Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 19 Number 1
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; August, 1983, Volume 19, Number 1: (Submitted with written
permission of editor, Grayden D. Slowins)
HISTORY OF THE DANBY CEMETERY by Fern Conkrite
One Wednesday in October of 1921 a group of determined women of the Frost
neighborhood met at the Will Fishell home at Frost’s Corners and organized the
Danby Cemetery Society. Our cemetery has been used as a sheep pasture and berry
bushes, tall grass and snakes had taken over.
The first officers were: President, Effie Fishell; Secretary, Tiny Phillips, who
later was Mrs. Ben York; Treasurer, Bertha Culver. These three along with Clara
Brown, Nell Peake, Ella Rice, Sylvia Smith and Hattie Craft, who is the last of
the charter members were it. A charter was written and approved at a later
meeting. The society grew by leaps and bounds and at one time there were close
to 100 members. If we had an emblem for charter members, very few graves since
1921 would be missed.
On Armistice Day of 1922 the first chicken dinner was served at the Danby Grange
Hall. It proved to be a huge success. Each year it was held on the Saturday in
November nearest to the 11th day.
The Society was divided into groups: Frost Corners, Sebewa, Compton, Abbey
School, Milliken and Portland. All of these had a booth and sold homemade
articles. The proceeds often went over $150 from the booths and dinner.
The Society was mentioned in the wills of Clarinda Rumfield and Carrie Lyons.
When the Society started working, several of the oldest pine trees were dead or
dying and it was thought best to take them down. That caused as much commotion
as is going on now when they are trying to make a parking lot on the Capitol
lawn. Later the hedge around the north and west sides of the cemetery was in
such bad condition as it had been neglected for so many years it had to come
out. That was another “windstorm” and the cemetery was “sure ruined”.
My Grandfather William Conkrite came to Michigan in 1836 and took up this
section of land, later selling out to the Peake and Rice families who, between
the three of them, gave the land for the old part of the cemetery. In 1837 the
Conkrite’s daughter, Martha, was burned in a brush fire, and is presumed to be
the first buried here. In one hundred thirty-three years later, I’m writing it
Highlights: The well and water system and the pump house was completed in 1929.
Now the water is piped to the very new part on the east. A new toolhouse has
been built and the gateway with the brick pillars and the nameplate between them
was erected and the new drive constructed in memory of Grace Deatsman. The
boulevard was planted and the grove of maple trees set out. The Danby L. L. C.
Club planted outside and erected a stone in memory of our World War boys. Later,
the stone was moved inside and placed in the grove and a flagpole put beside it.
For the way the cemetery looks today we can thank Sexton Oatley for a wonderful
job. The Society will be 50 years old in 1971. In 1923 we had the first Memorial
Service. Today we remember the “Boys in Blue” of ’61 and again in ’98, the khaki
uniform of 1917, the World War of 1941, the Korean conflict and now Viet Nam and
I think that President Nixon must have felt as President Lincoln did when at
another time when our country was divided on a decision of the President. “It is
for us the living to be dedicated to the unfinished task, so nobly advanced that
these dead who gave their last full measure of devotion will not have died in
vain and that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that
the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish
from this earth”.
A little hut was built just south of the Centerline Bridge on the west side of
the road near the C. P. Smith---between C. P. Smith’s and the Rice’s place.
Grandfather later sold that and built the house over on Tupper Lake Road that
became known as the Conkrite Farm. Keith Merryfield owns it now. Will Peabody
got it from the Conkrites. My grandfather died very young and left a big family.
Grandmother went on and raised the family. I think they had all gotten moved to
that farm before he died. She wasn’t too old when she died. From Will Peabody
the farm went to Harmons and I think Keith bought it from the Harmons. My father
was Charles Conkrite. He married Emma Wainwright.
The Cemetery is in three sections. There was first the part up on the hill, and
that got filled. At that time the driveway was about half way between the gate
location now and the hill. The gate location was changed when the roadway was
changed and blacktopped. Grace Deatsman left some money when she died and with
that they put the nameplate in the brick pillars.
The society still has meetings in people’s homes the first Wednesday of every
month. The older members thinned out and could not handle the dinners anymore
and that project was given up.
BLIND JOHNNY SMITH
Among those of you who occasionally visit the East Sebewa Cemetery, it is no
news to hear that vandals have left their mark again, about the fifth time over
a period of years. Sometime I should like to be able to present a piece entitled
“Confessions of a Cemetery Vandal”. I’d really like to know what motives spark
This time some four or five large stones were toppled and the old style slab
marking the grave of Temperance Travis was broken off at the base and again in
the middle. With the use of epoxy compound I repaired those breaks.
Perhaps the vandalizing of the stone was what was needed to introduce the story
of Blind Johnny Smith and his mother, Temperance Travis, 98 years after her
death. Lots of other people died from various causes during the time that she
suffered from cancer; but it was her illness and her son’s devotion that stood
out in the Sebewa local items in the pages of the PORTLAND OBSERVER. The items
5-16-1883 – Johnny Smith, who often entertains our people with instrumental
music in the Post Office (Portland) left Friday for Vallasborough, PA,
accompanied by Geo. W. Peterson, to be gone a week or more.
1-14-1885 – Mrs. Travis is still in poor health.
1-21-1885 – Johnny Smith is teaching music again this winter and we understand
he has a class of about 16 pupils.
