Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 18 Number 1
Transcribed by 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 Center Association;
Volume 18, August 1982, Number 1. Submitted with written permission of editor, Grayden D. Slowins:

From the BERIA ADVERTISER, 9-16-1904

About April 1833 England had become thickly populated and every avenue for business was crowded. The common school advantages were very inferior; many were desirous of leaving England and seeking home and fortune in the new land. Abut this time John Friend, with his wife and seven children; John, Betsy, William, Blanche, Maria, Thomas and James decided to leave their native land and seek a home in the new land under the new government. Mr. Friend lived in Devonshire, England. He had become a farmer of some note, managing and carrying on many acres of land at one time. The farms were owned by Lords and Squires, each farm having its own name, as, Black-a-Broom, Batzel, Dartimore, etc. Mr. Friend was small of stature, wide awake, energetic and always on the alert. The work was done by servants and managed by a foreman. Mr. Friend rode on horseback, giving orders. A foreman carried them out.

Before leaving England, Mr. Friend showed great forethought in case of accident or shipwreck that would separate the family. For each of the girls, being three in number, he provided a stout canvas bag, large enough to hold a guinea. Into these he put three hundred pounds (between twelve and fifteen hundred dollars). These were securely sewed around the waist under the clothing. The Voyage was made in a sailboat; taking weeks; steamboats coming into use a little later. The young ladies had many friends among the passengers and were often asked by young ladies as they paraded the deck, “Do you wear a bustle?” They always informed them they did, not explaining the value of the article.

The oldest boys were also provided with means. Into each of the linings of their vests, then called waistcoats, they had five hundred pounds quilted. Mr. and Mrs. Friend also had some money about their persons, so that in case they should be separated, each would be provided with means. The next step was not quite so discrete. The balance of the money was put into a large cask, and as all baggage was stored in the hold of the boat, that went with the rest.

All went well, until nearing New York, off Sandy Hook, now a summer resort, near Long Island, the ship struck a sand bar, when about two miles out at sea, and at two o’clock in the morning, and with every wave was washed further farther and father into the sand until she was fast. The scene on board was terrible, some crying, some praying and some cursing and swearing. The tide was running high and each effort to reach the shore proved fruitless. Every means was tried to reach the land, each time being driven back. It seemed all on board must be lost. About two o’clock in the afternoon the first and second mates said if they might be allowed, contrary to the rules of the boat, to leave the boat and try to reach land, and if it would please God to spare their lives and they could reach land, they would return to the vessel. They were fine swimmers and were granted their request. On leaving the ship, they carried with them a small line, attached to a larger, then a larger, then one still larger. As the breakers would be rolling high, the swimmers would be lost from sight all on board feeling that their brave rescuers had perished. In despair all on board felt they must be lost. After some time the heads of the swimmers would appear nearer shore. Once, twice they tried, each time being driven back. The third time, after being given up by all on board, they reached land.

On reaching land with the line, a communication was established with the ship. Then began the voyage back to the ship in small boats. After hard labor, with water-filled boats, they succeeded in reaching the wreck. The women and children were first to be rescued. To do this they were taken into small boats until they struck a sand bar, then they were taken from the boats by men and carried across the bar and put into other boats. This was twice repeated before reaching land. This being a dangerous point, there was a large building on the shore called “The Wreckers Home”. A fireman (the next paragraph is not readable print, with only sections of sentences clear enough to read)…….of the room. This was opened and a large……….who were wet, cold, being in salt water…..given each a small tea biscuit and a cup of…..of the men came to the front in the…..of her husband…..

In getting ashore, one of the small boys was separated from the rest. They searched up and down the shores in hopes of finding him, but in vain. Betsy and Blanche, after searching long and diligently, broke down and cried. Blanche’s crying attract…..of a rich man who was passing in a beautiful carriage. He ordered the driver to….and upon discovering the cause of their grief, took them into his carriage and drove along the beach in search of the missing brother. About two miles out, and at a hotel, they found him eating supper. Their grief was turned to joy. This gentleman was blind but very kind. He had a small cottage which he opened to Mr. Friend and his family. While there he brought them many eatables and luxuries.

The money which they had put in the cask was still in the wreck. After many attempts to secure it, Mr. Friend advertised for divers and offered a reward. After a number of days, the cask was secured and brought to shore. Immediately an old servant, faithful as he had always been, sat upon the gold and remained there as if taking a sun bath.

They remained there three days and each night robbers attacked the house, so that the men were obliged to guard it with firearms. Mr. Friend’s daughters, begging him to leave, took passage for Cleveland. He and Mr. Squires, whose descendants still live in Columbia, started in search of farms. This was between Beria and Binola.

Mr. Squires settled in Columbia and Mr. Friend one mile south of Bennett’s Corners. Mrs. Betsy Southam, the oldest member of this reunion, who is ninety years old, is the Betsy of this sketch. Mrs. Esther Clafin of Beria is the daughter of Maria Friend. Only two of the original family are living, Mrs. Betsy Southam and James Friend of Carlton, Michigan.

