The Pivot Burns

July 20, 2009

The story of the fire that consumed the Bliss house, “The Pivot,”  in 1911 was told in a letter from Bel Maier to her cousins: 

Bel Gensterblum Maier

Bel Gensterblum Maier


 March 14, 1911

 Dear cousins,

The Pivot

The Pivot





               So you want to know how it all came about.  Well, Uncle Herman and Aunt Dora were eating dinner, just begun, had parsnips and apple grunt with sweetened milk, and warm biscuits.  The grunt was still in the oven, where it still reposes, the range being down in the cistern, bottom side up.  Something dropped past the south window, and they went to see what, and it proved to be a piece of cornice on fire.  Herman started for the pig-pen where the ladder was, and Dora to the telephone.  Erma and Mrs. D. Lowell were talking.  She asked for the line to turn in the alarm, and of course both women went to tell the men.  Uncle C.N. and George were in the front yard, went for pails and started at once.  A man by the name of Parks was going by with a load of lumber, and he ran his horses until one laid down when they stopped at Blisses’.  The man Parks was good help they all say.  Mrs. D. Lowell saw Openlander feeding sheep by his west barn and told him.  He started on foot.  When he reached the corner, a funeral procession was passing (a lady over in Mr. Goodnoe’s neighborhood, Crofts), and the M.E. preacher was at the head.  He took in Mr. Openlander and they both came.  (Preacher went back later and did the ceremony.)

            I, like a miserable unfortunate, had gone to spend the forenoon at school, and Hazle Daniells was with me.  Jake had a man setting up a manure spreader, and Ma had dinner ready and waiting.  In some way, she doesn’t exactly know how, she saw some smoke and thought the Bliss house was on fire.  In the mean time Dora had told Erma to call other lines, and she left the phone and rang the dinner bell.  Our folks had not heard the fire alarm, and thought nothing of the dinner bell at noon, so did not know until they saw smoke.  Well Ma said, Jake, I guess Blisses’ house is on fire.  He looked and said for Heaven’s sake, and made a dive for the extinguisher.  Ma thought he was crazy to come into the house instead of taking a bee line for Blisses’.  Next Mr. Corey came out of the barn, thinking as he said that Jake was crazy as he saw him make a dive for the house.  Ma yelled at him and he too started for Blisses’ on the run.  Mrs. Loomis and Della were sitting in their front window, and they saw Jake and Corey run, and went to the west window to see what they were after and discovered the fire.  (I have been at this long enough to burn up several houses, and Rices and my poor miserable self haven’t got there yet.)  Well Eddie saw uncle C.N. and George race out with pails and went and did likewise thinking there must be fire somewhere, and when he reached the road saw where.

            Now to myself.  I had Fan untied and was taking off my blanket when one of Tom’s mill men came by and said Blisses’ house is on fire.  I looked up and saw a little smoke, said something expressive, jumped in and tried to hurry Fan, but seemed as if walking would be faster, so took out the whip and soon had the little lady laying straight.  Erma was just coming out the yard with pails.  She said take my pails and one of the men.  Tom and three of his mill men (Ben D., John Welton, and Deverill) were ahead a little way.  I slacked up a little, stopped for Tom, and raced on up Rice’s hiss and saw a sight that made me sick, kitchen all on fire and about half big part, with smoke and cinders going directly over Maiers’ house.  We had quite a strong south west wind.

            Well I dumped Hazle and Tom in front of our house, tied my horse, and went by the back steps, grabbed a pail and got as far as the lilac bush, when Jake came out of the house helping carry some big thing.  The men thought it was time he went home and made preparations to save his buildings.  It was not safe in the house then for women, so I went home to help Jake carry ladders and get pails of water and watch the roofs.

