This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Fenton Historical Society and their move into the Governor Fenton Mansion in 1963. That alone makes us grateful enough, but in reality, our appreciation needs to turn back even further, to the one man whose dogged determination saved this building from being torn down.
His name was Echel George Lindstrom, and he was born in Sweden on Feb. 24, 1879. His parents, Gustaf and Matilda and their young boy, George, came to America and settled in Oil City, PA. George attended public school and later worked as an apprentice for the Oil City Derrick newspaper.
George traveled to Buffalo in 1901 for the Pan American Exposition and was there for the opening when President McKinley attended a reception in the Music Building. He was standing nearby when the President was shot twice by Leon Czolgosz. George raced to the telegraph station to get word to the Oil City Derrick newsroom.
Later he and his parents moved to Jamestown, where he was one of the first linotype operators at the Jamestown Post newspaper. He then moved to New York City and worked for the New York Herald in 1904, to Boston where he worked for the Boston Globe, and to Ohio where he worked for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Catholic Weekly Universe.
Perhaps due to the fact that his parents were getting older, he came back to Jamestown and worked for the Jamestown Evening Journal. George was encouraged to run for Supervisor of Ellicott, a position he was elected to and held from 1910 to 1916. During that time, Supervisor Lindstrom felt very strongly about two local needs and set out to make a difference.
He began a campaign against Tuberculosis and became Secretary of the Jamestown Tuberculosis Committee. He wrote articles and spoke often about the need for a TB hospital in Chautauqua County. Success! Mrs. Elizabeth Newton bequeathed $150,000 in her will in 1913, and Newton Memorial Hospital was built in 1919 on approximately 200 acres of land.
Simultaneously to his work on the need for a TB Hospital, another item was distressing Supervisor Lindstrom. The Fenton home was vacant, as Mrs. Fenton had died in 1901, and Jeanette and Josephine were both married and had their own homes. Washington Street was not even dreamed of and Fenton Place went down into Brooklyn Square. There was a push to tear the Fenton Mansion down and make a large parking lot, but E. George Lindstrom had another plan. He tirelessly campaigned to save the Governor Fenton Mansion by having the City of Jamestown acquire it, allowing the local Patriotic Organizations and Societies to use the rooms for their meetings. Again he spoke and wrote articles in an effort to persuade the community of the waste of a beautiful 50 year old home belonging to Governor Reuben E. Fenton, New York’s 22nd Governor. Success! The City did purchase the home and grounds in 1919, to be used as a Soldier and Sailor Memorial. WWI was over and the Veterans were forming Legions and VFWs and other Patriotic organizations were interested as well. But, they all gave first dibs to the Civil War Veterans who chose the Fenton Drawing Room for their Grand Army of the Republic meetings.
Therefore, Echel George Lindstrom is our HERO, because the Governor Fenton Mansion was still here so that the Fenton Historical Society could move in and begin safe guarding the Mansion, the property, and our local history. Sixty years later, thanks to all of the dedicated City Officials, City Grounds Keepers, Historical Society Board Members, Volunteers and Staff – we have many wonderful things to be thankful for – and Veterans still meet here!