V. Wolverton of Tyrone captured an otter in 1905.
The skin of the animal measured over three feet in length and was a beautiful piece of fur. Wolverton was offered $20 for
When the Phillips factory finished the job of sawing basswood logs into snow
shovel handles in February 1884 proprietor A.J. Phillips celebrated the event by treating each of his 14 hands to a can of
oysters and a box of crackers.
It Was a Gamble
The Young Ladies sewing society of the Presbyterian church made a japanese
silk quilt in 1882. Said to be a thing of beauty, it was exhibited at Davis & Davis jewelry store on the south east corner
of Leroy and East Caroline. But the beautiful quilt raised all kinds of problems as church records show, for the young ladies
to raise money for the church, decided to have a drawing and sold chances on the quilt.
One of Fenton's early industries was Buskirk & Britton's evaporating plant
located on the south side of Ellen street adjacent to what is now Hoffman's Hardware. In 1878 they were evaporating 75-100
bushels of apples every 24 hours. They shipped eight tons of evaporated apples to Germany and had orders from the same place
for all they could furnish. They also shipped five tons to Montanna (sic). They found a ready market for their fruit as fast
as it was ready.
A Tall Story
J.S. Clark who had a general store on Leroy street, next north to what is
now the Two Friends shop, notified The Independent and put in an urgent call for help in January 1886.
He had his store so jammed full of goods from floor
to ceiling that he wanted a clerk "11 feet high, nothing shorter need apply".
Scott's Listed Bargains for 1891
Scott & Co. department store in the Plumb building (where Fenton Country
House Furniture is now located) opened its fall campaign of bargains in 1891 with the grocery department selling ...
22 pounds of granulated sugar for $1
23 lbs of coffee sugar $1
26 lbs. extra C sugar $1
Selling for 25 cents were
10 bars of Troy soap
bars of Babbit, Queen Ann, Clover and Magic soap
pure spices sold for 25 cents per pound.
crackers 5 cents per
raisins 10 cents per
boneless codfish 10
cents per pound
9 cents per pound
25 cents per dozen
In 1896 The Independent reported that some neighboring towns were getting
up what they called "society" picnics, the members of all the different societies uniting and holding one big picnic.
The scheme would have worked very well in Fenton
the newspaper declared, as it would have called out every inhabitant of the village.
Boys of 1883 Had It Easy
J.P. Colwell who sold agricultural implements in the building which now houses
Fenton's police department, gave an exhition of one of his sulkey plows at the fair grounds in 1883. Farmers from the surrounding
area were quite impressed. But some of the old men present who had come to this state in an early day and felled the forest
and grubbed around the stumps the best part of their lives, thought the boys of 1883 had a pretty easy time of it, riding
around on nearly all their agricultural equipments.
J. W. Ripley of Fenton served through the Civil War and in the second battle
of Bull Run was shot in the leg. He carried that bullet with him until 1900, when he dug it out himself after what looked
like a boil on the top of his leg.
Noisy Burglars Take Off With $300 from Post Office
It was a cool,
cheeky business all the way through when the Fenton post office was burglarized wearly one Sunday morning in September 1895.
More than $300 in stamps and money was taken and even the safe itself.
The yeggs effected an entrance
into the postoffice (then located on East Caroline where Edison Stiles now has his insurance agency) by cutting out a panel
on the street door and slipping the bolts.
the burglars then procured sledges and crowbars from the railroads tool house
and a baggage truck from the depot. Armed with these implements, they swooped down upon the safe.
box, weighing about 1,000 pounds was pushed to the door, loaded on the truck and wheeled down the sidewalk on Caroline street
past about a dozen homes for a couple of blocks.
The night operators then went to the railroad track
where they fell upon the safe with sledge hammers, an axe and a hatchet, and smashed it into small bits. No attempt was made
to get through the doors, but the safe was hacked to pieces from the back, the steel chest taken out, the bolts cut off from
it and the money and stamps extracted.
The audacity of taking the safe on a baggage truck and wheeling it within
a few fet of several residences and then pounding away without the slightest attempt at being quiet, was sufficient to disarm
all suspicion. All who heard the racket supposed it to be railroad hands at work upon the track.
The burglary was not discovered until the early morning train went through.
Local officers went to work upon the case at once, but obtained no clue. Then the Sheriff of the county and his men worked
hard upon the case, put some of the local talent under surveillance and telephoned all neighboring points to be on the watchout
for the culprits.
