Most of our members already know that the Fenton History Center launched Vets Finding Vets on Nov. 11, 2014 as a free program for Veterans who would like to make use of the Research Center for delving into their family history or learning more about the Veterans in their family. We then added Fenton Canteen so that Veterans could get together over coffee and cookies and enjoy each other’s company. We have added Veteran Talks, bus trips, Quilts of Valor, and continue the ever-popular Honor Flights to Washington, D.C.
This year we have added a scholarship opportunity for High School graduates who are pursuing a military-related career, used free time to gain experience toward that choice, and/or volunteered in their community while keeping a good grade point average.
The Soldiers’ Friend Scholarship, named in honor of Governor Reuben E. Fenton, a Veteran himself who spent much of his political career as a Representative for Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. He authored a bill for support of the surviving invalids of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, which was passed. During the Civil War, as pressure to raise more troops was applied by President Lincoln to support the war effort, Fenton held many rallies to raise the needed troops. He was also very approachable as soldiers and their families sought out his help to resolve issues, for instance, trying to find their wounded or deceased sons, or to resolve the paperwork issues of pay due to the wounded in hospitals who had been labeled as deserters. As Governor during the last few months of the Civil War, he continued his hospital visits of the wounded which often led to late night trips to the War and Navy Departments as he worked through the needed paperwork to ease the burdens on the men and their families. Even after the end of the War as surviving troops returned home, he continued many long months to see to their needs while also going about the business of rebuilding his state.
The Soldiers’ Friend Scholarship also honors the many Veterans and Patriotic organizations who held their meetings and events inside the Fenton Mansion after the City purchased the home and property in 1919, deeming it a Soldier and Sailor Memorial Park.
The very first recipient of the Soldiers’ Friend Scholarship is Brianna Rosequist, a graduate of Frewsburg Central School. We are very pleased to present the $1000 award toward her chosen field of study. Brianna has enlisted in the NYS National Guard and has already left for basic training. While carrying a high GPA as a member of the Honor Society, she volunteered her time with Habitat for Humanity, Community Blood Bank, and Chautauqua Humane Society. She also worked as a STAR Swimming Lifeguard, a Pumpkintown Staff member, and as a member of the Relief Zone Summer Staff.
After basic training and other training, Brianna will enter the University of Buffalo in the fall of 2023 with a major in Business. We certainly wish her well and if her past activities are any indication, Brianna will stand ready to make a difference wherever she goes.