Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 22 Number 2
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 Association,
October 1986, Volume 22, Number 2. Robert W. Gierman, Editor;
submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: CONKRITE, MYRTIE (LOVELL) WELCH, and those on the following list of
Ionia County Rural Schools:
LIST OF RURAL SCHOOLS, by Rus Gregory
After a plea in the Recollector for which I was a substitute editor, a kind
person lent me a copy of the 1919-1920 Ionia School Directory. A list follows.
Readers will note some questions. Those are schools for which I’ve encountered
confusions. Perhaps some schools were called by more than one name; perhaps
school names were legally changed. I know some schools were closed by 1919-1920.
The 1875 Atlas of Ionia County shows Ritenburg School and Ritenburg M. E. Church
on a diagonal road, an extension of Grand River Trail, on the northeast corner
of what is now the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Kelsey Highway. I’ve
encountered no one, as yet, who has firm information on the two buildings. The
list is convenient to have. What is still not answered, of course, is where the
schoolhouses were located and what became of them as the districts were closed
No. 2 Eddy School
No. 3 Fr. (Fractional? – lib), Coon School
No. 4 County Farm
No. 5 Fr., Benedict
No. 6 (Berlin) Center
No. 7 Hartwell
No. 8 Henderleiter
No. 9 Durkee
No. 10 Mud Street
No. 11 Fr., Randall
No. 1 North Bell
No. 2 South Bell
No. 3 Fr., Saranac, graded
No. 4 (Boston) Center
No. 5 Fr., Waterville
No. 6 Sage
No. 7 Fr., Ware
No. 8 Fr., Pearsall
No. 9 Hahn (Grove?)
No. 1 Bushnell
No. 2 Clarksville, graded
No. 3 Fish (Pleasant Valley?)
No. 4 Lake
No. 5 Darby
No. 6 Mill
No. 7 Jennings
No. 8 Rosenberger
No. 1 Compton
No. 1 Fr(actional? - lib) Abbey
No. 2 Grub Town (Pence?)
No. 3 Frost
No. 4 School Section
No. 6 Lockwood (Barr?)
No. 1 Prison
No. 2 Dexter
No. 3 Dildine
No. 4 Goodwin
No. 5 Welch
No. 6 Grove (Haynor?)
No. 1 Fr., Loomis
No. 2 Fr., (North) LeValley
No. 3 Welch (Road)
No. 4 Holcomb
No. 5 (Lee P.) Spaulding
No. 6 Badder
No. 7 Oak Grove
No. 8 Fr., Stone
No. 9 Fr., Gorham
No. 10 Prairie Creek
No. 1, Potter’s Corners
No. 2 Fr., Sayles
No. 3 Day
No. 4 Fr., Culter
No. 5 Marble
No. 6, Tasker
No. 7, Stevens
No. 8, Wilkinson (Bowen?)
No. 1, Pewamo, graded
No. 1, Fr, L. & I., Lyons, graded
No. 1, Fr., L. & P., Maple Corners
No. 2, Ross
No. 3, Little Brick
No. 4, Townsend (Spaulding?)
No. 6, Kimball
No. 9, Crane
No. 10, Muir, graded
No. 11, Murphy
No. 1, Fr., Hayes
No. 2, Fr., Stone (Newman?)
No. 3, Stoten (Stoughton)
No. 4, (North Plains) Center
No. 5, Fr., Matherton
No. 6, Schaeffer
No. 7, Baker
No. 8, Fr., Hubbardston, graded
No. 9 Fr., County Line
No. 10, Sessions
No. 1, (Lake) Odessa, graded
No. 2, Bretz
No. 3, Baird (Beard?)
No. 4, South Cass (Odessa Center?)
No. 5, Algodon
No. 6, Limerick
No. 7, Bippley
No. 8, Fr., Nye
No. 9, Carr
No. 1, Steele
No. 1 Fr., Keefer
No. 3 Coleman
No. 5, LeValley
No. 7, Kilmartin
No. 9, Riker
No. 9 Fr., Pierce
No. 1, Lambertson
No. 2, Dorr
No. 3, Orleans
No. 4, Heald
No. 5, Blanchard
No. 6, Hall
No. 7, Greene
No. 8, Fr., Chittle
No. 9, Piper
No. 10, Shiloh
No. 1, Cook’s Corners
No. 1, Fr., Hoppough
No. 2, Smyrna
No. 4, Fr., Cole (Kemp?)
No. 4, Fr., Kiddville (Oakwood?)
