Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Fessenden Collection

Fessenden Collection, 1786-1982, n.d. (bulk 1823-1869).

7.5 linear feet.

Catalog Number: M59

Series List:


Agency History / Biographical Note:
The collection focuses on the family and professional life of William Pitt Fessenden(1806-69), Senator from Maine and Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury from July 1864 to March 1865. Fessenden (Bowdoin 1823) was a lawyer in Bridgton, Bangor and Portland; a Maine legislator (1832,1840, 1845-46, 1853-54), member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1841-43); and Senator from Maine (1854-64, 1865-69). An early member of the Republican Party, he opposed slavery. In the Senate he served as chair of the Finance Committee and, as a member of the Reconstruction Committee, voted against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Several other family members are also represented in the collection.

Samuel Fessenden (1784-1869, Bowdoin hon. 1846), Fessenden's father, studied law with Daniel Webster. He was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature (1814-16) and the Massachusetts Senate (1818-19). He was Major General of the Massachusetts (later Maine) militia, a temperance man, an ardent abolitionist, Liberty Party candidate for congressman and governor, and an early supporter of the Republican Party.

Ellen Maria Deering Fessenden (1809-57), Fessenden's wife and daughter of a prominent Portland citizen, remained in Portland and corresponded with her husband about their four sons and household matters.

Thomas Amory Deblois Fessenden (1826-1868, Bowdoin 1845), brother of William Pitt Fessenden, was elected to Congress in 1862, and was chosen as a presidential elector in 1866. He died of Bright's disease in 1868.

James Deering Fessenden (1833-82, Bowdoin 1852), a lawyer, was Captain of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters and, in 1862, organized the first regiment of African-American soldiers, mustering out as Brevet Major General of Volunteers. He later became Register in Bankruptcy for the 1st District of Maine (1868) and served in the state legislature (1872-75).

William Howard Fessenden (1835-98, Bowdoin 1855), also a lawyer, became head of the Portland Machine Works (1872) and later moved to California (1880).

Francis Fessenden (1839-1906, Bowdoin 1858) practiced law in New York. He was wounded at Shiloh while Captain of the 19th Infantry and lost his leg in the Red River campaign. Retired as Major General in 1866, he sat on the commission examining Wirtz's abuses at Andersonville and was assistant commander of the Freedmen's Bureau. He resumed his legal career (1867) and was mayor of Portland (1876).

Samuel Fessenden (1841-62, Bowdoin 1861) was in Kansas during the "Bloody Kansas" revolt (1856). As Lieutenant of the 2nd Maine Battery, he was mortally wounded at Second Manassas.

Elizabeth Caroline Fessenden Warriner (1821-1902), Fessenden's cousin, was one of his most intimate confidants.

Scope and Content:
Correspondence, professional and personal records, publications, articles, addresses, reports, lectures, memoirs, a diary, documents, receipts, accounts, clippings, images, genealogies, and biographical material related to the Fessenden family.

Although mostly family correspondence, there are letters from more than 360 others, including prominent lawyers, politicians, reformers and soldiers. Among them are: James G. Blaine, Simon Cameron, Salmon P. Chase, Frederick Douglass, Neal Dow, Hamilton Fish, James Wilson Grimes, Joseph Hooker, Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, Daniel Webster and Gideon Welles. Most heavily represented, each with 10 or more letters are: John Lincoln Baxter; George T. Little, Bowdoin librarian; Theophilus P. Chandler, Bangor and Boston lawyer; Josiah S. Little, Maine legislator; and Edward S. Leland, Judge in Ottawa, Ill. See the Joseph Palmer and Phebe Beech Fessenden Papers for material on another branch of the Fessenden family.

Related material: A portable writing desk once owned by William Pitt Fessenden is held by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

General Note: Selected correspondence also available on microfilm; see the series Correspondence on Microfilm.

Cite as: Fessenden Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
Access Restrictions: None.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
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