2-25-1885 – Mrs. Travis is greatly improved in health. Glad to announce that the
long talked of oyster supper and donation for the benefit of our pastor is to be
held at the residence of Mr. Travis near the schoolhouse. Come everybody and
have a good time.
3-4-1885 – Johnny Smith is giving music lessons in this part of town (West
3-18-1885 – 25 is the lucky number this week. 25 were added to the Baptist
Church; Johnny Smith has 25 music scholars and Miss Julia Knowles had 25
visitors at school last Friday.
5-6-1885 – Johnny Smith is giving such good satisfaction as a music teacher in
this part of town that every day or two a new pupil is added to the list.
7-3-1885 – Johnny Smith was in Ionia and Berlin on business last Saturday.
6-10-1885 – Johnny Smith of North Sebewa meets his scholars at this place (West
Sebewa) every Thursday, rain or shine.
6-24-1885 – Mrs. Travis is no better and Dr. Smith and Dr. Allen are consulting
together on her case.
7-8-1885 – Mrs. Travis seemed better the past week but at this writing she is
7-15-1885 – The friends of Mrs. Travis will, no doubt, be glad to learn that she
is so far recovered that she is able to sit up most of the time.
8-22-1885 – Several of Johnny Smith’s scholars will take another term of lessons
in music if he concluded to teach another class in this place. (West Sebewa)
8-26-1885 – Johnny Smith has an English shilling, which was coined in the year
1762 and is therefore 123 years old. He is also the possessor of a linen towel
made by his parental grandmother in 1811 on which her name is worked.
9-9-1885 – Mrs. Travis was taken suddenly worse Saturday but is a little better
at this writing. Johnny Smith has received a proposition from Hillside parties
to reside in that place the coming winter but he has decided not to accept the
position offered him as his large class in music will occupy most of his time.
The declining health of his mother makes it necessary for him to remain at home.
9-16-1885 – Mrs. Travis is no better. Johnny Smith is teaching a class in music
9-23-1885 – Mrs. Travis is no better than at our last writing.
10-28-1885 – Much sympathy is felt in this neighborhood (West Sebewa) for Johnny
Smith for the loss of his mother, who died at her home Tuesday, October 20 of
OBITUARY – Mrs. Temperance Travis died at her home in North Sebewa, Ionia
County, Tuesday evening October 20, 1885, aged 65 years, 1 month and 24 days.
The deceased was born in Wilkesville, Meggs County, Ohio, August 26, 1820. Her
father died when she was six weeks old; two years later her mother removed to
Trumbull County, of which the family were among the earliest settlers.
At the age of 18 she married to John P. Smith, and shortly after their marriage
they removed to Geneva, Lake County. Later they removed to Tioga County, PA
where her husband died and in May 1855 she married Andrew (B.?) Travis. In 1860,
she and her husband and family removed back to Trumbull County, Ohio, her former
home, where they remained for two years.
In 1862 they removed to Michigan, and settled on a small farm in North Sebewa,
where she had since resided. Mr. and Mrs. Travis are pioneers of this part of
Sebewa, having moved here when the county was almost a wilderness. Mrs. Travis
was the mother of six children, five of whom are dead; her only child now living
is Johnny Smith, who is well known to everybody as a musician.
She has been in the care of her physician for a year past, and during all this
time, she has been a patient sufferer, fully trusting that her blessed Saviour,
who doeth all things well, would in his own good time release her from her
terrible agony and take her home to himself. A short time previous to her death
she said to her son “I am only waiting for the home which will give me rest and
peace”. About an hour before she expired she said to those around her “It would
be a happy thing for me if I could drop to sleep and never wake in this world
again”. She was conscious almost to the last. Her suffering was terrible, until
half an hour before she died, but at the last, God granted her desires and she
fell asleep as peacefully as a child.
The funeral services were held at the Travis schoolhouse on Thursday morning,
Rev. O. E. Wightman officiating, and were attended by a large concourse of
sympathizing friends and neighbors. The remains were deposited in the East
12-9-1885 – Johnny Smith has returned from his visit to Mason. He reports having
had a good time. He has resumed teaching, the roads being such that he can get
1-27-1886 – Johnny Smith has got himself a new hand to drive him around to his
8-17-1886 – Johnny Smith has been giving his scholars at this place a vacation.
4-28-1886 – A. B. Travis, a gay youth of 72, has taken himself a wife. He saw
the lady for the first time on Sunday and was united to her on Monday. May the
rash youth never regret the step.
5-5-1886 – John Smith has returned from Mason where he has been on a visit.
5-25-1887 – The social and instrumental concert given at Sebewa Corners last
Saturday night by Johnny Smith and company was listened to by an appreciative
audience. The concert was good and deserved a large attendance.
4-2-1890 – Johnny Smith and wife of Ionia spent Sunday with the family of John
8-27-1890 – Johnny Smith, the well known musician, has a class in this place (Sebewa
Corners) every Saturday. Persons desiring his services will find him at the
residence of J. Brooks at the day mentioned. Mr. Smith is also handling a line
of first class pianos and organs. Do not fail to see him before purchasing, as
he will save you money.
2-17-1892 – Born at Leslie Michigan on February 8 to Johnny Smith and wife of
Ionia a boy, weight 9#. Johnny will have more music than ever at his home now.
A. B. Travis owned the 40 acres in section 3 diagonally across the corner from
the Travis schoolhouse at the intersection of Sunfield and Clarksville Roads.
Johnny lived and died at Leslie, Michigan.
November 16, 2013