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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Fenner, Richard

by Ruth L. Barrett, 1986

1758–12 May 1828

A photograph of Dr. Richard Fenner's grave. Image from Fenner, physician, was born in New Bern to Richard and Ann Coddington Fenner. He was commissioned ensign in the Second Regiment, North Carolina Continental Line, in January 1779, was promoted to lieutenant while a prisoner of war at Charleston, and served until the end of the war when he settled in Halifax with his older brother, Robert. In Halifax he studied medicine with a young Scot, Dr. Mungo Ponton, who later married Montford Eelbeck's youngest daughter. In 1788 Fenner married Ann McKinnie Geddy, daughter of John and Patience McKinnie Geddy. About 1792 both he and his father-in-law moved from Halifax to Franklin County, where Fenner practiced medicine for twenty-five years. In 1799 he was elected first president of the North Carolina Medical Society. In 1817 he went to Raleigh and lived there about five years.

In 1823, Fenner emigrated with his family, including his daughter Ann's husband, Thomas Henderson, to Madison County, Tenn., where Fenner bought land near Jackson, the county seat. He died and was buried at Cotton Grove. His widow and various of their children lived on the plantation until she died in 1852 at eighty-five, outliving seven of her ten children. Those children were Margaret, who died in infancy; Ann (m. Thomas Henderson); Richard H. (m. Sarah M. Outerbridge); Mary (m. John M. Johnson); William K.; Eliza Geddy (m. James Vaul); Martha Matilda (m. Lewis Coorpender); Erasmus Darwin (m. Annie America Collier); John McKinnie (m. Miriam Williams); and Juliana (m. David McKnight). Four of Dr. Fenner's seven sons and three of his grandsons became physicians and two of his daughters married doctors.


Deeds and wills of Halifax County (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army (1941).

Dorothy Long, Medicine in North Carolina, vol. 1 (1972).

Deeds and wills of Madison County, Tenn. (County Courthouse, Jackson).

Mid-West Tennessee Genealogical Society, Family Findings (July 1972 [Jackson-Madison Sesquicentennial Issue]).

Raleigh Register, 3 June 1828.

Additional Resources:

Seebold, Herman De Bachelle. "Fenner Family." Old Louisiana Plantation Homes And Family Trees. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, Inc. 2004 [reprint of 1941 ed.]. 356.

Long, John Wesley. Early history of the North Carolina Medical Society. [North Carolina? : s.n.]. 1917. (accessed June 19, 2013).

Image Credits:

"Dr. Richard Fenner's Grave." Early history of the North Carolina Medical Society. [North Carolina? : s.n.]. 1917. 18. (accessed June 19, 2013).

Origin - location: