Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 21 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;
August 1985, Volume 21, Number 1. Written by Robert W. Gierman, Editor.
Submitted with written permission of current editor, Grayden D. Slowins:


ANOTHER 1885 DIARY came to us from Mrs. Helen Kreamer of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Mrs. Esler has copied and made available the writings of her grandfather, Anthony Kreamer. Some of you will remember, perhaps, the last log house in the vicinity, two miles west of Sunfield on M 43 where Mr. Kreamer once lived. Later he built the Italianate house a mile west of Sunfield and finally lived in Sunfield until his death in 1923. The second house still stands though far from looking like the pleasant place it was when Mr. Kreamer lived there. The diary is an interesting picture of life and times of 100 years ago with many family names familiar in the Sunfield vicinity. Look forward to the first installment in our October issue.

SOME OF YOU have been good in asking for more of MYRTIE WELCH’S MEMORIES. Mrs. Welch celebrated her 95th birthday at her home in Sunfield. Thus we continue with a second installment of Myrtie’s Memories. Myrtle spent the winter months with her daughter, Mrs. Willson in Portland.

Second Installment – Myrtie’s Memories – by Myrtie Candace Lowell Welch.

I remember one day Pa sat on the granary steps and shelled seed corn for Arby, who was trying so hard to get the corn in. Had to use a hand-corn planter, which meant walking back and forth across the fields, punching this gadget into the ground, then tripping it to release corn into the soil. I can’t explain it but I have one in my garage at the present time. I could remember so you’d understand. Also you had to plant each hill just so far apart so you could get back and forth with a cultivator later on. You could go up and down as well as across the field. Quite an accomplishment. I often think about it when Spitzley’s go past my house, here, with that corn planter of theirs. Such improvement!

Another precious memory occurred that last week of my father’s life. One night after supper Ma told me to stay with him so he wouldn’t be alone. Can’t remember why, but everyone else would be busy outside. It was after supper and Pa was sitting up in a rocking chair. When we were alone, he said “I haven’t heard you play the organ this week. Why?” I answered “Ma told me not to for fear it would disturb you”. He told me it would not disturb him and to go play for him. I said “I’ve learned a new piece and I have been wanting you to hear it”. I can even remember the song. It was the hymn “I NEVER WILL CEASE TO LOVE HIM”. Pa told me the song was pretty and that I was improving. He made me feel like a Prima Donna. That was the last conversation I ever had with him. On Saturday night he took a turn for the worse and died Sunday morning.

There were no funeral homes in those days and the body was kept at home until the funeral. Neighbors came in and sat up each night to watch over him so nothing would happen. I had never seen a casket or had been to a funeral. It was so frightening. The caskets were hideous. A long, narrow black box with rounded dome shaped ends. Just long enough and wide enough for the person to be laid in. I think it was lined with white satin. The only flowers I can remember were a pillow shaped arrangement of light blue iris, that one of the neighbors made. I remember how pleased my mother was with it, but I can’t think of the name of the person who made it.

Children’s Day Exercises were to be held the next Sunday and Mae had made Pearl and I new white dresses to wear. Ma, when she was planning what clothes everyone should wear to the funeral, said Pearl and I both had nice new dresses to wear. One of the neighbors was horrified and said we ought not to wear white and they would be glad to make us some BLACK ones. My mother had quite a time convincing her that she would not have us little girls dressed in black. Our Dad would certainly not allow it if he could have his say. Next they said they didn’t think we should take part in the exercises at the church on Sunday so soon after the funeral, which was scheduled for Wednesday, but Ma stuck to it and won out again. Pearl and I were in drills and exercises, which couldn’t be given without all the children to take part. There wouldn’t be time for our Sunday School teachers to train new children in our parts. I had a recitation to give and, of all things, my memory failed me right in the middle of it and no one was coaching me. It was unheard of for me to forget a piece. Well, I did, but I just stood there waiting for someone to prompt me, my knees shaking so I could hardly stand up, and finally I remembered and just finished the thing up. I was so ashamed that I could hardly walk back to my seat. Then, this is what I heard a woman say as we were waiting in the church entry for Arby to bring the horses around to take us home: “If that had been anyone but Myrtie, I would have felt sorry for them. She just stood there until she remembered and went on like nothing had happened. I knew she would remember.” I did, but I was nearly petrified.