No. 5, Fr., Brink
No. 6, Seeley
No. 8, Button
No. 1, Howe (Howell?)
No. 2, Hamlin
No. 3, Portland, graded
No. 3, Fr., Probart (Friendbrook?)
No. 4, Christian Bend
No. 4, Fr., Gibbs
No. 5, Collins
No. 6, Miller
No. 1, Palo, graded
No. 2, Long Plain (s)
No. 3, (Ronald) Center
No. 4, Mattison
No. 5, Hardscrabble
No. 6, Fr., Case
No. 7, Literary Hall
No. 8, Hubbell (Hubble?)
No. 9, Woodard Lake
No. 10, Dye
No. 11, Little Brink (Normington?)
No. 1, Fr., High (Sebewa?)
No. 2, Goddard
No. ?, West Sebewa
No. ?, (Sebewa) Center
No. ?, ___ shop
No. ?, Halladay
No. ?, ___hnson
No. ?, ___avis
HISTORY OF SEBEWA CORNERS by Fern Conkrite; Taped for Cable June 15, 1985, by
I am talking about the Sebewa Corners I knew from about 1900 to 1934. There were
about 35 houses that sheltered some 90 people, more or less.
In an 1876 Atlas, Sebewa was a village divided by the town line. The part in
Danby was known as Cornell – named for a family of early settlers.
John Bradley was the first Postmaster; he also had a grocery store. F. M.
Cornell had a general store, Will Alberts had a hardware and blacksmith shop and
sometimes we had a meat market.
Two churches were there – Methodist and United Brethern. The land was given by
John Friend in 1876 for the Methodist Church and the Dan Halladays gave the land
for the United Brethern in 1892. The U. B. people had a campground just West of
Sebewa for a number of years.
Sebewa High School Franctional Dist. #1 was our center of learning. The school
was named for the people who gave the land. The Halladay School was named for
the family that gave the land for the church and school.
In the early days we had a rooming house and a hotel.
In the early 1900’s we had a daily mail delivery to Sunfield. Later the delivery
was extended to Portland for a time. The first mailman that I remember was Rollo
Derby, who carried to both Sunfield and Portland. Others were Lida Puffer,
Minnie Southwell, Jessie Friend who carried only to Sunfield. After the Sebewa
office was closed, R. F. D. came in and Lawrence Knapp was our mail carrier for
a long time, like 25 years or more. He carried by horse and buggy in summer and
team and sleighs in winter. He would drive one horse to Sunfield in the morning,
change horses and deliver till noon and be back at the farm for dinner. He
changed horses again and finished the route, then another change to the first
one of the morning and came home again at night. That was the summer schedule.
Winter time called for two horses on a sleigh as the teams had to go further.
Each team made about 20 miles. Later a Model T Ford did the trick; then a new
Model A and as time went on, a care to fit the times.
We had a flourishing I. O. O. F. and Rebekah Lodge – about 100 members in each
one. I went through the chairs to Past Nobel Grand, to District Deputy Press,
also President of the County Noble Grands. I played for the degree team.
Some of the clerks in the Bradley and Cornell stores were Harley Rogers, Tracey
Williams, Rhoda Deatsman and Reva Snyder. Lillian Alleman was bookkeeper in the
Cornell store and Leighton DeGraw, Alva Deatsman and Orson Drake were a few of
Omar Baker was barn builder. Every year he had a crew of men working. Several
barns are still standing that were “Baker Built”.
When I first went to school, we carried water from across the road. Later we got
a well and pump. We used to keep warm with a Round Oak stove in the middle of
the room. At least there was a fire in the stove. One teacher had as many as 30
to 40 pupils. They had good control – discipline. My teachers were Agnes Erdam,
Bruce Gibbs, Emerson Ray, Grace Kenyon, Dorothy Samaine, Maude Samanine, Emma
Wilton and Elizabeth Cornell.
In World War I we sent several boys to service. Some of them were Walter Brown,
Otho Lowe, Floyd Erdman, Ivan McCormack, Clyde Hiar and Don Benschoter. Don is
the only survivor. He and Winnie sent two boys, Junior and Norton, to World War
II and Jim went in the Army of Occupation.
Our Doctors were Dr. Albro who moved to Portland and has a street named for him.
Dr. Snyder was next and was with us for a long time, later going to Mulliken.
Dr. Morse came next and went on to Lake Odessa. Dr. Crawford was the last and he
went to Sunfield. By that time, automobiles were in so house calls could be made
much easier than with horse and buggy.