Three well known criminals were taken into custody in Detroit, but as no identifying
witnesses could be found, they were released.
However, within a week, Fenton was provided with what some folks thought the
town should have had long ago --- two night policemen.
The U.S. Government offered a reward of $150
for the capture of the burglars and the Sheriff offered $50. There were no takers as far as is known.
Census enumerators John W. Ingram and George Barbour completed their labors
in July 1880. They reported the number of inhabitants of the village of Fenton as 2,447; in the township, including Linden,
1,665; in the village of Linden, 676, making a total in Fenton township and the village of Fenton 4,112.
Chinese Laundry Business Brisk
Fenton once had a Chinese laundry. It was located in the "old" Latourette
bank building on a site that is now taken over by the Fenton Community Center.
The newspaper reported that the acute-eyed Celestials would washee washee
in the building being fitted up for their use after H.B. Latourette moved into his "new" bank building (now Harry Lemen's
grocerystore). Later the newspaper said that the town's new Chinee (sic) Sing Lee was doing a rushing laundry business.
Circus In Fenton
In August 1877 a circus came to town. The newspaper reported at least 5,000
strangers attracted to Fenton village by the glitter and tinsel and one old man 80 years old, walked six miles to see the
Courtship Thwarted by Wolves &
Fenton's oldest citizen Mrs. Clarissa Thompson Pratt,
died in January 1906 at the age of 96. She was born in Maine and when 18 years old with her brother Seth came to Michigan
when it was literally a howling wilderness.
Purchasing land in Livingston county, he cut down trees and built a warm log house. A few years later there
were enough settlers to acquire a small school and Clarissa Thompson was chosen for the teacher.
The first time she saw James Pratt to whom she was married in 1834, she was
on her way to school through the forest and had come to a mud hole which she could not get past, when he came along, picked
her up and carried her safely to the other side.
This odd introduction led to love, but the young man had difficulty courting Clarissa as the wolves
and Indians were too numerous to allow anyone to go safely after dark. James Pratt preceded her in death after 57 years of
Exasperated Man Cuts Off Hitching Posts
Tired of a do-nothing policy, and exasperated beyond bounds, a Fenton man
took drastic action and taking matters in his own hands, accomplished his purpose in getting rid of some hitching posts on
In 1903, the
Fenton postoffice was located on the main thoroughfare where First Federal Savings and Loan is now situated. A gravel gutter
lined unpaved Leroy street and beyond that were hitching posts for the teams of horses.
However, the gravel gutter in front of the postoffice had been a series of
mud holes from one rain to the next, where horses stood and stamped through the hot days and fly time.
Mud was flying all over the store fronts and a majority
of the people passing in and out of the postoffice were bombarded by a shower of mud and filth. The average citizen mopped
off the mud and cussed inwardly, letting it go at that, but the patience of one citizen was finally exhausted.
One pleasant night he got out with a saw and cut
the posts off close to the ground, hoping the street committee would see things rightly and keep the posts out.
The street committee was much more progressive than
he had thought, for within a month concrete curb and gutter was put in on the west side of Leroy street from caroline street
Civil War Cannon Secured For Fenton
by GAR Post
In common with nearly every other Post of the Grand
Army of the Republic, the Col. Fenton Post of Fenton made an application for a pair of big guns which did some good work during
the Civil War but by 1898 were obsolete and were of little value for warlike purposes.
As a result, the Post secured two 3,500 pound guns from Fortress Monroe and
the big fellows eventually arrived, freight collect.
the next decision was the place to put them. After a good deal of argument back and forth, it was first
decided to place them at Oakwood cemetery although some folks still agitated there were other places where the cannon could
be seen to better advantage. They ended up at the Waterworks building, now the site of the Fire Hall. They are still there
and if the one pointing south should ever go off, Leroy street bridge would be destroyed, and any hostile fleet sailing up
the Shiawassee would have to take its chances.
Degree of Honor
The Degree of Honor of the Ancient Order of United Workmen in Fenton was organized
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 1891. Its first officers were Mrs. Mattie Colwell, Mrs. Mary Johnson, Mrs. Fannie Barnes, Mrs. Amelia
McGrath, Mrs. Margaret Horrell, Mrs. J. Wyman, Mrs. D.E. Hinkley, Mrs. A.H. Marsh, Mrs. H.F. Chatfield and Mrs. H. Stanley.