The above sketch appeared in the Beria Advertiser, the issue of Sept. 16, 1904 and was reprinted from a copy of that issue for the interest of the many descendants of John and Betsy Friend, by Annabelle Friend Braendle, a granddaughter of James Friend who died in 1923. Freeport, Michigan, September 28, 1929.

Annabelle was the daughter of Frank and Minnie Friend of Pleasant Valley in Campbell Township, Ionia County, Michigan. She was the sister of Dayton Friend and the wife of Ken Braendle of Portland. The Friends, Braendles and Brakes attended school together in Clarksville, Annabelle being in Crystal Brake Slowins’ class from country school on up.)

The following note was written on the sketch by Mrs. Marian Pryer Lakin: This sketch has to do with your ancestors on your Grandmother Phebe Maria Friend Baldwin side of the house. The first two characters mentioned are her Grandfather, John Friend and Betty Comb Friend, her Grandmother. The other 7 characters were their children. John Friend (II) was my Father, also your Grandmother Baldwin’s father and your great-grandfather ______born July 16, 1867.)

One week ago last Sunday, John Friend, who now resides in Alanson, Michigan received a paralytic stroke in his left side. Last Thursday, word was received in Portland that he was not expected to live and his five children, all residing at Sebewa, with the exception of Mrs. R. Baldwin, who resides in Portland, left for Alanson. Monday evening Mr. Baldwin received word from his wife that her father was better but not yet out of danger. THE OBSERVER most earnestly hopes that Mr. Friend will recover from his sickness.

June 17, 1885 OBITUARY- - -JOHN FRIEND
Died in Alanson, Michigan Wednesday, June 10th, aged 61 years, 3 months and 6 days. Mr. Friend’s death was caused by two strokes of paralysis on Tuesday evening, June 9th, about 6 o’clock, lasting about one hour; the last stroke was on his left side immediately over the heart and throat, lasting about one hour and a quarter. He remained unconscious until his death Wednesday morning at 5:15 o’clock. The remains were brought to Portland Thursday noon and taken to Sebewa, where on Friday they were interred under the direction of the Sebewa Lodge I. O. O. F. assisted by the Portland encampment, of which Mr. Friend was an honored member. About 100 Odd Fellows were present in the procession, representing lodges from Sunfield, Hoytville, Vermontville, Portland and Sebewa. The funeral services were held in a beautiful grove west of Sebewa Corners. Rev. F. N. Janes preached a short but effective sermon, after which the remains of the deceased were taken to the cemetery for interment, followed by almost 150 carriages and wagons, showing how highly Mr. Friend was esteemed by his neighbors and friends.

John Friend was born in Devonshire, England March 4th, 1824. His parents, John and Betty (Comb) Friend, were also natives of England. Mr. Friend’s ancestors were landowners and farmers. In April 1833 the family emigrated to America, settling at Royalton, Cuyahoga County, Ohio where Mr. Friend followed the occupation of farming.

June 17, 1843 John Friend married Miss Polly Ann Meachum, of Brunswick, Medina County Ohio. By this union were born four children, viz: Francis N.; Geo. E.; Phebe M. and Emma A.

In April 1854 Mr. Friend removed with his family to Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan. December 16th, 1857 he was afflicted by the death of his estimable wife. During this time Mr. Friend conducted a general store at Sebewa, in connection with his farm, gristmill and sawmill.

December 24, 1858 he married for his second wife Miss Sarah J. Cramer of Herkimer County, N.Y. By this union there were born the following children - - viz: Estella, Edith, Bertha, Judson Zach, Mornie Bell and Ethel Rose. July 5th, 1875 Mr. Friend was afflicted by the death of his second wife.

November 12, 1876 he married for his third wife Mrs. Lou A. Farrel from whom he was divorced November 15th, 1880.

From 1849 to 1852 Mr. Friend engaged in business as a drover and stock-raiser. From 1852 to 1867 he followed the occupation of lumbering and from 1868 to 1871 was engaged in the hard lumber business. From 1871 to 1875 he resumed the business of stock raising and from 1875 to 1879 kept a general assortment store at Sebewa and during this time continuing the management of his extensive farms. He was an ardent supporter of the Union in the War of the Rebellion and has been a Republican since the organization of that party.


The VanderHeyden house of Ionia was again featured on the Ionia Homes Tour in May. While perhaps not quite as elegant as the Blanchard house, it has half again as much floor space, bright sunlit rooms, and a hillside setting, which only a shepherd can fully appreciate.

The tour guide was woefully lacking in information about the house and when I mentioned that my relatives built it, she asked me to compile some facts about it for next time.

