Fountain Street Baptist Church

August 29, 2009


Fountain Street Baptist Church in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, was important in the lives of Achsah Jones Stowell and her daughters Anna and Catherine during the latter half of the 1800s.  Catherine Stowell met her future husband Carey Reed Daniells at this church when he visited family in Grand Rapids.  They married in 1871.  Excerpts from her diary indicate that Catherine was a deeply religious person who frequently reflected on her relationship with God and her own human failings.

Today’s Fountain Street Church is no longer affiliated with the Baptist Church or any other mainstream church.  The FSC website states:

Although founded as early as 1842, between 1896 to 1956 Fountain Street Baptist went from being a mainstream Baptist church to being a non-creedal liberal church, ultimately severing its ties to the American Baptist Church and eschewing any denomination.

The website goes on to say, “Our current sanctuary and church house were built in 1924 following a fire that destroyed the previous structure in 1917.”

During a recent visit to Grand Rapids, Sandra and I toured the sanctuary.  Church staff was unable to provide us with photographs of the original structure that burned, but we took pictures of the current edifice. 

Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, built in 1924.  Photo by Sandra Winegar.

Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, built in 1924. Photo by Sandra Winegar.


Plowman/Daniells Poetry: Ode to a Bedpan

August 28, 2009


The following poem, undated and not attributed, was found among the poetry of the Plowmans and Daniells.  It was probably written by one of the five Daniells sisters, granddaughters of Dora Plowman.  Each of the sisters had a wonderful sense of humor — sometimes outrageous — , so the poem could have been written by any of them. 

Ode to a Bedpan

While recovering from an illness, I was very much annoyed,

For the toilet was denied me and a bedpan was employed.

I much preferred a thunder-mug, but nurse just shook her head;

“You’re far too weak,” she sternly said, “to be getting out of bed.”


My experience with the bedpan, to this day doth make me quail,

And I’ve been prevailed upon to write this harrowing tale.

In the wee small hours of morn, before the break of day

Came a yearning I could not ignore, nor very long delay.


The nurse brought me a bedpan, slipped it under my back-side,

While the chills ran up and down my spine as the cold thing touched my hide.

I tipped back my shoulders — soon my legs grew stiff and numb

The odds were all in favor that I’d die before ‘twould come.


In this upside down condition the leverage wasn’t there,

But with a mighty effort I released a little air.

And when at last I got results I grew faint with dread,

I wondered if I’d hit the pan or piled it on the bed.


While my heart was weakly fluttering I felt with cautious care,

With a sigh of satisfaction I discovered nothing there.

But my trouble wasn’t over, as I very soon would find,

For how could I maneuver to wipe the place behind?


All my muscles bulged with tension as I stood upon my head,

And I gave a few wild passes — then fell weakly on the bed.

With patience I continued, regardless of my pain,

For modesty prevents me from leaving any stain.


I had no more than finished this rear Herculean feat,

When I then became aware of something sticky on the sheet.

Cold sweat was beaded on my brow — I slowly raised my gown,

And there upon the lovely sheet a hideous spot of brown.


The law of gravitation once more proved sure as fate

That you cannot stand upon your ear when you evacuate.

‘Twas then I voiced a fervent prayer, as a soul in anguish can,

For something to improve upon this medieval plan.


Sick people often give up hope and here’s the reason why:

The bedpan is the rock upon which they’re tortured till they die.

There’s a fortune for the genius who’ll invent some kind of diaper

Or a back adjusted thunder-mug with an automatic wiper.


It’s Not Your Father’s Genealogy

August 26, 2009


The Carolina Cousins visit with Michigan family.

The Carolina Cousins visit with Michigan family.

In one of my first posts I described how I had benefited by the genealogical research of my father Donald Winegar and my aunt Betty Daniells.  Both spent years in their retirement gathering data on our family history.  My father left written acounts of his memories of his parents and grandparents. 

Carolina Cousins Carrie Stephenson with children Lola, Daisy, and Jim on the horse.

Carolina Cousins Carrie Stephenson with children Lola, Daisy, and Jim on the horse.

I recently came across his account of his search for his “Carolina Cousins.”  In his mother’s photos he found pictures taken in 1910 or 1911 in Michigan.  On the back of one was written, “Stephenson cousins from Carolina” and the names of three children Lola, Jim and Daisy.  One of the pictures  included my father as a baby in a stroller.   George S. Stephenson, the children’s father, did not visit Michigan with his family, but his name was known.  The only other thing that my father knew about the family was that the boy, Jim, had been accidentally electrocuted at the age of 21.

Carrie Stephenson and son Jim, some of the Carolina Cousins.

Carrie Stephenson and son Jim, two of the Carolina Cousins.

