Sarah Catherine Fitzgerald Fenn Cox

On May 12, 1838, John Fitzgerald, for the some of $100, deeded to his sister, Sarah, and her husband, Eli, “a certain tract of land known as the North West quarter of the league of land granted by the Mexican government to David Fitzgerald.  The said Bargain and Sale is made for and in consideration of the sum above mentioned and also to fulfill a certain bond and obligation made by the said John Fitzgerald to the said Sarah C. Fenn which bond and obligation being now fulfilled is hereby forever cancelled and made void.”  (Abstract)    

In 1840, Eli Fenn died.  The cause of his death at the age of 46 is not known.  John Fenn, who was sixteen at the time of his father’s death, said he buried his father about 400 yards below where the bridge of the Santa Fe Railroad spans the Brazos; and some think the remains were carried away by the great floods, but John did not think so.  The exact spot is lost.

     The master-planned community of Sienna Plantation now being developed (late 1990s) contains 800 acres along the river (outside the levee that protects the subdivisions) that are devoted to recreation, open space, and nature.  Perhaps this area includes Eli’s resting place. 

   Sarah was 43 when her husband, Eli, died, and she lived another twenty years.  The chapter, ‘Mrs Eli Fenn’ in PIONEER WOMEN IN TEXAS, BY Annie D. Pickrell, says, “Four years after the victory at San Jacinto, Sarah was left a widow in the wilderness, her son, John, her only companion:  But she had another son, Jesse, who was five years old at the time of the Runaway Scrape, although he was not mentioned by his brother, John.  Jesse is mentioned in Mr. Sowell’s HISTORY OF F.B.C. as well in census records.  Jesse was about nine years old at the time Ms. Pickrell says Sarah had only her son John as a companion.  We will see later perhaps why Jesse was not mentioned by John or by his daughter, May Fenn McKeever, who gave Ms. Pickrell the information she used in her book.

     In the Republic of Texas, Fort Bend County, on 11-23-1840, Sarah C. Fenn, widow of Eli, sold 625 acres of land to Robert G. Waters for $3125.  The description states:  “Beginning on the east bank of the Brazos River at the southwest corner of the northwest quarter of a League of land granted originally to David Fitzgerald” and continues with distances given in varras and degrees, and markings of X or W placed on trees—toothache tree, hackberry 8 inches in diameter, pecan 3 feet in diameter—crossing Oyster Creek twice, stakes in the ground, more varras and degrees, a 6-inch wild china tree, then back to a stake on the river “thence down the river with the meandering thereof to the place of beginning.”

     Ms. Pickrell also does not mention that Sarah had a second marriage—to Collin Cox.  But, Mr. Wharton mentions it and says that Cox had a quarrel with a neighbor, Waters, about some land.  Waters went to Cox’s home and murdered him in Sarah’s presence.  This was reported in the Houston Telegraph.

     Sarah was now widowed for the second time.  Ms Pickrell reports that “With her first pangs of grief sustained” (and, hopefully, the second, as well), “Sarah remembered that she had studied both botany and chemistry.”  This must have been in Mississippi where she married at the age of 20.  She had a “real knowledge of plants and their medicinal value.  She grew poppies in her garden, distilled them, and made valuable medicines.  She found herself called upon to visit the sick, to diagnose difficult cases, to serve, in short, as any family physician would serve under the same conditions.”

     Sarah would not be able to do this today, because growing this variety of poppy, from which opium is produced, is illegal now.  Opium is a powerful drug that causes sleep and eases pain.  It is a narcotic and is used illegally to stimulate and intoxicate.

    Ms. Pickrell also reports about May’s grandmother that “she finally stood the medical examinations and was admitted formally to the practice.”  It is quite certain that Sarah did administer to the sick, but there is no documentation among the abundance of old family papers that we have that she officially became a doctor.

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