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.

Adams Family Update

Who can resist a skunk farming lawyer?

That was the thought on my mind when I originally set out to research my great great great grandfather Daniel E Adams. All the information I found on his life indicated he was a larger than life type of man and his story screamed to be shared.

As I was researching Daniel E Adams for my blog about him, a distant cousin contacted me. This cousin, Frank Poss III, had in his possession several old family photos of shared relations.

This brings me to my Adams family update. I received copies of photos that previously I had never seen.

Photography was a popular profession not just among the Adams family but also among the Hamilton family. Siblings, Daniel and Emma Adams, married siblings, Daniel and Rachel Hamilton. Daniel and Emma Adams Hamilton would spend a lifetime operating Hamilton photo studios and many of their photographs are still in existence. Several of these photos bear the mark of Hamilton studios.


Adams brothers
The 5 Adams brothers: Calvin, Daniel, Dexter, Eli, and Plumer. Photo taken sometime prior to 1889.

This photograph is of the five Adams brothers. I suspect it was taken sometime after the end of the Civil War, perhaps as late as when their father, Erwin Adams, died in Lapeer County, Michigan. The fifth brother, Plumer Adams, is not labeled in the photo.



The Family Matriarch

charlotte murray adams.jpg

This photo is of Charlotte Murray Adams, the mother of the Adams brothers. She died in 1890 and was buried in Mt Hope Cemetery in Lapeer County, Michigan next to her husband.

I will be adding further updates to this line as I continue researching the Adams family and trying to track them as they moved from Connecticut, to Vermont, onto Canada, out west to Iowa, split into separate fractions with some going west to establish Utah while others eventually settled for generations in Michigan. Stay tuned.