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PART ONE of Penfield's three-part history series:
Be sure to visit PART TWO and PART THREE of the series. Bonus material includes HISTORY VIDEOS.
Part One, Penfield History Series
Daniel Penfield and Mary (Fellows) Penfield headstone at Oakwood Cemetery (sunrise)
In 1795, a merchant and landowner named Daniel Penfield (1840) began purchasing land in the area. He moved his domicile to the area with the hopes of leveraging Irondequoit Creek to develop the region into a successful milling town. In 1810, this township and the adjoining township to the north (what is now Webster) were designated by NYS Legislature as the Town of Penfield. Penfield was the first of the seven east-side towns in the county to be established. By 1814, the population of Penfield was less than 2,000 people. The population remained about 3,000 until World War II. The area experienced significant growth in the 1950s and 1960s with a population count of about 24,000 in 1970. Today, the population is almost 40,000.
Above are pictures of Daniel and Mary Fellows (1828) Penfield's resting place at the Oakwood Cemetery on the corner of Baird Rd and Whalen Rd.
Center structure of the Daniel Penfield house. Today, Salon Enza occupies 1784 Penfield Road.
Daniel Penfield married Mary Fellows, the daughter of General John Fellows who was aide-de-camp to George Washington. The Fellows family was a prominent family. After marriage, Daniel and Mary moved from Connecticut across the state border to Massachusetts. He ran a store, but that store was burned down in Shay's Rebellion. Daniel moved his family to New York City and maintained a couple residences. His family lived in a 3-storied brick building in Manhattan, probably along-side other movers and shakers.
Daniel Penfield was a savvy businessman.
To entice his family to move out "west" to Penfield NY from their ritzy NYC lifestyle, Daniel Penfield built a beautiful house with two wings on what is now Penfield Road.
Today, the Daniel Penfield house is the building located at 1784 Penfield Road (Salon Enza). The two wings were eventually relocated. One wing was relocated up further on Liberty Street and later demolished. The other wing was moved across the street and is known as the Humphrey House (now a restaurant).
In the 1790s, Daniel Penfield began purchasing land and more importantly water rights along what is now Irondequoit Creek. Unlike others who prospected the largely swampy lands, Penfield had the vision of using hydropower and mills to commercialize a variety of industries. He built his first mill in 1800 and a series of more mills later. He worked with farmers in the area and accepted wheat and other farm products as mortgage payments. You can see why 1800-1840 was a time of tremendous growth in the area.
Daniel Penfield faithfully followed the development of his town and for 40 years was instrumental in its change from wilderness to productive farmlands. Today, Penfield has a similar motto, "a town of planned progress."
Sitting in the middle of a lane is the Fellows Family lot with Penfield's lot seen in the distance.
The Fellows Family is quite possibly the second most noteworthy family in Penfield. Daniel Penfield married Mary Fellows in 1784, the daughter of General John Fellows (an aide-de-camp to George Washington during the Revolutionary War).
Mary's bother, Henry Sr. Fellows (1858), moved to Penfield and lived at 1880 Penfield Rd (built in 1816, only a few years after the Town was founded). Henry Sr. served as Town Supervisor from 1817-1822. The Fellows family grew as they had 10 children. Henry Sr. built the home next door for his son John (1885) in 1868. These homes are situated at Four Corners, and within walking distance of Daniel Penfield's home. Henry Sr.'s farmhouse remained in the family for over 130 years, until 1949 when it was sold.
Above are pictures of both homes. Today, we see the Fellows name all around town, including a road and a park where Neeraj used to play basketball. Not surprising, the Fellows Family rests at Oakwood Cemetery, and not far from Daniel Penfield's family lot. Interestingly, the Fellows lot sits right in the middle of one of the cemetery's lanes. Somebody must have paid a nice fee for that location. The second picture shows the Fellows Family lot and Penfield's lot in the distance.
Incidentally, one of Neeraj's childhood friends who he played basketball with and nerf baseball with now resides in John Fellows old home. ;)
John Strowger's headstone at Oakwood Cemetery in Penfield, NY.
