NEW CENTENNIAL FARMS
The newly qualified and on the Division of History-Department of State list of Centennial Farms are those of Forrest Nash of Orange Township and in the northwest corner of Sunfield Township the Smith farm now owned by Larry and Bennie Smith of Lake Odessa.
In only another month we shall be in our nation’s bicentennial year. Once again we call attention to the fact that Sebewa Township is the burial site for Revolutionary War soldier, Jonathan Ingalls. Of all the Revolutionary War soldiers who qualified for pensions, only two hundred who managed to reach Michigan before their deaths have been identified and their graves marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It is estimated there may be 1,400 others not known to the D. A. R.
By my count of the 1950 census there are 1,266 townships in Michigan’s 83 counties. It is surprising to find how few of these townships were named after Revolutionary personalities and events. Scanning through the list we do find townships with the name of Jefferson in Cass and Hillsdale counties; Hamilton in Clare and Van Buren; Franklin in Lenawee and Houghton; Madison in Lenawee; Washington in Macomb, Gratiot and Sanilac; Adams in Arenac, Hillsdale and Houghton; Hancock in Houghton, Bunker Hill in Ingham; Liberty in Jackson; Independence in Oakland, and Lexington in Sanilac.
IONIA COUNTY is among seventeen other counties having sixteen townships, the commonest number where the range is from five in Keweenaw to twenty-seven in Huron.
From the IONIA SENTINEL of September 3, 1884 under SEBEWA ITEMS is this: “A stone bridge has been built over Lowe’s millrace.” This seems to refer to the bridge on Musgrove Highway near Howard Knapp’s residence. Howard has told that the stones are fitted and laid without mortar. When the road was paved a few years back, Howard persuaded the engineers that the bridge was unique and should be left as originally built. Take a look when the ice is out of the creek.
TO CORRECT A WRONG IMPRESSION is describing the PORTLAND AREA SERVICE GROUP last April we should have left off the phrase “Under federal sponsorship”. The organization has been doing very well with local support with only CETA funding for the director’s salary.
A HINT FOR CHRISTMAS GIVING—there are some copies of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR to be had. For the complete first ten years (Vol. 1-10) in a cover $10.00.
THE BIG BIRD—the Sandhill Crane has been seen around as late as Mid-November.
DEATHS in the period just passed have been of Claude Williams, who furnished us with the Pierce G. Cook account book material and Galen Chapin. Both attended Lake Odessa schools in the 1920’s.
THE BIG TREES
Our big tree paragraph of the last issue has brought some response about trees in the area. While this does nor portray an extensive combing of the area for the largest trees, it might be regarded as a representative poll and could be projected as the general picture as the political polls purport to do in the newspapers.
Some observations come from measuring several large trees. Almost all the large trees are to be found on roadsides, lawns and farmyards, indicating that they have a pet status not enjoyed by their brethren in the woodlot. Most large trees in the woods have long since been harvested. Some pasture fields still have their big trees for shade for the livestock though generally it has been years since any domestic animal has sought shelter there from the sun.
A rather common occurrence is the vine of poison ivy we find growing on the trunks of most big trees. Nature seems to favor this combination. Many of the outstanding trees show scars of lightening and some have been damaged enough to have decay outdistancing the new growth. Big trees have survived the force of tornadoes only through good luck.
When Theren McNeil built his house across the road from the Creighton farm on the Clarksville Road back in 1910 or 1911 he did not buy much lumber nor cut any trees for that job. Ben Probasco reports that Therron cut one hard maple from the 40 acre (NW ¼ of SW ¼ section 22) kitty-cornered from Ben’s place on the Sunfield Highway. He hauled the log to Jimmy Creighton’s sawmill and lost his load once from its top-heavy perch on the wagon. When it was sawed, Theron had all the framing he needed for the upright of the house that still stands.
Here are some of the measurements of the big trees hereabouts. The figures are given in inches of circumference.
OAK: Wesleys’ farmyard 164
Wilbur Gierman’s field 160
Oren Daniel’s roadside on Bippley 147
Florence Huyck’s Sunfield lot 136
SILVER MAPLE: Homer Downing yard 154
SOFT MAPLE: Allen Cross’ roadside near house 127
WHITE PINE: Highland Park Cemetery Ionia 102
COTTONWOOD: LaVerne Daniels’ yard 156
Bill Weller’s field on Henderson Road at pond 141
Wesley Meyers’ lawn 128
SUGAR MAPLE: Homer Downing’s yard 120
Homer Downing’s lawn 191
Highland Park Centery Ionia 84
The extreme size of the mulberry has to be discounted a little in comparison with the other figures because the low branching makes it a sort of triple trunk affair. If you have a tree that deserves mention for its size, send in the measurement and we shall put it on the printed record. The “General Sherman” Sequoia is measured at 1,219 inches or 101.6 feet.
THE THRILL OF THE HUNT (As told on tape in 1953) By Elmer Gierman
Killing a deer is a very thrilling experience. Of course you know where we went—up to Grayling. We stayed in a cottage on Marguerite Lake, which is right next to the camp where the National Guard camps out and does its war training every year.
We went hunting out on Collin’s Knob. That is a hill about four or five miles out in the woods—a sort of a ridge with oak and small evergreens. We got out there very early in the morning before daylight. You feel sort of skittish as you walk through the woods thinking maybe somebody will take you for a deer and get an early shot at you in the morning.
You stand around for awhile waiting for the deer to get up, I guess. At daylight you hear a few guns going off and there are more shots and closer to you. I stood there for maybe two hours and then I heard a couple of shots quite close to me right where I thought one of the fellows who was hunting with us was standing and I thought probably he got his deer.
Then I was quite startled to have a fox run past me and by the time I got my gun around to shoot at him he was gone. I moved a little ways and thought I would sit down in the sunshine and get warm. I sat down straddling a log and all at once, right close to me, somebody cut loose, wham! bang!
That really made me excited. I began to watch in that direction to see what might come along. Pretty soon, right through the low evergreens and brush, here came a deer just a’crashing through. All in a few seconds I noticed he had horns and that he was alone and really coming right at me. You know when you are sitting straddle of a log, if you are right-handed, you can swing a gun to the left a whole lot easier than you can to the right. I thought I could not get him that way so I whirled my right leg over the log and thought I’d shoot him going away. When I whirled clear around he was going away. I drew down with that old “35” and let him have it through the back. That threw him down and when he started off again I shot another time and hit him in the shoulder.
That was very exciting. You wonder if the fellow who shot at him up the hill might not come down and argue with you. Finally I walked over and felt kind of proud that I had shot a buck. It was a good think we had sharpened my hunting knife. I got the deer pretty well butchered out when the fellow I was hunting with, whom I though may have first shot the buck, came over and helped me finish dressing out the deer.
By that time I had my coat off and began to wonder how we would get the deer out of there and over to the car. We put a rope on him and put my tag on him and started to drag him over toward the car. It was then I found out that killing a deer was an exciting thing—especially exciting for an old man like me. I could scarcely pull the deer and I sat down to rest. My partner said “I’d hate to haul you and the deer both out of here. I’ll go get our friend, Ralph, we’ll drive the car up close by and drag the deer over to the car.”
That is about the way we did. We got my deer and then drove over and got Fuller’s deer and drove back to camp very proud that two out of three of us got his buck. We brought them back to Ionia. I was trying to figure out a way of getting out of cutting it all up so I kind of hinted to Ralph that maybe he would like to help me. He finally said “well, it will cost $8.00 to get it done up at the locker plant, so you give $4 and I’ll give $4, we’ll divide the deer and that will make hamburger for both of us. End
THE EATON COUNTY MASTODON
From THE PORTLAND OBSERVER of December 5, 1876
Concerning those wonderful bones which are now being exhumed near Bellevue, the correspondent of the BATTLE CREEK JOURNAL writes:
Charles Cummings, Esq. living on section 5 Bellevue had occasion to dig a ditch across a marsh on his farm and in so doing struck the bones of an immense mastodon. These bones were from four to five/feet underground. The forward part or head has not been taken out yet as the water came in in such quantities that they were obliged to discontinue their work. One of the bones found weighs 58# and a corresponding bone from an ox weighing 1700# weighs only 3 ½#. This large bone is 3 and ¾ feet long and the one of an ox is 14 inches in length. The one found is 14 inches in circumference at the smallest place, the ends having a circumference of 2 feet, 10”.