At its next meeting, Nov. 6, the charter was left
open for two weeks and all wives of the members of the AOUW could unite free of charge. After that an installation fee was
Before the days of furnaces, the month of May was the season of the year when
it was unkind to laugh at the man who had splashes of Whitewash on his back, soot on his nose, a frown on his brow and a length
of stove pipe under each arm. (1876)
Edison's Wonderful Movie Show Came
Here in 1897
Colwell's Opera House had the event of the season
in January 1897 when the amazing Animotiscope made its appearance here. Edison's masterpiece, the most wonderful of electric
wonders showed photographic scenes in actual life size and in life-like motion.
The press agent's spiel said that every move, every expression and gesture
was reproduced so minutely perfect that the real view and the real characters themselves could not be more life-like.
This entertainment that came here was said to be
the same exhibition that had kept the people in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit in a fever of excitement
and amazement for the previous six months. So great had been the interest in the exhibiton for Edison's discovery, that no
theater had been big enough to hold the immense crowds that came to see it, and thousands of people had been turned away.
The entertainment was said to be a theatrical play,
a circus, a wrestling and sparring match and a combination of all good shows on the board, embellished by a lesson in eltctical
to Fenton's first "movie" show was 20cents; reserved seats, 25 cents; and children under 12, 15 cents.
Fake Marriage Certificate Needed for Swindle Game
game of 1899 was described in the newspaper to warn its farmer friends and unsuspecting subscribers;
A well-dressed man of clerical appearance drives
up to a farmhouse and asks permission to stay for the night. Before the family and their guest retire for the night, a man
and a woman stop at the house and inquire the way to the nearest minister, saying they wish to be married.
The guest says he is a clergyman and offers his services.
A marriage certificate is filled out after the ceremony and the farmer and his wife are asked to sign it as witnesses.
They do so, and a few weeks later the certificate
turns up as a promissory note for several hundred dollars which has been sold to some bank which proceeds to collect.
Fenton was decidedly becoming a fast town in January 1877. One Saturday there
were two pigeon shooting matches, two wrestling matches and two burglaries. It was sensation enough for one day.
In 1905 Fenton village was devided into four parts--for the purpose of identifying
For the north
east quarter of the town, there was one toot of the fire whistle; south east quarter, four toots; north west, two toots and
south west quarter, three toots.
Fenton's First Band
Fenton's first band sprung into existance in 1856. When the civil war broke
out a large portion of the mebers enlisted in the service and belonged to Gen. Custer's Brigade Band. Two years later nearly
all that remained of the band enlisted and were sent to Knoxville, Tenn. and did duty until the close of the war. The Knights
Templar band, active in the 1870's had a membership of 17 with first class instruments and uniforms. It membership was largely
composed of members of the old band.
For the Rheumatiz
Rexford's Mineral Well in the early 1870's was located between Fenton and
Holly. The bath house at the Magnetic Well, as it was called, was completed in 1871 and hundreds of persons visited the well
daily during the summer to cure their aches and pains.
'Original' Stuff Found in Tree
The latter part of February 1892, while two men were at work cutting timber
on David Vinton's farm southwest of Fenton, they ran against a hard substance in one of the old trees. On cutting the tree
open, they found a quart bottle filled with whiskey.
They sampled the spirit, and being good judges, pronounced it the "old original stuff'.
Just how long the bottle had been in the tree was
hard to determine, but Mr. Vinton was confident that it must have been placed there at least 24 years previously.
However, he wanted it distinctly understood there
were no more bottles of the kind in his woods, as he figured the timber would soon be cut down if the idea got abroad that
there were more quarts of whiskey concealed in his trees.
Princess Wynima, the great Indian Medicine woman gave a free lecture to the
ladies of Fenton at the opera house one winter afternoon in 1896 when the Six Nations Medicine Company came to town.
The company of twelve performers provided good singing,
dancing and funny comedians and all for free.
Help Wanted ad in The Independent, September 1892; "Wanted: Good girl for
general housework. $2 per week. Washing and Ironing done out."
Join Up !
Fenton had numerous fraternal orders and lodges. In fact, The Independent
remarked that the town had a lodge for everything including the Modern Woodmen of America which was organized here in March
1894. When the Loyal American Lodge was being organized in Flint at this time, the newspaper remarked it was about the only
lodge not represented in Fenton, and advised Chief Loyal American Azariah Partridge (organizer) to head this way.
