Dr. H. Sterling Fenn’s Historical Research Collection in the Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library

Dr. H. Sterling Fenn’s Historical Research Collection is now available for patrons to access in the Wyoming Room, thanks to local historian and former archeological technician Jim Powers. Dr. H. Sterling Fenn was a professional man with a driving interest in the study and understanding of the latter half of the 19th century American Military culture and the conflicts it pursued in the American West.  He gave of his time and financial resources to advance the knowledge base of the Civilian, Military, and American Indian cultures of the 19th century American West so that current and future American generations can better understand where they came from and what it took to get where they are. 

Fenn and Marshall.jpg

Sterling Fenn and Joe Marshall at Fetterman

 

In an effort to more completely and fairly interpret the Fort Phil Kearney and related sites, he encouraged and teamed with American Indian tribal historians and interpreters to present the most balanced and accurate tours of the sites, with glimpses into the cultures involved in the conflict.

This collection consists 1,357 items within 7,006 pages of mainly photo copies of selected portions of published documents; correspondence with noted authors, researchers, interpretive presenters, archaeologists, and avocational battlesite and weapons investigators; copies of National Archives Records Administration (NARA) textual records; and Fenn’s own writings.  In addition, the collection includes NARA microfilm; numerous volumes of published books and booklets; artworks; as well as Fenn produced photos and slides.  This collection encompasses multiple decades of concentrated research and many hours of analysis of the information collected. 

 

 

READ FULL PREFACE:

Dr. H. Sterling Fenn’s Historical Research Collection Preface

Dr. H. Sterling Fenn was a professional man with a driving interest in the study and understanding of the latter half of the 19th century American Military culture and the conflicts it pursued in the American West.  He made a concerted effort to make at least one trip each summer, since 1981, from his home in Redding CA to Montana and Wyoming and adjacent states to research and investigate some of the most iconic, as well as some obscure, Military Fort and Indian War sites to learn from document research, and archaeological and pedestrian surveys and to spread that knowledge through interpretive tours of those sites.  He gave of his time and financial resources to advance the knowledge base of the Civilian, Military, and American Indian cultures of the 19th century American West so that current and future American generations can better understand where they came from and what it took to get where they are. 

In an effort to more completely and fairly interpret the Fort Phil Kearney and related sites, he encouraged and teamed with American Indian tribal historians and interpreters to present the most balanced and accurate tours of the sites, with glimpses into the cultures involved in the conflict.

The following Information on H. Sterling Fenn is from an Feb. 1986 autobiography, he provided to the FPK/BTA as part of his appointment to the At -Large Board of Directors, and the Redding Record Searchlight obituary. 

  • Born: August 30, 1937

  • Died: June 8, 2011 (nearly 75 yrs.) – Lifelong California resident

  • Married: 53 yrs. To Jan Peters – one daughter – two grandsons                                                                 

  • Residence: 3061 Churn Creek Road, Redding, CA 96002

  • Education: U of CA – B.S. Engineering, Davis Veterinary School - Dr. Veterinarian Medicine

  • Military Service: USAF

  • Civilian Pilot

  • Careers: NASA Space Program 1960 thru 1967; Veterinarian 1971 to 1996 (retirement) operated own small animal Veterinarian Clinic – Enterprise Veterinarian Clinic, Redding, CA 

  • Memberships: Lion’s Club, Redding Rambling A’s, Shasta Arms Collectors Club, FPK/BTA (At -Large Board of Directors), Western History Ass., Montana Historical Society, Wyoming Historical Society, Order of Indian Wars,
                               Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Ass., American Arms Collecting Society.

  • Areas of Research: Western American Military History – 1861 to 1890, Firearms of American West Military and Frontier, Indian Warfare (tactics and weapons), Battlefield and historic sites studies.                                   

