The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about Willard Silas Winegar, a much beloved member of the Lowell community. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
Williard Winegar was born in Vergennes, north of Lowell, in 1856 to Ashbel and Ellen Slight Winegar. Besides farming, Ashbel also worked as head clerk for Orson Peck at his warehouse at the steamboat landing. The landing was at the bend in the Grand River east of today’s downtown.
In 1879, W.S. married Dora Hildreth. Dora was the daughter of Lester and Julia Hildreth. Lester was a founding member of the Lowell Silver Cornet Band in 1857. He served in the Civil War as a bugler for General Nelson Appleton Miles. He was by trade a gunsmith; his shop was in the three story building known as the “Music Hall” (empty space next to today’s Flat River Cottage).
When his father died in 1879, Willard lived on the farm with his family. In 1883, he sold his father’s land and moved to town. He bought the E.A. Sunderlin home at 421 N. Washington Street.
Winegar served the community in many ways. He was a member of the Light and Power committee, including serving as chairman, and served as president of the Lowell Board of Trade. He was a Mason, master of the blue lodge, and a high priest of the chapter. He was a member of Knights Templar and of Eastern Star. He was also a devoted Member of the Methodist Church.
He served over 30 years on the school board, much of the time as director. One of the honors afforded the director was presenting diplomas to the high school graduates on behalf of the school board.
As a member of the Village Common Council for 18 years, he had an active role in the 1910 dedication of the new City Hall. He served as President and Vice President of the village. Honors that came along with these offices included serving as Marshal of the day for the Decoration Day programs. Challenges included leading during the Great War. He saw the Village through the war by encouraging participation in rationing efforts and keeping the village encouraged, even when local boys were among those lost in battle. During the winter of 1917, the village of Lowell encountered a ‘Fuel Famine’ that could have been devastating. Village President W.S. Winegar appointed an emergency committee to find solutions. He ensured that the schools had heat along with everyone in the community. He put plans in place that helped the community come together, helping those who were most desperate. Lowell came through the fuel famine by helping one another.
Dora Winegar served on the Methodist Church board, and was a charter member of the Eastern Star. The unusual name of Cyclamen was chose by the committee, Mrs. Dora Winegar and Miss Emma Chapman from the floral design of Cyclamen flowers in Mrs. Winegar’s new wall paper pattern.
At his death W.S. Winegar was described as a greatly loved, honored citizen, ever thoughtful and considerate of others. It was noted that he spent many years of selfless public service for the benefit of his community. He had unquestioned integrity, was of the highest moral character and his passing was deeply mourned. Out of honor and respect, all businesses were closed for an hour.