Quiet Village Jolted by Sound
One Tuesday noon in August 1885, an unearthly sound broke upon the quiet of
Fenton village with a suddeness that caused a stampede of horses, dogs, cats, and everything else stampedable. The sound resembled
a mixture of a soprano vocal exercise and the wails of lost souls in another and hotter world. It was nothing but the new
whistle on the Iron Works. The whistle was capable of very artistic effects some folks said. Fenton's Iron Works was situated
in the next block to the rear of the Presbyterian church.
Letter Exposes Juvenille Delinquents
Letter to the Editor June 1883:
"It is a perfect shame and a disgrace to our town
that a company of young heathens from 15-20 years of age should be allowed to gather on the walk in front of the methodist
church and stand there in such numbers and impudence as to interfere with respectable people as they come out of church at
the close of the service.
Sunday as many as 25 or 30 of these young independents almost entirely blocked up the way of egress from the church.
:If their mothers cannot manage to get them to wash
their feet and go to bed rather than run the streets until just before church closes, and then rally in front of it to gaze
into the faces of decent men and women, then let us have the services of our village marshall.
"These rude and impertinent young bloods do not attend any church and should
be taught that they must not interfere with those that do."
Landmark Cut Down
In front of William Paynes' house on Leroy street, nearly opposite the Apiscopal
church grounds, there stood an immense willow tree which had become one of Fenton's landmarks by 1892. But in October of that
year, the newspaper had to record it was no more. Its aggressive roots had nearly succeeded in moving Mr. Paynes' house off
his lot and he had the tree cut down. It was said that in 1844 William Donaldson's father set out a willow stick which had
been brought to Fenton as a cane by a man prospecting for land and from that stick, the immense tree developed as a half a
The fenton school board passed a resolution in September 1883 to enforce the
law relative to compulsory education of children between the ages of 8-14.
Lee & Setchfield, who had their establishment on the west side on Leroy
street just north of the river, advertised in 1895 that they were shoeing horses with steel shoes for $2 cash. No credit.
No Eagle Now
Campers at Long Lake (Lake Fenton) on several different occassions in 1904
saw a large American eagle hovering over the lake. One camper who saw the bird for a short distance said it was amagnificent
specimen. The bird had been in that vicinity for quite some time and everyone hoped it would be left undisturbed.
Noses Got Relief
From an early time in Fenton's history, a tennery stood kitty-corner from
the high school on Adelaide street. John Hinkle was the proprietor when the tannery and its contents burned to the ground
in January 1886. It was not rebuilt, much to the relief of noses of the neighboring inhabitants.
There were only seven saloon fights in Fenton village one Saturday night in
1897. this was a good record for a quiet town, the Independent caustically remarked, but it would have been better with about
seven fights less.
In her concert tours in Paris, London, New York and
San Francisco, and on the operatic stage throughout France, Italy and England, she was known as Mme. Emma Nevada, but in Fenton,
she was just plain Emma Wixom, Dr. Isaac Wixom's granddaughter.
Her father, William Wallace Wixom, also a
physician, went west during the Gold Rush and practised in mining camps. Emma was born in Alpha's Dissin's, a camp eight miles
from Nevada City, but the family later moved to Austin, Nevada. Her mother died when she was very young and her father remarried.
When Emma was in her early teens, she came to Fenton
with her stepmother, where for a few years they lived in Dr. Isaac Wixom's home on West Shiawassee avenue. A newspaper account
of August 1876 reports a benefit concert for a miner with Emma, the "Songbird of Austin" as the star of the occasion.
Going abroad, she studied in Vienna, under one of the greatest vocal teachers of the time and made her debut in London
in 1884 in Bellini's opera, La Somnambula. Her voice was a pure coluratura soprano and she sang roles in Traviata, Rigoletto,
The Barber of Seville, La Somnambula, Lakme and in Mignon, her favorite. In 1884 she toured America, alternating concert nights
with Adelina Patti, queen of prima donnas. She married an English surgeon and retired from the operatic and concert stage.
Phonographic Concert Given
The capabilities of Edison's wonderful invention were brought out at the Phonographic
entertainment held in Fenton's Opera House in May 1895. The Phonograph concert was a unique entertainment and the program
embraced phonographic reproductions of vocal and instrumental solos by distinguished artists, band and orchestra selections.
In addition to this, it was said records would be made and reproduced in the presence of the audience.
Piece of Paper Scares Horse
The horse of John Horrell became frightened at a piece of paper one October
day in 1883 and ran into a ditch by the side of the road, Mr. Horrell was thrown out, breaking two of his ribs and otherwise
bruising himself. The horse ran about four miles before he was stopped, breaking the buggy to pieces. The horse escaped with
but a few scratches.