            Now to go back to Dora ringing the dinner bell and Herman getting a ladder.  She did not ring long, then went after pails of water.  Herman got up on the porch roof and threw one pail of water at the fire (which by this time had spread about half way along the kitchen roof, at first it was blazing only round the chimney).  Part of the water came back and made the porch so slippery that he lost his balance.  Dora heard him, and he says he started down feet first, but when Dora saw his feet come in sight she grabbed them and then he went down head first from the porch roof.  He said he struck on his face and thought he had driven his nose clear into the ground.  He cut his chin some, and his head is bothering yet.  He went to see the Dr. Friday and he says he has slight concussion of the brain, doesn’t seem to get any worse, and is taking medicine.  Now for some more fire news.  He went back and Dora handed several more pails of water, much of which came back into Herman’s boots and over his lower extremities.  He did not change clothes all afternoon and nearly froze part of the time.  Herman also got up the short ladder and fixed it to reach the kitchen roof.  Somewhere about here Jake and Corey and the fire extinguisher arrived.  (Uncle C.N., George, and Parks close behind.)  Jake went up both ladders and turned on steam, and Ma watching from home (she can’t step very lively yet, and her heart was playing tricks so she hadn’t tried to go up) thought they were going to put it out, but the wind was against them.  Uncle Herman was up one ladder with a pail of water when Jake came down from the kitchen roof onto the porch roof, threw his extinguisher and kicked out the little window and went into the boy’s room.  Uncle Herman dropped his pail of water and started after the ax.  You see the attic over the boy’s room was inaccessible, and there was where the fire was.  (Uncle C.N. was busy getting water down below, and says when pails and water and extinguishers began to come down from overhead he left.)

            Aunt Dora left the porch when the extra men came, and went to clear out the back stair-way, the preacher helping.  In this stair way was two bushel baskets of unshelled hickory nuts and one shelled market basket full.  All these were carefully saved, also a little peach basket on the back porch containing a dozen more nuts that Mr. Openlander took to clear off the dinner table in.  He saved three of Dora’s new teaspoons and two best knives and forks, also a tin of 6 biscuit, the bowl of sweetened milk, and the dirty dishes off the stove.  Dora’s first act towards saving things was to help carry out Ma’s new table which they had bought and 1 table leaf.  Then she got two wash tubs and put in the dishes from the kitchen cupboard.  The churn was saved from the back porch, and a half bushel of parsnips Aunt Dora had just bought, from the east porch, was all that was saved from the kitchen wing.  Then Aunt Dora went into sitting room closet after their clothes, and into the bed-room closet and cleared that out, and then Uncle Herman told her she must leave the house.  By this time plenty of help had arrived, and all the furniture in sitting, dining, parlor, and bed room was carried out, including pictures, curtains, carpets, in parlor and sitting room.  The clock and things on wall of dining room and everything in the built-in cupboard behind the door in this room was lost.  Everything in the pantry went.  No one event went the room.  From the cellar they saved 30 quarts of fruit and 16 bu. of Baldwin apples.  They had bbl. of groceries they had just bought with apples, 100 lbs. of sugar, etc., etc.

            The last thing Herman did was to go back after Carleton’s and his own fiddle and brought along back the buffalo robe.

            Mr. Openlander made a desperate effort to get the cream separator, Eddie got the ax which had been carried down stairs and set out the front door, but the fire broke through the wall and scorched his cheek, at the same time the west walls began to fall.  George and Jake and Corey combined saved the bedding from two front beds and front bed-room dresser, had to break off the glass to get down stairs.  And when we came to get things together, half of one mattress was gone.  I forgot to tell about the ax and Jake.  When he got the ax he undertook to chop a hole in the ceiling in the boy’s room near the door and maby head the fire off from the main part.  George and Herman were present watching, and all tell the same story, about the 3rd or 4th time he struck the whole ceiling caved in, so you see the fire must have eaten pretty nearly all through the attic of this wing.

            About 200 people had gathered by this time and were helping watch our buildings and Loomises’.  The grass caught fire near our fence once, and Loomises” straw stack, but as H.P. said, there was men enough around then to cover his stack.

