Fatal Calamity 1873 – Mrs. Wolverton

One of the most lamentable and terrible accidents ever recorded in these columns, took place on Monday night, at the residence of Mr. Dennis Wolverton, in the Township of Grand Blanc (Michigan). As we are informed, Mr. Wolverton was sitting reading… Shortly after, her husband was alarmed by hearing screams… horrified to find his wife standing completely enveloped in flames. Their daughters, Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie Wolverton, were also immediately attracted there by the alarm. Two pails of water…


So I have a story with these facts:
Dec 1873,
Grand Blanc,
Mr. Dennis Wolverton,
finds his wife Mrs. Dennis Wolverton in flames,
daughters Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie Wolverton.

Using these facts I started a family tree on Ancestry.com to see if I could find a “real Family Tree” owner who would like to have the story. I named my created Family Tree: “0 – Mrs. Dennis Wolverton burned 1873 Family Tree”,

On the tree I entered Dennis Wolverton, I added “spouse” as Mrs.; I added her death date and death place, then I added the two daughter’s names. Once the basic tree was started I added residence info into Dennis’s profile page; Residence in 1873 is Grand Blanc, Michigan.

The first 2 hints I got after entering his residence information, were special census for 1860 and 1870:

Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880

Name: Dennis Wolverton
Location: Grand Blanc, Genesee, Michigan
Enumeration Date: 1 Aug 1860
Schedule Type: Agriculture
OS Page: 35
Line Number: 14

The 1870 Non-Population census had exactly the same information.

With those two records now on his profile page, I got a hint for the 1860 census:

1860 United States Federal Census

Name: Dennis Wolverton
Age in 1860: 47
Birth Year: abt 1813
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1860: Grand Blanc, Genesee, Michigan
Gender: Male
Post Office: Grand Blanc

Household Members: Name Age
Dennis Wolverton 47
Susan Wolverton 45
Williams Wolverton 21
John Wolverton 19
Sarah Wolverton 15
Thomas Wolverton 11
Susan Wolverton 9
Elmer (Eliner) Dunham 77

This census record not only gave me his wife’s name (Susan Wolverton), confirmed the Susie in the Obituary but also gave me a person who might be related to the family, Elmer (Eliner) Dunham age 77. In the 1860 census there is no relationship listed so there is no way of knowing if this person is related to the family or if that person is just working for the family. The transcript does not give the gender of the person so I had to look at the photocopy of the original document to find out that the person is listed as (F), so it cannot be Elmer; it must be Eliner as some other user had noted on the transcript page.

1860 Census
1860 Census

A 77 year old house keeper would not be out of the question back in 1860, but maybe she is a relation to the wife. I say the wife because if she was a relation to the husband then she would have his last name Wolverton not Durham; (maybe).

There are a lot of questions one must answer when trying to create a tree from just a few facts.

I turned back to the information on the census record and notice that the oldest young person listed after Dennis and Susan is twenty-one (21) years old and is probably their son; so maybe I can find a 1850 census with him as part of the family because he was born around 1839. When looking for census records it is always good to have more than just one or two people in the family, because that way you can confirm that you have the correct family. This is important in older families where all the men seem to be named William, or James and all the women seemed to be named Mary or Susan. I did a search for the 1850 census but could not find one listed, but I did find an 1870 census.

1870 United States Federal Census

Name: Dennis Wolverton
Age in 1870: 57
Birth Year: abt 1813
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1870: Grand Blanc, Genesee, Michigan
Race: White
Gender: Male
Post Office: Grand Blanc

Household Members: Name Age
Dennis Wolverton 57
Susan Wolverton 55
Sarah Wolverton 26
Susan Wolverton 21
Thomas Wolverton 22
E Dunham 88 (wife’s mother?)

1870 Census
1870 Census

On the 1870 census there still is no relationship listed so E. Dunham is still a mystery, is she related to the family or just a house keeper. I notice that Sarah, Susan (Susie), and Thomas are still living at home in Grand Blanc.

I input the data onto the tree and go back to the original newspaper item where daughters, Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie Wolverton are mentioned. I figure that Sarah is Mrs. J. C. Dayton because the only other female is Susan (Susie).

Since I was able to find the 1860 and 1870 census then there must be an 1850 census even if I could not find it before. I do a search again but this time I look only for Dennis, spouse Susan, children William, John, Sarah, Thomas and Susan living in Grand Blanc in 1850. I do not put in the last name because that might be misspelled in the transcript and that is why it is not showing up. What I get is a listing for the Woolverton Family (two oo’s).

