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July 16, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 7: The Formerly Fenton Farm

June 25, 2016

High Tower Farmhouse

High Tower Farmhouse

Today’s plan was to explore where my Dad grew up and to see what we can find out about my Fenton ancestors. So we drove to Amsterdam, NY, Dad’s home town, and drove past his old house. It’s still there, but unlike some others on the street, it has been “modernized”. The front porch was made smaller and was enclosed, and there is new siding. It definitely looks different.

We wanted to check on my grandparents’ graves, so we next went to the cemetery. We spent quite a long time walking around, to no avail — it has been over 20 years since we last visited and Dad was there to guide us that time. I decided to double-check the Find a Grave website on my iPhone and discovered we were in the wrong cemetery. We wanted to be in Fairview Cemetery on the other side of town. Once we got there we found the grave fairly quickly and found everything to be in good shape.

Four generations of my ancestors owned what was known as the Fenton Farm just south of the village of Broadalbin, a few miles north of Amsterdam. I recently located and contacted the current owner of what is now called High Tower Farm, Sheila Perry, and asked if we could visit. She enthusiastically encouraged us to do so. When I called today to reconfirm that we would be there after lunch, she told me that she had invited the historian from the Broadalbin Historical Society to join us, and that she had prepared lunch. So we headed right over.


Original house beams in living room

Sheila took us on an extensive tour of their house, the oldest portion of which was built by my great-great-great grandfather Stephen Fenton about 200 years ago. The hand-hewn timbers are prominently visible in the living room, and Sheila had many stories about the construction from their remodeling experience (the farm was in considerable disrepair when the Perrys purchased it in 1981). One interesting aspect was that another house had been moved into place next to the old house to add to its size. This caused the discrepancies in floor levels, etc that one would expect when trying to combine two houses built in different eras and locations.

Gordon Cornell, the historian, arrived soon after our house tour. It was perfect weather, so we had a picnic lunch outside. It was quite an experience to have lunch in the same place tended by many of my ancestors. After lunch, we showed each other documents we had brought — I showed a genealogy document I had curated over several years, and Gordon shared some information that the historical society had collected on a couple of my ancestors.

We then took a field trip, first through the farm, then into Broadalbin. They pointed out where various relatives had lived, and in one case had operated a grocery store. We visited the Methodist Church, and were able to see some memorial stained-glass windows that honored ancestors that were charter members of the church as well as a baptismal font in honor of my great grandfather, George Fenton, who was very active in the church around the turn of the 20th century.


Celeste visits her great-great-great grandfather

We then went to Broadalbin cemetery to visit the graves of quite a few of my ancestors and relatives. I took lots of pictures in hopes of adding them to the Find a Grave registry.

It was a lot to process — both the volume of information I learned and the amount of “Fenton stuff” around Broadalbin. Both Sheila and Gordon were very generous with their time, and amazingly knowledgeable about my family.

Returning to Johnstown where we are staying, we grabbed a quick dinner and caught “Finding Dory” at the local movie theater. After we returned to the hotel, we got to watch their quite impressive town fireworks display from our room.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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