The neighbors were good and meant all right. They stuck by and helped us through this trying time and Ma was really grateful. I can’t remember too much about the funeral itself. It was such a long, dusty ride. The services were held in a church located in the Woodland Cemetery about six miles from home. It was north ¾ of a mile from our house to Bismark Highway, then straight west to Velte Road, then north ½ mile. The church has been gone now for a good many years and the land is now part of the cemetery. I remember they said the procession following the hearse was almost two miles long and, of course, the horses were walked all the way. I remember Minnie Campbell, who married Arby a few years later, played the organ for some man and woman to sing. I can see the inside of that church so plainly even though it has been eighty-three years ago. Allie Phillips, Arby’s current girl friend sat with us. She was Ina Lemmon’s sister. Pearl says the only thing she remembers about that day was riding home with Mae and Fred Clay. Mae kept her singing for Fred. Pearl says she kows now that Mae did it to keep Pearl’s mind off the happenings of the day. Mae and Fred were married in November of that year.

That summer Mae kept the housework and meals going. Ma and Sylvia helped Arby in the fields. Ma bought a hay loader for $100, the first one in use in our neighborhood. One man said “She’s spoiling that boy already. Old Dan Lovell would have pitched that hey himself. There was nothing lazy about him”. Others thought it was a wonderful thing for Ma to do. Everything the Lovell’s did that summer was the talk of the neighborhood. Some praised them and others criticized.

Summer passed and the next thing it was almost Christmas time. There is another picture I can see in my mind. Sylvia and Ma were washing dishes at the sink, Ma washing, Sylvia drying. They were both crying and I heard Sylvia say “you just can’t do that to the little girls (Pearl and I). You have to go ahead and have Christmas. (Ma had told Sylvia that she just could not have Christmas). You know Pa would want it”. My mother kept saying “I just can’t do it” but Sylvia kept talking until she consented. I managed to slip out of the kitchen before they noticed me and they never knew I heard them. It was a hard year for everyone.

The Christmas before that had been such a happy one. Mae was teaching the Patterson School, about a mile south of us toward Vermontville. Pa had cut a nice pine tree for Mae to have for her Christmas exercises. Of course he wanted all of us to have a gift on the tree so he asked me to go to town with him one day. After we were on our way he said “I want to buy a present for your Ma and all you children and I need you to help me”. He also said I was not to tell anyone. Did I ever feel important. He bought Ma a beautiful parlor lamp, Mae a water set, Arby, Sylvia and Grace I can’t recall but for Pearl and I it was a Haviland china plate with cup and saucer to match. I still have mine. The handle is broken off the cup and that makes it all the dearer because of the way it happened. The cup was used the day of the funeral. Pa’s sister, Emma, was drying the dishes and she broke the handle off my cup. She cried so hard about it and I said “Don’t feel so badly, every time I see it I will think of you and that will make it dearer than ever”. I remember Pa stopping at the Patterson schoolhouse on our way home, leaving the gifts with Mae to put on her tree.

Well, time marched on and I along with it. Back in those early times you needed very little actual cash. We raised most of our food. When Pa sold the wheat, he always had enough ground into flour to last us for a year. He made maple sugar in the spring and exchanged it at the grocery for white sugar. He butchered beef and hogs for our meat and cured the hams and shoulders of the hogs, then smoked them so they would last through the summer. Ma used to make dried beef. (In fact she made that for Ray and me one winter when she lived with us.) We had apples, plums, pears, peaches, quinces, strawberries, raspberries, black and red ones. We also had currants, gooseberries and some called dewberries. These grew on a vine on the ground and were a large berry, larger than blackberries. I never see them any more. We also had a mulberry tree and, of course rhubarb. These fruits my mother canned or dried for use in the winter. Oh, I forgot the cherry orchard. The canning and jellies, jams, preserves, pickled pears and peaches that went into our basement, you wouldn’t believe it now. We used to like the apples that we dried. We’d cook them with raisins, put them in a tall crock and had them whenever we wanted. We also made apple butter in a big copper kettle, cooking it over an open fire outside. This, too, would keep in open crocks and didn’t have to be sealed up as we do it now.

We raised chickens, so of course had our own eggs and sold the young chickens in the fall. We had cows, our own milk and butter. Ma used her eggs and homemade butter to exchange for groceries. Also if there was any money due her from these, she would say “Oh just give it to me in sugar”, never the cash. She also used her milk and egg money to buy our clothes.

We raised turkeys, geese and ducks. We had these to sell in the fall, too. In the spring the ducks and geese were caught and held between our knees while we pulled their feathers off. I hated that job but it wasn’t painful to them. Ma used the feathers to make pillows and ticks, we called them, for our beds. They were like a mattress. The pillows I sleep on now are made from duck feathers and I also have a feather mattress upstairs that was made with duck feathers when I was a girl. All of this canning, selling of eggs, chickens, etc. made our living expenses. The money from the crops could be used for mortgage payments, taxes, machinery, repairs, etc. Ten years of hard work and good management had put my folks out of debt. Their dream came true.

