Fenton M. Slaughter is one of the well-known and prominent men of San Bernardino County. A brief review of his life is one of interest in the annals of Southern California. Mr. Slaughter was born January 10, 1826, a descendant from an old colonial family of Virginia, who emigrated from England in 1616. His father, Robin Lewis Slaughter, was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, April 25, 1779, the son of Robin and Ann Slaughter. October 25, 1803, he married Miss Elizabeth Gillem, a native of Rockbridge County, Virginia. He died in 1834, leaving a family of eleven children for his widow to care for. In 1835, when the subject of this sketch was nine years old, his mother moved the family to Missouri and located in Callaway County, and in 1842 settled in St. Louis. Previous to this date Mr. Slaughter had spent his time in agricultural pursuits, receiving at the same time such schooling as was afforded by the common schools. Upon the arrival of the family in St. Louis, he entered the shops of McMurray & Dorman, to learn the trade of mechanical engineer, and after serving an apprenticeship was employed as an engineer upon river steamers between St. Louis and New Orleans. Upon the first call for volunteers for the Mexican war in 1846, Mr. Slaughter abandoned his work and enlisted for a year’s service in Company B, Second Regiment Missouri Mounted Volunteers, Captain John C. Dent commanding the company, and Colonel Sterling Price commanding the regiment. He served his full term of enlistment and was discharged at Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1847. During his wild and arduous service his command was engaged principally in suppressing the Indian outbreaks in New Mexico. He participated in the battles of Taos and the Canadian Fork of the Red River with the Navajo Indians. In the latter engagement he was taken prisoner and held by his captors for twenty-two days. The Indians had by that time somewhat relaxed their watchfulness, and one dark night Mr. Slaughter secured a mule and fled. His wild ride did not terminate until he reached Albuquerque, 125 miles from his place of escape. In 1847, shortly before his discharge, he was wounded in a skirmish with the Indians at Sevedas Ranch in the valley of the Rio Grande.
At the termination of his military service, Mr. Slaughter returned to St. Louis and there resumed his calling as an engineer until 1849. He then came overland to California and spent a year in El Dorado County in mining, returning by the Panama route and New Orleans to St. Louis. In the spring of 1851 Mr. Slaughter started upon his second overland trip to California, and again located in El Dorado County. While there he was the engineer of the first steam sawmill ever erected in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He also engaged in mining.
In March, 1853, be went to Mariposa County, and in the fall of that year entered the employ of General Beal, Superintendent of Indian Affairs of California, and was located at the San Joaquin River Reservation, and also at the Tejon Reservation in Los Angeles County. Not suited with this occupation, in 1854 he came to Los Angeles and worked at his trade, and soon after engaged in wool growing on the Puente Ranch in the San Gabriel valley, with John Rowland. Mr. Slaughter was for many years largely engaged in the wool and sheep business in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and was one of the first to introduce the thoroughbred Spanish and French Merino stock that tended so much toward building up that industry in Southern California. He also, in 1854, established the first blacksmith shop ever opened in San Gabriel, and the same was conducted by him for many years. Mr. Slaughter was successful in his enterprises, and in 1868 he purchased the Buena Vista, of Raymondo Yorba Ranch, of Rincon, San Bernardino County, and transferred his herds to these fine grazing lands. In 1882 he sold off his sheep and closed out his stock business and rented most of his lands. Three years later he sold off his ranch lands, reserving the old homestead place and 1,000 acres of land. This fine ranch is located in the Chino School District, four miles south of Chino, and constitutes one of the model farms of the county.
Mr. Slaughter is engaged in general farming in its broadest sense. He is a thorough agriculturist, horticulturist and stock-grower, and aims for the highest in each branch. The stock of the ranch is of the best. He raises no other. His cattle, comprising about fifty head, are thoroughbred Durham stock, and among the fine horses are to be found the well-known “Joe Hamilton,” “Exile,” “Bob Mason,” “Peri,” “Pinole,” “Dublin Boy,” “Poyle,” “Fandango,” and many others. He is the pioneer in the thoroughbred stock business in San Bernardino County. Upon his ranch is a vineyard of forty acres in extent, containing the most approved varieties of wine grapes. The products of his vineyards are cared for by himself: In 1887 he built a winery with a capacity of over 20,000 gallons, and manufactures wine with a success that is well attested by the fact that his wines find .a ready market at remunerative prices. His hay and grain raising is chiefly confined to such as is needed for home consumption.
Aside from his general farming and stock business, Mr. Slaughter has been connected with other important interests in the county. He is a public-spirited and progressive man, taking a great interest, and often a lead, in enterprises that will build up Southern California. In politics he is a stanch Democrat, and though of Southern birth and family he was a strong Union man and supporter of the Government during the War of the Rebellion. He is prominent in the councils of his party, and has for years been chosen as a delegate to county and State conventions. In 1870 he was elected member of the Assembly from San Bernardino County, and served in the State Legislature of 1871-’72 with credit and distinction to both himself and his constituents.
In 1885 Mr. Slaughter was appointed by Governor Stoneman as Supervisor of District No. 2, San Bernardino County, vice E. H. Gates, deceased. So well did lie meet the requirements of the office that his party in 1886 placed him in nomination to succeed himself. His district and county is strongly Republican, but party feeling weighed as nothing against his popularity and sterling qualities, and he was elected by a good round majority. In 1873 he was appointed Postmaster of Rincon, and held the office until he resigned. A strong supporter of schools, he has for years been a school trustee of his district. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity and affiliated with the lodge at San Bernardino; he is also a member of California Pioneers and Veterans of the Mexican war.
In December, 1860, Mr. Slaughter was married to Miss Dolores Alvarado, a daughter of Francisco and Juana Maria (Abila) de Alvarado, of San Gabriel, and they have had nine children, viz.: Senovia, now Mrs. Louis Meredith, of Pomona; Florisa, Julia, Robert F., Joseph J., Dolores B., Fenton, Lorinda and Floren P.