Poundmaster Kept Busy
In the days before autos and pastuerized milk, Fenton
had a pound, a poundmaster and an ordinance to prevent animals from running at large.
In 1869 the
pound master got a fee of 50 cents a head for every day for keeping every horse, mule or ass.
For every other
animal or goose he got 25 cents.
To redeem animals the owner had to pay all charges thereon and was given six
days notice before an animal was sold.
Folks who brought stray animals into the pound got $1 for a horse, mule or
ass, 50 cents for a hog, cow or head of cattle, and 25 cents for a sheep or goose.
The pound in 1869 was located at the northwest end of the mill pond.
Fenton's YMCA Had Public Baths
Fenton once had a YMCA. In 1893 it was located on the second floor of the
Plumb building (northeast corner of Leroy and Caroline street.) That year the organization opened public bath rooms and tickets
good for six baths were being sold for one dollar. Single baths were 25 cents each. However, $4 paid for a yearly membership
to the YMCA and entitled the ticket holder to all the privleges of the Association including a bath every weekday in the year,
if he so desired.
Rusticus Complains Of Plaguey Cows
A neighboring farmer who came to town to shop became so annoyed at the conditions of things, he wrote
the following letter to the editor of The Independent (Feb. 1875).
"When I drive
into the streets of your thriving town, on crossing the bridge, I am confronted by a conspicuous notice that I will be fined
$1 for riding or driving faster than a walk over said structure.
"And when I
drive up to the sidewalk and seek to tie my team to some one of the many hitching posts so kindly provided, I find in close
proximity to said posts, and hardly distinguished from them, a post with a lamp on its top and a notice tacked to its side
to the effect there was a $20 fine for hitching a team to this post.'
"And if, on
a hot summer's day I drive my team under the shade of a tree in your streets, I am asked if I do not know I am liable to be
fined for so doing and ordered to move on.
"And if by chance, I stop my team on one
of the many cross walks, a large rudy cheeked man with a star on his breast good naturedly orders me to pass on or I am liable
to a fine for obstructing a cross walk.
"Now all these things no doubt are proper
and right, but when I come to untie my team to go home and look in my sleigh for the clean straw I put in it to lay my groceries
and other purchases on, I find that the plaguey village cows which I see running at large on your streets have been before
me and eaten every spear of straw. And perhaps if I have thoughtlessly left a bag of grain or grist in my sleigh, that too,
"Now the question is this: Are there any corporation laws against this nuisance?
We outsiders need some protection from the Fenton-villians as well as they from us."
The Buckwheat cake season opened on November, 23, 1881 when a Fenton lady
was heard to remark she had eaten 21 buckwheat cakes for breakfast besides her usual allowance of beef steak and coffee.
Six Stores Burned Down In May 1881
Fenton had its share of disastrous fires, and one occurred in early May 1881
when an old wooden row of buildings on the west side of Leroy and corner of Shiawassee avenue burned down. The six stores
burned were among the oldest in the town as the south side of the river was Fenton's first business district.
Starting at the northwest corner of West Shiawassee
and South Leroy, and going north, the stores burned were L.E. Britton's three story frame grocery; J.B. Leal Jr.'s dry goods
store; George Dunn's barber shop; C.H. Turner's building occupied jointly by L.J. Rider shoe shop and E.J. Hollister, watch
and clock repair; and last, B. Potter's harness store. On the next building north, the store of Robert Leroy, part of the
roof was burned.
Will Comfort, Author, Called Fenton
Will Levington Comfort was an author who lived in
Fenton. As a reporter for the Detroit Journal. he left Fenton for the scene of the Russo-Japanese war and was writting some
interesting journals for that newspaper in April 1904.
In June 1905 he had bright bits of fiction, in the Metropolitan, Cosmopolitan and Lippincotts magazines.
A Fortune For 5 Cents
During the summer of 1898 a big job lot of gypsies arrived in Fenton, doing
the town, the lake and the campers, telling fortunes, amuzing the people with their bear and monkey, and succeeded in picking
up a good many nickles.
Scott's Dep't Store Had 40 Employees
Scott and Co. department store was one of the towns biggest retail establishments
located where Fenton Country House is now situated. In 1897 a complete renovation and expansion program was completed.
Fronting on Leroy street was the dry goods department;
and in three stores fronting Caroline, the first was for millinery, the second for shoes and the third, the grocery and crockery
departments. The arched doorways can still be seen on Caroline street for these departments.