1850 United States Federal Census

Name: Dennis Woolverton
Age: 37
Birth Year: abt 1813
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1850: Rochester Ward 3, Monroe, New York
Gender: Male
Family Number: 570

Household Members: Name Age
Dennis Woolverton 37
Susan Woolverton 35
Jane Eliza Woolverton 14
William Woolverton 12
John Woolverton 10
Sarah Woolverton 7
Thos O Woolverton 3
Susan G Woolverton 1

So William, age 21 in 1860 was not the oldest of the children, there is a Jane Eliza who is two years older and who would have been age 23 in 1860 and thus probably married and not living at the family home.

I input the data onto the tree and once again I go back to the original newspaper item where daughters, Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie Wolverton are mentioned. Now I have a problem, there are two females beside Susan (Susie), so which one is the Mrs. J. C. Dayton.

I go to Family Search to see if I can find a marriage certificate for a Wolverton and Dayton which will give me the name of the female, but what I find has nothing to do with a Dayton.

What I find is a marriage between Dennis Wolverton and Kate Johnson.

“Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925”

Name: Dennis Wolverton

Age (Expanded): 62 years
Birth Year: 1813
Birthplace: N.Y.

Spouse’s Name: Kate Johnson

Spouse’s Age (Expanded): 42 years
Spouse’s Birth Year: 1833
Spouse’s Birthplace: N.Y.

Event Date: 11 Nov 1875
Event Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan

GS Film number: 2342459
Frame Number:
Digital Folder Number: 4207584
Image Number: 267
Reference ID: v 3 p 360 rn 721

Citing this Record
“Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N3FX-75B : accessed 08 May 2013), Dennis Wolverton and Kate Johnson, 11 Nov 1875.

I copy the text off of the FamilySearch web page making sure that I include the “Citing this Record” information because those few lines give the link to the FamilySearch page.

I input her information onto the tree; another spouse for Dennis. Her information fits the dates of when Susan “wife of Dennis” died and he remarries. With the new information I find an 1880 census which has relationships listed. Since the maiden name of bride in the marriage record is “Johnson” I look at the Moran Johnson who is listed on the 1880 census. He is Catharine (Kate)’s father.

1880 United States Federal Census

Name: Morgan Johnson
Age: 74
Birth Year: abt 1806
Birthplace: New York
Home in 1880: Grand Blanc, Genesee, Michigan
Race: White
Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Father-in-law
Marital Status: Widower
Father’s Birthplace: New York
Mother’s Birthplace: New York
Neighbors: View others on page
Occupation: Retired Merchant

Household Members: Name Age
Dennis Wolverton 67
Catharine Wolverton 47
Lee C. Davison 22
Morgan Johnson 74

I have been successful in building the tree with new information and branches but I have not answered the question of who is Mrs. J. C. Dayton. I look for a marriage between a Wolverton and Dayton again but still do not find a record. I start thinking that maybe the J. C. is John who is the nine-teen (19) year old son listed in the 1860 census and the newspaper reporter meant to write Mrs. J. C. Wolverton from Dayton, (Ohio); so I go looking for his marriage and to see if he lived in Dayton, Ohio in 1878 when his mother burned to death.
I find a record which states that he married a Frances Mason.

“Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995”

Name: John C. Wolverton
Birth Date: 1840
Birthplace: Saratoga, N. Y.
Age: 27
Spouse’s Name: Frances Mason
Spouse’s Birth Date: 1842
Spouse’s Birthplace: New Hartford, N. Y.
Spouse’s Age: 25
Event Date: 21 Nov 1867
Event Place: Mundy, Genesee, Michigan

Race: White
Marital Status: Unknown

Spouse’s Marital Status: Unknown

Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M73662-5
System Origin: Michigan-EASy
GS Film number: 1018927
Reference ID: vol.4 1867-1884 p15

Citing this Record
“Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FC6B-X2G : accessed 08 May 2013), John C. Wolverton and Frances Mason, 21 Nov 1867.

I put their information onto the tree and see if I can find an 1880 census record which will say they live in Dayton, Ohio.