Evenings. A special part in my memories are the evenings when the whole family was together in our large sitting room. It would certainly be boring to the children and parents now. There was no television, no radio, which are today thought of as regular necessities for our way of living. With outside chores all taken care of, supper dishes done, now everyone could relax and enjoy themselves. Each in their own way or maybe playing games or listening to our parents telling of their lives when they were young, or telling about our relatives back in Ohio. A big Round Aok stove about in the center of the room kept us warm. A box full of wood behind the stove to replenish it when the fire burned low, a big long table at one side with an oil lamp (no electricity either) in the center was all the light we had in the room. It certainly didn’t shine in the corners.

My mother told this story of the lights they had in her childhood. It was called a “slute”. We’d have her make one and show us. They put tallow or lard in a saucer then lay a strip of cloth through it, pulling one end out of the grease and lighting that. You could just about see the light, it was so dim. Also there were candles.

Ma could remember the first oil lamp they ever owned. She said her father wouldn’t allow any of them to light it. He would always take care of that because he was afraid they might get burned. This must have been a big improvement over the “rag in the saucer”.

My dad had a cobblers outfit and sometimes would put new soles on our shoes in the evening. You wanted to be on the alert when he finished. He would pull the shoe off the last and give it a toss in the direction of the owner. You were supposed to catch it, but if you happened to miss and it hurt a little, you were not to be crying over it because it hurt a little. You weren’t to be crying over it because it was all in fun. I very seldom caught mine, I never could play ball.

We had checkers, flinch, dominoes and old maid. We may have had more but that is all I can remember in the game line. We used to make up things to do and games to play. Sometimes someone would read to us or we’d decide to have a spelldown.

Also we might sing. The highlight of our evening was when my father would coax my mother into dancing for us. She would complain there was no music and he would answer “You come on. I’ll make the music”. They would dance the polka, Pa singing a song that started out “with a heel and a toe and a poky-oh”. That’s all I can remember of it but they really could dance, even with the makebelieve music. Then aftr they phky-ohed for a while, they would schottische. That was a stately beautiful dance. If I could use my feet I could demonstrate. I don’t believe it is ever danced anymore.

Often there was popcorn and apples or else sweet cider to drink. Ma used to can that. Pa always peeled the apples for the little girls (Pearl and I). We got lots of attention. Quite often it was mostly teasing and that wasn’t always fun to us. Arby and Pa would crack walnuts, butternuts or hickory nuts, or maybe all three. We had these trees, too. I never see butternuts anymore. They were the best of the three.


Recently we made a VIDEO TAPE CASSETTE of Marge Smith interviewing Fern Cronkrite in Portland. The ladies spent 55 minutes discussing old times, mostly in the Sebewa Corners vicinity. Fern has reached her 90th year of age and insists that in many affairs she is the only one left to remember them.

VIDEO TAPING is something I have done on an irregular basis for a little more than a year. Most of the tapes have been shown at least once on the Portland Cable System. The tapes can be used on any video cassette player machine. The tapes we have are:

THE HORSE IN LOCAL HISTORY by Harold Lakin and Marge Smith
A VISIT TO CHINA – Marge Smith
THE STORY OF JUSTIN BALDERSON – Justin Balderson and Justin Davis
150 YEARS OF THE ARNOLD MACHINE SHOP – Walter Sprague et al
MARK TWAIN’S VISIT TO HEAVEN – Zack and Eleanor York

INTRODUCTION – This accompanying statement was prepared by BERTHA MILLIGAM-BROCK, who graduated from the Ionia High School with the Class of 1879. After 1915, Mrs. Brock took a very active interest in assembling early history of Ionia.


The land comprising the County of Ionia was mostly acquired from the Indians for the United States Government by the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 except the land lying west of an unsurveyed line. It is evident that the surveyors who ran the township and section lines of Ionia County knew about where this line should run, for, while Campbell, Boston, Berlin, Easton and Ronald were surveyed in 1830 and 1831, Keene, Otisco and Orleans, being considered Indian lands, were not surveyed until 1837---or one year after the Chicago Treaty.

Ionia is one of the counties of Michigan in the fourth tier, counting north from the south line of the State and has an altitude ranging from fifty to two hundred and fifty feet above Lake Michigan and is comprised of sixteen townships, four in each tier.