On the second floor facing Leroy street was ready made goods for ladies, misses
and children and towards the rear of the second floor, gents clothing and furnishings. The entire basement was used for a
indication of the company's progressiveness, Scott & Co. closed their store each evening at 8p.m. with the exception of
Saturday night. 40 people were employed at Scott & Co.'s mammoth and complete concern.
Bank Robbery At Noon Nets Zero Results
Wightman's bank in the heart of the business section was burglarized one November
noon 1904 but the would-be burglar got nothing, as the cash was always put in the safe during the noon hour when the personnel
closed up the bank and went home for lunch.
The burglar broke the glass in the back door with a bag of molasses, then reached inside and opened the door
latch. He ransacked the drawers right in view of passers by, who went past the big front windows but didn't realize what was
a private bank, was located in the building on Leroy street which now houses Fred Elliott's Shoe Store.
School Supt. Endorsed Breech Loading
Fenton high school boys endorsed opening hostilities
of the Spanish-American War by suspending a life-sized figure of a Spaniard from the flag staff at the high school central
building. Stars and stripes were floating throughout the village ever since President McKinley had signed the Cuban resolutions
and the central school grounds were fortified with Wisner's rapid fire cannon.
A salute was fired from the cannon at the school grounds and Sup't Ogersby
who touched off the charge ended up by wearing a badly shattered thumb. He instantly became a firm believer in breech loading
'Dakota Fever' Afflicted Some Fenton
In the spring of 1883, Fenton, along with the rest
of the state was suffering from "Dakota fever." One day three car loads of emigrants went through the town on the train bound
for the West.
from Fenton who went to Dakota to homestead was Rev. J.W. Campbell of the Methodist church and Charley Farnum. But Charley
came back after a few weeks, perfectly satisfied to live the rest of his days in Michigan.
He reported that thousands of people were there with very little or no money
at all and with almost nothing to eat. The work which was so abundant in promise before one got there was almost wholly ungettable.
When winter comes, he surmised there must inevitably be a vast amount of suffering among those who went there with almost
nothing but their naked hands.
newspaper commented that the colossal lieing about the great advantages of Dakota was just beginning to be exposed. Local
farmers who went there were sending back letters, telling the truth about the country and had changed their minds about Dakota.
Flag Walks Took Place Of Board Walks
In May 1892 before cement sidewalks made their appearance in Fenton, a string
of flagstone walk was being put down in front of the stores of A.F. Plumb, (drugstore) Scott & Co. (department store)
E.S. Hirst, (music store) Dunlap & Hovey (drugstore) and Turner & Son (shoestore).
Starting at the northeast corner of Leroy and Caroline streets, and going
north, the flag walks in front of these five stores made almost a continuous style of that kind of walk on that side of Leroy
street. Remnants of flag walk still remain in front of some of the stores in the downtown section.
Girls Ball Team Fizzles In Fenton
In late summer 1892, a traveling young ladies baseball club appeared in Fenton
in a game with a picked-up nine of local ball players. The game attracted a good many people who were willing to give up 25
cents for that sort of show.
some folks declared that as a ball game, it was a fizzle, and as an attraction, it was the greatest fake that had struck Fenton
in some time.
Mother, Daughter Buy Property For Investment
On the north east corner of Leroy and Caroline street once stood a pioneer
home, the David Smith place, set back from the street. In the spring of 1887 the property belonged to L.V. Curry local hardware
dealer, who sold the property to Mrs. Swartout and her daughter, Mrs. A.F. Plumb, consideration $3,500.
The ladies intended to put up a building, (which
they did) that would be an ornament to Fenton's business center and a profitable investment for themselves. The building was
completed in the fall of 1888.
Lost In Fenton
Lost: Somewhere in this village on Tuesday last, Jan. 2, 1877, a pair of handcuffs.
The finder will confer a favor and be rewarded for trouble by returning them to G.F. Starkweather, Constable, detective and
auctioneer, collections made. Office No. 1 in the Andrews Block.
A movement was on foot in the summer of 1883 to build a canal from the north
of the town to Long Lake (Lake Fenton). A stock company was being formed and some of the stock was paid in.
F.M. Milliken was heading the project but it never
materialized. Several years later horse drawn street cars carried Fenton villagers to the cool waters of the lake on hot summer
Cyclists Always Eyed New Bikes
During heyday of the bicycle The Independent asked the question, "Did you ever see an express wagon
bring a bicycle from the depot?"
soon as the bicycle cranks get a glimpse of it," the newspaper went on to say, "they form a line and follow the wagon until
it reaches the express office. Here they closely examine the wheels, tires, saddles, oil can, and etc. Some say the machine
is no good, while others pronounce it a 'dandy'."
