Biography of Fenner Harris Peckham, M. D.

For three generations there has been a Dr. Peckham in the city of Providence. First came Dr. Fenner Harris Peckham, Sr.; then his son, of whom we write, took over the practice; and the grandson, Dr. Charles F. Peckham, succeeded him and carried on until his death. Dr. Fenner Harris Peckham, who lived to the age of seventy-one years, spent more than forty-five years successfully engaged in works of the medical world here, and at the time of his passing was recognized as outstanding. He was born in East Killingly, Windham County, Connecticut, February 11, 1844; died in Providence, December 25, 1915; and was the son of Dr. Fenner Harris Peckham, Sr., as noted, and Katherine (Torrey) Peckham. The family is numbered among the old lines of New England. Since the advent of the first Peckham in America, it has been most honorably represented, supplying many men to professional, artistic, and commercial endeavors.

From his forefathers, Dr. Fenner Harris Peckham inherited qualities of great service to himself, and of service, in turn, to his fellowman. He bore well the traditions of a distinguished race, and even in childhood manifested those tendencies which seemed to insure an unusual career of full accomplishment. After receiving a sound academic preparation in the public schools—his parents had removed to the city of Providence meanwhile—he read medicine with his father, found his interest in the profession was very real, and in due course entered Yale University, where he continued medical studies, and whence he graduated with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, 1866. He was now twenty-two years of age, on the threshold of a career destined to be of great example and usefulness to those around him. Dr. Peckham entered medical practice without delay, becoming associated with his father in Providence. He served in the Civil War as lieutenant of Company B, 12th Rhode Island Volunteers. His father enjoyed a large practice, and to this he added considerably, and at his father’s passing retained the old patients of years’ standing as well as the new, whom he himself had secured. His reputation had become that of a foremost physician, and he added to this renown continuously until the time of his own death in 1915.

But while he gave deep thought and constant attention to the profession, Dr. Peckham still maintained outside interests which made him of note in commercial, financial and civic affairs. A Republican, he supported the party’s principles steadfastly, and was a valued influence in its workings. He gave liberally to charity, both of funds of money and of service as a physician. He served his city and State as park commissioner and as president of the State Commission of Birds. Dr. Peckham was president of the West Side Club, a member of What Cheer Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; Massachusetts Commandery, Knights Templar; the Loyal Legion; Rodman Post, Grand Army of the Republic; the Hope Club, the Squantum Club, Central Club, Agawam Club, the University Club, and was president of the Anawan Club. He was prominent in the Rhode Island Medical Association, the Providence Medical Association, and Providence Athenaeum. Connected with several business houses in varying lines of endeavor, he held the post of vice-president of the Providence Telephone Company, was president of the Hope Webbing Company (largest plant of its kind in the world); a trustee of the Mechanics’ Savings Bank; and a director of the Narragansett Electric Lighting Company, the Rhode Island Horseshoe Company, the Free Masons Hall Company, and the Wood River Branch Railroad Company.

Dr. Peckham married twice; first, he married Mary H. Olney, daughter of Elam and Helen (Fuller) Olney; and of this union were born children:

  1. Dr. Charles F., of previous mention, who practiced as physician in Providence until his death in 1915.
  2. Alice.
  3. William T. Dr. Peckham married (second) Mary Carpenter, daughter of Francis Wood Carpenter. Mrs. Mary (Carpenter) Peckham survives her husband, and continues to reside in Providence.

In his life, Dr. Peckham afforded rich example of the benefits to be obtained through service of the unselfish kind. His works provided inspiration for numerous colleagues, and he will be remembered long as a foremost physician and citizen of Providence and Rhode Island.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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