The ABCs of Lowell History: V is for Violin

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. The ABCs of Lowell History continues with a look at Fidius Stocking who made music for Lowell with his homemade violin. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

Fidius Stocking was born in 1824 and lived a life of many experiences, talents, occupations and accomplishments. He was personally acquainted with Governor Lewis Cass and Governor Austin Blair. During his lifetime he was an explorer, innkeeper, insurance salesman, and grocer, but he was most remembered for his talents as a musician.

He came to the Ionia area as a child of twelve and in his lifetime also lived in Saranac, Otisco, Grand Rapids, Elk Rapids and Lowell.

While living in Saranac in 1840 he worked with his father to build the first road on the south side of the Grand River from Saranac to Lowell. In 1846 he built the first bridge over the Grand River in Grand Rapids.

He married Clarinda Robinson in 1858. Clarinda was the daughter of Rodney (brother to Fur Trader Rix) and Mary Robinson. Clarinda was given a bracelet and “burl” bowl by an Odawa friend that are on display in the Fur Trade Exhibit at the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

‘Fid’ Stocking’s music career took off when he made a violin for himself. In 1840 while living in Saranac he led the Fourth of July parade with that homemade violin. Two years later he put together a string band with Octavius Claflin – The ‘Stocking & Claflin String Band’. It was said they furnished more ‘heel’ music than any band in Michigan. Fid was the town fiddler who ‘called’ many dances.

A fiddler defined a dance party. The fiddler had to be an all-alive fiddler, whose head, shoulders and heels would mark time with the cadences of the fiddle and the bow. It was said that “no party failed to be lively and interesting under the inspiration of his music”.

In the February 20th, 1884 edition of The Lowell Journal there is a report of a little mishap Fid endured. “About 20 couples took a sleigh ride to Duga’s hall in Grattan, Thursday night. Fid Stocking fiddled and they danced. Tipped over in a snow drift, got home 5 a.m; – big time – them’s young folks’ ways.”

Even in 1894, one year before his death, Fid Stocking’s music is described as “modern, soul inspiring and highly sought after”. He is buried here in Lowell, in Oakwood Cemetery.

Music was in the family genes, Fid and Clarinda’s son R. D. Stocking had a music store in Lowell for over 50 years. He sold pianos, violins and sporting goods.

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