William Matthew Fenton
- November 12
) was a politician from the U. S. state
Fenton was born in Norwich, New York
in 1808 and graduated at the top of his class in 1826 at Hamilton College
. In 1827, he sailed four years on the ocean, becoming mate of a merchant vessel. In May 4, 1836 Ontario County, New York, he married Adelaide Birdsall a daughter of Judge James Birdsall, of Norwich. and the same year moved to Pontiac, Michigan
becoming a merchant. In 1837, he purchased a large tract of land in Genesee County
in what later were named Fenton Township
and the village of Fentonville, which became the city of Fenton
. According to local legend, the name of the village, and consequently the township, was decided by Fenton's winning a card game with fellow landholder Robert LeRoy. Fenton was involved in mercantile, milling and real estate business. In 1839, he commenced the study of law and was admitted to the bar
Fenton was elected to the Michigan Senate
from the 6th District, representing Genesee
counties, 1846-47. He moved to Flint
in 1847. He served as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
from 1848 to 1852 under Governors Epaphroditus Ransom
(1848-50) and John S. Barry
(1850-52). He held the position of register of the U. S. land office at Flint from 1852 until it was moved to East Saginaw
, and was mayor of Flint from 1858-59.
When the American Civil War began in 1861, Fenton tendered $5,000 to Michigan Governor Austin Blair to help equip the first regiments sent out. He became major of the 7th Michigan infantry early in 1861, but was commissioned colonel of the 8th Michigan, and led the regiment to the front. He took part in many battles and resigned in 1863 from ill health.
Fenton was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1864, losing to Henry Crapo. He erected the large block and public hall in Flint that bear his name.
As chief of the fire department
of Flint, while on duty, he received an injury which resulted in his death on November 12, 1871. He was interred at Glenwood Cemetery of Flint.
Ontario County Marriages from Newspaper Listings
May 4, 1836 BIRDSALL Adelaide FENTON William