Donald Stephenson Winegar, 1909-1987


Donald S. Winegar

Donald S. Winegar

The following is an autobiography written in 1972 by Donald Winegar:

I was born in the little town of Wacousta, Clinton County, Michigan, twelve miles northwest of Lansing, in the house which had been built by the great grandfather of the girl who was to become my wife.  N. I. Daniells as he was called built the house to serve as a courtroom for his Justice of the Peace Court.  The living quarters was a twenty-one foot square room with a pantry taken out of the northwest corner next to the kitchen.

Wacousta School graduating class of 1926: left to right back row - Larry Arthur, Charles Main, Donald Winegar; seated - Vera Jones.

Wacousta School graduating class of 1926: left to right back row - Larry Arthur, Charles Main, Donald Winegar; seated - Vera Jones.

I attended the public school located two blocks from our farm home.  Farm chores and a paper route kept me busy for a good share of the time.  As my parents were active members of the Wacousta Methodist Community Church, I was brought up in the faith, and in my teens took a very active part in the youth program which was called in those days the Epworth League.  These experiences of Epworth League Institute at Albion College served to turn my attention to the possibility of going into full time religious work.

Upon graduating from the 10th grade high school in Wacousta, my sister Esther and I attended Central High School in Lansing, Michigan where we graduated in 1928 in a class of 286 students, quite a contrast to the graduating class two years before of four students in the class at Wacousta.

Don Winegar on his Harley.

Don Winegar on his Harley.

A job of selling bottled milk in the Motor Wheel shop became a stepping stone to getting a more profitable job on the assembly line.  Times were good and the desire to earn money for further education became the main objective.  Then came the “bust “ of 1930 and the depression that followed.  I was laid off at the Motor Wheel and there followed a series of jobs to keep busy: work in a store in Wacousta, a cemetery, work on the road for the township, day labor for farmers during the summer harvest for $1 a day, an 11 month jaunt to the West Coast where I picked apples in Washington, and later a job in a Piggley Wiggley in California where I lived with my cousin, Ellis Wood and his wife.  While living with them, I had my Harley Davidson crated up and sent to me from Wacousta.  The depression hit California in the winter of 1931 and I lost my job again.  In June of that year, I strapped all my worldly goods on my motorcycle and started for Michigan via the southern route.  This 3000 mile trip was accomplished in six sweltering days.

That fall because work was still scarce, I enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corp and went to Camp No. 689 at Shingleton in the upper peninsula near Munusing and Lake Superior and the pictured rocks.

In March of 1932, George Bateman, a farmer in Watertown Township asked me to work for him by the month.  With the promise of work, I left the C. C. C. and went home again.  My wages were $15 a month, room and board in winter, and $20 a month in summer.

The Herman Bliss farm was located but a half mile from the Bateman farm and their granddaughter Mary Daniells who had then returned to Michigan, attended the Wacousta Methodist Church with her grandparents.  Our friendship was encouraged to grow.

Don Winegar BenchFor a number of years, I had had a feeling that I was not yet doing the work which I had been brought into the world to perform.  After consulting with some minister friends, I decided to enter the Christian ministry.  That decision behind me, I had to secure the necessary educational foundation.  A local preacher’s license from my home church at Wacousta was the first step.  Admission year work at the Conference Course of Study was the next step.

Finally, in September, 1936, I was appointed to a three point charge in the Michigan Conference of the Methodist Church.  I served Price, Green Bush and Fowler Methodist Churches for the next nine months, going part time to college at East Lansing.  It was during this nine months that the friendship between Mary Daniells and I began to deepen.

In June of 1937 I was appointed to the single point charge of Howard City, Michigan.  I attended Central Michigan College at Mt. Pleasant during the school year, coming home weekends to do the work of the church.

Donald Winegar and Mary Daniells wedding, 1938.

Donald Winegar and Mary Daniells wedding, 1938.

It was in the following year of 1938, that Mary and I were married, August 25 at the Bliss House [Note: the Pivot, JSW] in Watertown Township.

October 18, 1939 twin girls were born in the parsonage at Howard City.  With the husband and father in school during the week and church and family responsibilities on the week end, it was a busy life.  Mary was left alone during the week to cope with the problems of a family and a needy church.

I graduated from college in June of 1942.  Seminary lay ahead.  World War II was going full speed ahead.  Tires were difficult to get as was gasoline which was rationed.  In June, 1942, the Conference appointed me at Centreville and Nottawa Methodist Churches in St. Josephs County, Michigan.

There followed five busy years there.  I entered Garrett Seminary in the winter of 1943, commuting each week end to take up the work of the family and the parish.  A son, James was born March 17, 1944.  Three years in Seminary was at last completed with graduation in the spring of 1947.  Seven Years of higher education had been completed in ten years.

In June, the Conference appointed me to Bellevue and Kalamo Methodist Churches in Eaton County.  Three years later, we were moved to Ithaca, a single church situation.  It was there that Carleton was born October, 23, 1952.  June of 1956 saw us moving again, this time to Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

In June of 1960, the family was extremely busy.  The two daughters Donna and Mary were married — Donna in Eaton Rapids and Mary in Ithaca.  During the same month, we moved to Urbandale Church in Battle Creek, Michigan.

After six very busy years the family moved to Clare to service the Clare United Methodist Church.


Donald wrote this autobiography in 1972.  In June of that year he had a heart attack and was unable to continue preaching.  In December, he and Mary moved to Daytona Beach, Florida.  After several years, he recovered so that he was able to be on the staff of the Community United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach.  He did a lot of calling on shut-ins or hospitalized members.  During these years, he devoted a great deal of time to genealogy and family history.  The Stephenson and Winegar records reported in this project are only a small portion of the data he collected.He had open heart surgery in 1984 and died of a stroke April 4, 1987.


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