Mr. Cummings has taken out of the ground over 1,000 pounds of these bones and has hardly made a commencement of getting them all. He has taken out about 13 feet of backbone. The points sticking up on the backbone are 18 inches long. What we call a toothpick in a deer’s leg, which is about 3 ½ inches long, is in this animal over 14 pounds. The hole through it called the spinal marrow column is nearly 5 inches. The ribs in the animal set edgewise to the backbone instead of flatwise as they do on the ox.
The first remains of the mastodon found in North America were discovered in 1705 but not until 1801 was anything like a complete skeleton obtained. A tolerably complete one was procured from the morasses of Orange County, New York. This was carried to London in 1802 but was soon returned to Orange County, New York. This was carried to London in 1802 but was soon returned to this country where it occupied a prominent place in Peale’s Museum at Philadelphia. It was imperfect, wanting a considerable part of the head, ribs and bones of the limbs. It is now in Germany.
About 1840 Mr. Koch procured a collection of mastodon bones from the banks of Missouri and put together a nondescript animal, a so-called MISSOURIUM, which drew crowds of visitors to New York and London. The skeleton now is at Cambridge, Massachusetts was discovered in Warren County, New York in 1814. Another was discovered at Newburg, New York in 1845 in a swamp usually covered with water but left dry during the summer. It is now in Boston. Specimens have been found in New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and other states and as far as latitude 65 degrees north. The one just found at Bellevue is supposed to be the largest specimen that has ever been discovered. A fuller description will undoubtedly be given when the balance of these immense bones are exhumed. End
It was in the fall of 1966 that Francis “Carly” Warner discovered the bones of a mastodon while excavating for a pond southeast of Sunfield at a depth of about five feet. He had the bones treated to preserve them from oxidation. Curlly showed the bones as they were in his pickup at the Lakewood school.
A few years before that the VanNeste family dug up some of the bones of a mastodon on the family farm between Sunfield and Milliken. The most of these were kept locally.
FROM THE PORTLAND ADVERTISER of March 31, 1868.
In the spring of 1833, being dissatisfied with my occupation, that of a distiller, I proposed a visit to the wilds of Michigan. Accordingly in the month of May I turned my face westward and, with many hopes and misgivings of a young man leaving home and a civilized country, to plunge into the wild and almost unknown forest of the mighty west.
I directed my course toward the thriving little village, which has since grown into the beautiful and enterprising city of Ann Arbor. After visiting my friends there and prospecting throughout Washtenaw and Jackson counties, and not finding any place in which I was desirous of settling, I heard of a superior waterpower at the mouth of Looking-Glass River. On the tenth of June 1833, accompanied by a party of six men, my father being one of the number, composed of prospectors and adventurers, also two pack mules, I set forth with high expectations for the Grand River valley.
Passing through Dexter and following a northwardly course, we forded the Huron River between two lakes at a place then known as Strawberry Point where we struck an old open shanty that had been used in rainy weather for the manufacture of oak shingles. In this place of the wilderness we proposed to spend the night, having first taken the precaution to spaucel our horses that they might not leave us during the night.
As spaucel may be a strange term to some of my readers, I will endeavor to give a brief explanation of it, being the mode in which the Indians secure their ponies. This is formed with a strap having two buckles in the center, buckling in opposite directions, the ends encircling the forefeet, confining them about one foot apart, thus enabling them to graze with ease, rendering it impossible for them to make off with any show of speed.
On the morning of the eleventh after partaking of a hearty breakfast we again resumed our journey, still following Indian trails through marshes and over hills directed our course as near as possible to a French trading post on the banks of the Shiawassee River, neither knowing the exact distance nor the perils of our journey.
About five o’clock P.M. the sky became suddenly overcast with dense black clouds and ere the sun had passed the western horizon the lightning flashed forth and thunder roared as if the entire artillery of Heaven was raging a fearful contest in the ethereal regions. Thinking that the post must be near, we started forward at double quick, hoping to find shelter for the night among the aborigines; but our visions of a warm berth and dry lodgings were destined soon to be dispelled. Before we came to a warm berth and dry lodgings were destined soon to be dispelled. Before we came to a halt the storm in all its fury broke upon us and long before we could pitch our tent to shield us from the rain we were completely drenched and all our combustible materials consisting of a steel, punk, a rifle and a bottle of aqua fortis and matches saturated with sulfur (friction matches being then unknown), which being dipped into the aqua fortis would immediately ignite. (Note: the reference book gives “In 1812 a chemical match was invented; it was coated with sulfur and tipped with a mixture of potassium chlorate and sugar, which caught fire when touched to surfuric acid.”) But these were rendered useless by the storm. Our rifles also proved to no avail, the moisture having entered into the pan, dissolving the powder. So we became resigned to our fate and endeavored to make the best of our unenviable position, crawling into our tent while the rain beat with seeming madness over our heads and stream of water were running around and under us.
