Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 20 Number 2
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;
October 1984, Volume 20, Number 2. Robert W. Gierman, Editor
(Submitted with written permission of current editor, Grayden D. Slowins):

AT THE SEPTEMBER DINNER at the Mulliken Masonic Temple we were confronted by a man 95 years old, eating his dinner calmly and peaceably. Not many who reach that age can make a good appearance in public. In early September I attended the funeral of my sister, Christine’s mother-in-law, Mary Jarchow, whose 102 years capped any funeral I’ve ever attended. A few years ago I mentioned our three Ednas. Edna Wenger died shortly afterward. Edna Sayer is 94 and is around the house carefully. Edna Kenyon has moved to Florida where both her son and daughter live. She will be 94 this fall and is doing quite well.


At last, the marker for the Ionia County Infirmary Cemetery at the former Poor House site, but now cornering the new State Park picnic area on Riverside Drive, some three miles west of Ionia, is in place and will be dedicated Sunday, October 7 at 4 P.M. Everybody is invited to the dedication, especially the contributors to the $1200 fund that was raised for the marker.

Especial thanks goes to the Ionia County Road Commission for moving the 10 ton boulder from the location a mile west. Steve Yenchar of the Lowell Granite Company has given freely of his time and it was under his direction that his boy scout troop undertook the cleaning of the area and doing landscape work there.

The placque is 20” x 30” with 55 names of people buried at the site with a listing of their death dates and their ages as was obtained from the Poor House record book that is now at the State Archives at Lansing. Microfilm copies of this record are at the Sunfield, Portland and Belding libraries. Practically every section of Ionia County used the Poor House to care for the indigent.

We are told that at the time of burials there the graves were marked with wooden crosses, crosses that have rotted and long since disappeared. The cemetery area is merely marked with a post at each corner and now with the rather permanent huge marker at the front. The Department of Natural Resources has agreed to keep the area mowed.

The cemetery was started there in 1907 when the Poor House was built to replace the building the County lost by fire in Ronald Township. That left a small cemetery abandoned at the back corner of three farms in Ronald. The book indicates there were 45 burials in that cemetery. That, too, never had a stone marker and is yet to receive one.

There is no known plat of this cemetery (Infirmary Cemetery on Riverside Drive, Ionia, MI) nor any indication of any burial spot. Good Luck Department of Natural Resources in keeping this cemetery in trim. The Ionia County Board of Supervisors gave you the plot with no strings attached.

Here are the names listed on the plaque with the dates of death:

ANIBLE, Charles: 1908
HANKS, Phoebe 1909
JOHNSON, Jacob 1909
HOLDERIDER, Frank 1913
BURLEY, William 1909
CLARK, Mary 1911
WITZEL, John 1913
ZUKE, Lizzie 1915
AUSTIN, J. 1915
TALBOT, Frank 1916
TUPPER, W. H. 1915
KEISTNER, Fred 1917
CUSTON, Nelson 1917
GODLEY, William 1918
MATTHEWS, James 1918
SIMMONS, Thad 1918
BRAKE, Cynthia 1919
YOUNGS, Maude Youngs 1919
WOOD, George 1919
MILLS, Ora Mills 1920
ALLEN, Elizabeth Allen 1921
CHASE, Oscar Chase 1921
SPENCER, Clara Spencer 1921
DAVIS, Emery A. Davis 1922
MONROE, William Monroe 1922
CLARK, Milton 1922
PEPPER, Caroline 1922
BROOKS, Thomas 1923
HUTCHINSON, Danford 1924
VERMELIA, Reuben 1924
LUMBERT, John 1925
BURGDOFF, Frank 1927
HOLCOMB, Luther 1928
SMITH, Albert 1828
SAVIRIES, William 1927
COMER, Michael 1929
HIGH, John 1929
MILLER, Morris 1928
TINNEY, Jesse 1928
WELCH, Myron 1929
ALDRICH, Manley 1930
HENDERSON, George 1931
MILLER, Frank 1931
WILSON, George 1931
SHOWERS, Byron 1931
HICKS, Clarence 1931
STRONG, Meeder 1931
FISHER, George 1933
MARSHALL, James 1932
McNEAL, Hattie 1932
OVERLEY, William 1932
EVANS, Bruce 1934
PEPLAR, William 1934

THE POND by Zack L. York

I read recently that some species of bird, animal and plant life have fallen prey to our mania for clipped turf and tidy lawns. We have mowed and sprayed and clipped; cleaned fence rows and hedges to make small acres of land into farm sized fields; burned barns and filled in basements of old houses; buried stone piles and brought cultivated fields to the very edge of our country roads---all so we can achieve maneuverability for huge pieces of machinery and provide greater economy in our use of time, fuel and man power. In so doing we have destroyed the homes for many wild animals and birds, limited or destroyed the sowings for their food and so altered the appearance of the landscape that much of the familiar and the beautiful has disappeared.