A 50,000 dollar horse would not
attract one half as much attention, the newspaper declared.
New Cemetery in 1869 Was Named 'Oakwood'
The beginning of Oakwood cemtery was noted in the Fenton Independent (Sept.
1869) with the following announcements:
"New burial grounds are to be opened in this village just in the vicinity of the present graveyard. The grounds cover
23 acres reaching nearly to High Street and are to be fenced and otherwise improved immediately so that families can be accomidated
by spring. It will be styled Oakwood cemetery.
"The Association was organized last week with the following men composing the board of trustees: D.L. Latourette,
J.T. Davis, G.S. Riker, W.G. Conant, Wm. Colbrath, D.G. Colwell, J.E. Bussey, C.H. Turner, N.T. Thurber, E.J. Spaulding, C.
Bergen and D.B. Mason."
The postoffice ran as usual on Washington's birthday in 1900 and the p.o. force kicked about it for more than two
that postmaster Becker went to the Michigan Club banquet at Detroit and absolutely forgot to say anything to the force about
shutting up shop in honor of the father of our country. So the people called for their mail as usual, and of course were perfectly
satisfied, but it would take a year for the clerks to get over it, some folks said.
The following obituary appeared in The Independent May 27, 1882: "Old Jack is dead. Old Jack was a dog. He had many
friends and some enemies. He has guarded the drygoods store of Z. Patterson and E.C. Forte for several years and was always
faithful to his trust."
store Old Jack guarded is the next building south of the site of Pellett's Dept. store.
Much Needed Face Lifting Given Opera
House in 1890
Long looked for and much needed improvements came
to Fenton's opera house in the spring of 1890.
A new floor was laid on the stage, the proscenium was painted and two fine dressing rooms were installed in
the rear of the building.
improvement was a full and complete setting of scenery from Chicago. It composed an elegant parlor scene, kitchen, prison
and wood scenes with set rocks, set cottages, sky border and a very fine drop curtain.
First to appear in the refurbished opera house was the Alba Heywood Co. which
brought into use all the different scenes with a realiztic storm in the wood scene as the last piece on the program.
Highlight of the entertainment was "A Trip
to Coney Island" which was said to be the strongest descriptive overture ever composed. The company played this piece complete,
introducing all the imitations of birds, steam whistles, trains of cars, cuckoo calling, the great anvil chorus, fireworks
and artillery accompaniment.
one piece alone was said to be worth the price of admission which was 25 cents; reserved seats, 35 cents. The opera house
was located on the second floor of what is now the south end of the D & C store.
Fenton Pioneer Recalled Early Days
Early settlers John Reeson and Joseph Thorp who were
living in this settlement when Fenton and Leroy purchased Dibbleville in 1837 were the only two pioneers left in 1900. Mr.
Reeson's memory of those early days were printed in The Independent when an old landmark, the Everette House, (hotel) was
to be torn down by A.J. Phillips who had bought the property to build a private office building on the site.
Everette House, first called the Riggs Hotel, was
raised in 1837 by William Fenton and Robert Leroy, and 30 men, all able bodied male residents of the village at that time,
assisted at the raising. The men were assisted in their work by a liberal supply of whisky which in those days was always
supplied in abundance, Mr. Reeson said.
At the time this building was raised, there was but one other frame building standing, Mr. Reeson remembered. It
was the frame building on East Shiawassee (In 1900) in the rear of Mehlberg's Bakery (the south east corner building now occupied
by Pink Poodle Restaurant).
this frame building, Mr. Reeson said, a small store was conducted by Robert Leroy and later the post office was located in
it. Now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Hull, the building is still standing, converted into a two family duplex.
Mr. Reeson remembered that one other frame building,
a residence, was put up at the same time as the Riggs Hotel. It stood at the north west corner of Mill and Leroy streets There
was little else but a few log structures in the settlement, Mr. Reeson recalled.
On the 4th of July before the hotel was entirely completed, he said, an opening
ball was held. It was an occassion of wide-spread interest and people came from all directions and from as far away as Pontiac.
At that time the highway ran by the hotel on the south, being a continuation of what is now East Shiawassee. The building
thus stood on the corner and later the structure built by Judge Daniel Leroy as a residence (which later also became a hotel)
stood on the south side of the highway.
