Daniel E Adams – Gunsmith, Soldier, Photographer, Attorney, Skunk Farmer

The Unbelievable Life of Daniel Adams

A gunsmith, soldier, photographer, attorney, and a skunk farmer – it sounds like the start of a joke where the next line should be they walked into the bar. Interestingly enough those are all job titles held at various times by Daniel E. Adams.

On the scale of interesting characters of genealogical research my third great grandfather, Daniel E. Adams, is a jackpot. For the last several weeks I have been slowly pecking away at research on him for this blog…but it seemed the more I dug the more I wanted to dig. His life took many turns that make him an intriguing research subject with countless sources.

Early Life

Daniel E. Adams was born in Canada on 23 February 1832. His parents, Erwin Adams and Charlotte Murray, were of American birth. Shortly after Daniel’s birth, the family moved back south to the United States. Over the next two decades, the family would reside in Illinois and Michigan where most of the family would settle for generations.

Daniel married his first wife, Rachel Hamilton, in Oakland County, Michigan on 23 Sept 1852. There are four known children born to the marriage Flora, Edward Dexter, Arthur Hamilton, and Elmer Eugene. Rachel passed away 5 July 1862 leaving Daniel a widower with four children under the age of 10.

After the death of Rachel, Daniel hired 17-year-old Sarah Ferguson to help care for his children. The two married on 20 September 1863 in Genesee County, Michigan.

American Civil War

On 7 September 1864, Daniel enlisted as a gunsmith in Company G 4th Michigan Infantry reorganized. According to information he provided at the time he was a veteran of the Mexican American War. During his term of enlistment, he would see combat action in skirmishes across northern Alabama.

On 14 May 1865 the train carrying Daniel’s unit derailed while traveling through Tennessee. The train car he was riding in became detached and jumped from the track. Daniel received injuries in the accident. The Army discharged him a month later in Nashville, Tennessee on 7 June 1865.

After the War

Daniel returned home to his family after his discharge from the Army. The 1870 census shows him at home with his young wife, Sarah, and their rapidly growing family. His profession at the time is listed as a photographer and records show he operated the first photograph gallery in Lapeer, Michigan. He would study law while operating the Mammoth Skylight Gallery. By 1872, he was a practicing attorney.

Daniel and Sarah continued to reside in southern Michigan and their family continued to grow. The two would have eight children together.

Eventually Daniel branched out from practicing law and started farming skunks.

Daniel passed away on 5 April 1906 in Genesee County, Michigan. He is buried in the Smith Hill Cemetery in Otisville, Genesee County, Michigan.

Part One: Tearing Down Brick Walls – Spence Family Mystery

 

Part One:  Tearing Down Brick Walls

Genealogy is like doing a puzzle after a two year old has played in the box.  The pieces are all there but it’s no small chore trying to find them.

Brick walls, or dead ends, are a part of any family tree.  I think of them as that stray puzzle piece the two year old swallowed. It’s not gone but it will take serious digging to find it and it is not going to be fun.

I have encountered many brick walls doing my own genealogy.  One that I still haven’t cracked is my maternal Grandmother’s father’s line.  My Great Grandfather’s name was William J Spence.

 

IMG_0025crop
William J Spence

 

 

William J Spence was born in Ohio in 1880.  His parents were James Spence and Emma Jane Davis.[1]

 

 

The household of a James and Emily Spence is located on 1880 census in Ottawa County, Ohio, with no children. This seems like a likely match.  Presently this might be the only source document recording Emma with her present during recording.[2]

 

 

 

 

Emma disappears after 1880 except mention in marriage and death records of her children

Notes and Tasks on Emma Davis:

  • Is Davis a maiden name or was it a later married name?
  • Look in Ohio and Canada for marriage record for Spence and Davis abt 1880
  • Look for Davis birth record in Ohio and Canada
  • Look for Davis families that could possibly be Emma’s family near the James and Emma on the 1880 census
  • Harry is a strong possibility for her father’s given name. Second son of James and Emma was named Harry

 

SPENCE Travels

 

North Atlantic PS map.jpg
The Spence Family Migration from Approx 1830 to 1900

 

  • According to records currently located James Spence was born in Canada to Irish born parents.
  • It’s possible his father was named John, James, or William.
  • His mother may have been named Jane Davidsen.
  • His parents likely married in Ireland or Canada prior to 1853.
  • Sometime prior to 1854 the James parents traveled from Ireland to Canada where James was born.
  • James migrated to US; first to Ohio where older children with Emma Jane Davis were born around 1880
  • James then migrated to Michigan married his second wife, Anna and lived out his life.

Looking at all these clues together I need to find an Irish household living in Canada at the time of the 1871 census.  There are at least 105 Spence living in Canada in 1871

Of those records only 1 at a first glance seems like a remote possibility.  The demographics of the family aren’t a perfect match but they are close enough to warrant a deeper look.  If nothing else I need to rule this family out.

1871canadacensuskingstonontariowilliamspence
William and Ann Spence with son James in Kingston, Ontario 1871

http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1871canada&indiv=try&h=83790

James Spence in Kingston, Ontario

This household lives in Cataraqui Ward, Kingston, Ontario.  They claim Ontario birth but Irish origin and religion is listed as Church of England.[3]

  • The head of household is William born in 1832. William is definitely a family name so we can count this as positive evidence.  The age would be of the proper range to be James’ father so that is another positive.
  • The lady of the house is listed as Ann. That does not match up with our one piece of secondary evidence stating James mother was Jane however that in and of itself is not a rule out.  The name could have been Jane Ann or Ann Jane or it could be a second spouse.  Her age demographics do not rule her out or add supporting evidence.  Her origin is listed as French which is a contradiction; however James named one of his daughters Mary Ann which could be supporting evidence.
  • Oldest son James is definitely a strong likely match for our ancestor. He was born in Canada in 1854 of Irish origin.
  • Other names in the household are Margaret, Nancy, and Ellen. Our ancestor James named one of his daughters Margaret Ellen.  This could be possible supporting evidence.

There is nothing in these details that necessarily rules them out as a match, we do have a few weak clues to support the possibility it’s the correct family.

 

Continued Soon –  Part Two: A Closer Look at William and Ann Spence of Kingston, Ontario

Looking closer at the records on William and Ann Spence and family to determine if they are possibly the parents of Grandpa James Spence

[1] Ancestry.com. Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

[2] Year: 1880; Census Place: Danbury, Ottawa, Ohio; Roll: 1056; Family History Film: 1255056; Page: 441C; Enumeration District: 069; Image: 0382

[3] Year: 1871; Census Place: Cataraqui Ward, Kingston, Ontario; Roll: C-10000; Page: 93; Family No: 396 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1871 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009