            In one hour and twenty minutes the very last stick of timber had burned and fallen.  When I went tough the corner to go up, every roof was burning including the front porch roof.  They burned just like pasteboard.

            It looked pretty tough to see all the things piled together out under the little thorn-apple tree, where the fire had thawed out puddles, some things across the road in the wheat field and mud.

            We finally came home and ate our dinner at a little past two.  Went back and sort of picked up, and the men put everything in the barn.

            Washed dinner dishes at 5, got supper, talked everything over and iffed and supposed and answered telephone till the day was finished.  Dora and Herman have put their bed and clothes in my downstairs bedroom.  Have got things shaped around some.  Herman, Dora, and Lide are making out their list, and it is just something awful.  They expect to settle Thursday.  Had $1000 on house and $600 on contents.

            George saw Dora’s hand bag hanging on stair-door knob and threw it out, but no one picked it up, and her watch which was inside was destroyed.  Her pocket book had been taken out to pay for parsnips, and laid on table, so Parks put it in his pocket and it was saved.  All the shoes they saved were on their feet, and Dora can’t find her corset, also her best handkerchiefs.

                                     Then in different handwriting:

             Tues. morn —- Bel is washing and says sign her name and get it ready.


                                                            Per M.E.B.


Family Weddings in the 1900s

July 19, 2009


In the post “Coming to Wacousta,” I set out to trace the path of the families of my grandparents from Europe to Wacousta, Michigan.  By the time of the Civil War, all four families — the Blisses, the Daniells, the Stephensons, and the Winegars — were situated in Clinton County, Michigan.  In the 1900s, the families merge.  Following are pictures from the weddings.

Edd Ashbel Winegar marries Myrtie Stephenson in 1900 at the Stephenson home.

Edd Ashbel Winegar marries Myrtie Stephenson in 1900 at the Stephenson home.

W.C. Daniells and Iva Bliss marry in 1907 at the Bliss house, the Pivot.

W.C. Daniells and Iva Bliss marry in 1907 at the Bliss house, the Pivot.

Donald Stephenson Winegar marries Mary Deone Daniells in 1937 at the Pivot.

Donald Stephenson Winegar marries Mary Deone Daniells in 1937 at the Pivot.

Other Daniells Weddings

Iva Georgene "Jean" Daniells marries Don Lowell in 1942 at the Pivot.

Iva Georgene "Jean" Daniells marries Don Lowell in 1942 at the Pivot.

Dora Katherine Daniells marries John Panchik in 1950 at the Pivot.

Dora Katherine Daniells marries John Panchik in 1950 at the Pivot.

Other Winegar Weddings

Esther Alta Winegar marries Clarence Kirkpatrick in 1941

Esther Alta Winegar marries Clarence Kirkpatrick in 1941 in Eagle Twp, Michigan.

Paul Ray Winegar marries Mary Margaret Biergans in 1947.

Paul Ray Winegar marries Mary Margaret Biergans in 1947 in Grand Ledge, Michigan.


Bill and Ruth Winegar married 1942.

Bill and Ruth Winegar married in 1942.

A fire destroyed the original Pivot in 1911 after W.C. Daniells and Iva Bliss married.  Subsequent Pivot weddings were at the home that was rebuilt by Herman Sidney Bliss.  A description of the fire, written by Bel Gensterblum, will be in the next post. The rebuilt Pivot is currently owned by Tom Lowell, a Bliss-Daniells descendant.

Catherine “Katie” Daniells in the 1800s

July 18, 2009


Catherine Lowden Stowell Daniells, 1844-1923

Catherine Stowell

Catherine Stowell

Catherine Stowell, our ancestor, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, and moved with her family to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The following are excerpts from her diary between 1862 and 1867 when she was between 18 and 23 years old.  (The excerpts are found in notes taken by Betty Daniells. I have no idea who has the original diary. Following clues from the diary has been an adventure. Surprisingly, we were able to identify James as James Lothian, who fought for the Union in the Civil War.  He was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, but died a month later after having his leg amputated.  We don’t know how he is connected to the family, but he doesn’t appear to be a relative.  It is possible that he was a suitor for Catherine’s sister, Annie.  We learned that Carey’s sister’s family, the Escotts, and Catherine’s family were members of the Baptist Church and shared a pew.  This is where Carey and Catherine met.  JW)

July 26, 1862 James and Loucinda and Mrs. H. and myself went into the country to Mr. Baxter’s after Annie and Mary, had a fine time, stopped at Ada, and got home about 7 o’clock in evening.

