mississippi, born in Lawrence County,
that State, October 11th, 1824. He is of ScotchIrish
descent, a strain so eloquently eulogized by S.
S. ( " Sunset " ) Cox, in his ." Three Decades of
Federal Legislation," as having furnished to this
country some of its most successful generals,
Purest statesmen, eminent lawyers and useful and
His parents, Eli Fenn and Sarah Catherine
(Fitzgerald) Fenn came to Texas in 1833 with their
children, and in June of that year opened a farm
on the Brazos river, three miles below the site of
the present town of Richmond. Mr. Eli Fenn
served in the Creek War, participating, among other
engagements, in the battle of the Horse Shoe, and
in the war of 1835-6 fought in the Texian army
as a member of Capt. Wiley Martin's Company.
He died at his home in Fort Bend County, Texas,
in 1840. His wife was a daughter of David Fitzgerald,
a Georgia planter who came to Texas in
1822, settled in Fort Bend County, and shortly prior
to his death in 1832, took part in the battle of Anahuac,
a brilliant affair that was a fit precursor of
the more decisive struggle against Mexican tyranny
that was to follow a few years later. She died in
1860, and sleeps beside the beloved husband with
whom she braved the terrors of the wilderness.
Two children were born of the union, John R. (the
subject of this memoir) and Jesse T. Fenn, the
latter of whom died in Fort Bend County in 1873.
Mr. J. R. Fenn was not quite twelve years of age
when the battle of San Jacinto was fought, but preserves
a vivid recollection of the stirring scenes of
those times. His mother and others who had prepared
to cross the river and retreat before the
advancing Mexican army mistook a body of troops
under Col. Almonte for a part of Gen. Houston's
army, narrowly escaped into the woods from the
house in which they were and came near being
Captured. His father, a member of Martin's spy
company which was near, and seeing the approach
of a portion of Santa Anna's army, and knowing
the danger his wife and other ladies were in, swam
a swollen creek with his gun on his back and arrived
on the scene at the moment his wife and others
were fleeing across the field, raising his gun to his
shoulder shot a Mexican dead. This attracted the
attention of the pursuers to him and enabled his
family and others to make good their escape. J.
R. Fenn, subject of this memoir, and a negro boy
who had gone out in the morning to drive horses,
returned to the deserted house about eight o'clock
in the morning and rode into the Mexican lines and
were made prisoners. Late in the afternoon young
Fenn made a break for liberty and, although he was
shot at by a score or more of Mexicans and the
leaves cut from the trees by their musket balls fell
thick about him, he kept going and was soon safe in
the depths of the forest. He passed his home and
went ten or fifteen miles further where he found
several white families. An hour later they were
joined by Joe Kuykendall. The party traveled all
night, at daylight arrived at Harrisburg, and during
the day reached Lynchburg. Here young Fenn
found his mother and some of the other ladies who
had fled with her. They had walked for miles
through mud and water, a keen norther blowing,
some of them (men, women and children) without
shoes and half clad. The entire company continued
east, crossed the San Jacinto river and hurried
forward as rapidly as their exhausted condition
would permit. Coming to one of the bayous that
empty into the bay, and having no rafts to effect a
crossing, they attempted and at last succeeded in
wading across on the bar at the mouth of the stream.
Although a big wave would come rolling in ever and
anon and knock them over they would scramble to
their feet and start again.
Despite such difficulties the party finally reached
the Neches river in safety. Here Mr. Eli Fenn
joined the party. Gen. Gaines commanding United
States troops near San Augustine had given the
Indians a scare and they had all left that part of
the country, and Capt. Martin, whose duty it was
to keep between the Indians on the north and the
white families that were fleeing from the Mexican
invader, seeing no further need of his men in that
section, gave them permission to go in search of
their families. Mr. Fenn took his wife and son to
Louisiana and returned to the army, where he
served until October, 1836. He then procured a
discharge and went after his family, which he
brought back to the old homestead on the Brazos.
The subject of this notice acquired a fair com
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas, book, 1880~; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/354/: accessed April 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .