Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 17 Number 6
LaVonne I. Bennett
LaVonne has received permission from Grayden Slowins to edit and submit Sebewa Recollector items of genealogical interest, from the beginning year of 1965 through current editions.
THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of The Sebewa
Volume 17, June 1982, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of Grayden D.
WOODBURY – MY HOME TOWN – 1925, By ViVerne Pierce
M-66, a paved cement road runs through Woodbury from the south to the north. It
wasn’t always this way---just so many wagon tracks that had to be hand-shoveled
out in the winter from snow banks, head high to a tall Indian---dragged and
scraped and graded in the spring from ruts in the mud almost belly-deep to a
team of horses, and dusty as the devil in the dry summer. Then it became #13,
then #39 and eventually M-66. And every time the road bed was changed, Ma made
Dad and I rearrange her rock garden on the bank alongside the road. No wonder I
don’t like rock gardens even to this day.
The people in Woodbury in the 1920’s were very close to each other. I remember
no family feuds or quarrels. If anybody had problems, no matter what, the whole
town drew together and helped out. Perhaps the one thing that accounts for this
was the fact that practically every one who lived there either worked in town or
not more than five miles away at the most. The work was all hard, backbreaking,
manual labor---no machines then. The closeness of the town was, perhaps, shown
best when the “Great Depression of ‘29” hit the country. Everyone drew together,
helped each other, shared with each other---nobody lost his home and none went
hungry. It was with people such as these that I grew up among and gave me the
fond memories I will share with you.
George and Bird Schelter made a living off their 10 or 12 acres at the edge of
town. It was their well and pump that finally made me realize there was no Santa
Claus. When I was six on Christmas Eve, my mother sent Dad over to Schelters for
a pail of water. It was dark out and I went out on our front porch to yell at my
dad and discovered all the Christmas presents on the porch. When Dad got back to
the porch I said “There’s no Santa Claus, is there? You and Ma got us all these
presents, didn’t you?”
He quietly said, “I guess you’re right, boy, but let’s not say anything to your
sister about it. Let her believe as long as she will.”
Ricky Eckardt was an old maid, but a very nice one. She disturbed me only once
and but for a short time, when she told my mother, “One spread to a slice of
bread”. I was afraid Ma wasn’t going to put butter and jam together on my
Jake and Lillie Miller operated a slaughterhouse, butchering cattle and hogs for
people of that area. I didn’t know whether I liked Jake or not, after watching
him shoot the animals in the head with his single barrel 25-20 rifle, but then,
Lillie made up for him with the hot cracklings she passed around and especially
when she let me use her old setting hen to hatch out a nest of duck eggs I had.
John and Emma Gerlinger and their son, Carl, were next. John moved an old
schoolhouse onto his property and set up a wood-working shop. With that and his
team of horses, he made a living for his family. Carl was my age and we were
best of friends. The stories about Cobby and I would fill another book.
Ernest and Olive Grant (Itha McArthur’s parents) and their son, John, lived next
to the P. M. tracks. How their house would shake every time the train went
through. One would have thought the windows would fall out and dishes in the
cupboard would break but somehow they didn’t. John was the reason for a
firecracker exploding in my hand. I lit the big cracker, turned to throw it and
there stood Johnnie Grant.
I didn’t dare let it go, so it exploded in my hand and I let him know it was all
his fault. Grandma Grant lived up back of her son, Ernest, and I shall never
forget the shock of seeing her sitting out on her little porch in a rocking
chair and smoking a clay pipe. She was the only woman in Woodbury at that time
who smoked, but I liked her because she had some good fruit trees and grape
arbors that I was welcome to eat from.
My folks, Carl and Neva Pierce, lived on the corner of now M-66 and Maple Street
and no boy could have been more fortunate in the location of his home. My
Grandpa and Grandma Wells (W. R. Wells & Cassie) lived beside us and my Grandpa
and Grandma Pierce (H. O. Pierce & Katie) lived across the road. How lucky could
a boy be? And because this is not a family history, I will not go into any
detail about them, except to say, “I loved them dearly”.
Cleophus and Dora DeCamp with their son, Forrest, lived next to Grandpa Pierce.
He was a schoolteacher at Woodbury for many years and a very stern one.
Consequently not too many children idolized him, but because he insisted that my
mother let me read his Argosy magazine, maintaining that a boy could round out
his education reading about the cowboys, soldiers and other adventurers I liked,
I thought him a very nice man.
Across the street again, lived Gottlieb and Mary Morlok, (Dick Morlok’s Grandpa
& Grandma). They were the parents of Carl Morlok, who, perhaps, brought more
fame to Woodbury than any other one person. He was the father of the Morlok
quadruplets, born in Lansing, Michigan. Bill Morlok, Dick’s father, was a man of
few words and believed in going to the core of a problem to solve it. Like the
time he was suffering from a very bad corn on his little toe. To cure it he
placed his foot on a block of wood and with a sharp hatchet, proceeded to chop
off the toe.
One incident I remember best, was when my Uncle Irol Wells and I were trying out
our new bows and arrows that we had made---the bow from a thin piece of hickory
with many pieces of store string wound together and waxed, and the arrows from
dried cattail stalks. The target was Gottlieb Morlok’s Rhode Island Red Rooster.
I know now that it wasn’t funny to see that rooster run around for two days with
that arrow sticking out its rear end, but it seemed that way until our fathers
caught up with us.
Pete Kussmaul’s family added the touch of sadness to Woodbury to balance out
some of the joys. I often wondered why Ma wouldn’t let us kids burn the leaves
that we had raked up in our yard in the fall. I found out that just about the
time I was born the two Kussmaul children were playing in the leaves they were
burning when the boy’s clothes caught fire. The parents grabbed him and rolled
him in carpet to extinguish the flames, but he died from the extensive burns on
his body. To this day I am apprehensive when I see children playing around
Reverend Lyons and his wife lived in the U. B. parsonage. He was an impressive
looking man to me. He was quite tall, stood very straight, was always
well-dressed and then had this immense head of pure white hair. He was the
epitome of a preacher in my eyes and for many years I couldn’t understand how
some men had become preachers when they didn’t look anything at all like our
Abe Middaugh and family lived beside the church. He worked for George Smith at
Smith Bros. Belte elevator for many years. Abe was a quiet sort of fellow, went
about his work quietly and did it well. “He’s my right hand man”, Mr. Smith
often said. But once in awhile Abe would get riled at some one or something and
then the cuss words would roll out of him. I often wondered if living that close
to the church took some of the sting out of them, because he lived to be quite
an old man. Incidentally, Abe was Harlan Middaugh’s father.
Across the street from Middaughs was a vacant house owned by the Strimback
family. Although nobody lived there when I was a child, I must tell the story my
Grandpa Wells told me about a family that rented the house from Strimbacks.
Apparently the family obtained a small pig and kept it in the basement of the
house. This pig must have been the forerunner of a garbage disposal, because
they fed it all their peelings, and table scraps from each meal. It came time to
butcher the hog, but they couldn’t get the 350# live hog up the stairway, so
they were forced to butcher it in the basement. Tale about building a boat in
George and Bessie Geisel and son, Kenneth, lived upstairs over the W. R. Wells
store. Aunt Bessie, being a daughter of W. R. Wells, clerked in the store and
George ran the grocery wagon through the countryside. George made many friends
of the people on his routes. They looked forward to his coming for many reasons.
He used to thread needles for several old ladies who were partially blind, carry
messages for neighbors, and for the kids he always had “stick candy”. This is
probably why Grandpa used to say that with women confiding in him, Uncle George
usually knew when a lady was “expecting” before her husband did.
Mr. and Mrs. Gross lived across from the store. They were the parents of Rena
Fender. Mr. Gross was a shoe cobbler. They were a very quiet family, speaking
very broken English as I recall, and as kids, we sensed that they wanted to be
left alone, so there is not much I remember about them.
Harlan and Olive Horn lived on the corner and her sister, Vera Gilson, lived
with them and worked in the Horn’s store. Their house was about the nicest in
town. Harlan hauled all the kids in Woodbury to school in Woodland when the
Woodbury school was closed for eight years. Vera Gilson, next to my mother and
grandmothers was probably the most influential woman I knew in my childhood
years. She taught me to recognize and pronounce the wild bird names on the cards
that used to come in Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. I had my collection for years.
She also taught me how to play dominoes and checkers and impressed upon me how
important good manners were for children. I remember that she always seemed to
find time in the store to teach me something but with her it was more like play.
Jake and Roxie Schelter, down the street from Horn’s store were Ethel Hynes
folks (Ardath Wilcox’s parents). I’ve often wondered how many yards of gravel he
shoveled. He was a quiet, hard-working man. One time he had been working for my
father and when it came payday, Dad asked “How much do I owe you, Jake?”
He responded quickly and quietly, “Six times eight is forty-eight---dollar and a
half from last week, figure it up yourself, by God!” Roxie was a wonderful, warm
lady. She always asked me in for a warm cookie and a cold glass of milk.
Naturally I made it my business to know the time of the week she baked and
always happened to be around then. Come to think of it, this happened at quite a
few places in Woodbury.
George Smith, his wife, Louise and daughter, Hilda, lived on---what else---Smith
St. He and his brother David started Smith Bros. & Velte Elevators. (Larry
Smith’s uncle and father). The best way I can describe George Smith is with a
comparison to a recent TV commercial. You have all seen the one where people
stop and listen when the name E. F. Hutton is mentioned. Well sir, in Woodbury,
when George Smith spoke, people listened, not out of awe, but with respect.
Mrs. Statsick, (Dorothy Smith’s mother) lived next to Smiths. The two things I
remember best about her place were 1)she had the only smooth section of sidewalk
in town on which to roller skate and 2)she had an enormous horse chestnut tree
in her front yard and that was where I got all my ammunition for my slingshot.
That was the only horse chestnut tree in town but the nuts wound up seeding the
Orley Middaugh lived on the corner of the highway and Kalamazoo Street along
with his mother and brother, Adelburt. Orley ran the barbership and poolroom and
Delbert was a wood cutter. As I remember, Delbert was always sharpening his axe,
a double bitted one that shone like a new dime. When he chopped a block of wood,
you never saw three or four axe marks to one slab of wood. I believe he could
split a hair lengthwise with that axe. Orley had a beagle dog, (Old Susie) that
was a very good rabbit dog. When hunting season rolled around it was our dog. He
would let Dad take the dog home and when he wasn’t hunting with it, the dog had
a special place in our kitchen and was given all the attention of visiting
Next to Middaughs lived Rev. Hettler and his family in the Evangelical
parsonage. He was a good man and a good preacher, but he never seemed to be able
to help Delbert Middaugh with his temper and profanity. The Hettlers had a son,
Forest, who in the vernacular of those days “wasn’t quite right”, and after
seeing him chase his sister-in-law with a butcher knife, our teasing of him let
Glen and DeEtte Rairigh and family lived down the street. Glen worked for years
for Forrest DeCamp in the garage and also ran his own sawmill. But I remember
him best for taking time out of his day to show me how to throw a baseball, how
to use a ball bat and how to play the game in general. He is still alive and I
always enjoy a chat with him when we happen to meet.
The Hildinger sisters, always referred to as the “Old Maids” lived next to
Rairighs and they were always the brunt of our Halloween tricks. We would make
tic-tacs from a thread spool, notched on the edges with rubber bands put through
them and a wind-up stick. After winding one up and placing it on a window pane
we’d let it go so it would make a terrible racket. Those two dear ladies never
tried to retaliate and why we were so mean to them, I don’t know, but I’m sorry.
Leo and Ethel Hynes and children, Glendon, Cecil and Ardath were next. Leo also
worked for George Smith and later for Harlan Horn before starting farming for
himself. Ethel could never understand why her children had colds and runny noses
most of the winter when they were bundled up with sweaters, coats, stocking
caps, scarves, overshoes, mittens and anything else she could get on them, while
I was running around bareheaded, shirt open, feet wet, wet mittens and never had
a cold. She asked my Ma about this one day and my Ma simply said, “Ethel, maybe
you ought to let those kids breathe a little.”
Then there was Mr. & Mrs. Winters, Ed Winters’ folks. I don’t recall anything in
particular about them so it will suffice to say that they were just “nice
Ted and Nina Pachulski lived across from Winters with their son Kenmore “Bud”
Fender. I was eight or nine years old before I could understand why his last
name was different from his parents. Divorce was unheard of in Woodbury at that
time. Incidentally, I heard that Bud went down in a torpedoed submarine in World
War II and his body was never recovered.
Clarence and Sarah Meyers lived on the north side at this time. They were
another nice couple and at their place a young boy was always welcomed into the
kitchen for cookies and milk. And you could play in their yard or run across it
without feer of being “hollered at”. Come to think of it, there wasn’t any place
in Woodbury like that.
Luther, “Mose” Brodbeck lived on the street across from the elevator with his
wife and children. “Mose” was the station agent at the depot and that could be a
whole story by itself. Their children were Marguerite and Luther Jr. but being
younger than I, I don’t remember too much about them.
Now---George “Baldy” Kussmaul and Martha, his wife, I could write another whole
book about him. Baldy worked at everything---section hand, woodcutter, thresher,
ditch digger, farm hand, whatever there was to do, Baldy could do it. To me, he
was my euchre partner, jew’sharp teacher and story teller. Just a person a young
boy enjoyed being with because Baldy was young at heart also.
Just outside of town was Carl and Florence Eckardt. They delivered milk in town
in the evening. Who remembers milk before it was pasteurized and when left on
the porch a little too long on a cold evening would freeze and raise out of the
bottle? That frozen cream was like ice cream to me. Ma accused me of leaving it
out on the porch too long on purpose---she was right.
Dan Smith lived south of town. We could set our clocks when Dan came to get his
mail at noon and for the men’s gabfest every night in Grandpa Wells’ store. He
never missed coming to town twice a day as long as I knew him. He was also, to
my knowledge, the most and best read Bible student in the area.
Across the road from Dan lived Mike Hildinger. Mike was a short roly-poly
red-faced, laughing man, who liked his cider, but was always a most generous man
when it came time to contributing to a worthy cause.
I have left to the last Ed and Martha Winters, the main reason being that Martha
was like a second mother to me. Before her children, William and Helena were
born, she would walk into Woodbury, take me as a baby into her arms and walk
home and then bring me back at night. This continued long after I could walk
with her. She showered me with so much love and affection, it was no wonder my
day was complete when she walked into my daughter’s home two years ago to honor
me with her presence at the celebration of my wife’s and my 40th wedding
anniversary. She will always be Marsie to me.
Woodbury today has changed for me. Old buildings have been torn down while few
have been built. Old majestic trees have been cut down with few replanted and
saddest of all, practically everybody mentioned in this article has passed on
leaving nothing but memories---but they are memories I’ll never forget.
My sincerest thanks to Robert Gierman for all the time he has spent reproducing
the articles on Woodbury and the CK&S Railroad and using them in The Sebewa
Recollecotor for all to enjoy. His efforts to compile and perpetuate these
statistics and memories are deeply appreciated. VGP End
John Grieves was a seventeen year old boy, who lived in Steuben County, New York
state, when the President of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln, called for volunteers to
join up in the Civil War in 1860. His parents were not in favor of his joining
the service when he was so young. John climbed out of his upstairs bedroom
window one night, ran out and enlisted in the Thirty-Fifth New York Infantry,
Co. F., then drilling at Corning, N.Y., and then to Washington, D.C. where they
camped on Meridian Heights and took part in the first battle of Bull Run,
covered the retreat from that battle and camped at Arlington, near the present
site of the National Cemetery.
Mr. Grieves (our grandfather) served in the battles of Fredericksburg, Yorktown
and the Seven Days battle, then went with his company overland to Cedar Mountain
and fought in the battles of the Rappanhannock, White Sulphur Springs and the
second battle of Bull Run. Then they proceeded to South Mountain and Antietam,
where they crossed the Potomac to Warrentown. He was present when McClellan was
relieved of his command, which was given to Burnside.
In the battle of Fredericksburg, Mr. Grieves fought in “Franklin’s Grand
Division”, which crossed the Potomac on pontoon bridges to Chancellorsville. He
was mustered out of service June 11, 1863 and reenlisted in December 1863 in Co.
L, Fourth Heavy Artillery at Cohocton, N.Y. He then fought in the second battle
of Chancellorsville in 1864 and in the battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse and
Cold Harbor. At City Point they were given mortar batteries and stationed before
Petersburg during the winter of 1864. In the spring of 1865 Co. L was ordered to
follow up the Second Corps Artillery Brigade where he was present at the
surrender of Lee at Appomatix, April 9, 1865 and then the war was over. He was
mustered out of service at Hart’s Island, N.Y. September of 1865, having served
through the entire war without once being wounded or captured by the enemy.
He came to Michigan shortly after the war and obtained work in the lumber woods.
He became acquainted with and hired by Horace Goodwin, who was a lumberman in
the woods. Goodwin, with his wife and eight children lived in the area of Bear
Lake, Michigan. John met and became acquainted with the hired girl of the
Goodwin family. Her name was Marion Ruth Thompson from Alto, Bowne Township,
Kent County. She was assisting her older sister (Mrs. Goodwin), Adelia, with the
housework and care of her family. Their friendship grew and they were married in
He was a stone mason by trade, following in the footsteps of his father in that
business. The family later moved from Kent County and settled near Maple Corners
near Portland. While living there he carried on his trade. One of the walls he
built is along the street on Dilley Hill at the west end of Bridge Street in
He later bought land north of Morrison Lake and built a large frame house for
his family on Townline Road south of Saranac where they lived and their family
grew to adulthood. John and Marion lived on this farm some forty years before
his death in 1925.
During his lifetime he was active in the Hiel P. Clark G.A.R. Post in Saranac
and his wife was a member of the W. R. C. there also. He attended Co. battalion
meetings very faithfully and he always planned each year to attend the Ionia
Free Fair and usually visited his brother, William and family, who lived on
their homestead farm north of Ionia in Ronald Township. He spent some time in
Ionia at the home of one of his son’s and attended the Fair with him.
He last attended the Fair at the age of 81 years and returned home with the
statement, “This is the best fair I’ve ever attended.”
He seemed always to have on hand little packages of spruce gum and horehound
candy and the grand children thought he was great. They also remember the
red-hot cinnamon drops from the big black bureau drawer in the kitchen that
grandmother kept for them.
Mrs. Ruth A. (Harry) York of the Sebewa Center area was the eldest of their five
children. They had 19 grandchildren, 15 lived to adulthood, ten were boys and
seven served in the military service of their country.
Ruth taught country school prior to her marriage to Harry York. She was always
active in community affairs prior to her death in 1947.
November 16, 2013