The ABCs of Lowell History: E is for Eaton, Reverend D.L.

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

E is for Eaton, Reverend D. L.

Danforth Leander Eaton was born in Massachusetts on July 4, 1822. He was ordained in 1847 and came to Michigan where he ministered on the east side of the state. He married Helen Look in 1848 in Lapeer MI. Mary Helen Look was the daughter of John and Charlotte Look. The Look family were living in Lapeer also. In 1854 their daughter Charlotte (Lottie) was born, followed by another sister, Mary. Helen and daughter Mary died in 1858 and are buried in Brighton, Michigan.

Eaton and his daughter Lottie moved to Lowell following the deaths of Helen and Mary. He was sent here by the Home Missionary Society to minister at the Congregational Church. He was given the task of raising money to finish the building.

In 1860, Eaton married Octavia Richards, daughter of Arba and Emily Richards. The Richards family donated the building lot and made large gifts to the church. Richards’ gift of a park next to the church is still enjoyed by the city of Lowell today.

The Richards family had come from New York in 1839 and Octavia Richards grew up near Fox’s Corner. Though only two years old, she attended the memorable first wedding in the early settlement of Lowell, then known as ‘the mouth.’ The wedding was in the first schoolhouse, and the bride was the first teacher. Octavia loved her hometown and never lost interest in it. Throughout her life she was an active member of every organization that worked for the “educational and moral betterment of the town and her influence was broadly felt.”

LeRoy Eaton

D.L. and Octavia had two sons, Arba and De Forrest, who died in infancy. Their daughter Alice died in 1884 at the age of 15. Son LeRoy married Margaret Tate. He became a physician, setting up his first practice in Lowell, and he served in World War I. Though he moved from Lowell, he and his wife came home to Oakwood Cemetery when they died.

Margaret Tate Eaton, 1893

Lottie, daughter of D.L. and Helen Look Eaton married Eugene Parrish in 1874. Lottie’s uncle, John Quincy Look, was in the Lowell area by 1870. In 1877 Lottie’s grandfather John Look and his wife Adeline and son Dexter made Lowell their home.

For a period of time, because of ‘weakness of the lungs’ Reverend Eaton retired from ministry and worked in the mercantile business. After recovery of his health, he once again worked in the ministry. He pastored and filled the pulpit in many churches, among those being Ada, Saranac, Cannon, Bostwick Lake, Croton, Ovid, and Freeport. He served in churches for over 40 years and was a favorite with parishioners. In one day in 1885 he was asked by grieving families to perform three different funerals.

Eaton was well known in the larger community. During the July 4, 1876, Centennial Celebration in Grand Rapids, he delivered the invocation. The ceremony consisted of a reading of the Declaration of Independence and the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Eaton never forgot his love for the Lowell Congregation that was his home church. He returned to fill the pulpit or help as needed. He is credited with returning to help them get out of debt and make repairs to the building. It was said that the work accomplished by D.L. and Octavia Eaton can never be overestimated. He also served his hometown by serving as a director of the K.L. & N.M. Railroad Company He felt called to every work having in view the future growth and prosperity of the village of Lowell.

It was predicted of Eaton, “Worn out in life’s work will be said of him when he dies; but while living, he will ever be found in the ranks of the workmen.”

The end of his life’s work came in 1887. He selected his own funeral text – “I know in Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” Fittingly, the funeral was held in the Congregational Church and was largely attended. The church did not have enough room to hold all who attempted to attend the funeral. It was said that the number of his friends could not even be numbered. Octavia lived until 1923, and they are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

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