William M. Fenton

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William M. Fenton, PGM,
William M. Fenton, PGM (From the Michigan Masonic Museum and Library Collection)

Most Worshipful Grand Master, 1858

William M. Fenton was born in Norwich, Chenango County, New York, December 19, 1808. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1826, at the head of his class, and within a year sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, as a common sailor. Four years later he became first mate of a merchantman and received the offer of a captaincy on a similar vessel, which he declined to accept. In April 1835, he married a daughter of Judge Birdsall, of Norwich, and in July settled in Pontiac, Michigan. In 1837 he moved to Genesee County and engaged in mercantile, milling and in real estate transactions in the village of Fenton, which bears his name. In 1842 he was admitted to the Bar. In 1844 he was the Democratic candidate of Representative in the state legislature for Genesee County, but was defeated. In 1846 he was elected to the state senate from the district composing the counties of Genesee, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston. While in the legislature he was instrumental in securing the establishment of the State Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and its location at Flint. In 1848 and 1850 he was elected Lieutenant Governor. In 1852 he was appointed by President Pierce, Register of the Land Office at Flint, and held the position until the office was moved to Saginaw. He was Mayor of Flint for one year. During the beginning of the Civil War, he used his influence to sustain the Union. In 1861, knowing that difficulties of a financial nature involved the government, he telegraphed to Governor Blair that five thousand dollars of his private means were at the disposal of the State for the Michigan troops. Early in 1861 he was commissioned Colonel of the Eighth Michigan Infantry. This Regiment was raised, equipped, drilled and led to the front with remarkable precision, leaving the State on September 27, 1861.

On June 16th 1862, it took part in one of the most dashing assaults of the War at James Island, South Carolina, in which Col. Fenton led a Brigade composed of the Eight Michigan, Seventh Connecticut and Twenty-eight Massachusetts regiments. After this the regiment was in active service at Bull Run, Chantilly, Jackson, Mississippi, Campbell Station, the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Col Harbor, Welden Road, and many other places. After two years of incessant service in the field, Col. Fenton was obliged to resign his commission due to his health. On his return home he became the Democratic candidate for Governor, but was defeated, and afterwards devoted himself to his profession and to the details of his private business.

His advancement in Masonry was in Genesee Lodge No. 23 in Flint. He was raised as a Master Mason on July 9, 1855. In December 1855 he was elected Senior Warden. In December 1857 he was elected Worshipful Master. In January 1858 he attended Grand Lodge and was elected Most Worshipful Grand Master. He also continued to serve as Master of his Lodge for that and the three next succeeding years.

He died on November 12, 1871.

Story relating to his death that was found on findagrave.com

"In 1858 he was elected mayor of Flint and gave such efficient service in office that he met with his untimely death on the night of May 11 1871 while running to answer the alarm of fire he fell over a hitching post at the corner of First and Saginaw streets got up and walked to his office near by where he was found an hour afterwards seriously injured and almost unconscious He never rallied but died at eleven o clock the next night "

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