The name was given to the County by the Fourth Legislative Council of Michigan Territory at its second session, which convened at Detroit, January 4th, 1831 and adjourned March 4th following and was suggested, doubtless, by some member of that body, familiar with ancient history.

Ionia, in ancient geography, was a country on the western coast of Asia Minor including some islands, this district was named after the Ionians, who returned from Attica to these shores from which they had previously emigrated to European Greece.

Ionia was the cradle of Greek poetry, history, philosophy, medicine and other sciences and developed the Ionia style of architecture. Mythology states that the name is derived from Ion, son of Apollo and Creusa, daughter of the King of Athens.

The townships of Ionia County were surveyed by different men, who were deputy United States Surveyors, doing their work under instructions from the contracts made with the Surveyor General of the United States.

Ionia township lines were run by Robert Clark, Jr., in February 1831 and was subdivided by Orange Risdon from May 27th to June 27th, 1831. He made mention of “excellent mill streams, Indian Trails, prairies, excellent timber, straight and thrifty, rolling surface, good soil and numerous spring streams”. No reason is given for naming the township the same as the county.

By the close of 1831, all but the three northwest townships of this county---not yet acquired by the United States Government---were surveyed and ready for the coming of settlers on the land.

After the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, making travel easier, Michigan lands sold by the U. S. Government at $1.25 per acre, tempted and interested many eastern people. In the fall of 1832 Hon. Samuel Dexter of Herkimer County, State of New York came to Michigan, looking for hardwood timber land, not because of the timber but because hardwood timber is known to be produced from good soil.

Mr. Dexter was then a man 48 years of age---had a home near Little Falls, N. Y.---and had been a member of the New York State Legislature, and had a contract for digging quite a section of the Erie Canal---and his family numbered nine children and his wife, Anna Fargo Dexter. With his friend, Dr. Jewett, a journey on horseback was made from Ann Arbor---across the Territory and as far as Fort Dearborn, the site of the Settlement soon to be named Chicago.

Not finding lands to their liking, they turned back and followed a trail leading to the “rapids” of Grand River, when they met Louis Campau, the resident fur trader there since 1827, and he told them that he thought “up in Ionia County they would find land to their liking” so the two men rode on the trail up the valley, and Samuel Dexter selected land where Ionia was later located, the eastern line running north and south about the center of the present courthouse grounds.

Dr. Jewett at that time went to the location of Lyons, and was at the home of one of the fur traders there for a little time, but it is not recorded that he made a selection of land---but he did return there in 1837 and became Lyons’ first physician.

When the two gentlemen arrived where Mr. Dexter selected his land, they found an Indian village presided over by Cob-Moo-sa, an Indian they described as “of much dignity”. The Indians knew the land had been sold to the Government but as stipulated in the treaties, the Indians were allowed to live, fish, hunt and make maple sugar until the land was purchased by settlers.

Mr. Dexter told them it was his intention to go to White Pigeon, the nearest U. S. Land Office, near the south line of the State, enter his selection of land here and return to his home, spend the winter selling his property, inducing others to join him, if he could, and return the next spring. Result: About ten o’clock the morning of May 28th, 1833, there came to the vicinity of the Indian Village, the Dexter colony, the first colonizing party into central Michigan. It numbered 63 people of six families and five young men; the ages represented were from the mother of Mr. Dexter, aged 75 years, to young children.

The colony started from Frankfort, near Little Falls, eastern N. Y. State on April 22nd, 1833, with three families---Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold and Samuel Dexter, using their own horses to draw the canal boat that had been chartered. The name of the boat was “Walk in the Water”---but some one had written “Michigan Caravan” on the side of the boat with chalk. At Utica, Joel and Edward Guild and their families joined---at Syracuse, Darius Winsor and family joined, besides them were five young men.

The departure of the colony was an important event in the communities and throngs of people gathered to see them depart and bid them “good-bye” and receptions were given them at many places along the canal. They reached Buffalo May 7th where they transferred to the steamer “Superior”, reaching Detroit May 10th. There they sent all the goods they could do without for a while around the lakes to the mouth of Grand River in care of Rix Robinson, a trader at Ada, to be pole boated up the river.

Oxen were purchased in Detroit to pull the wagons they brought as their horses would not be strong enough to convey the colonists and their goods as there was no road most of the distance. They were over two weeks coming from Detroit. They went through Pontiac and passed Saline May 19, from which was an unbroken wilderness.

At Shiawassee were two brothers---fur traders by the name of Williams, one of whom consented to pilot them, looking out the route, he having never been west of DeWitt, an Indian village. There Mr. Williams got Mack-ate-po-nase (Blackbird) the son of Kish-Kaw-Ko, chief of the Saginaws, to pilot them through some extensive marshes, after which, Mr. Williams took the lead. This road was followed by many pioneers afterward and was long known as the “Dexter Road”.