Sixty years after the pictures were taken and after the death of his parents, Donald began work on the genealogy of the Stephenson family.  He was fortunate to have the family Bible of his great-grandfather, George Wold Stephenson (now in my possession), which contains a great deal of family data, but it offered no help in identifying George S.  On two different trips through the Carolinas he made inquiries but without success.  Marriage records were kept by county, and he didn’t even know whether the family was from North or South Carolina.  The only son of the Carolina cousins had died young, and the sisters had married and had different last names.  Some time later, Donald found in his mother’s old address book an entry that said, “Carrie Stephenson, Rawley N.C.”   On the assumption that George had died in Raleigh, Wake County, N.C., he wrote for a death certificate and received it.  The name of the person who informed the undertaker of the death was J.R. Hayes.  Through directory assistance, he found a listing for Mrs. J. R. Hayes.  The person who answered was a grandchild of Mrs. Hayes who referred him to another number where, to his amazement, the phone was answered by the son of George S. Stephenson.  Donald learned that George S. was the son of a brother of Donald’s grandfather.  He was able to establish contact with his cousins and fill in a great deal of the family history. 

This long search illustrates the excitement and frustrations of genealogical research.  It also shows how research had to be conducted in the past.  Donald wrote hundreds of letters searching for information.  He traveled to state capitals and searched phone books when he traveled.  Aunt Betty’s research was similar.  She corresponded with researchers all over the country and paid many to study Census data and other documents on site.  She traveled to England and viewed original documents there.

The internet has made a huge impact on the study of genealogy.  Census data up through 1930 is now online.  Social Security death records since 1939 are on line.  I keep my data in Family Tree Maker which is connected to  No sooner then I enter a name into the file then a ” leaf” pops up indicating information is available for that person.

Carrie Stephenson and son Jim.  Jim was accidentally electrocuted at age 21.

Carrie Stephenson and son Jim. Jim was accidentally electrocuted at age 21.

Genealogical research is still just as exciting and rewarding as in the past.  It’s just much faster.  Some of the research that took years for my dad and aunt can be done almost instantaneously.  Data that was unknown in the past is now available.  In spite of that, the thrill of the search and excitement of making new connections is still there.  In the last couple of months since I began my blog, Sandra and I have made many exciting discoveries.  Not every question is quickly answered.  We keep raising new questions and beginning new searches.  We just returned from a vacation in Michigan where we visited five  different cemeteries where my ancestors are burried.  We learned that the old methods of collecting information still have great value.  We learned things in this visit that we couldn’t find online yet.  One thing that is for sure is that our greatest source of information is still our parents and older family members.  Donald regretted starting his Carolina Cousins search after his parents were gone.  It might have saved him years of frustration.  Contacts that we have made during our travels still open new avenues for searching and bring us in contact with interesting people with similar interests.

Plowman Poetry: All But 49

August 25, 2009


The annual Plowman Christmas Tree Reunion required a great deal of planning throughout the year with committees selected to manage each task.  Serving dinner to scores of people required crews to cook the food, wait on the tables, clear the tables, and wash the dishes.  The entertainment committee would arrange for musical treats, both instrumental and vocal, skits, and dramatic readings.  But the highlight of the Tree was the reading of the poetry, some silly like the one below, some nostalgic, and some commemorating some memorable event during the year.  The following ditty was written, Plowman-style, by Saron Rex Plowman in 1928.  Although Saron did not name his poem, I have selected the final line in each stanza for the title.

All But 49

By Saron Rex Plowman

At Bateman’s place is the Christmas Tree

Where the bunch will gather full of glee.

Of the 54 trees, all in a line,

I’ve attended all — but 49.


The mob will laugh and cheer and shout

And put dull care to utter rout.

Of the 54 trees, a good cheer sign

I’ve attended all — but 49.


The Pedro champ, with feelings tame,

They lost the rubber, by not saving game.

Of the 54 trees, balsam, spruce or pine

I’ve attended all — but 49.


Escalloped potatoes, and apple pie,

Oysters, and coffee as strong as lye.

Of the 54 trees, where you laugh and dine,

I’ve attended all — but 49.


Dishwashers, cooks and those who wait,

Pickles, sandwiches, and layer cake.

Of the 54 trees, both yours and mine,

I’ve attended all — but 49.


The Santas, Uncle Will and Lute,

With many a joke, thrown in to boot.

Of the 54 trees dressed up so fine,

I’ve attended all — but 49.

The Agnes Stephenson Window

August 21, 2009
Agnes Stephenson Window in St. John's Episcopal Church

Agnes Stephenson Window in St. John's Episcopal Church


Sandra and I just returned from spending two and one half weeks at our cottage in Michigan.  We were able to do quite a bit of genealogical research while there, as well as relaxing.  We visited a number of cemeteries and will report our findings in later blogs.

Today, I want share our findings in St. Johns, Michigan.  My  father, Donald Stephenson Winegar, visited the St. Johns Episcopal Church in 1936 and reported that his great-grandfather, George Wold Stephenson,  had been one of the founders of the church.  He further reported that his great-grandfather had dedicated a stained glass window to his wife and that the window was there at that time in 1936.

Jim reads inscription on the Agnes Stephenson window.

Jim reads inscription on the Agnes Stephenson window.

We had no idea whether the old church was still there or, if so, whether the window was there.  I had tried unsuccessfully to reach anyone in the church from Florida.  After some research in Michigan, the Episcopal Dioscese put me in contact with Wendy Ward, a member of the church, who was extremely helpful.  She went by the church and called to tell me that the window was in fact still there.  On our way back to Florida, we swung by St. Johns and Wendy gave us a tour.  The window is really quite exciting. 

