Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 21 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
August 1985, Volume 21, Number 1. Written by Robert W. Gierman, Editor.
Submitted with written permission of current editor, Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: KREAMER, WELCH, LOVELL, MILLIGAM-BROCK
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
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
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
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
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
JORDANS IN THE CIVIL WAR – Harold Stannard
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
HOMER DOWNING’S FUNERAL SERMON – John Piercefield
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.
IONIA – THE TOWN GIVEN ITS NAME THIRTY YEARS AFTER IT WAS FOUNDED
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
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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
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
The act incorporating Ionia as a city was approved March 21, 1873.
- Bertha E. Brock, Graduate of I. H. S. Class of 1879
November 15, 2013