Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 80, page(s) 725-726


SAMUEL FESSENDEN was a member of the famous Fessenden family of Maine. Born in Rockland in that State on the 12th day of April, 1847, the surroundings and associations of his early life were such as invited and fostered his subsequent eminent career. His father, the Rev. Samuel C. Fessenden, was born in New Gloucester, Maine, in 1815. He was pastor of the Congregational Church at Rockland, editor of the Maine Evangelist, studied law, and became judge of a municipal court, was a member of the thirty-seventh Congress of the United States, was United States counsel at St. Johns, N. B., and subsequently examiner-in-chief of the United States Patent Office. His brother, the uncle of the subject of this sketch, was the Hon. William Pitt Fessenden of Maine, United States Senator and Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

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.