Born in Athens, Georgia, on March 26, 1840, Samuel Fisher Tenney graduated from the University of Georgia in 1861and served in the Confederate army. In 1868, he received a bachelor of divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary.Ordained as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1869, Reverend Tenney served at Marshall and Elysian Fields, before being called in 1871 as pastor of the Crockett Presbyterian Church.
In 1871, the Crockett church established a Sabbath school for black children, which became the Moffatt African Academy. In 1886, the Mary Allen Academy was established. Tenney's missionary efforts helped create a black Texas Presbytery in 1888 with seven churches and five ministers.
At his initiative the Presbytery of Eastern Texas established mission work among the Alabama-Coushatta Indians in Polk County. A school was founded and on October 27, 1884, the Indian Presbyterian Church was chartered.
In 1887, he was moderator of the Synod of Texas.
At the urging of Rev. Samuel F. Tenney, the Presbytery of East Texas in 1891 recommended to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (US) that women be allowed to lead in prayer, speak and engage in public discussions in mixed gender audiences by the church. While the GA rejected the initiative, the stage had been set for future expansion of women participation in the church.
In 1868 Tenney married Sarah Mills of Mayesville, South Carolina. They had seven children. One of his sons, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney served Presbyterian churches in Texas and became the founder of the Historical Foundation of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches located in Montreat in 1927.
Awarded an honorary doctorate by Austin College, Rev. Samuel F. Tenney died on July 2, 1926, after serving the Crockett Presbyterian Church for fifty-five years