Arsonist in Lenawee County Burns Businesses, School, Church, Homes

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series.

Last week, we looked into the origins of Grover Cleveland Pauter, the infamous arsonist responsible for 21 suspected fires in Lenawee and Hillsdale counties, which occurred from 1924-26. Pauter had had some run-ins with the law in the years leading up to the fires, including violating the local law prohibiting the possession and use of alcohol and assault, as well as a messy divorce from his first wife. The former Bessie Stuck was given a divorce decree from Grover on “cruelty grounds.”

The first arson attributed to Pauter was a warehouse, billiard room, and general store, early Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 27, 1924, in Pittsford. A nearby barn and farm also fell victim to Pauter’s quest for destruction by fire. He then changed location, heading near Blissfield. He set fire to what was then known as the North Blissfield Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, losing $40,000. His next stop was Addison. He broke into the basement of the school during the early morning hours of December 20, 1924, and a fire started as he ran, tempered by rain, sleet and high winds. The school was reduced to a scorched brick shell in minutes.

Grover Cleveland Pauter broke into the basement of the Addison School during the early morning hours of December 20, 1924, and a fire started as he ran away.

In each fire, investigators were unable to determine the cause, other than that it was suspicious. Pauter usually used oil, matches, paper or straw to start his fires, all of which were destroyed in the fires.

When the New Year was over, Pauter was far from finished with his string of arson attacks.

The Bert Lawrence farm, barn, and nearby garage in Hudson Township went up in flames on May 21, 1925. The house, barn and nearby garage were all burned with “incendiary” agents. The Lawrence family and the horses escaped from the buildings just in time. However, their chickens were lost. It was the only known fire that could have cost lives.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.