William D. Fenton

W. D. Fenton portrait

"Portrait & Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley Oregon." Chapman Publishing Company, 1903. p. 41.


Within recent years, and particularly during the opening years of the twentieth century, William D. Fenton has gradually grown to be recognized, within the ranks of his profession and among the laity, as a man exerting a strong influence upon the current of public events in the city of Portland, and to no meager extent in the state of Oregon at large. His unquestioned ability as a legal practitioner and the hearty interest he has taken in affairs calculated to develop and foster the important material interests of the home of his adoption have brought him prominently before the public, in whom rests an abiding confidence in his manifest capabilities, his public spirit and his integrity of character. Educated in western schools, fortified by an accurate knowledge of the west and its resources, and well-grounded in the principles of the law, he began the practice of his profession with a good foundation of hope for future success. Since 1891 he has been engaged in practice in Portland, where, in addition to his general practice (with a specialty of corporation law), he now acts as counsel for the Southern Pacific Company in Oregon.

Mr. Fenton was born at Etna, Scotland county, Mo., June 29, 1853, a son of James D. and Margaret A. (Pinkerton) Fenton. (See sketch of James D. Fenton, preceding). When the family crossed the plains in 1865 he was old enough to be of considerable help to his father, and during mutch of the journey, assisted by driving an ox-team. After settling in Oregon he took a preparatory course in McMinnville College, and in 1869 entered Christian College at Monmouth, Ore. (now the State Normal School), from which he graduated in 1872 with the degree of A. B. For a time thereafter he taught school in his home county. In 1874 he begin the study of the law in Salem, and in December of the following year was admitted to the bar before the supreme court of the state. From 1877 to 1885 he practiced in Lafayette as a member of the firm of McCain & Fenton. During his residence in Yamhill county he served one term as a member of the state legislature representing that county. He first located in Portland in 1885, but six months later the death of his father caused him to return to Yamhill county, where he continued to reside four years. In April, 1889, he removed to Seattle, where he was engaged as assistant district attorney for a while. In June, 1890, he returned to Oregon, and the following year re-located in Portland, where he has since been continuously engaged in the practice of his profession. For some time he was a member of the firm of Bronaugh, McArthur, Fenton & Bronaugh, one of the strongest law firms of the northwest; but upon the death of Judge McArthur and the retirement of the senior Bronaugh the partnership was dissolved. Besides his interests in Portland he owns a portion of the old homestead.

Since the inception of the movement for holding the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905, Mr. Fenton has taken a leading part in the formulation of plans for that gigantic enterprise. As a member of the sub-committee on legislation of the Lewis and Clark board (consisting of Mr. Fenton, P. L. Willis and Rufus Mallory), he drafted the bill presented to the Oregon legislature at its session of 1903 and passed by that body. The bill provides that the governor shall appoint a commission of eleven members, who shall work in touch with the Lewis and Clark board; that if the commission and the board cannot agree upon any subject the differences shall be adjusted by the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer, whose decision shall be binding on the commission; that $50,000 of the $500,000 appropriated shall be used to pay the expenses of making an Oregon exhibit at St. Louis in 1904, and that as much of this exhibit as possible shall be returned to Oregon for the Lewis and Clark Exposition; that the commission shall erect a memorial building in Portland on ground to be donated for the purpose, provided that not more than $50,000 of the state's money shall go for this building, and provided that the Lewis and Clark board shall contribute $50,000 toward the cost of the same structure. The measure further provides that one-half of the total amount of the appropriation shall be available in 1904 and the remainder in 1905, but the commission is authorized to enter upon contracts before this money comes in, on warrants drawn by the secretary of state. It was Mr. Fenton's idea in framing the bill to give the commission as much discretion in the use of the public funds as would safely conserve the interests of the state.

In Monmouth, Ore., October 16, 1879, Mr. Fenton married Katherine Lucas, a native of Polk county, this state. Her father, Albert W. Lucas, a Kentuckian by birth, came to the northwest as early as 1853 and identified himself with the agricultural interests of Poll: county. The four sons of Mr. and Mrs. Fenton are named as follows : Ralph Albert, member of the class of 1903, University of Oregon; Horace B., class of 1902, Portland Academy; Kenneth L., class of 1904, Portland Academy; and William D., Jr. The family attend the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Mr. Fenton formerly served as trustee. He is a member of the State Bar Association, and socially is connected with the Arlington and University Clubs, being a charter member of the latter. His identification with Masonry dates from 1880, when he was initiated into Lafayette Lodge No. 3, A. F & A. M. At this writing he is connected with Portland Lodge No. 55, A. F. & A. M., Oregon Consistory No. I, and Al Kader Temple, N. M. S. He is also a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen.

Transcriber's additional notes:

This same biography appears in the following book:

"Portrait and Biographical Record of Portland and Vicinity, Oregon"
Authors: "a compilation of this work....by a number of writers"
Chapman Publishing Co; Chicago; 1903; Page 41


Submitted to the Oregon Bios. Project in March 2007 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.


Updated on 30 Mar 2007.