In this condition we managed to keep cool and spent a comfortable a night as could be expected from our surrounding circumstances. When the first rays of morning tinted the eastern sky we took up our tent, repacked our horses and resumed our journey.
After about a half hour’s travel we reached the banks of the Shiawassee River and after following its course about one mile we arrived at the long-looked-for trading post, which we hailed with delight after travelling two days without seeing a single human being excepting, of course, our own company.
Our host gave us a hearty welcome and built a rousing fire, which we enjoyed to our hearts’ content while the young natives, anxious to get a sight of the paleface, peeked through every crack and opening of the house. The master of the house was a Frenchman and his wife a full blooded Indian squaw.
Preferring to prepare our own breakfast, we procured some venison of our host and relished our own repast as only those can who are placed under similar circumstances. Our landlord, being of a jovial disposition and we being considerable wearied by our exertion the previous twenty-four hours, we concluded to remain there until the next morning. We therefore, spent the remainer of the day prospecting around the surrounding section of the country. See note below.
AN ADVERTISEMENT FROM THE MARCH 24, 1868 PORTLAND ADVERTISER
“Wine or a mammoth pieplant. Orders for roots of the above plants will be received “Wine or a mammoth pieplant. Orders for roots of the above plants will be received for a few days at the store of Weld, Root & Co.”
Perhaps you think that ad has nothing to do with you but there just might be a connection. Ben Probasco tells that the rhubarb that his grandfather grew across the road from where Howard Myers now lives came from the winery at Portland. Some of that original planting still lives along the fence near Howard’s mailbox. Roots from the Probasco row were generously allowed to form the nucleus of a pieplant bed in neighbors’ gardens and from there who knows where it may have travelled?
Rhubarb, according to the reference, is a member of the Buckwheat family and a native of Asia. It is sometimes known as pieplant or wine plant. In another six months, the new crop will be ready with the first taste of spring.
NOTE: The editor of the ADVERTISER promised a second installment of pioneering trip to the Looking-Glass and the Grand would follow. It did not appear in succeeding issues and no apology was given. Now, one hundred seven years later there seem no way to be certain who it was recalling the adventure. While it sounds somewhat like the Newman party prospecting the waterpower site at the Looking-Glass and the Gran, there are a number of discrepancies with the story recorded by Mrs. Mary E. Rice reprinted in the April 1968 issue of The Sebewa Recollector. Even though incomplete, the description of the trip seemed too good to pass up for lack of a finish.
PORTLAND ADVERTISER March 24, 1868 NEWSPAPERS OF MICHIGAN
There are 144 papers in the state, 130 of which are general newspapers and of these 73 are Republican in politics, 37 Democrat and 20 neutral. The religious publications are four in number, the literary and commercial two each, the educational, agricultural and temperance one each. 136 are in the English language, 5 in the Dutch language and 3 in the German. In these calculations are not included and several papers published by county school superintendents and a number of advertising journals, as they cannot fairly be classed as regularly established papers.
SAME OLD STORIES From the Souvenir Program of Portland Homecoming and Round-up July 18-21, 1935
On June 25, 1833, the United States gave Elisha Newman a certificate of entry to the land on which most of Section 33 in the Township of Portland. It is interesting to note that the government copy of the patent dated Nov. 4th, 1834, was not recorded in the Register’s office at Ionia until 89 years later. The early settlers had too many other things to do to be bothered with red tape.
Many a transfer deed was not recorded, partly from the lack of cash money, but more because everybody knew all about such transfers and respected them.
The original plat of the Village of Portland, dated February 25, 1847, was recorded in the Register’s office June 22, 1847. On September 13, 1851, Jacob Isenhorn and wife, Mary, deeded their interest in this Portland land to Almeron and Names Newman.
