This is an exciting month for Vets Finding Vets, as we will soon know the name of the recipient of the Soldier’s Friend Scholarship. This is our maiden voyage into the realm for High School graduate scholarships, but that just adds to the excitement!
Why would we have a scholarship named “The Soldier’s Friend”, you ask?
Many people are surprised to learn that a person from rural Chautauqua County was elected Governor of New York State for two terms, that in itself is an inspiring message. Born in 1819, in what is now Carroll, Reuben E. Fenton began his political career by becoming Carroll’s youngest Supervisor at the tender age of 27. He was reelected Carroll Supervisor seven times and thus began his journey toward Governorship. Once elected to the House of Representatives in 1852, Fenton’s first act as Congressman from the 31st District was to introduce a bill to grant relief to the surviving invalids of the Revolution and the War of 1812. He also advocated laws to facilitate furloughs and discharges for disabled Civil War soldiers, payments of bounties and arrears of pay due to wounded and deceased soldier families, and to simplify the application form for pensions.
As Governor during the last few months of the Civil War, Fenton continued his efforts to help families locate their soldier sons, “franked” their letters with his signature so they could send them without postage, and continued many long months forward to visit the wounded in hospitals. These late night hospital vigils often led to trips to the War and Navy Departments as he worked through the needed paperwork to ease the burden on the soldiers and their families.
After the deaths of then Ex-Senator Fenton in 1885 and Mrs. Fenton in 1901, the Fenton Mansion sat empty until 1919 when the City of Jamestown purchased it for the purpose of a Soldier and Sailor Memorial. Many Veteran and Patriotic organizations have held their meetings and events in our beloved Fenton Mansion.
So, there, in a very large nutshell, are the many reasons we have named it “The Soldiers’ Friend Scholarship”. This scholarship for $1000 will be presented to a graduate making plans to enter further education in pursuit of a military-related field. If you would like to help sponsor our worthy cause, you can stop in at the Mansion or call us at 716-664-6256. We are hoping that the Scholarship Recipient will be available to join Gov. Fenton on the Fenton History Center float in the Fourth of July Parade in Mayville!