Last month I strived to cover the welcome surprises found among the many documents and items found at the Jamestown Armory during my very favorite Covid project, documenting the National Guard enlistments. In Part 1 I had expounded on a puzzling letter from our own collection to Reuben “Earle” Fenton from the Capt. of the Fenton Guards thanking him for the gift of a metal cabinet for the storage of firearms. After mentioning the item to SSG Weaver an ensuing search had turned up no results, but a later search for yet another Fenton related item unexpectedly turned up the pistol safe made by Fenton Metallic, a company owned by Earle. The end of part 1 was the joyous announcement that the NYS Director of Military History approved the loan of the safe from the Armory to be part of the Fenton Furniture Exhibit, and that it had arrived. Very exciting!
Little treasures of the Fenton family connections were found here and there – like the “Duties Performed by the National Guard” – Ho Hum, right? Well, mostly, but, as I read the documented duties performed on July 4, 1934, my eyes were bulging, I’m sure. The Guards took part in a Parade, not unusual for the Fourth of July. But, the parade ended at the Fenton Mansion where they stood at attention for the unveiling ceremonies of Gov. Fenton’s statue, a gift in memoriam to the Gov. and City as instructed in Lillian Fenton’s recent will, a pact she and Earle undoubtedly had made before his death.
From our own resources we know that the Guards were also officially present years earlier in August 1885 when Gov. Fenton died and was “Laid out” in the Drawing Room niche until his burial. During public hours a Guard was posted at the head and foot of the coffin, while others were posted at the doorways and entrances. They kept vigil at the outside entrances at night, and all Fenton Guards escorted the funeral procession by forming a rectangle around the outer edge of the bereaved family and invited guest portion of the procession.
This same process was repeated when Earle contracted a fever and died just prior to his 30th birthday, while traveling abroad with his wife, Lillian, in May of 1895. Additionally, the Fenton Guards also posted a 24 hour Guard at the Fenton Mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery for a month because Lillian also became ill and couldn’t travel home from Naples, Italy with Earle’s body. When she returned, the final funeral obsequies were observed. The whole contingent of Fenton Guards were present for each of Earle’s funerals.
A room at the Armory, which has been set aside for historical items, also contains a memorial to CPT. Gordon Hess, whose suspicious death occurred at Fort Knox, KY, in 1998.
This same room has a large portrait of Gov. Fenton hanging on the wall, and was a surprise to me. It was painted by William A Greaves in 1878. Many prominent residents of the area have been the subject of this prolific artist.
Coincidentally, or not, a portrait of Daniel Post resides in the Fenton collection, also painted in 1878 by Greaves. Post was the editor of the Jamestown Journal from 1877 to the early 1880’s and went to Europe in 1878, as then Ex-Senator Reuben Fenton’s Private Secretary, to attend the International Monetary Conference in Paris. He may have been best known in Jamestown as Capt. Daniel Post, a member of the Fenton Guards 13th Separate Company when it was called into the service of the Federal Government in 1898 during the Spanish American War.
Stay tuned for Part 3 in the April Walnut Press Newsletter.