This summer I have waged my usual war against burdock, garden weeds and poison ivy. Although Mother Nature has her way of healing man made wounds, obliterating even the scars and insuring in the normal course of the seasons the propagation of much of life, in and on the good earth, sometimes it seems as if her particular concern is for the most obnoxious members of animal and plant life.

Moles, chipmunks and woodchucks, raccoons, rabbits and red squirrels---they all in one way or another encroach upon our staked out domains and cause us no end of trouble and frustration. Burdock, giant ragweed, wild carrot and chicory, rocket and poison ivy, wild grape, nettles and prickly ash---all defy my attempts at eradication or control and thrive in spite of spade, scythe, hoe and lack of rain.

Our farmhouse here in Sebewa is surrounded on two sides by marshland and teems with wildlife. We laughingly call it our “preserve”. On one side it is peninsulated by a small bit of land, which hosts a small stand of white pine trees, planted thirty-five years ago by Wilfred Gierman. (He has since become known as Bob to many of you readers of the Recollector.)

When I was a boy, this peninsula was close cropped by grazing sheep and cattle---as was the marshland. Cattle kept the cattails and sedges chewed off as they placidly cooled their bellies in the water and ooze and swatted swarms of gnats and flies on hot summer days. Back then, our marsh was a pond with considerable water surface but with little depth. It was deep enough to lure us to its coolness and even the squishy, mushy bottom did not deter us from teasing Mother to let us go swimming in it. What we meant by swimming was playing and sloshing around in it, oblivious of the wild life unseen and unnoticed with whom we shared its coolness. We did this only once, as I remember, for upon emerging from the pond after our afternoon of fun, we discovered that our legs were crisscrossed with smarting long red cuts from the swamp cut grass.

We were grateful to the cows, especially because they kept the swamp growth chewed off so that when we started in the water, the pond was clear, except for an occasional muskrat house, rising above the ice. A few willows bordered the pond and the fallen trunks of the trees provided seats for us to rest our tired legs and brush for fires on cold winter nights when there were neighborhood skating parties.

Those skating parties were high points in the social life of the young in our rural community. On these occasions there were three well defined age groups who participated in the energetic activity ahead. We could sleep later next day, for the parties were usually on Saturday nights and as there would be only chores to do next day and Church and Sunday School, of course, but that was later in the day. The first group was the older youth, who were the Young People. There was a Young Peoples Class in Sunday School and they, with their peers---even though some didn’t go to the Center Church---were usually the ones who got up the parties. Then there was the group we called the Big Kids and our group, the Little Kids. (My sister, Helen’s and my group and our peers).

Rarely did the Old Folks join in the skating parties. If they came along, they stayed up to the house, inside by the fire and visited with our folks. Families were larger then and several had members scattered through two or three of these age groups. The younger Gierman and Cross kids were in our group---Christine, Pauline, Allen and Ralph---Maurice was too young. The Big Kids included the older Cross boys, Charlie and Wilfred Gierman and the Joynt boys while in the Young Peoples Class were my brother, John, Carl and Elmer Gierman, Howard Cross, the Meyers, Bill, Lancy, Chet and Valentine, Wilma and Elfa, Ross and Gladys Tran, Wilma Hunt, Ralph and Wayne Coe, the Wolferts and Esther McNeil. Some were regulars and some showed up only occasionally.

Games were fun---tag, pom-pom-pull-away. Sometimes the Big Kids pushed us young ones on our sleds when our ankles got tired from skating. Some liked to link arms and skate in pairs; but they were the ones who were sweet on each other and preferred their own company, skating in the dark areas of the pond away from the bonfire and the noisy groups playing games. They tried our patience, especially when we were choosing up sides to play Prison Goal---Prisoner’s Base.

Invariably most of the group wound up sometime during the evening at our house and usually at the end of the evening all would gather there to warm up before walking home and enjoy pop corn and hot cocoa.

I remember after these skating parties I would have leg ache. Grandma York said that it was growing pains. Mother would rub my legs, tuck me into my bed with a feather tick and a hot flatiron wrapped in newspaper and pieces of red and grey flannel sheets at my feet. I know we did get too tired but never too tired to skate and slide one more time across the ice into the path of moonlight, reflecting on the ice; ducking and gliding in and out among the legs of the skaters, sometimes colliding with someone and creating a chance for a free-for-all tumble on the ice. I don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt and everyone enjoyed the melee, especially the older ones who “had a girl” or were going together.