What I find is the 1880 census where they live in Michigan and Frances’s mother lives with them “Anna M. Mason”. The transcript is wrong in that it lists her as being the mother of the head of household who is John C. Wolverton. I put a comment onto the transcript page so that others will have the correct information; she is mother-in-law NOT mother. I explained how to do that in a previous post. (See https://newspaperproject2012.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/transcript-and-original-image-joseph-banks-1917/)

I now have a new branch started on the family tree “the Mason” branch, but I still have not found “Mrs. J. C. Dayton”, so I continue my search for other clues. I start collecting the hints for the children and their families and there are a lot of hints because the tree has grown quite a bit from my initial four people: Dennis, his spouse Mrs., Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie.

I figure the best place to start is with the oldest male Wolverton child on the tree; William who in 1860 was 21.

I find his 1880 census record and lo and behold he lives with the Dayton family; John C Dayton and Jennie W Dayton. There is no relationship given on the transcript and the original has him listed as Boarder, but wasn’t his oldest sister in the 1850 census named Jane Eliza? I wonder if she is the Mrs. J. C. Dayton of the obituary.

I look for a marriage cert for Jane (Jennie) and John C but cannot find one, so I go back to the obit.

“Their daughters…”
seems clear to me that it is daughter and not daughter-in-law. There are also statements in the item which lead me to believe that I have made the correct identification of Mrs. J. C. Dayton such as this “Mr. Wolverton and his daughters…” and “…in the midst of preparation for the re-union (for the first time in a number of years) of a large family circle at the parental home on Christmas Day.”

So the family had come for the re-union and daughters, Mrs. J. C. Dayton and Miss Susie, had the misfortune of seeing their mother die in the flames of December 22, 1873.

I continued my search for hints to see if I could find a family tree for the newspaper item but I was unable to find a family tree for the Wolverton Family. I found family trees for the spouses but they did not have a Wolverton branch.

I traced Eleanor Dunham back to Bristol, New York where she died in 1878. Bristol is where she lived in 1850 at the home of Elisa Tiffany and her husband Giles. I will have to research that family line to see if Elisa is Mrs. Susan Wolverton’s sister.


The creation of a family tree is much like trying to solve a good mystery; you have good clues and you have bad clues. There are many questions yet to answer about the relationships of the people on the tree but at least we now have a base frame work to build upon.

The 1873 Wolverton Obituary allowed the creation of a family tree named: “0 – Mrs. Dennis Wolverton burned 1873 Family Tree” with branches for the following families: Dayton (Jane Eliza’s husband), Johnson (Dennis’s second wife), Mason (John C’s wife), Schram (Sarah’s husband), Moore (Thomas’s wife), Pope and Crosby (John C’s son’s branch) and possibly the Durham branch.

Family Tree
Family Tree

I hope this posting has given you a glimpse into what it takes to build a family tree using a limited amount of information and I hope you were able to pick up a few new tips which will help you in building your tree and searching for your long lost branches.

Thank You.

[Note: I put the “0 -” zero dash in front of the created Family Tree name so that it will be shown at the top of my list of family trees since I have over 200 trees.]

To View the Original item,
Select Wolverine Citizen in box below:
In the left col down from this link:
Item is on: Page 6, Col 1

Flint, Michigan
Wolverine Citizen

December 27, 1873

I reviewed the tree and found 23 different family trees who had some connection to the Wolverton’s. I sent them all a message:
I am not part of the family; I just saw an obit and thought it should go to a real family tree.
Dec 1873,

Mr. Dennis Wolverton

two (2) daughters:
Mrs. J. C. Dayton
Miss susie Wolverton.

Mrs. Wolverton burned to death
Page 6 col 1

Flint, Michigan
Wolverine Citizen – Dec 27, 1873

Link to full Paper:

Link to Obit.
In the left col down from this link:


Link to Blog about Wolverton Family Tree:


Link to Tree I created from info off of the Obit:

Number of Family Tree hints on tree.
23 Family Trees

7 thoughts on “Fatal Calamity 1873 – Mrs. Wolverton

Add yours

  1. Sorry, Jose, I “liked” the post with my adoption blog face on, just to confuse you ;). This is a wonderful post! Of course, I can’t help but think of the similarity with my great great grandmother’s fire accident. But in this case the poor lady did end up dying and the family was injured. What a sad article. You did a great job reconstructing things. I hope someday the current family finds the tree and is grateful to you for creating it!