The intersection of Five Mile Line Rd and Whalen Rd was referred to as Strowger's Corner and named after John Strowger who was Daniel Penfield's first miller. His sons Samuel and William owned properties at the corner. The oldest tombstone in Oakwood Cemetery is that of John Strowger (1812). Huge history at this corner, and probably the second most historical intersection after our Four Corners. It remains a beautiful intersection today. Hipp Brook, a windy creek flows around the area and often you can see ducks or other wildlife at dawn or dusk.
The Hipp-Hutch House was constructed in 1804. John Hipp ran a sawmill at the time with the waters from the brook. The Bush-Fellows House (Horace Bush and Charlotte Fellows Bush) has a lot of history. You know the home. It is the pretty one with with the creek in the front yard. Of note, Charlotte Bush is Mary Fellows Penfield's sister. The home was constructed in 1821, but not always in its present location. It originally sat where the Charles Finney School is now located - about 1/2 mile south. The House was moved to its present location to allow for the land to be used for education needs.
Incidentally, the construction for the current school building began in 1906, and was once home to Penfield's grade school and high school, then Denonville junior high school and later New Covenant Fellowship and Charles Finney School. An expansion at some time took place to house Penfield's post office in this grand structure.
The Penfield Library used the building of our Town Hall for many years, Five Mile Line Rd.
Built in 1895, the town hall had many purposes than the traditional town hall of today. Back then, the town hall was also used as a real recreation center. People rented the "hall" for dances and dinner parties - probably the reason these places were called "halls" in the first place. The town halls were true community gathering places for business... and pleasure.
In the 1950s, our town's library took the downstairs space, while the Town Hall used the upstairs for its needs. This shared space for the Town Hall and Library lasted until 1966 when the town hall services was moved to its current location on Atlantic Avenue. Both entities enjoyed the additional space, as the library was able to take use of the whole building. I remember visiting the library when it was at this location. In 1985, the library moved to the Baird Road Community Center - its current location - taking over space which was once the Baird Road School. Neeraj remembers being introduced to computers at the library by a Mr. Wise, husband of Mrs. Carolyn Wise - who supervised Neeraj as a page in the current library. Many locals remember the huge community involvement of volunteers that helped move all the library materials on school buses from the Four Corner's location to its current location on Baird Road.
The library is a very special place for Neeraj - visiting both locations as a patron in his grade school years, working as a page in high school, and continuing to be involved as a member of the Library's Board of Trustees (currently Neeraj is the longest serving member). These buildings not only hold many books, they hold many memories and friendships.
Author Martin M. Wamp has written a beautiful book titled Penfield (Images of America series). It is a book that not only has meaningful text, but also has images of the town's history.
You can purchase Martin's book titled Penfield on amazon.com. Martin dedicated his book to his grandmother Frances Schnarr, a lifelong Penfield resident who rests today at Oakwood Cemetery.
Martin M. Wamp authored book titled Penfield (Images of America series)
Katherine "Kay" Wilcox Thompson was the Town Historian for Penfield. As part of the Town's 150th anniversary in 1960, she published a very comprehensive book entitled "Penfield's Past." Kay is originally from Michigan, but must have thought of Penfield as her home. She rests today in Oakwood Cemetery.
Katherine Thompson authored book titled Penfield's Past with her headstone at Oakwood Cemetery
We are truly very lucky to live in a Town that is so supportive of Penfield's rich history. Not all towns have devoted resources towards a Local History Room, which is really an extension of the Town Historian's Office. The Penfield Local History Room aims to organizing materials, constructing historical displays, researching various topics, helping patrons, and coordinating volunteers. It is located in the Penfield Public Library - all the way in the back. I encourage you to visit next time you visit our library.
I want to especially thank Mrs. Kathy Kanauer, Penfield Town Historian, and Ms. Anna Jarvis, our Local History Room Coordinator. They have a wealth of knowledge and it has been a privilege to chat and learn from both. They are great people themselves. Thank you so much Kathy and Anna.
Three books that I would like to acknowledge are listed below. I want to thank Martin for his time. I text him a lot and talk to him often about Penfield history. I have to be careful, though - because often our conversations lead down various rabbit holes!