Another instance of the scorn of red tape is the fact that the probate court settlement of the Elisha Newman estate was not made until 1875, leaving his land to Mary Isenhorn, Almeron Newman and James Newman, share and share alike.
Almeron Newman, known as Squire Newman, lived in the big white house where the Arctic Milk Products Co. lately built the brick milk station, and Squire Newman’s big apple orchard extended back of this house between Looking-Glass Avenue and Looking-Glass River as far as Mike Shafer’s place. James Newman’s place was located on the DeWitt Road, opposite the Bayou—a large white house, now owned by Edward L. Goodwin, and called “The Old Homestead”.
Sarah Perrin, the great grandmother of our long-time editor, Fred J. Mauren, was held in loving regard by the early settlers. Perrin Brook, named for her, enters Grand River at the old Peck place. Sarah Perrin, by her will, left one-half of her property to her son, Edward Perrin, of Colorado, and the other half to her three daughters, Clarissa P. Chipman, Helen M. Hoyle and Eliza A. Newton.
Probably it was only after the time of Mrs. Chipman that the boys of the village came to look over the watermelon patch of Marshall Chipman, her son, with covetous eyes. It has been said that Marshall Chipman once worked in a government office at Washington, for he was a very find penman. Other fine penmen were William Harvey Stone and Matt J. Dehn. Later Eston Smith showed the same ability.
Marshall Chipman supplied berries to the people calling “Berries! Berries! Giddap Dick” from his wagon, until the horse showed a gray face and finally died.
At the east side of the road into Shim-ne-con has been set a large granite boulder to show the site of the last encampment of the Indians in this neighborhood. Back about a quarter of a mile in an open field is the grave of Chief Okemos. These Indians finally lived in wooden houses and had a church of their own.
William Bauge used to play with the Indians as a boy after he came to Portland with his father, Philo Bogue. He could talk the Indian language. Their home was on the west bank of Grand River, now north of the Pere Marquette Railroad depot. William Bogue, of course, knew all the old settlers. It is told that one of them coming back after an absence of years inquired after many old settlers. Finally he asked about one of a questionable character. “Where is such a one?” Mr. Bogue answered “I do not know—he is dead”.
South of Portland, in Danby township, was the Compton Church. Among the Deacons were Deacon Compton and Deacon Davids. One night at a religious meeting these two Deacons happened to be kneeling down in the same pew and Deacon Compton thought Deacon Davids might be mellowed enough to make up an ancient quarrel. He slipped along to Deacon Davids and whispered “Deacon, how do you feel about that little matter now?” Back came the answer “By the Goths, just about the same as I did!”
Just south of the Church, at Sebewa Corners, is a granite boulder dedicated to Jonathan Ingalls, a Revolutionary soldier.
The story is told that at a funeral a woman claimed to bring back the Spirit of an Indian and talked a lot of gibberish until Hall J. Ingalls could stand it no longer. He had lived with the Indians so much that he understood the Indian language and could talk it. He began to question the woman in Indian talk when she fled in dismay.
Mrs. Hall Ingalls came to Portland with her mother, who married John Beden, the first sexton of the Portland Cemetery. John Beden and Henry Day, his successor, each took care of the cemetery until their deaths, the latter only a few years ago.
One Day, while Doctor Francis G. Lee was president of the Village, an Indian asked the Doctor for permission to “holler”. He “hollered” until the Doctor had to pay him a dollar to quit. Doctor Lee’s first with was a Bogue; also his second. Doctor Lee in his later years had a fine croquet ground in his yard, where he played with his friends, Harvey Knox, Miles Whitney, John Ward, “Billy” White and many others.
“Billy” White was the son of Uncle Thomas White, who planted the row of maple trees which line the road west of the Shotwell Bridge.
During the war, Wm. H. White clerked in the store of Charles H. Maynard. Each morning it was the clerk’s job to go around and mark up the stock to keep up with the rising costs of replacing the stock. Mr. White was threatened with consumption and was told by Dr. Lee and by Mr. Maynard to take time off to wind up his affairs. He vowed he would outlive them both. He kept a cup of molasses near and took a taste whenever he felt like coughing. Perhaps he outlived his advisors for he was eighty-seven when he died, but Mr. Maynard was past ninety.
