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News Published: Jul 14, 2008 - 6:04:55 AM

A Jennings family reunion fit for the history books

By Fairfield Museum and History Center

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A Jennings family reunion fit for the history books
Family members viewing historic reproduction homes on the site of Milton Jennings’ farm
Last month, 65 descendants of the marriage of Alice Hull and Milton White Jennings gathered together to connect with seldom-seen family members, meet new ones and celebrate their heritage. Ranging in age from one year to 99 years, family members made the journey to Fairfield from points as far away as Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and New York in anticipation of a weekend filled with stories, learning, and bonding.

Organizing a reunion of this size took considerable planning, and the group’s itinerary read like a travel map of our area, visiting destinations with historical significance to this well-known Fairfield family. First stop was a visit to the group’s point of origin – the home of Milton and Alice Jennings – a farm bordering Bronson Road and Hillside Drive that includes property along North Cedar Road. The group visited seven ‘reproduction houses’ along North Cedar Road, built to look like homes found in the middle1700s.

Oak Lawn Cemetery was visited next, allowing the group to pay respects to Captain Charles and Captain Joseph Jennings, the father and grandfather of Milton Jennings respectively. These two formidable men were onion boat seacaptains when Fairfield was primarily a farming and coastal shipping town. Stories were told of these men rescuing a competitor’s sloop from crashing in Southport Harbor and of draping wet canvas over a store and home in Southport when the Molly Pike Tavern burned in 1894.

A Jennings family reunion fit for the history books
(Left to Right) Gary Weller, Dr. Gerald Jennings, John Beardsworth, Jr., Donald Jennings and Jack Beardsworth swapping reminiscences in front of Ogden House and Gardens
Ogden House and Gardens was the group’s next stop, where they received a private tour by Walt Matis of the Fairfield Museum and History Center. This tour offered a sneak peak of the mid-18th c. saltbox’s renovations before it officially re-opens to the public for Sunday visits on August 3.

After a morning filled with chances to revisit places of their family’s past, the group gathered for a luncheon to hear the genealogy of the Hull and Jennings families. Armed with information gathered with the help of Fairfield Museum’s resident genealogist, Rod MacKenzie, familial connections became clear for all in attendance.

Over the course of the remaining weekend, the group bonded while enjoying time at Russell Jennings’ home in the Lake Hills, touring Southport Harbor, visiting the Old Academy and researching their heritage in the Fairfield Museum’s research library. In the library they looked at ledgers maintained by Captain Charles Jennings, maps, genealogy books, the Jennings coat of arms and visited a section of the museum’s exhibit Landscape of Change, devoted to the gardens of distant relative, Anne B. Jennings.

“The weekend was a great success,” said Russ Jennings. “Younger family members gained enthusiasm about their roots as older relatives relived their past as they recalled life in Fairfield.”

Russ Jennings has volunteered for the Fairfield Historical Society since 2001. To research your own family history with Fairfield connections, please visit the Fairfield Museum and History Center’s research library, located at 370 Beach Road in Fairfield.

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