In 1834, Clark Dibble was threading his way through the trackless wilderness from Shiawassee to Grumlaw (Grand Blanc), and by some mistake he found himself on the White Lake Trail. Here, he turned north and came upon a spot on the Shiawassee River where several Indian trails came together He was so taken with the location and its beauty that he stayed to thoroughly examine the lay of the land. On his return to Grumlaw, he induced several families to settle here. By 1836, “Dibbleville” consisted of a hand full of people, a saw mill and two small houses. All built beside the river. Dibbleville was at the center of five well-traveled trails and many families came to make their homes here after the land was platted in 1839. The borders for Dibbleville included the area from South Street to Robert Street and from East Street to West Street.
The City’s current name reportedly came from the winner of a card game on August 24, 1837, between William M. Fenton (a lawyer and land speculator) and Robert LeRoy (a land speculator). The consolation prize of the game, given to Robert LeRoy, was putting his name to LeRoy Street, the main route through the City. The game did not stop at one hand. The men continued on naming other streets, choosing names in turn, according to the fall of the cards. Among these were “Elizabeth”, street , now known as Shiawassee, named for Mrs. LeRoy: “Adelaide” for Mrs. Fenton, and “Lavinia” for Mrs. Rockwell. Later, LeRoy built a hotel in 1837 in Fenton and later became postmaster. Fenton went on to become lieutenant governor of Michigan.
In the 1850s, the railroad reached and terminated in Fenton, making this village an important commercial and transportation center. Wagon trips came down from Flint, Saginaw, and the north, since Fenton was the farthest a railroad had ever reached in this part of the State. To facilitate shipping, a plat road was built between Flint and Fenton.
The settlement prospered and was incorporated as the Village of Fenton in 1863. It wasn’t until 1964 however that the Village of Fenton was incorporated under the provisions of Act 279, P.A. 1909, as amended, as the City of Fenton. The community celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1984, three years before the State celebration.
Today, the downtown area retains much of its historical look while at the same time including a town square shopping nearby. The Shiawassee River also flows over a dam through the park in the center of town. The park is overlooked by City Hall and includes an old fashioned gazebo and walkway by the river.
To learn more, visit FentonBeCloser.com