Races on the Ice
Lake Fenton, once called Long Lake, was the scene of winter sports as well
as summer activities. A large crowd gathered one winter afternoon in 1884 to witness the races inaugurated by some of Fenton's
horsemen. A straight half mile track was measured off and trotting and pacing races held. Eugene Steele took first money in
trotting, and J.H. Hirst came first in the pacing race.
Newspaper Warns Farmers Of Soap Fraud
In May 1892 The Independent disclosed the latest fraud to farmers. It went
A fellow comes to your door and offers to sell you
a box containing 26 bars of soap for one dollar and throws in a rubber door mat with the initials of the purchaser upon it.
The mat of course must be made to order.
The man delivers the box of soap and collects the dollar, but the doormat never comes.
The Independent reiterated some oft-told advice: "It is a pretty safe plan
for farmers and everybody else to purchase their goods off from a known and reputable dealer. If a man could sell $1.50 worth
of soap and a doormat for $1, he wouldn't have to go tramping about the countryside to find purchasers.
Some Big Birds
Farmers in the Fenton area must have had the secret of raising poultry. Wallace
Becker in 1884 sold to William Butcher, a turkey weighing 28 1/2 pounds dressed. The bird was shipped to Detroit and several
of the city papers commented on its extraordinary weight. That same year Mrs. John Coles sold 17 geese for the Detroit market,
which averaged over 10 1/2 pounds each and for which she got eight cents per pound dressed.
'Deck' Horton Organizes Sons of Rest
Dexter Horton was one of Fenton's ablest and energetic civic minded businessmen.
He had served as president of the village. as postmaster and had held numerous other posts, but by 1892 was just plain "tuckered
His New Year's resolution
that year was to shirk from duties other than being president of the Fenton Agricultural Society, president of the Gensee
Pioneer Society, president of the Fenton Electric Light Co., and Chief of the Fire Department besides holding some minor offices
in the town's many fraternal societies.
An agricultural implement dealer, he said he was going to try to attend to his own business. However he was a prime
mover in organizing the "Sons of Rest", a group which sponsored social affairs and dances with the proceeds going to the needy
and unfortunate in the village.
newspaper commented that no one in Genesee County did more work for others without fee or reward than "Deck" Horton, especially
for old soldiers and widows.
He Stood the Loss
The store of Robert Leroy was burglarized in June of 1875.
The burglars got $10-15 kept in the change box and
15-20 gallons of whiskey. Mr. L. had his suspicions but as (unbottled) whiskey and change are difficult articles to identify,
he had to stand the loss. Leroy remained in the town he and Col. William Fenton purchased from Clark Dibble in 1837.
Teeth Extracted Without Pain
In the fall of 1869 a new dentist, H.F. Douglas came to town and located in
a room over Dunlap and Hovey's drug store. Dr. Douglas had a complete apparatus for laughing gas by which he extracted teeth
later he installed a new dentist's chair costing nearly $200 which would be placed at any angle, raised or lowered to any
height desired in seconds.
Things Were Different In 1868
In 1868, when the Fenton Independent was founded, the nation didn't have the Vietnam war or urban unrest
to worry about. Instead, it had the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States. It was
the news event of the decade.
On the Michigan homefront, a proposed state constitution
had been drawn up by a bipartisan Constitutional Convention meeting in Lansing through the spring and summer of 1867. And
100 years ago the state was alive with discussion of the new constitution's merits. Apparently, Michigan didn't think too
highly of it, for the next April they rejected it by a vote of 11,000 to 71,000.
school teachers at that time could consider their salaries inadequate. The average monthly salary of male teachers in 1868
was $44.04, and for female teachers, $19.58.
On the sports scene, baseball was beginning to grow in popularity. Throughout the state, cities organized
The lumbering and wood processing industries boomed. The Saginaw area led,
with 437 million board feet cut in 1868. Other great lumbering cities and their 1868 output included Muskegon, 245,000,000
feet; Manistee, 155,000,000 feet; Port Huron, 32,000,000 feet; and Traverse City, 30,000,000 feet. On a single day, April
21, 1868, some 700,000 board feet were shipped from Saugatuck to Chicago.
It was claimed in 1895, that Fenton was afflicted with far more than her share
of that class of lady who persisted in attending entertainments at the opera house with a head gear somewhat larger than a
who was unfortunate enough to sit behind one of these obstructions, there was no hope in getting a view of the stage.