Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA) Wednesday, August 23, 1899; pg. 6; Issue 46; col A.
D.C. Stillson, the inventor of the “Stillson” wrench, which is known wherever even the ordinary mechanic labors, was found dead in his home, at 55 Tennyson st., Somerville, Monday.
The body was found by F.A. Preble, a son in law of the deceased, who on returning to the house could not effect an entrance. A ladder was procured and with its aid Mr. Preble gained admission by a second story window. He found the body of the aged man seated at his bedroom window, attired in all his clothes but his coat.
Medical Examiner Durrell was called and said that the death must have taken place at least 24 hours previous and it was due to heart failure.
The deceased was a 32d degree Mason and an ex-city official. He was a veteran of the Civil war.
Mr. Stillson was born in Durham, N.H., Mar. 25, 1830. Having learned the trade of machinist, Mr. Stillson went to work in the Charlestown navy yard at the time of the outbreak of the Civil war. Jan. 20 1863, he was appointed 3d asst. engineer.
Nov. 16, 1864, he was appointed 1st. asst. engineer. He sailed with Farragut on his first voyage as vice-admiral.
Mr. Stillson resumed his trade of a machinist after the war, and entered the employ of J.J. Walworth & Co., where he was foreman of one of the departments, and where he invented the wrench which has made his name known throughout the world. He made a number of other inventions.
Mr. Stillson served in the Somerville common council in 1884 and in the board of alderman in 1885 and 1866. He later was a member of the board of overseers of the poor.
From The Somerville Citizen, August 25, 1899.
DANIEL C. STILLSON
Sudden Death of Well known Inventor and Resident of this City.
Mr. Daniel C. Stillson, a well known resident of 55 Tennyson street, Winter Hill, was found dead on Monday evening, sitting at the window of his chamber. He had evidently been dead some 24 hours when discovered by his son-in-law, Mr. Fred A. Preble, who in returning to the house in the evening could not effect an entrance, and was obliged to climb through a second story window by use of a ladder.
Medical Examiner Durrell was called who decided that death was due to heart failure. He was seen on Sunday evening by several of his old friends at Winter Hill, among them Richardson, the druggist, at whose store he called for a few minutes with C.W. Sawyer. The last one to see him as far as is learned, was Mr. E.T. Mayhew, who walked some distance up Broadway with him at about 9:45, on his way to his home. His sudden taking off, is a great surprise and shock to all who knew him, as aside from some slight stomach trouble, and rheumatism, which if late was not bothering him to any serious extent, he appeared quite weak, and was intending to return to his summer cottage at Cataumet on Monday, where his family were, whom he left on Thursday for a brief visit to his city home.
Mr. Stillson had been a very active man in his day and had been a resident of Somerville about 20 years coming to this city from Charlestown where had lived from the time he left New Hampshire, his native State. He was born in Durham, N.H., March 25, 1830 and was a son of William and Nancy Stillson. His grandfather was a captain in the Revolutionary Army. Mr. Stillson was in his early life employed in the cotton factories of New Market and Exeter, N.H., and afterward learned the trade of a machinist and was working at this in the Charlestown Navy Yard at the outbreak of the Civil War.
His ability was evidently first class, at it was early recognized by the government, and in 1862 he was offered a position in the Navy, which he accepted, and was assigned to the government steamer R.B. Forbes where he saw considerable service. This steamer was soon after wrecked off the coast of North Carolina, but all on board were saved, and Mr. Stillson was later transferred to the U.S. Frigate Roanoke, from which he watched the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac. He afterwards did duty on the Somerset on the Cuban coast, and was present at the capture of Cedar Keys.
On August 31, 1862, he resigned his position on account of ill health, and on Aug. 14, 1863, he was reappointed to the Navy, with the rank of assistant engineer, and assigned to the Queen, and was present at the attack of Fort Wagner and also Fort Sumter. On Nov. 16, 1864, he was appointed acting first assistant engineer, and on Jan. 25, 1865, he sailed with Farragut on his first voyage as vice-admiral. He received an honorable discharge at the close of the war, and soon after resumed his trade of machinist by entering the employ of Walworth Manufacturing Co., where he was foreman of one of the departments, and where his inventive genius produced the wrench which has made his name so well known, and placed him in the front rank of inventors.
Mr. Stillson served his city in the common council in 1884 and was also on the board of aldermen in 1885-1886, and afterwards a member of the board of overseers of the poor. He was a member of Willard C. Kingsley Post, 139, G.A.R., and of the Winter Hill Club, also a member of the Granite Lodge, F.A.M. of Salmon Falls, N.H., Shekinah Royal Arch Chapter of Chelsea, Mass.; a charter member if Orient Council and Coeur de Leon Commandery Knight Templars, and a member of Ivanhoe Lodge, K.P., Charlestown.
He married Miss Ellen R., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clement M. Davis of Durham, N.H., and beside his wife, he leaves two daughters, Mrs. F.A. Preble and Mrs. O.B. Winn.
His funeral occurred at 2 p.m., Wednesday, from his late residence, the Rev. C.L. Noyes of the Winter Hill Cong’l Church, who came home from his vacation on purpose to be present, officiating the solemn services. Mr. Noyes was very sympathetic in his remarks which contained helpful thoughts for the saddened hearts of relatives and friends who were present. He closed with the beautiful hymn, “Now the Laborer’s Task is O’er.”
Mrs. W.C. Bailey and daughter furnished the music for the service and sang with great expression and sweetness the appropriate hymns, “Lead Kindly Light,” Nearer My God to Thee” and “O Beaulah Land.” The burial was at Mount Auburn.
There were present representatives from all the orders with which the deceased was connected and floral tributes were also sent, the Winter Hill Club sending a large book and arch of exquisite flowers; Coeur de Leon Commandery, a finely shaped cross; Orient Council, a cross and crown of white flowers; Walworth Manufacturing Co., a large bunch of white roses; Geo. And Benj. Petee, a pillow of asters and roses; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cutter, wreath of asters, pinks and roses and from L.C. Spinney and C.H. Rugg a bouquet of white asters.
Excerpt from Jones, William Preble. Somerville Fifty Years Ago: Boyhood Memories of the Early ‘Eighties. Somerville, Mass.: Published by the author, 1933. Pages 30-31.
An interesting personality that I knew well even at that youthful age was Daniel C. Stillson, whose elder daughter had been married to my uncle, Frederick A. Preble, in October 1880, by the Rev. Albert E. Winship.
“D.C.” or “Dan,” as he was called, built the house at the corner of Tennyson and Forster streets, where he lived till his sudden death in the summer of 1899.
Naval veteran of the Civil War, and New Hampshire Democrat of the most vehement type, he certainly was a character, a rough diamond, an upright, hard-headed man, with ideas on politics and government that he did not hesitate to express, and to express in the most emphatic language. His personality was of the type that the modern newspaper writer would delight in portraying, were he alive today.
A skilled mechanic and engineer, he invented and patented a number of devices, including the famous wrench that bears his name. No other Somerville name has been so widely known as his, for there isn’t a machine shop in the civilized world that doesn’t own or use a Stillson wrench. Moreover, no other Somerville person ever got his name in the dictionary. Look into any modern dictionary, and read that the word “stillson” denotes a kind of wrench.
Daniel C. Stillson represented the Winter Hill ward in the Common Council in 1884, and the Board of Aldermen in 1885 and 1886. His elder daughter, who was my aunt, died about two years ago. The other daughter married Oliver B. Winn, and they lived in West Medford.