Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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At the age of sixteen Samuel Fessenden interrupted his college preparatory studies at the Lewiston Academy to enlist, at the outbreak of the Civil War, as a private in the Seventh Maine Battery. Emerging from the fierce campaign of the Wilderness he was, upon recommendation of General Grant, commissioned first lieutenant by President Lincoln, and was soon promoted to a captaincy, serving on the staff of Gen. A. P. Howe until the surrender of Lee at Appomattox.
He acquired a legal education by preliminary studies and graduation, in 1870, from the Harvard Law School, and on his admission to the bar of this State he became associated with Joshua B. Ferris and Calvin G. Child at Stamford, Connecticut, where his parents then resided. Possessed of a robust constitution and a mental equipment unusually suited to the successful practice of his profession, he soon assumed and ever after maintained a high position at the bar, and was during the latter years of his life generally acknowledged the most eminent jury advocate and successful trial lawyer in western Connecticut. With an engaging and prepossessing personal appearance, a trained and agreeable voice, under remarkable control, and a mind that grasped intuitively those features of a case upon trial that seemed to control and dominate the situation, he was generally irresistible before the jury. From the time of his appointment in 1880 as State's Attorney for Fairfield County until his death, he performed the arduous duties of that responsible office in a manner to meet the warmest approval of the court and its officials, the members of bar, and the people of the State.
He enjoyed an extensive and lucrative practice in which he took great pride, but he also wanted and sought the esteem and applause of his fellowmen, and his incentive induced him, from an early date in his professional career to the time of his death, to devote himself more or less constantly to public and political affairs. At the age of twenty-seven years he was a member of the legislature, and repeatedly thereafter was returned to the lower or upper branch, and was Speaker of the House in 1895.
His eloquence and ability received national recognition and appreciation in four Republican National Conventions, and in 1884 he was secretary of the National Republican Committee when, with untiring energy and marked ability, he rendered valiant services for his personal friend, James G. Blaine, then candidate for the presidency.
Mr. Fessenden was married in 1873 to Helen M. Davenport by whom he had three children who survive him. Mr. Fessenden was generous, warm-hearted and sympathetic, and these qualities not only endeared him to his immediate family, but drew closely to him a large circle of devoted personal friends. During the last two years of his life, with unwavering cheerfulness and bravery, he met and fought the ravages of a fatal disease, but when, at last, on the 7th of January, 1908, the fight was over and his day drew to its close, he turned cheerfully to his friends gathered about him, and saying, "I think I will rest now," passed peacefully and quietly from among the living.