Twice I can remember the Postoffice being robbed. Not much was taken. The safe
was blown open. The last time it was robbed a horse and buggy was taken. The
next morning it was found tied to the fence on the town line road (now Keefer
Hwy.) and all the residents were home in time for breakfast. In other words,
Another incident I remember, Bradley had taken several cords of wood on store
debts. The wood piles began to get smaller. Said merchant did a little detective
work by putting a pinch of gun powder in several blocks of wood. In a few days a
guy’s stove blew the door off. No more wood was taken!
On July 4, 1914, some boys made a cannon and packed it with gun powder and sand.
They lit the wick in front of Cornell’s store. It exploded and a fragment went
through the window striking a 6 year old boy. He was seriously wounded, dying a
few hours later.
On September 18, 1921, the D. A. R. Society of Ionia erected a boulder about ˝
mile South of Sebewa in memory of Johnathan Ingall, a veteran of the
Frances Ingalls Spaulding of Crystal was a granddaughter of Johnathan. Hall
Ingalls was a brother of Frances. They were both born at Shimnecon. Later Hall
married Nellie Baden whose father, Milton, was the first sexton of Portland
Cemetery. Hall and Nellie lived the most of their married lives of some 60 years
about a mile North of Sebewa. Both Frances and Hall were present at the ceremony
dedicating the boulder in Johnathan’s memory.
The Conkrite family came from New York in a covered wagon to Danby Twp. And
settled near the Centerline Bridge. My Father was the second youngest of eleven
children, all born in Danby except the baby of six months who came with them.
One of the first burials in Danby Cemetery in 1831 was a four year old girl who
burned in a bonfire while clearing the land. My Father played with the Indian
The Wainwright family came from New York by the way of Indiana. My Mother was
the oldest of four children. She made dresses for the squaws.
Raymond Cramer who lives in Portland can boast of being born in Sebewa’s only
log house in 1910.
MYRTIE’S MEMORIES, continued, by MYRTIE (LOVELL) WELCH:
Our Cellar was not a basement. Webster says a cellar is a place for storing
provisions while a basement is the lowest part or story of a building. No
refrigeration back then, so when a house was built, a cellar to keep your
perishable foods cool was included in the plan.
In this house, too, the cellar is located beneath the den. I used to keep the
walls swept clear of cobwebs and dust, clean papers on the shelves, floor
scrubbed with soap suds, then rinsed with clear water carried down from the
kitchen. The water ran out when down the drain in the southeast corner,
immediately. Now sometimes water comes in but it takes its time running out. I
don’t carry it down, either. Always put the milk, butter, shortening, etc.
directly on the cellar floor. Meat, if it wasn’t to be cooked at once, I seared
in a skillet over the fire, then carried it down stairs and placed it on the
floor. Everything had to be covered.
My cellar shelves were loaded always with canned fruits, jams, and jellies. No
more of that. I do a little but can store it in my cupboards. The south part of
the cellar, I always called it, is what Webster would call a basement. When we
moved here, the furnace with the corner made into a coal bin was about all there
was down there. Haven’t been down for years. I’ll bet people who do have to go
must be afraid they’ll get hungup on cobwebs. I do have someone else clean it
once in awhile.
As usual, I am getting away from my subject but I write things down just as they
pop into my head and this just popped in right now. In the early days (what an
expression, makes me feel so antiquated), doctors would accept most anything
useful as payment of a bill. Maybe a sack of potatoes, oats, or hay for their
horse or wood to heat their houses. Most anything usable. Apples, butter, etc.
would be accepted. When Ray’s sister Ethel was born, Jan. 25, 1897, the doctor
wanted a load of wood for his payment. Roads were snow covered, so Ray’s father
told him to hitch the horses to the sleighs and take a load of wood to Sunfield,
delivering it to Ed Snyder’s house. The house was this very one I’m sitting in
today. Dr. Snyder built it in 1900. Ray, 12 years old then, used to say in later
years, on that day so long ago little did he think he would be throwing wood and
coal into that same window.
CELLAR AT THE OLD HOMESTEAD.
This cellar ran the full length of the house. It was divided into two, one under
the north end and the other under the upright at the south. The north one had no
windows, so we called it the dark cellar, the other one had four windows and was
called the light cellar. Besides the windows, a hatchway opened into it from
outside, so this could be opened in the summer time. This made it nice and airy,
no stale or musty odor at any time. Milk was kept in crocks on the shelves,
waiting for cream to rise and be skimmed off for butter, so the place had to be
kept clean and free from odors. Open crocks of milk would become tainted with
the slightest smell.