July 26, 1863 I was taken sick with my throat.

Jan. 30, 1864 James came home, was very much surprised to see him, next day spent the afternoon and evening.


Catherine Stowell Daniells

Catherine Stowell Daniells

Feb. 1, 1864 James called before starting to Muskegon, stayed til Friday, called Friday and spent the evening.

March 12, 1864 James started to join his regiment, arrived there on the 17th, was gladly received by his company who had been urging his return. He was immediately placed in command of the reg., as the Lieut. Col. had been wounded.

June 16, 1864 James was wounded while leading a charge upon Petersburg, after lying 13 hours, he was removed to Alexandria by order of Lieut. Col. H. H. Wells. He had his left leg amputated but died upon the 12th of July, just four weeks after receiving the wound. His body was taken to Breadalbane C. H. by his parents who arrived a few days after he died.

July 3, 1864 Class of 1864 graduated at Luces Hall. I was invited to a festival in the evening given in honor of the class but was not able to attend. I was unable to graduate with my class on account of sickness during the past year.

Feb. 8, 1863 My friend Mary and myself were baptized in Grand River by P. Vanwinkle (pastor). We were received into the church upon the first Sabbath of March. God grant that we may be faithful until we are called home.

Oct. 20, 1864 A great republican mass meeting, large procession. Three cheers for honest old Abe of the west.

Oct. 22, 1864 A great Democratic mass meeting, large turn out.

Dec. 12, 1864 There is still much fighting going on. Day by day new homes are desolated and many, many hearts broken. Grant, Oh God, this cruel war may close, that those who have not tasted of the bitter cup, which this rebellion has mingled, not be called to drain its bitter dregs.

March 13, 1865 Today is my birthday. I am 21. Oh! How much of my life has been spent in sin. God grant that my future may be spent in his service.

April 3, 1865 Richmond was taken today by our forces together with several thousand prisoners.

April 9, 1865 Gen. R. E. Lee surrendered to Gen. U. S. Grant.

April, 10, 1865 A day of great rejoicing throughout all the loyal cities in the United States.

April 14, 1865 Tonight between nine and ten o’clock President Abram Lincoln was assassinated, shot through the head. Upon the same night, Secretary Wm. H. Seward was assassinated while confined to his bed, cutting his throat. The son of Sec. Seward was also knocked down senseless. His head was badly bruised.

April 15, 1865 Every city and nearly every house in mourning.

May 28, 1865 Attended church today for the first time since July 26, 1863. Feel very thankful for the privilege of again worshiping God in his house.

June 2, 1866 Was examined today and received certificate for teaching.

June 4, 1866 Commenced teaching today in the Union School at Cold Brook.





The Stowells in the 1800s

July 18, 2009


Parents of Catherine Stowell Daniells

John Stowell

John Stowell

John Stowell was born in Burlington, New Jersey in 1819.  He moved his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he worked in real estate. He was also Commissioner to the Indians in Grand Rapids. 

John Stowell acquired a large Bible July 5, 1847, when his daughter Catherine was about three years old.  The Bible is in very good condition despite some age spots and contains family records for several generations.  The Bible is in the possession of Jim Winegar. 
Stowell Family Bible

Stowell Family Bible

John Stowell died in 1888 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Achsah Jones was born in Green Ridge, New Jersey, in 1820.  She was the daughter of Abram Jones, a Revolutionary War veteran.  In 1830 or 1831, when she was about 10 or 11 years old, she cross-stitched a sampler that was of excellent workmanship.  The verse on the sampler is: 

By cool Siloam’s shady rill

How sweet the lily grows

How sweet the breath beneath the hill

Of Sharon’s dewey rose.

