FREWSBURG — Before it was destroyed in a fire Monday, the property at 83 W. Main St. in Frewsburg was known as the home where Reuben Fenton, the former governor of New York, lived before moving to the Fenton Mansion in Jamestown.
Since 1998, a historical marker declaring the residence as the former Fenton home has sat out front detailing how long he lived and how long he served as Carroll supervisor; a member of Congress in both the House of Representatives and Senate; and his time as governor.
“It’s very sad to us historically speaking and to me because I also work at the Fenton, so I probably know about Reuben Fenton better than most people,” said Barbara Cessna, Carroll town historian and Fenton Historical Society research assistant. “It’s a sad thing, but it’s not the same as (the loss of) a life.”
Volunteer firefighters from several departments were called to the property around 7:30 a.m. Monday. A body was discovered in one of the five properties; the victim’s name, as of Wednesday, has not been released.
The Fire Investigation Team with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday it has concluded its look into the blaze. “At this point, investigators have been unable to determine the exact cause of the fire due to the amount of damage the building sustained,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Harold Bennett, Carroll Historical Society president, said on the group’s Facebook page, “On behalf of the Carroll Historical Society, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of the person who unfortunately did not make it out of the building on Main Street. The historical society is sadden at the loss of a historic home, but even more sadden that someone lost their life. The society’s thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Cessna said Reuben Fenton purchased the land from John Frew, his future father-in-law, after he married his daughter Jane in 1840, starting construction of the house in 1839. Cessna said Fenton had made money from helping his father’s general store be successful and from buying property to harvest the timber and then selling the land to people as farmsteads.
Cessna added that Fenton’s first wife died in 1842, but he married again in 1844 to Elizabeth Scudder and continued to live in the Frewsburg home until he was elected governor in 1864.
Cessna said Fenton sold the Frewsburg home after he became governor and started construction of the Fenton Mansion in Jamestown in 1863.
“When he became governor he moved to Albany. Up until then, he lived there,” Cessna said.
She doesn’t know what will happen to the historical marker or the stepping stone that was placed in the 1800s to help people out of a horse carriage.
“We don’t know what will happen to the property,” she said.