St. Johns Episcopal Church, St. Johns, Michigan.

St. Johns Episcopal Church, St. Johns, Michigan.

It was installed in 1894 and is one of the oldest windows in the church.  My wife Sandra took a number of pictures, several of which are shown here.  Wendy is very interested in the history of St. Johns and the church and she reports that old diaries of members have been preserved and that she will provide me with copies.    Hopefully we will learn more about the Stephensons from these records.  The church was recently featured in the St. Johns Sesquicentennial (150 years).  One thing she remembers from old documents was that the church, located just a few blocks from downtown St. Johns, was originally a school, but it was considered unsafe for students because of the presence of bears.  We didn’t see any bears in St. Johns:-)

Inscription on left window.

Inscription on left window.

Inscription on right window.

Inscription on right window.

 One of George’s and Agnes’s daughters, Angeline, married Russel B. Emmons in 1873.  The Emmons were leaders, both in the community and in the church.  Part of the town is called Emmonsville.  We were able to take a picture of the Emmons mansion, which is impressive, even by today’s standards.

The Emmons House in St. Johns, Michigan.

The Emmons House in St. Johns, Michigan.

Plowman Poetry: Song of the Little Old Rocker

August 18, 2009


This poem was written by George Fawcett Plowman in 1908.  George was one of the eleven children of William Tuthill Plowman.  He was also brother to Lide Plowman who wrote extensively about her early life in rural Michigan.  George writes this poem about Lucy, his wife, and her rocker, no doubt also remembering his mother and her rocker.
George and Lucy Plowman

George and Lucy Plowman

Song of the Little Old Rocker

By George Plowman


Here I am, dressed out anew,

In nineteen hundred eight.

Not many of my early chums

Can boast of such a fate.


I’ve helped to soothe the restless child

When the fire was burning bright,

With a ruddy blaze and glowing coals,

By the fireplace at night.


I’ve heard the hum of the spinning wheel

As the housewife made it fly,

While she drew the thread out from the roll

And hummed a lullaby.


I’ve watched the reel, reel off the skein

When the spindle full had got

And listened for the little click,

The signal for the knot.


I’ve seen the skein stretched on the swifts

And the swifts go whirling round

As the quillwheel turned the shuttle’s quill

And the yarn on the quill was wound.


I’ve listened to the noisy loom

Beneath a lowly roof,

While the shuttle through the warp would fly

And the lathe bang up the woof.


This all I’ve seen and heard, and more,

I’ve seen the forest wane,

And by the woodman’s axe to fade

Into a fertile plain.


I’ve rocked the babies now grown old

And the babies they have born

And I’ll be rocking babies still

When Gabriel blows his horn.


The different coats that I have had,

To know would be a shocker,

Though now disguised with Japalac,

I’m Lucy’s same old rocker. 

Plowman Poetry: Memories of the Old Stove

August 17, 2009


This undated poem was written by Sarah Elizabeth Plowman, known to her family as “Sate.”  The poem was written to her neice Luna May Plowman, daughter of Charles Nelson Plowman.  Charles and Sate were both children of William Tuthill Plowman.  The last stanza of the poem refers to a “souvenir.”   The Plowmans often wrote poetry to accompany gifts at Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions.  We do not know what the souvenir was.

Sarah Elizabeth "Sate" Plowman

Sarah Elizabeth "Sate" Plowman

Memories of the Old Stove

by Sate Plowman


Way back in old Westphalia

When we were young and gay,

When brothers too and sisters

Wore the common home-spun gray,


Our happy brother Charlie

So strong in hand and arm

Had left the dear old homestead

Moved on his Riley farm.


To us other numerous children

It always seemed a treat

To visit this dear brother

And around his board to eat.


They always set a table

Good enough for any king,

For what ever there was needed,

He would always gladly bring.


His wife was kind and thrifty

And of pies, baked not a few,

For of fruit he furnished plenty,

Both to bake and also stew.


Now soon they found their oven

Quite too small for their demand,

And they planned to buy another

Either new or second-hand.


So now this happy brother

To an auction found his way;

I think he will remember

For it was his lucky day.


It was there he found the creature

They always called, “Old Dutch,”

Of milk she gave a plenty

And of butter they made much.


There too, a fine large stove he found,

‘Twas just as good as new,

The oven large and roomy

The fire-box ample too.


But as the years went fleeting by

They made another change,

This stove now old, was set aside,

For the bright and modern range. 


Our brother’s oldest daughter

With a voice quite sad and low,

While looking at the old stove, said,

“I am sorry to see it go.”


When a very little maiden

With her round and dimpled cheek,

By it’s side she sat and prattled,

In the oven warmed her feet;


By it sat in early childhood,

When the time so quickly flies,

By it rocked her little sister,

With the bright and laughing eyes.


Many pleasant recollections

‘Round the old stove seemed to twine,

And she loved it very dearly

For that bright and sunny time.


And now for happy memories

For which we all have sought,

We bought this little souvenir

For what the old stove brought.