Hard as this trip would have been at its best, it was accompanied by intense anxiety as three children of the families became sick with scarlet fever, and there were no homes on the way, and finally when in Clinton County, Riley, the young son of Mr. and Mrs. Dexter, died. He was buried in a trunk at the foot of a tree in the bark of which, his father’s name was burned with a hot iron---a simple and feeling service was held and logs piled high over the grave to protect it from animals.

Coming to their destination, the Indians knew they would have to move. They sold some of their wigwams to house the colony until they could build log ones, and the Indians erected another town down the river two or three miles, where they lived several years. After purchasing wigwams from the Indians, the colonists were called together and a service of prayer and thanksgiving was held---because of safe arrival, after which the sides of the wagons were made into the first extension table in this part of Michigan and dinner was spread.

Later, log houses were erected at different points along Main Street, which probably was the main trail and when the settlement began to assume the appearance of a hamlet, Mr. Dexter wanted to give it a name and called it “Washington Centre”. The struggle for the placing of the County Seat of Ionia County began before the arrival of the Dexter Colony to their destination.

The fur traders at the location of Lyons knew of Mr. Dexter’s project, of course, from his visit the fall of 1832 and some of these traders were Americans and one had a legal education. On March 5th, 1833, they sent to Gov. Porter a duly signed petition asking that a commission be sent into Ionia County to select a county seat, of course anxious to have it placed there, but the petition was not acted upon at once. They also posted up notices in three public places in the county that such a petition had been sent to the Governor of the Territory, dated April 28, 1833.

With the coming of the Dexter Colony they also got busy and July 12, 1833 sent in a petition asking that a commission be sent to Ionia County to select a sight for a county seat. September 5th following, Gov. Porter appointed this commission and in October they came on horseback and selected the site of Mr. Dexter’s land, which was the west half of the present Ionia Courthouse grounds, and according to the law to cover the expenses of the commission, Mr. Dexter paid one hundred and seventy-one dollars for their locating the county seat on his land. The receipt shows it was paid December 12, 1833. But Gov. Porter died July 7, 1834 without confirming the report of the commission on the selection.

Because of Gov. Porter’s death, Hon. Stevens Thomson Mason, 22 years of age---Secretary of Michigan Territory---then became ex officio Governor and efforts were again taken up to have the County Seat placed in the eastern part of the County and the men of the Dexter settlement and vicinity sent in another petition September 24th, 1834, and because no action was taken, sent in another February 11, 1835 and this last seemed “to finish the argument” for though it is not known when the proclamation confirming the commissioners report was issued, it was done sometime in 1835 or 1836 by Gov. Stevens Thomson Mason and in 1836 Samuel Dexter platted the town, naming it the Village of Ionia County’s Seat”, though this was not recorded until 1841. It included the west part of the present courthouse grounds, presented by Mr. Dexter to the County for the purpose of erecting county buildings and on this was completed the offices of Ionia County, a solid one-story building in 1843.

June 3rd, 1850, the east half of the courthouse grounds was deeded to the County by James M. Kidd and Edwin C. Hart of Oswego, N. Y.

The neighborhood known as Prairie Creek was purchased in 1835 by Nathaniel Brown whose idea was that the water power there would found a village and he boasted that his town there would outstrip Dexter’s village further west and he would have the county seat fixed there. And he platted a village, which he called “Ionia” and set about the construction of a sawmill.

Being in Chicago in 1836, Mr. Brown sold a half interest in this property to John P. Place, who came at once to the location. Mr. Place finished the sawmill in the fall of 1836 and in the same year, he built there the first store in the County and stocked it with goods brought up the river from Grand Haven by pole boats.

But settlers did not appear there and by the close of 1837 Mr. Place, feeling that the village project there was a failure, sold his stock of goods to Judge Brown of Ionia County Seat, closed the store, later bought Nathaniel Brown’s interest in the land, and devoted himself to farming and milling. The sawmill later burned and the power was unused until 1861 when the mill now standing was built.

So while the village of “Ionia” there died in 1837, Dexter’s town was known as “Ionia County Seat” until 1863, when a special act of the State Legislature approved March 7th, changed it to “Ionia”---30 years after it was founded.

In 1885 the present building, including the Court Room and County offices was finished.

The act incorporating Ionia as a city was approved March 21, 1873.

- Bertha E. Brock, Graduate of I. H. S. Class of 1879



Last update November 15, 2013