Achsah Jones

Achsah Jones

The 179-year-old sampler is stitched with fine thread on linen canvas and has been well-preserved through the years.  It is currently in the appreciative care of James Winegar.

Achsah and John had four children:  Anna E. (called Annie by the family), Catherine, George W., and Ella V.  Ella died when she was only a few months old.  Achsah and her daughters were members of the Fountain Street Baptist Church.  Achsah died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1902 and is buried in the Oakhill Cemetery, along with her husband John Stowell. 



Achsah Jones

Achsah Jones

Carey Reed Daniells in the 1800s

July 17, 2009


Carey Reed Daniells, 1845-1912

Carey Reed Daniells

Carey Reed Daniells

Carey Reed Daniells was born in West Bloomfield, Michigan.  He was a farmer, a general merchant, a miller, and a salesman.  He attended the University of Michigan for a time and roomed with Howard Ingersoll, the eldest of the Ingersoll brothers from Wacousta.  He married Catherine (Katie) Stowell in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  They had met at Fountain Street Baptist Church when he visited his sister, Mary Escott, in Grand Rapids.  

Prior to his marriage, he had purchased a farm in Wacousta.  There were no buildings on the farm, so he rented rooms from neighbors across the road.  That is where he took his bride and where his first child was born.  During the first year after his marriage he built a barn, and in the second year he built his house.  Sometime later he sold the farm and built a general store which he ran successfully for several years.  When the grist-mill owned by his uncle Nelson Daniells burned, he traded the store for the mill property.  Twenty-four hours after completing the transaction, the dam went out.  He repaired the dam at a cost of $16,000.  To make matters worse, it was at the time when the method of making flour was changing from the Stone to the Roller Process.  He did not have the capital to upgrade to the new technology.  He continued to run the mill for a time, but this venture was not very successful.  (The Daniels-Daniells Family, vol. 2, 263, 266)

Katie Lowden Stowell Daniells

Katie Lowden Stowell Daniells

In about 1900, he went to work as at traveling salesman, selling watches for Robert Ingersoll.  On one trip, he was impressed with Texas, so he sold his Michigan property and bought a Texas ranch, still continuing to sell watches.  In 1905 he was badly injured in a train wreck, and, although he went back to work after a year, he never fully recovered.  He and Katie died in 1912 and 1923, respectively.  Both are buried in Fort Worth Texas.

Carey and Katie had five children, Estee Stowell, Mary Anna, Allan Louis, Will Carleton (our ancestor), and Lucinda Augusta.

Daniells in the 1800s

July 16, 2009


Nathaniel Irish Daniells, 1832-1899

Nathaniel Irish Daniells 2

Nathaniel Irish Daniells

Nathaniel was born in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York.  He married Lucinda Reed in February, 1832, and in May of that year, they left for West Bloomfield, Michigan, where two years earlier he had purchased land and had hired 10 acres to be cleared and sowed to wheat.  They went by Erie Canal and Lake Erie steamer.  In six years he had 140 of his 240 acres cleared.  He taught school three winters.  He was a gifted penman and made quill pens for his students.

In about 1835, he and Joshua Coonley started a general store, but they were soon ruined in the “Wild Cat Panic.”  [Note: This may have referred to the banks with their free lending policies and their issue of paper currency (called specie) that were not backed up by gold or silver. Bank after bank closed its doors, causing a financial panic in 1837.] 

Lucinda Reed Daniells

Lucinda Reed Daniells

In 1848, he moved to Wacousta and started a long round of legal battles with Benjamin Silsbee who tried to keep him off the land he had bought.  The problems lasted until 1854 when Nathaniel finally gained clear title.  Several of his brothers, Elias, Nelson and David, also located in Wacousta and built a saw mill and grist mill.  