  • Battlefields and Sites Studied: Sand Creek, Summit Springs, Beecher’s Island, Slim Buttes, Whitebird, Clearwater, Big Hole, Crazy Woman Crossing, Fetterman,
                                                         Wagon Box, Hayfield, Rosebud, Custer’s Last Stand (Little Big Horn), Dull Knife, Wolf Mountain (Crow Buttes), and Mountain Meadows
                                                        battlefields; Yellowstone River, Bozeman Road (Trail), Forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C.F. Smith sites.

  • Author: Colt Cavalry and Artillery Revolvers: A Continuing Study by John A. Kopec and H. Sterling Fenn; 1994.  Many manuscripts on sites and events along the Bozeman Trail and weapons of the American Indian Wars on the Great Plains.  Book reviews for various newsletters of the organizations he belonged to.

  • Organized Events Presenter: These are just a representative few tours and presentations Fenn gave prepared presentations to organized events.  He was quite ready to give off the cuff tours and presentations to any group or reporter who asked.

5/2-4/86

Event: The Military Frontier

Location: BBHC, Cody, WY

Function: Presenter  – Indian Wars sites a & fights.

Source: BBHC flyer (FC, FPK/BTA Corr. #1)

6/24/1987

Event: Western Writers of America Meeting

Location: Fetterman Battlefield Historic Site, WY

Function: Tour Guide

Source: Newspaper clipping (FC, Fenn Tours – Other folder item 19)

 

1987 to 2000

Event: FPK/BTA Bozeman Trail Days

Location: Fort Phil Kearney Historic Site, WY

Function: Presenter

Source: FPK/BTA Lookout

8/23-27/1995

Event: the Powder River Expedition

Location: Southeast Mt and Northeast WY

Function: Tour Guide, Presenter, Organizer

Source: Fenn Notes & Correspondence (FC, Fenn Tours – Other folder items 5 thru 12)

6/23-27/1997

Event: CBMHA Bozeman Trail Expedition

Location: Southeast Mt and Northeast WY

Function: Tour Guide, Presenter, Organizer

Source: Fenn Notes & Correspondence (FC, Fenn Tours – Other folder item 13)

7/30/1999

Event: Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument talk

Location: Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, MT

Function: Presenter

Source: Fenn Notes Hardin, MT. July 30, 1999 - L.B.H.B.N.M. Talk (FC, Fenn Tours - Little Big Horn Battlefield folder item #3)

9/18-20/2008

Event: Order of the Indian Wars 29th Annual Assembly: The Bozeman Trail - Road to Little Big Horn

Location: Southeast Mt and Northeast WY

Function: Tour Guide and Presenter

Source: Fenn Notes & Correspondence (FC, Fenn Tours – Other folder items 14 thru 16)

 

 

The Dr. H. Sterling Fenn’s Historical Research Collection consists 1,357 items within 7,006 pages of mainly photo copies of selected portions of published documents; correspondence with noted authors, researchers, interpretive presenters, archaeologists, and avocational battlesite and weapons investigators; copies of National Archives Records Administration (NARA) textual records; and Fenn’s own writings.  In addition, the collection includes NARA microfilm; numerous volumes of published books and booklets; artworks; as well as Fenn produced photos and slides.  This collection encompasses multiple decades of concentrated research and many hours of analysis of the information collected.  It is organized in 5 general categories described in the Collection Structure.

Collection Structure

  • Fenn Owned Publications in SCFPL Wyoming Room housed in the publication stacks.

  • H.S. Fenn Owned National Archives Microfilm in SCFPL Wyoming Room housed in the microfilm cabinet drawers.

  • H.S. Fenn Slides in Carousels and Loose Slides housed in the storage room stacks in Fenn Collection labeled large white storage boxes 1 and 2.

  • Small Publications, Periodicals, & Newsletters housed in the small publication box in back of the 2nd drawer down of the Fenn Collection labeled file cabinet.

  • Textual Records Folders housed in the top 2 drawers of the Fenn Collection labeled file cabinet.