Sometimes younger kids would skate on the pond during the day---after school or on Saturday. But farm chores usually intervened and besides, it wasn’t nearly so much fun skating without the neighborhood kids. I remember one time Helen and I were skating alone on the pond early one winter before the ice was really frozen hard. Dorothy Meyers (nee Slater) came by and we were pushing her on our sled as we skated. She was well bundled up and was wearing a heavy large black plush coat that had belonged to her mother.

Sometimes the water around muskrat houses didn’t freeze as solidly or as fast as in the open places on the pond. We found ourselves skating over one of these thinly frozen parts on my new lawns of the pond and the rubbery ice began to give way. Helen was pulling and I was pushing the sled and as the ice gave way, we managed to skate to the safety of thicker ice, leaving poor Dorothy stranded on the sinking sled. We watched her sink into the waist-deep icy water, shrieking as the water rose about her. As we all knew the water wasn’t very deep and she was in no danger of drowning, we gave way to hysterical laughter. We laughed helplessly as she floundered about in the water, buoyed up by the black plush coat, which floated about her like a huge black lily pad. When we hauled her and the sled out on the solid ice, we sloshed our way to the house, where Mother provided her with dry clothes. I was relegated to wait in the kitchen while Dorothy got warm and dried off before the hard coal stove in the living room. It took forever for the black plush coat to dry.

No one skates there anymore. There is no open expanse of water large enough to accommodate skaters. A few winters back when the water was high, several muskrat houses appeared and in the course of their house building, they chewed the cat tails down and cleared space, so water was visible and we could see their vees in the surface as they swam about. They come and go, depending upon the amount of water accumulated in the pond. When there is a sizeable surface of clear water, we are likely to have other visitors. Wild ducks nest and summer with us. We hear the Great American Bittern, occasionally a shikepoke or spile driver and once in a great while a blue heron flies over and lights, looking for frogs.

In the spring, the cacophony of sounds rival a symphony orchestra tuning up or a rock band in full swing with the volume up. The voices of frogs is bedlam and solo voices rise and fall as if the owners were carrying on a conversation over a background of night music that, in turn, rises and falls, waxes and wanes til we drift off to sleep.

The pond remains a source of pleasure to us and provides a sheltering habitat to more wild life than I can identify by sight or sound. The variety and appeal is endless and changes constantly from early morning til late at night.

My father used to tell us that when he and Mother came here to live in 1900 there was no pond. The land had been drained and an open ditch led across our farm east to what is now Cassel Road and joined a larger ditch which meandered northwest to the Grand River. Where our marsh and pond is now was dry land, which was farmed. My father harvested a crop of timothy hay there the first year they lived here and when the hay was up, he put his cows and sheep out to pasture there. The livestock kept the fence row clean and made sure no prickly ash, thornapple or wild grapes or cherry overran the lane or the woodlot at the back of the farm.

Some summers the pond would dry up. I remember once when it was dry, I had landscaped our yards around the house. My sister and I hauled tons of rocks and made the steps and walks, which still remain. I decided our heavy clay soil needed the rich black peaty soil of the pond bed to encourage the growth of grass. So, I hauled many loads of the soil from the bed of the pond on a stone boat, drawn by old Fred and Maude, our team of sorrel horses. The lawns looked marvelously rich and black, raked over the dried, seer grass burned brown by the summer sun. When the fall rains came, I was amazed and greatly disturbed when millions of weeds came to life from the swamp dirt and showed green and lush.

But those plants were not at home away from the wet low places of the marshland and by the end of the next summer had withered and died. The pond filled again with water and over the years the ditches filled in along the lane and the water has stayed. The marshland water gets low sometimes but it hasn’t dried up in a long time.

The face of the earth changes and man does his part to bend Nature to his will. When man desists, when he defaults or leaves Nature to cope with the mess he’s made or the improvements he has devised, then Nature quietly and irrevocably has her way. As Carl Sandburg says in his poem GRASS “I am the grass, let me work”. Ten, twenty years from now, men will stop and say “Where are we now? What place is this? I am the Grass; let me work!”

There may be nothing to remind us that once this land was plowed, the poison ivy sprayed or the burdocks cut. Nature comes full cycle, season after season, generation after generation, time after time.


We have a request for some information that we cannot quite lay our fingers on. Sometime since the Grand Trunk Railroad came through Ionia in 1858 there was a severe train wreck, presumably a bit east of Muir. Traveling on the train were a group of immigrants, many of whom were killed and buried in the Muir Cemetery in a common grave. The burial spot is known but unnamed. Most of the rest of the story seems hearsay. If you can supply a date or any of the rest of the story, we’d like to hear from you.



Last update November 15, 2013