HON. FENIMORE CHATTERTON.
Hon. Fenimore Chatterton has long occupied a central place on the stage of public activity in Wyoming. His entire record reflects credit and honor upon the state that has honored him. He was at one time chief executive of Wyoming, is now one of the prominent attorneys and business men of Fremont county and has been identified with many interests and movements which have left an indelible impress upon the history of the state. Tangible evidence of his public spirit is found not only in the legislative records but also in connection with many projects which have been carried forward to successful completion and which constitute important elements of public welfare. His career is illustrative of the opportunities that are furnished in America to ambitious young men. He had no financial advantages at the outset of his career but was fortunate in that back of him was an ancestry honorable and distinguished and he is happy that his lines of life have been cast in harmony therewith.
He was born in Oswego, New York, July 21, 1860, a son of German H. and Ama (Mazuzan) Chatterton, both of whom were natives of Vermont and representatives of early New England families. The Chatterton family was established on American soil in the year following the first trip of the Mayflower to the new world in 1620. Members of both the Chatterton and Mazuzan families participated in the Revolutionary war and in the War of 1812. German H. Chatterton occupied a college professorship in early manhood and subsequently was admitted to the bar. devoting many years to the practice of law. Later he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry and did missionary work on the western frontier, building many churches through Iowa and the middle western states. He is still living and now makes his home in Greenville, New York, at the age of eighty-seven years, having retired from active business and professional connections. His life has been one of farreaching influence and benefit. His wife passed away in the year 1864.
Fenimore Chatterton, whose name introduces this record, was educated in the public schools and in Columbia College at Washington, D. C., followed by a course in law in the University of Michigan, from which he received his LL. B. degree in 1891. In January, 1878, he removed to the west to win a fortune if possible. For six months he remained in Chicago and then continued his journey to the Iowa wheat fields, where he earned enough money to meet the expenses of a course in the State Normal Institute there. He afterward secured a teacher's certificate, but before he had entered upon active work as a teacher he was offered a position in connection with a mercantile house of Fort Steele, Wyoming, the proprietor, Mr. Hugus. conducting both a wholesale and retail general merchandise business. He was also at the head of a banking institution at Fort Steele, which was the principal trading point of Carbon county. The county boundary then extended from the Colorado line to Montana and the mercantile company covered in its business operations a wide territory, conducting an extensive trade, while the banking business, too, drew its patronage from throughout the entire county. The business opportunity offered Mr. Chatterton looked good to him and he accepted the proffered position. Five years later Mr. Hugus, wishing to retire from business, turned his entire interests over to Mr. Chatterton, accepting the latter's note for thirty-two thousand dollars. With characteristic energy Mr. Chatterton bent his energies to the conduct and further development of the business and his labors were attended with such success that within five years he had discharged all of his financial obligations and had established his interests on a firm financial basis. He was thus identified with commercial activity in the state for a number of years, building up a trade of large and gratifying proportions. In 1888, however, he sold the business and was elected to the offices of probate judge and county treasurer, serving in the dual capacity until 1890, when he resigned to become a candidate for the first state senate. He was elected to the office and reelection continued him in the position for two terms. It was after his connection with the upper house of the general assembly for one term that he returned to the east and completed his law studies in the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he was graduated with the class of 1891. The following year he opened a law office in Rawlins and entered upon a successful career as a representative of the bar, remaining in active practice there until 1899. During this time he served for two terms as county and prosecuting attorney and in 1898 he was elected secretary of state. His powers and his abilities proving adequate to every demand that was made upon him in public service, he was continually advanced from one position of trust to another until in 1903 he succeeded Governor DeForest Richards in the office of chief executive of the state.
In 1906 Mr. Chatterton removed to Riverton and was instrumental in forcing the Northwestern Railroad to build its branch through to Lander. He had secured the right of way and the concessions for the railroad, and with the water rights in his possession and a contract with the state for the reclamation of three hundred thousand acres of the ceded portion of the Wind River Indian reservation. Mr. Chatterton organized the Wyoming Central Irrigation Company and proceeded to put this land under irrigation, and the Northwestern was pleased to make terms with him and buy his right of way. Since the completion of this contract Mr. Chatterton has been engaged in the practice of law and is also identified with the development of the oil industry and with farming interests, owning an irrigated farm of five hundred acres which has been brought under a high state of cultivation and to which all modern improvements and accessories have been added. He is a man of sound business judgement, readily recognizing opportunities that others pass heedlessly by and utilizing such opportunities not only to the benefit of his own fortunes but to the upbuilding of the general prosperity as well.
In 1900 Mr. Chatterton was united in marriage to Miss Stella Wyland, of Des Moines, Iowa, and to them have been born two daughters, Eleanor and Constance. Mr. Chatterton and his family are communicants of the Episcopal church. His political allegiance has always been given to the republican party and in fraternal relations he is widely known. He is the only man in Wyoming who is the past state grand officer in every branch of Masonic work. Me belongs to Rawlins Lodge, No. 4, A. F. & A. M.; to Ivanhoe Commandery, No. 3, K. T., of Rawlins: to Wyoming Consistory, No. 1, A. & A. S. R. : and to Korein Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S.
His interests and activities have indeed been broad and varied. He has had much to do with shaping the history of the state. While undoubtedly he is not without that honorable ambition which is so powerful and useful as an incentive to activity in public affairs, he regards the pursuits of private life as being in themselves abundantly worthy of his best efforts. His is a noble character–one that subordinates personal ambition to public good and seeks rather the benefit of others than the aggrandizement of self. His is a conspicuously successful career. Endowed by nature with high intellectual qualities. to which are added the discipline and embellishments of culture, his is a most attractive personality. Well versed in the learning of his profession and with a deep knowledge of human nature and the springs of human conduct, with great shrewdness and sagacity and extraordinary tact, he is in the courts an advocate of great power and influence. Both judges and juries always hear him with attention and deep interest.