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William Matthew Fenton

In office
1848 – 1852
Governor Epaphroditus Ransom (1848-50)
John S. Barry (1850-52)
Preceded by Charles P. Bush
Succeeded by Calvin Britain

In office
1846 – 1847
Preceded by Gardner D. Williams
Succeeded by Andrew Parsons
Constituency 6th District[1]

In office
1858 – 1860
Preceded by Henry M. Henderson
Succeeded by Henry H. Crapo[2]

In office
1855 – 1856
Serving with Alvin T. Crosman
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Henry I. Higgins
Constituency Third Ward, City of Flint[2]

In office
1847 – 1848
Preceded by William Patterson
Succeeded by John L. Gage
Constituency Township of Flint[3]

Born December 19, 1808
Norwich, New York
Died November 12, 1871
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Adelaide Birdsall
Relations Joseph S. Fenton, Father[4]
Children Ada B., John Brush, Henry, Sarah R.[4]
Alma mater Hamilton College
Occupation sailor, Lawyer
Religion Episcopal

William Matthew Fenton (December 19, 1808 – November 12, 1871) was a politician from the U. S. state of Michigan.


Early life

Fenton was born in Norwich, New York in 1808[5] 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 in 1842.


Fenton was elected to the Michigan Senate from the 6th District,[5] representing Genesee, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties, 1846-47. He moved to Flint in 1847. In 1947, he was elected Flint Township Supervisor.[3] He served as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan[5] from 1848 to 1852 under Governors Epaphroditus Ransom (1848-50) and John S. Barry (1850-52). At the first village elections in 1855, Fenton was elected as a Third Ward Alderman with Alvin T. Crossman.[6] He held the position of register of the U. S. land office at Flint from 1852 until it was moved to East Saginaw,[7] and was mayor of Flint from 1858-59.[5]

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,[5] 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.[5]


  1. ^ "Michigan: State Senate, 1840s". Political Lawrence (Larry) Kestenbaum. Retrieved 2009-03-24.  
  2. ^ a b Ellis, Franklin (1879). History of Genesee county, Michigan. With illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers.. Philadelphia, PA.: Everts & Abbott. pp. 177.;cc=micounty;sid=bc2e9508b2f4f83b0bb57f56ffd896b4;q1=Burton;q2=Genesee;op2=and;op3=and;rgn=pages;idno=bad0919.0001.001;view=image;seq=507;page=root;size=s;frm=frameset;.  
  3. ^ a b Ellis, Franklin (1879). History of Genesee county, Michigan. With illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers.. Philadelphia, PA.: Everts & Abbott. pp. 184.;cc=micounty;idno=bad0919.0001.001;q1=Burton;q2=Genesee;size=l;frm=frameset;seq=230.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Fenton -- Fenton, William M. entry
  6. ^ Chapter XIII: First City Officers. The History of Genesee County, MI.
  7. ^ The Development of Flint. Historical Collections. By Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. Published by The Society, 1907. pg. 371.

Ontario County Marriages from Newspaper Listings May 4, 1836 BIRDSALL Adelaide FENTON William

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles P. Bush
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
Calvin Britain
Preceded by
Henry M. Henderson
Mayor of Flint
Succeeded by
Henry H. Crapo
Preceded by
Alderman, of Flint 3rd Ward
jointly with Alvin T. Crossman

Succeeded by
Henry I. Higgins
Preceded by
William Patterson
Supervisor, of Flint Township
Succeeded by
John L. Gage


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