From the History of Shiawassee and Clinton Counties Michigan 1880, page 527:

N.I. and Nelson Daniells arrived in 1848 (having been former residents of Cayuga County, New York), and at once repaired the mill property.  The grist mill which was in a condition unfit for service, was at once remodeled, and the saw mill thoroughly rebuilt.  A store was opened by them and in 1855 the old grist mill was replaced by a new one, which is now owned by Nelson Daniells.  This mill has three run of stones, and is devoted to both custom and merchant-work.  It is located upon the Looking Glass River, from whence its power is derived, and has a capacity of four hundred bushels per day.  Much patronage is enjoyed from the adjacent country, though Lansing and the East furnish a market for its merchant-work.

The saw mill, which is also owned by Mr. Daniells, embraces planing machinery, and has a capacity of two thousand feet per day.  It does custom-work exclusively.

nihouseNelson’s oldest daughter, Cornelia Hazard writes:

The Daniells brothers were all men to take an active interest in public affairs, and though somewhat aggressive in their views, yet were all of uncompromising integrity, upholding and maintaining the rights of others in all respects, and so made themselves a force in the community.

In the spring of 1852, Nathaniel was elected Justice of the Peace and served for 17 years.  It was often asserted that he did more business than all the other Justices within the reach of his jurisdiction and paid more fees into the county treasury.  He built his home and conducted his business in the rear of the home.

In 1850, Nathaniel was Census Enumerator for Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, and Clare Counties.  That same year he was appointed Deputy Marshall to go to Lake Michigan and to prosecute trespassers who were logging off public lands.  In 1867, he was elected to the Constitutional Convention for the State of Michigan.  [Note: family tradition holds that the Constitution was prepared in his handwriting.]  In 1870, he was again Census Enumerator for the east half of Clinton County.

50 years before the Daniells and Bliss families merged, N.I. Daniells recorded the Blisses in the 1850 census.

50 years before the Daniells and Bliss families merged, N.I. Daniells recorded the Blisses in the 1850 census.

Nathaniel and Lucinda had seven children.  Our ancestor is Carey Reed Daniells.  Lucinda died in1885, and Nathaniel married Susan Stansell.  He died in 1899, and both Nathaniel and Lucinda are buried in Wacousta Cemetery.  His brothers Nelson and David, and sister Cornelia are also buried in Wacousta Cemetery. 






The N.I. Daniells Family.  Front row from left to right: John Graham, Nathaniel Irish Daniells, Elias Daniells, David Daniells, Nelson Daniells.  Back row: Matilda Daniells Graham, Lucinda Reed Daniells, Almeda Daniells Davis, Sarah Harris Daniells, Laura Philips Daniells, and Olive Boorn Daniells.

The William Daniells Family. Front row from left to right: John Graham, Nathaniel Irish Daniells, Elias Daniells, David Daniells, Nelson Daniells. Back row: Matilda Daniells Graham, Lucinda Reed Daniells, Almeda Daniells Davis, Sarah Harris Daniells, Laura Philips Daniells, and Olive Boorn Daniells.




Wacousta Mill

Wacousta Mill

The Daniells Family in the 1800s

July 15, 2009


William Daniells, 1775-1866

William Daniells

William Daniells

From notes of Betty Daniells and The Daniels/Daniells Family, vol. 2, pages 236, 251:

William was born in 1775 in Worthington, Massachusetts.  He moved to Scipio, New York, in 1798, and settled in what came to be called “Daniel’s Settlement.”  He married Mary Irish in 1799.  He was a farmer; taught the first year he was in Scipio, but no more, as he was not qualified. 

He was for many years a deacon in the Baptist Church. 

He and Mary spent their declining years with their son Benjamin in Michigan.  He died in 1866 at Birmingham, Michigan, and is buried in the Crooks Cemetery. 

He passed through Wacousta on the way to Grand Rapids in the spring of 1836 and admired that section, so may have been partly responsible for so many of his sons settling there.