23 June 2010

A Letter to Shoreham (Vermont) 1832

The July 1955 Vermont Quarterly published a letter that Orlo H. Fenn wrote to his parents, Daniel and Huldah (Rowley) Fenn, my great-great-great grandparents.  Orlo H. Fenn is the brother of my great-great grandfather, Daniel C. Fenn.  The letter dated July 1 AD 1932 was sent to his parents in Shoreham, Vermont from Dexter, Michigan Territory.

Orlo writes of his trip from Shoreham, Vermont to Michigan.  Orlo H. Fenn, with his wife Lois (Lawrence);  Truman Lawrence, with his wife Matilda; and William A. Davis 'Arnold', with his wife Abigail (Lawrence) started their journey in Shoreham, Vermont on a Monday.  They travelled to Whitehall, New York arriving the same day they left Shoreham.  They spent the night here.  From Whitehall the group travelled to Troy, New York- arriving on a Friday morning.  From Troy they travelled to Buffalo, New York.  Orlo states in his letter that they arrived in Buffalo on Saturday of the next week, a trip of twelve days.

The group secured passage aboard the steamboat, Ohio, in Buffalo and travelled to Detroit in the Michigan Territory, arriving on a Monday.  On Wednesday morning, Orlo writes that Arnold Truman, Matilda and Orlo left Detroit by stage travelling to Dexter.  They arrived at a Mr. Spaulding's house on Thursday at noon.  The rest of the week was spent looking at land.  During this time, Arnold Truman and Orlo Fenn travelled by foot (which took four days) to Lapeer to look at land.  Arnold and Orlo decided they would rather settle in the Dexter area.  

Arnold and Orlo then left for Detroit to buy land at the land office.  Orlo purchased 120 acres of land, 9 miles from Dexter Mills.  In addition, he bought one yoke of oxen, one cow, and a calf.  Orlo H. Fenn's land records can be found at Bureau of Land Management-General Land Office Records.  There are three certificates issued:  Certificate Numbers 6927, 6928, and 13156.  The area that the land was bought eventually became the township of Sylvan, which was organized in 1834.
The letter continues with prices paid for livestock, information on planting the land and building homes.  He reports on conditions pertaining to life, Indians, and religion.  Orlo was living in a barn when he sent the letter as a log house was being built for Arnold (Davis) which they all were going to live in until after sowing, when Orlo planned to build his own.

Orlo H. Fenn's family members also settled in the same area.  His parents, Daniel and Huldah (Rowley) Fenn arrived in the Spring of 1833.  The following brothers and sisters settled in present day Washtenaw County too:  Tully C.P. Fenn, Betsy Fenn, Daniel C. Fenn, Aminda Fenn, and Abel Fenn.

Orlo H. Fenn's letter home represents early settlers experiences in travelling to the territory of Michigan.  I admire the independent spirit and sense of adventure of my ancestors.

Fenn Orlo H. "A Letter to Shoreham." Vermont Quarterly (July 1955), p 229-230.

History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships,...portraits of prominent persons...and biographies. Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1881.

United States Bureau of Land Management, "General Land Office Records," Database and digital images. . http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch/ : 2010.   Entry for Orlo H. Fenn  Certificate Number 6927 and 6928.


  1. You have such an interesting blog, Brenda. Thanks for visiting Ancestors Connect. Good luck researching at the family reunion.
    Are you connected to Brent J. Rowley, the author?

  2. Thank You, Anne I haven't found a connection to the author, yet.

  3. Is anyone still answering this blog? Orlo Fenn was my great, great grandfather.

  4. Hello, "Cousin" Which of Orlo's children do you descend from? If you would like to email me, feel free, at brae957atgmail.com replace at with @