The Bacon Family House, Carding Mill, Bingley Country School - Bingley-Fenner Rd, Fenner
Fenner was one of the first townships in Madison county believed to have felt the presence of the white man. Most county residents know that the French adventurer Samuel de Champlain is thought to have commanded his army and their Huron allies in a battle against the Oneidas at Nichols Pond in mid-October 1615. (See more information about this battle on the Parks page under Nichols Pond Park)
The French also saw Fenner in the last decade of the seventeenth century when the Count de Frontenac, in another attempt to conquer the Iroquois in order to claim upstate New York for France, sent one de Vaudreuil, in command of 600 to 700 soldiers and Indian allies on an expedition. This maneuver took the soldiers from present day Onondaga county to Oneida Castle to fight the Oneidas. For nearly another hundred years, Fenner lay idle until the great post-Revolutionary migration brought settlers into central and western New York.
As the town developed, it was quite clear that Fenner would never become an industrial mecca, although the gravelly loam (chiefly of limestone origin) would later account for quarrying endeavors. Agriculture was more important to the town's economy and the types of businesses that flourished were agriculturally related. Approximately seven years after Alpheus Twist and James Munget, two Connecticut natives, took up permanent residence in the town (1793), Richard Card built the first gristmill in Fenner. At that time, too, William and Colonel Amold Ballou built the first sawmill. Coincidental with this achievement Colonel Ballou, a native of Smithfiell, Rhode Island, suggested the township's name, from his friend James Fenner (1771-1846), governor of Rhode Island (1808-1811; 1824-1831; 1843-1845).
Fenner would grow slowly in comparison to its neighboring townships. Hamilton Child cited the population of the town at the close of the Civil War as 1387. Perryville, one of the town's hamlets which is, in part, also located in Lincoln and Sullivan, had two churches, a flourishing mill, two sawmills, and about 200 residents at that time. Perryville was active early on in carding and cloth dressing. Alpheus Britt and his son Sargeant were engaged in that business and their mill was later used for cidermaking. The property passed on (1861) to E. S. Hamblin who converted it into a sawmill. Later still, Fred W. Hodge came into possession of the mill building and used it as part of his quarrying and stonecrushing business. In the remainder of the town at this time, there were three cheese factory operators; nine hop growers; one carding and woolen miller; two brickmakers; four carpenters; one gristmill operator; one oil manufacturer and dealer; one boot and shoemaker; one tailor; one harness maker, and one stonecutter according to the 1868 Gazetteer. Although Fenner continued to derive most of its business from agriculture, unlike many Madison county townships, a great crop of hops was not produced here. Another crop, though, would bear the name of its town of Fenner originator, "Hess barley." David Hess is credited with developing this strain of barley, but it had only a shortlived acceptance.
Census records from 1835 recorded the population to be 1,972 persons. A review of the 1925 New York State Census, the last census the state would conduct, recognized 216 male persons with the occupation of farmer, significantly more than any other occupation at that time. Other historic sources of great research value are the Madison County Atlases. Available for the years 1853, 1859, and 1875, these collections of maps show the location and names of residents, schools, churches, and businesses. For example, the 1875 Beers’ Atlas of Madison County lists under the heading “Town of Fenner Business Notices” 15 farms – these are the only businesses listed. Real Property records show that today there are 33 working farms in the town, 22 of which are dairy farms. The population since 1835 has declined by approximately 300 persons to 1,680.
The 164 foot Chittenango Falls has brought many a traveler to Fenner to see its natural wonder. Hon. D. Boardman of Troy owned the falls and much of the surrounding land in the late 1880s. When several Cazenovians banded together to inquire of Boardman the possibility of acquiring the falls and adjacent property for a park, his response was favorable. Although he had purchased the property for $5,000, he was willing to sell it for $2,000 and donate $500 for upkeep provided the site would be maintained as a park in memory of his father. The Chittenango Falls Park Association was then formed for the purpose of insuring maintenance of and access sibility to the park. Today, the State operates Chittenango Falls Park and the falls remain a source of pride not only to Fenner residents but to all county residents as well.
Today land that may have once been used as grazing fields or for planting crops have a new purpose. Wind turbines dot the landscape converting wind into electricity to provide power to residences, businesses, and factories. Locally, the Fenner Wind Farm with its 20 wind turbines is the second largest of the wind farms in Madison County. Together these turbines are capable of producing 30 MW of electricity -- enough to supply 10,000 homes.
The information contained in the Town of Fenner's website is to provide assistance in learning about the services provided by the Town of Fenner. For complete, accurate and timely information, please contact the appropriate department by phone, mail or email. Every effort has been made to insure that information posted to this website is correct at the time of posting. Content of this website, although checked for accuracy, is not warranted to be error-free.