Before the war a local artillery company was formed. They got hold of a cannon somewhere and used to take it up on the hill among the oak grubs opposite where the Universalist Church was built, and shoot it across Looking-Glass pond at the opposite bank. They could get powder, but they had only one cannonball so they had to go across and dig out the ball before they could shoot it again.
One time they were not able to find the ball. Years later, a cannon ball was brought in from Benjamin Balderson’s farm, over a mile away, and displayed in Dancan Kennedy’s hardware window.
DAYS OF HIGH ADVENTURE—EARLY SETTLERS IN IONIA COUNTY
From a clipping in Ella Gunn’s scrapbook, original source unidentified. Mrs. Chas. Brooks of Lone Pine Farm, Sunfield, a member of a pioneer Ionia County family, is a student of the early history of her community. To her we are indebted for these pictures of the first settlements there more than 100 years ago.
Into the Indian village of Cocoosh in 1830 came William Hunt with a pack of guns, blankets, whiskey and other items to establish the first trading post in that part of the Grand River valley. Later came partners Burgess and Belcher, and Mrs. Belcher, first white woman to live there. A child was born to the Belchers in 1834.
In 1836 a government surveyor, Lucius Lyons, laid out at Cocoosh the site of the village of Lyons.
On the 28th day of May, 1833, a party of nearly 50 New York State folks looked down into the valley of the Grand above the townsite they were to name Ionia, after a village in New York.
Nearly two months before at Utica, N.Y. this group, including the families of Dexter, Guild, Yeomans, Arnold, Fox and Decker and a bachelor, Dr. W. B. Lincoln, set out for Buffalo by canal boat. After a long trip they left Buffalo by steamer, arriving at Detroit three days later. They started with ox teams for the Grand River valley, by way of Fuller’s Tavern, 13 miles north of Pontiac, on the Saginaw turnpike. At the tavern they engaged 23-year-old B. O. Williams as guide.
For 18 days they made their way through the forest, over the same trail Louis Campau had traveled. Some of their road they built. In what is now Clinton County scarlet fever took the life of a child of Samuel Dexter.
The Ionia townsite had been an Indian village for many generations. The Pottawatomi Indians, the Ottawas and the Chippewas lived there. Indians remained in the vicinity until 1856, when, by act of Congress, they were removed to a reservation in Northern Michigan.
The settlers began by purchasing wigwams and part of the Indians’ gardens for $25 in silver. Provisions and other supplies were brought in later by pole boat from Grand Rapids.
The two Cornell families came to Ionia in November 1833. On their journey through the woods from Fuller’s Tavern they found only three settlers along the way. One was Captain Scott, living in an Indian wigwam where now is the village of DeWitt, Clinton County.
Philo Bogue settled at Portland in October, 1833. M. Milne and James Newman and family joined him in November. John Morrison settled across the river from Ionia in the spring of 1834. McKelvey and Libhart settled near Lyons later that year. George Case settled west of Ionia. Chancellor Barringer located in what is now Danby Township in 1835. Danby Hull came pioneering in 1837 and brought a bushel of apple seeds with him.
Charles and Willard Brooks and William Churchill and families came in 1837. They floated down the Grand by raft from Jackson, and carried a year’s provisions with them. They were warned of a large boulder in the stream near what is now Portland. They watched, but were carried into it and tipped a raft enough to lose part of their supplies. Today this large boulder stands nearly four feet out of the water east of Centerline bridge in Danby Township.
At first Ionia was attached to Kalamazoo County for court purposes, later to Kent. In 1837 by action of 256 voters it was organized as a two-township county. By 1849 the sixteenth and last township was organized. The post office was established at Ionia in 1835 and at Portland in 1837.
Today, boulders and tablets mark the sites of the Indian village, “Chief Cobmocsa” at Riverside Park, Ionia; in Danby Township Chief Okemos was buried in 1858. End
THE ARTHURBURG HILL
The Arthurburg hill a little west of Muir is a prehistoric fortification of earthwork around the hill. Such an aboriginal relic is unique in Michigan and probably in the United States. The Muir Centennial Committee has leased the property for celebration next year. Plans should be made to save it permanently from the encroachment of the bulldozer and lesser shovels.
Last update September 16, 2014