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Reuben Fenton Remembered On Independence Day

Victoria Parker, the Fenton History Center’s Curator, presents the “Governor’s Chair” exhibit Taken by Timothy Frudd

The Fourth of July not only commemorates America’s Independence Day, but also the birthday of Gov. Reuben E. Fenton.

Fenton was born July 4, 1819. This year will mark his 203rd birthday.

Victoria Parker, curator at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown, said although the governor never made a big deal about his Fourth of July birthday, “We think it’s kind of important.”

In 1863, Fenton began construction on what is now the Fenton History Center. The governor and his family began living in the house in 1865. Fenton was elected governor in 1864 and served from 1865 to 1868. As the first governor elected from Western New York, Fenton has a special historical connection with the region.

While the Fenton is not planning a specific Fourth of July exhibit this year, “It’s the governor’s house,” Parker said. “It’s kind of always connected.”

The “Governor’s Chair” is a featured piece at the Fenton, serving as one of the few artifacts preserved from the governor’s time in office.

On the back of the chair, the New York state seal can still be seen.

The chair was conserved a few years ago in order to restore the chair for display at the museum.

Recently, the museum received reproductions of the regimental flags for local Civil War regiments, which are displayed behind the “Governor’s Chair” at the Fenton.

As Americans celebrate Independence Day and patriotism, the governor’s legacy remains relevant to the region, especially to veterans.

“The governor was known as the soldiers’ friend,” Parker said.

Fenton is remembered for his work on behalf of the nation’s veterans.

“One of the things he did while he was in office was establish pensions for veterans,” Parker said.

In 2019, the Fenton History Center participated in the Mayville parade to celebrate the governor’s 200th birthday. This year, the Fenton will have a float featuring “Governor Fenton” and its first Soldiers’ Friend scholarship recipient, Brianna Rosequist.

“We’re just continuing that legacy in a new way this year,” Parker said.

The Fenton History Center is open to the public Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults and is free for children seventeen and under.

“There’s tons of stuff to read and learn about,” Parker said.

Monthly newsletters are available at fentonhistorycenter.org. Additionally, the website gives a list of upcoming events for the community to take advantage of at the Fenton.

“I think it’s important to know where we came from so we can see where we’re going,” Parker said. “You can make a big difference even being from little old Jamestown.”

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