The Reverend Samuel S. Brenton was born in 1810 in Gallatin County, Kentucky. Ordained in the Methodist ministry at the age of twenty, he first served as a circuit rider in southern Indiana. When his health failed in 1834, he became a local preacher, studied law and was admitted to the bar, and twice was elected as a representative from Henricks County to the state legislature. At the end of his second term in 1841, his health had sufficiently improved to permit his return to the active ministry. In 1846, he was appointed pastor of the Berry Street Church in Fort Wayne, and the following year was named presiding elder (superintendent) of the Fort Wayne district. In 1848, he suffered a paralytic stroke and lost the use of the right side of his body. By May 1849, however, he was able to “get about on crutches” and had recovered sufficiently to be named to the post of Registrar of the United States Land Office in Fort Wayne.

In 1851, Brenton declared his candidacy for Congress as representative from the Tenth Congressional District. In his speeches, Brenton opposed the extension of slavery outside the old South and urged that the western territories be preserved as “free soil.” He also called for “the entire and unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, believing it immoral, unnecessary and uncalled for.” One consistent theme was his assertion that “he was independent of all parties, always thought and acted for himself, and that no party could or should dictate to him.” Brenton went against the democratic tide and won. During his first term in Congress he purchased the lot on the northwest corner of Wayne and Van Buren streets and soon erected the town’s first Italianate-style residence.

In his bid for reelection in 1852, Brenton was defeated in the wake of the disintegration of the Whig party. Soon afterwards, he was named president of the Fort Wayne College. Five years before, Brenton had given the principal address at the laying of the cornerstone of the college, and he had been tireless in recruiting teachers. In 1849, he had urged the trustees to establish a “male department,” which soon became the Fort Wayne Collegiate Institute; a month after Brenton assumed the presidency, these two institutions were formally merged to become the Fort Wayne College.

In 1854, Brenton entered the race for his former seat in Congress as a Free Soil candidate and won the election. In 1856, under the banner of the newly founded Republican Party, he was reelected. Brenton’s deteriorating health, however, did not allow him to return for the opening of the Thirty-Fifth Congress. He died in Fort Wayne on March 29, 1857, at the age of forty-six and was laid to rest in Lindenwood Cemetery.[1]

Samuel Brenton’s house is an exceptional example of Italianate-style architecture. The brick home features many ornate elements, such as the windows with window hoods in differing designs, and embellished eaves with decorative brackets in pairs and singles connected by a modillion course. Smooth, round columns topped with Ionic capitals support the full-width front porch.[2]

[1] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994), 154-156.

[2] ‘2005 Tour,” West Central Neighborhood Association, (accessed 3/05/2016).