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COLONEL JAMES FENTON

 
Note: Brief sketch compiled by P. Davidson-Peters in August of 2009 from various sources mentioned. Special thanks to Dee Dixon who sent me the transcribed obituary and photo of Colonel James Fenton. Although the news clipping was not dated, had been pasted to a piece of pasteboard, was deteriorated, difficult to read and had many pieces missing, its contents and the transcription by Floyd M. Garner offers a great deal of insight into the life of Colonel James Fenton. -pdp
 
 
Col. James Fenton (1835-1910)The father of Colonel James Fenton, was John Fenton who was born about 1791 to a banking family. He resided at Crimble Hall, off of Bury Road, which had been originally been a 17th century farmhouse rebuilt by his father Joseph of Bamford Hall and presumably given to John as a wedding present in 1814 when he married his first wife, Elizabeth (Aipedaile). The couple had seven children prior to her death on 22 Jul 1829 when she was about age thirty-seven. About one year later, on 01 Jun 1830, John married Hannah Owston, daughter of William at Wrawby, Lincolnshire, England.

In 1832 he ran for a Member of Parliament from Rochdale. At the time the 1832 Reform Bill was enacted it had still only extended voting right to "men who had a yearly value of 10 or over," which still barred many of the working class men and all women from voting in the election. Of the three candidates running, John Fenton represented the Liberals and John Entwisle held appeal to the Tories. But it was James Taylor, a hat manufacturer from Spotland Bridge and preacher at the Clover Street Unitarian Chapel who had gained great favor among the working class people. An estimated crowd of 8000 strongly supported Taylor, but because they held no right to vote, John Fenton was elected and a movement among the working people for their rights initiated the Chartism movement. In 1870, Fenton's voting in favor of the Poor Law Amendment Act lost him his seat in Parliament as so many citizens were strongly opposed to the Act. Although the law had aimed to transfer unemployed rural workers to urban areas where there was work, the conditions at some of the workhouses were found to be dangerous and inhumane.

As noted, John Fenton was of the privileged class and the education of his children reflected this. His son Roger, who was born in 1819 to his first wife Elizabeth, attended University College in London until 1838 when he left to study with the historical genre painter Charles Lucy. In 1841 he went to Paris and studied with Paul Delaroche who was already then working with the new daguerreotype development of photographs. Although he returned to London in 1844 to study law and was called to the bar, his real interest seemed to lie in photography. He married Grace Maynard in 1847 and in 1851 gave up his law practice and began photography full time. By 1855 he was a favorite of the Royal Court and under the patronage of Queen Victoria and the War Minister, he embarked for the Crimea where he took many photos of the war but kept the offensive carnage out of his works so as not to offend the Victorian public. His many letters tell a much more realistic view of the war, than did his photographs. He died in 1869 at the age of fifty.

Colonel James, son of John's second wife Hannah and subject of this sketch, was born at Crimble Hall, Bamford, England on 21 Jul 1835 and was christened on 15 May 1836. At the age of twenty-five, James married his cousin, Frances Emily Owston who was born in Brigg, Lincolnshire, England in May of 1838. The couple were married on 22 Aug 1860 in Wrawby and afterwards went to live at Gale House in Littleborough. In 1871 he built "Hazelhurst" at Bamford and in the following year took up his abode at that house.

James was a member of the well-known Rochdale banking firm of Messrs. J. and J. Fenton and Sons, and for a long time was in charge of the Heywood branch of the bank. In November of 1878 that bank failed and caused considerable panic throughout the financial world. After months of anxiety, their available assets were realized and Crimble Hall along with Hazlehurst were sold.

Two years after the bank's failure Colonel Fenton and his family, accompanied by his brother Robert left England. They were settled in at Plymouth Co., Iowa where he specialized in the breeding of Hereford cattle. In 1880 the family was enumerated in Le Mars and the household included his wife Frances, sons James, John, Robert, Harry, Roger, Arthur, Eustace, and Joseph; and daughters Emily and Nora. In 1900 the household had been reduced to James, his wife and four grown children. About five years later he gave up farming, sold his land (which then consisted of over 900 acres), and went to live with his sons, Roger and Eustace, who had gone to Manitoba, Canada.

Colonel James Fenton passed away on April 5th 1910, at the residence of his son, James at Russell Solsgirth, Manitoba. Despite his age he had been enjoying very good health and his death was therefore sudden and unexpected. He was the last surviving son of John Fenton's seventeen children. Two sisters survived him: Emily, the wife of Vernon K. Armitage of Hornby Hall, near Lancaster; and Ellen, wife of Charles Mellor, barrister, of Harrogate. His brother Robert, who had accompanied him to America, was enumerated in the 1880 and 1900 census records residing in Gage Co., Nebraska. He died at Wymore, Nebraska on 20 Nov 1909 and his widow, Eliza (Radcliffe), later moved to Colorado where she was listed in the 1910 and 1920 census records residing in Boulder.

Colonel James Fenton was survived by his son James, a photographer at Binsoarth; sons Roger and Eustace who raised Hereford cattle in Carlton; Arthur; John, who was in the service of a transport company at St. Louis; Henry who was living in Texas; and two daughters, Emily and Nora. His Frances preceded him in death on 05 Oct 1902. They are laid to rest in Le Mars City Cemetery.

   
NOTES: Now a restaurant, Crimble Hall was sold to William and James Baron, two brothers who divided the house in half. In 1913 it was sold to Colonel Hartley who restored the house to its original layout in 1919. Source: Rochdale Observer: July 18, 2006

Bolderstone was the home of Elizabeth, wife of the colonel's brother Robert.

The original estate of Gristlehurst was conveyed in marriage by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Holt, Esq., to Richard Beaumont of Whitley Beaumont, near Huddersfield, by whom it was sold in the year 1758 to a Mr. Milne of Flockton Manor House, evidently a friend and neighbor of Mr. Beaumont.  In 1850 it was merged into the estate of Mr. Fenton of Bamford Hall.  When Gristlehurst was in the possession of Mr. Beaumont it comprised 127 acres of pasture land and 42 acres of timber, described as "old timber."


USEFUL OUTSIDE LINKS
 
Photo & Election Bulletin of John Fenton 1832 Election for 1st M.P. at Rochdale - Link4Life.org
Roger Fenton, Pioneering Photographer - Link4Life.org
Roger Fenton Crimean War Photographs at Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Roger Fenton Photographs, George Eastman House Archives
Roger Fenton Letters from the Crimea
 
 


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