The house, located at 926 W. Main Street, was built in 1879, a year before the Blanchard house, a year after my own house and contemporary with many other Italianate houses in Ionia City and County. A main point to remember is that this house was designed and built symmetrically for two separate but related families right from the start. So it was not cut up later and ruined like so many old houses. There are two of everything on each floor except the central halls and the front and rear stairs: two parlors, two living-dining rooms, two kitchens, two summer kitchen-woodsheds. There are four large bedrooms upstairs and two full baths plus pleasant servants’ quarters in the upstairs rear.

The house was built for William H. and Frederick H. VanderHeyden, father and son, although Fred was still a boy when it was designed. They were the only owners before the Bruce Young family. Much of the original furnishings survived until the Young’s 1975 sale. William VanderHeyden lived in the east half and Fred in the west half. After William’s death in 1910, Fred used the east half for daily living and the west became a library, study (or office), small bedroom and laundry. Fred’s widow died in 1963 and Youngs purchased the place intact.

Originally there were two wood-coal furnaces, later stoker fired. Youngs put in two gas furnaces. The original lights were carbide gas, as were both fireplace grates. The basement has brick floors and 10 foot ceilings. Upper floors have 12 foot and 13 foot ceilings. The low attic originally led to a 30 foot widow’s walk, which has been removed and sealed over to prevent leaking. The often-called white brick or yellow brick by old-timers, is most accurately described as ivory-brick, although VanderHeyden bricks do vary from house to house and some within the same house.

William H. VanderHeyden was born in Herkimer County, New York, in 1836 and died in Ionia, August 16, 1910. He was married to Emily E. Wood, born in Detroit, 1840, died in Ionia, 1918, daughter of John Wood, also a brick manufacturer. William learned the brick trade in New York State, started his own yard in Ionia and then bought the Cornell brickyard about 1866. He also had a branch in Big Rapids for several years and sold the entire business to his son, Frederick H. in 1892. William and Emily are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, which adjoins the brickyard on the north. Their children were: William H. II, who died young; Ella M., who married H. B. Webber of Ionia; Dora E., who married Dr. A. H. Holiday and lived in Long Beach, California; and Frederick H.

Fred was born in Ionia in 1869, died in Ionia, Sept. 13, 1952. He was married January 25, 1895, to Eleanor M. Clark, born in Muskegon, Michigan February 28, 1874, died in Ionia, March 27, 1963. Both are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Regarding my opening remark that my relatives built the house, some explanation is in order. Those involved were the Biehler, Banhagel, Steinberg and Slowinski families. All were related through their foremothers, the Schnabels, and all were brick makers and bricklayers, and/or stonecutters and stonemasons. They dug the clay and fired the brick kilns. They quarried the sandstone, gathered the fieldstone, cut them as neatly as modern blocks, and then laid the stones and bricks. Almost every stone foundation, brick and stone home, public or commercial building built in Ionia City and surrounding area in the 1870’s through the early 1950’s was touched by them.

George Biehler, Sr., had been a brick maker in Alsace-Loraaine, France, and his son, Frank Sr., started work at VanderHeyden brickyard and became foreman of John C. Blanchard & Co. Ionia Sandstone Quarry. Frank’s daughter, Mamie, was born in a summer cottage at the bottom of the quarry. He was a stonecutter on the VanderHeyden house, the Blanchard house, the Burhans (Leddick) house, Ionia Court House, Ionia State Hospital, the Michigan Reformatory and others.

Frank Banhagel Sr. & Sons laid the brick streets of Ionia, the Armory, the First Presbyterian Church and later its addition, the Ionia Fair Grounds buildings and the manse at SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church.

Frank Slowinski Sr. was said to be the fussiest bricklayer in the family and Frank Steinberg Sr. the best stonecutter. Chris and August Slowinski specialized in barn and other foundations.

Ionia’s First Christian Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Zion United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church and SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church were all built of VanderHeyden brick.

The First Methodist Church has been built twice using the same bricks. First built in 1871-1873, using VanderHeyden brick and Ionia Variegated Sandstone, it was destroyed by fire in 1930. After the fire, many of these bricks were salvaged, cleaned and used to build the walls of the new church. The quarry was reopened and enough stone gotten out to completely face the brick with sandstone. The bricks can still be seen exposed at the south gable end of the main structure.

VanderHeyden bricks were turned out at the rate of three to five million per year at peak production and shipped by rail to such projects as the Veterans’ Home in Grand Rapids. The bricks are imprinted with the initials WHV or FHV, not FVH as has mistakenly been reported.

The VanderHeyden house was designed and built well, of the best materials available. The inside shutters were the best idea of their day for cutting winter drafts and summer sun. The home can be purchased for $55,000, it is said, and with an immediate addition of custom-made Plexiglas storm windows of the type used on various churches in Ionia, it could be a comfortable home for a large family or two separate but related families.

A final word of caution, however. The family is only exaggerating slightly when they say George Biehler III was paid an annual retainer to watch over the plumbing systems. End



Last update November 16, 2013