 

The Index to these categories is included in this volume.  It is ordered the same as the above list and provides a location identifier (e.g., Separator Title, Microfilm Number, storage box number, WYRM Call Number), Title (for the item or folder), and a brief description of the item.     

The Index is the first step in research into the Dr. H. Sterling Fenn’s Historical Research Collection.  The Patron who wishes to browse the collection will simply browse thru the Index and choose an item to they wish to study then notify a staff member which item (e.g., Microfilm Number, WYRM Call Number, or folder title) they wish to see.  The staff will retrieve the desired item – only one item can be requested at a time and it must be returned before another can be pulled.  The textual records items are numbered with color matching numbers for ease of locating and must not be out of order when returned.  Staff will verify all items are in their proper location before returning the folder to the cabinet and retrieving the next selection.  This procedure ensures the collection stays in usable condition both in organization and in item condition.

 The following are Notes Relative to the structure & use of the Inventory:

Textual Records

                General

  • Title – shows actual title of the document from the document with publication date.  If no title given in the document then the author made a title that describes document content and intention with any date recorded in the document at time of its creation as well as (not or no title) appended to line to indicate the alteration.

  • Authorship – No assumptions as to authorship or publication date were made except if verified by separate source.

  • Item Dates – Are important to aid in getting a feel for Fenn’s research process and the timing of his understanding of and research focus of the events he studied.

  • Handwritten Notations - Many entries refer to handwritten notations and text enhancements.  For the most part these were done by Fenn for his edification.  If they were not identified by a different source then most likely Fenn did them but authorship would be noted as n/a unless the author could identify Fenn as the author thru context or penmanship (it was somewhat unique).

Folder Specific

  • Correspondence – “Fenn letters to” most are photo copies of letters he sent.  At one time it appears he had an early generation xerox copy machine that printed on the semi-glossy white paper and this is what he photocopied his handwritten letters with before he mailed them.  Later it appears he might have upgraded his copy machine to one that printed with an inkjet process.  After he obtained his computer system (ca. Feb. 1990) it appears he printed (early tractor type printer) 2 or more copies of the letters before he mailed a copy to the recipient.   This helped him to keep track of the volumes correspondence he maintained with a great number of people.

  • Bozeman Trail - Battlefields - Archaeology - Fetterman Battlefield folders - Item numbers for the 4 (A thru D) Bozeman Trail - Battlefields - Archaeology - Fetterman Battlefield folders are contiguous and grouped, in the 4 folders, as they pertain to the individual folder names.  This was done because the file folders could not contain the entire series of items within this folder title.  The grouping also allowed for a smaller number of documents to handle to locate the desired item. 

  • National Archives - Item numbers for the 11 National Archives folders are contiguous and grouped, in the 11 folders, as they pertain to the individual folder names.  These documents may have been organized by someone other than Fenn such as his wife, an employee, or a NARA contract researcher because the handwritten notations on most is probably female.  Also these are photocopies (with printed notation generated by the photocopy machines at NARA that they were reproduced at the NARA) of original 19th century handwritten documents which can be difficult to decipher, especially when it comes to signatures.  As a result, many of the military officers’ names may be spelled wrong.  In an effort to minimize error in spellings and or ranks I utilized the Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1799 – 1903 by Francis B. Heitmann to verify each entry.

 

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About the Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library

The Wyoming Room in the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library at 335 W. Alger Street, Sheridan, Wyo. was created in 1986. In 1994, the library expanded its facility by 3,400 square feet to house extensive historical collections. Researchers and other library patrons can browse through books, genealogical sources, maps, audio and film recordings, obituaries and other items. Hours for the Wyoming Room differ slightly from the library’s hours. The Wyoming Room is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (307) 674-8585, visit the library’s website at https://www.sheridanwyolibrary.org/location-hours/ or email scfpl@sheridanwyolibrary.org

 

Please note: The Dr. H. Sterling Fenn Historical Research Collection Inventory is available in the Wyoming Room, and will be listed on this website soon.