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James Fennessey (1852-1928)

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Image and transcription contributed by by Arne H Trelvik 5 November 2004
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Obituary Collection at the Warren County Genealogical Society

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JAMES FENNESSEY LAST OF SHAKERS, DIES SUDDENLY

Was One Time Leader Of Prosperous Shaker Colony Near Hear

WAS 75 YEARS OF AGE

Funeral Services To Be Held This Afternoon At Two O'clock

James H. Fennessey, the last survivor of the once populous Shaker colony at Union Village, and its leader for a number of years, died Tuesday afternoon, following a short illness. He passed away at the home of Mrs. Waggoner on Main Street where he had resided during recent years.

Mr. Fennessey, who was in his 76th year, had apparently been in his usual good health until a few days ago when he complained of a slight illness. The end came while he was asleep and probably occurred at about noon Tuesday although it was not discovered until late in the afternoon.

Funeral services will be held at the Oswald Funeral Home this afternoon at 2 o'clock. Rev. J. H. Lamy will officiate assisted by Dr. J. R. King, of Westerville. Interment will be made on the Shaker lot in the Lebanon cemetery.

Mr. Fennessey was born in Cincinnati in 1852. Early in life he was left an orphan and lived for several years at a Cincinnati orphanage. While yet a child he lived for a while on a farm in Indian. Growing to manhood he was occupied for a number of years in the metal trade in Cincinnati.

In 1882 Mr. Fennessey sought shelter of the Shakers at Union Village and entered their home never to leave it until the dissolution of the local colony in 1920. He was a man of keen intellect, excellent business judgment and of a gentle and friendly disposition.

At the time of Mr. Fennessey's affiliation with the Shakers the colony was a prosperous community of several hundred members cultivating one of the largest and most progressive farms in this section. Through mismanagement the colony gradually fell into debt until early in the present century a debt aggregating $160,000 faced the colony. At this time Mr. Fennessey was appointed trustee and under his leadership financial difficulties were overcome and prosperity once again returned to the Shakers.

The colony gradually decreased in numbers until it was necessary for the first time in history to hire outside help on the farm. No new blood was added and finally in 1912 the property was sold to the United Brethren church. That organization now uses the 4500 acre tract as a children's home.

The local Shaker colony disbanded in 1920 when but five members remained. Three of these went to the Shaker settlement at East Canterbury, N. H., George Baxter went south and Mr. Fennessey remained in Ohio. For a short while he lived in Lebanon then returned to Union Village where he lived until 1926 when he again returned.


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This page created 5 November 2004 and last updated 4 February, 2005
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