    1. Thanks. I am currently reviewing the tree to pick up all the Family Tree Hints and have already identified 15 such trees. Of course 14 of these trees are off of the branches David Schram, Frances E Mason, John C Dayton, Jonathon Dayton. I did find one tree which has John C Wolverton but does not have his parents. I will post an update when I have reviewed all the people on the tree. This family really stayed together I found the widow of J. C. Dayton living with her nephew in 1910. The nephew is the son of Thomas who owns a hotel. Interesting Family.

    2. I finished reviewing the tree and found 23 different trees, so now I have to contact them and give them the good news or bad news depending on how much work they want to do. Some of the trees have not idea that this branch exists. Thanks for the support.
      Take Care.

  2. Number of Family Tree hints on tree.
    23 Family Trees
    Dennis Wolverton
    Dean Brophy McKeever Goldstein
    Owner: edbrophy76
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/22574346/person/1261684215 x
    Catharine (Kate) Johnson
    Yeager Family Tree
    Owner: mirai17
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/7966771/person/6109042275 x
    Dean Brophy McKeever Goldstein
    Owner: edbrophy76
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/22574346/person/1261680663 x
    Jonathon Dayton
    Owner: awebendorfer
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/28351/person/1543069550 x
    Owner: pegarnold2000
    Owner: Liz Ault
    John C Dayton
    Lynch Figueiredo Family Tree
    Owner: RodneyFigueiredo
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/27040098/person/12165755088 x
    Margaret Arnold’s Family Forest.FBK 2
    Owner: pegarnold2000
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/38588112/person/19257334834 x
    Owner: Liz Ault
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/6480162/person/-1282049722 x
    John C Wolverton
    Sembower Family Tree
    Owner: vsembo1
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/15949634/person/328397900 x
    Frances E Mason
    Reid Family Tree
    Owner: ajkjj
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/6042560/person/249425434 x
    Elliott/Dicks Family Tree
    Owner: sharonspry1
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/13145576/person/51391864 x
    Owner: vsembo1
    Jay Barracato Family Tree
    Owner: jbarrac
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/49464067/person/20230344727 x
    Owner: SherylkReynolds
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/32606750/person/19548001125 x
    David Schram
    Owner: Karen Smith
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/2731299/person/-1822084937 x
    Our Family Tree
    Owner: sandywillborn
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/6125600/person/39360074 x
    albert beller
    Owner: wwjhd1976
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/12445777/person/-108577527 x
    Pease Family Tree
    Owner: lynlit50
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/6982355/person/-1185555151 x
    medd Family Tree
    Owner: wagboteddy
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/47307936/person/6743056196 x
    Lynnette Irene Plumstead
    Owner: nettymcguin
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/41939273/person/19713638020 x
    Susan G Wolverton
    Owner: jawhap2
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/50962087/person/13126955722 x
    Irving Mason Wolverton
    Doran Backup file_3-1
    Owner: joedoran43
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/44528002/person/6215384409 x
    Owner: vsembo1
    The Mendell/Shell Family Tree
    Owner: kds9656
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/29273959/person/12789189008 x
    Dean Pope Kemp Family
    Owner: Patricia_Levinson
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/49648073/person/20237521250 x
    Florence Harrit Pope
    Owner: vsembo1
    Owner: joedoran43
    Owner: kds9656
    Owner: Patricia_Levinson
    Horace H Pope
    Price/Savarese Family Tree
    Owner: gprice157a
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/9058993/person/-856285780 x

    1. Wow, Jose, I am so glad there were lots of trees to pick up! I imagine some of these people will be so excited to read the article you found! I’ve nominated you again for some blog awards–the Liebster and the WordPress Family Awards. That’s a little pat on the back for all the good work you do. You can read about it on today’s post on my blog.

  3. It has been three years since I posted this story and now I have new information from a user who sent me the following message on Ancestry.com: arbojenn19
    May 24, 2016

    Thank you for posting that story of Dennis Wolvertine’s wife. Was that his first wife? I am researching wife Kate Johnson who was significantly younger than he. I think she was in her forties when she married him. Kate is the daughter of Elizabeth L Dunham and Harry Johnson. My question concerns the identity of Wolvertine’s first wife. I see you have her as Susan Dunham. Wondering is she was any relation to Kate’s mother, Elizabeth who died in 1856. Elizabeth did have a sister, Susan Emmaline Dunham, born in 1815 (both were daughters of William Dunham and Lurena Sawtelle), but she married Joel W Burton so it couldn’t have been her. Might it have been an aunt? Trying to find out more about the Dunhams. Thanks for any information you can send my way.

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