There was also an inside stairway leading down from the pantry above. A small
landing, with shelves for storage at the end, built at the tope was nice. No
steps leading down into space when you opened the door. But this landing and
those cellar steps had to be scrubbed with a brush every Saturday. My mother was
a great “scrubber-upper”. After all, there was FOOD in that cellar. This light
airy storage space was certainly in the fall always, “a sight for ‘sore eyes’ “,
or maybe a more accurate expression would be “a sight for hungry stomachs”. The
shelves were filled then with canned fruit, gallon crocks of apple butter, lard
to bake with, cucumber pickles in a six gallon crock on the floor. Enough food
to feed an army. Maybe that’s what we had, there were eight people living in
that house regularly with plenty coming and going, my mother was prepared.
The prettiest sight in this cellar was the shelves on which my father stored out
apples. These shelves were not built with a solid board but with narrow boards
placed a half inch or so apart to let air in around the apples. Also there was
something across the front to keep them from rolling out. The apples were all
sorted according to variety. We had so many different kinds, most of them not
raised anymore. There were Northern Spies, of course, Greenings, Baldwins,
Greasy Pippins, Tolman Sweets, and Snow apples. Also had one called Rambo. This
was a fall variety and had to be used first. Not very good keepers but delicious
eating. Then another called Russets. These my dad buried in a pit to be opened
up in the spring. This pit was dug at the edge of our garden, lined with straw
someway. Can’t tell too much about this because it was one more thing we never
did after my dad was gone. However, the pit was like a cold storage and Pa
buried Russet apples, heads of cabbage, carrots, turnips, etc. What an exciting
day when he went out in the spring and opened that pit. Everything was as fresh
as the day he stored it. The Russet apples were delicious. Not even withered.
THE DARK CELLAR
All I can remember we kept in this one is barrels filled with potatoes and cider
barrels. The cider barrels were laid down flat and had spigots in each one.
Cider, as you all know, turns to vinegar as it ages. We always had one barrel of
that and each fall my dad would take apples to the cider mill and have fresh
cider made. We drank out of this until it turned so hard it wasn’t fit to drink,
then we’d leave it for vinegar.
Now all this was fine until one day you were sent down to draw a jug of vinegar.
You didn’t want to go into that dark place, you were scared but you didn’t dare
say you were afraid and could you please take a lamp with you. The answer to
that would be “a lamp, you want to set this house on fire, now go on and get
that vinegar, there’s nothing down there to be afraid of”. I knew there was and
its name is DARK. Coming so suddenly out of the day light into this room, you
couldn’t see a thing, so you’d wait a few minutes (seemed like hours) and then
you could see a little but still you were scared. Walking, gingerly, up to the
vinegar barrel, you’d put your jug under the spigot and turn it on. Not so fast,
it will spit back up, so you wait forever for the jug to fill, expecting some
wild animal or an old crazy man to grab you and choke you to death. It wouldn’t
have taken long, you were half way there already. The jug in full, you turn off
the spigot and go out into the light and up the stairs to safety.
When you were sent down for potatoes; that was a lot worse than drawing vinegar.
You’d enter the darkness, stand still until your eyes were accustomed to the
sudden change, then walk up to that potato barrel! You look down into that
barrel and there really is NO light now. Barrel is nearly empty; you’re going to
need to reach way into this one. But it isn’t you at all, it’s me. I am really
scared now. I pound on the outside of the barrel to scare the rats or whatever
is in there. Nothing comes out so I reach into the darkness and fill my pen.
Once more I have survived.
Pearl told me last Sunday when she had to go for potatoes, she always snitched a
few matches and hide them in her apron pocket. When she reached the barrel,
she’d strike a match, holding the lighted match inside the barrel she could see
whether there was anything in there or not. Always careful to hide the burnt
match in her apron pocket to dispose of it before Ma found out. Now, why didn’t
I think of that. You know something? I’ll bet Ma would have caught me at it. No
flashlights in those days. What an invention that was.
What a delight these strings of sleigh bells were! Used only in the winter time,
when the roads were covered with snow and you were unable to pull a buggy.
Buggies had wheels, so now a cutter or sleighs with runners were the
conveyances. The sleigh bells, mounted on a strap, placed around a horse’s neck,
hanging loosely underneath his head, jingled and jangled with every movement of
his body. Each string had a different tone. The size of the bells, some about an
inch in diameter gave out a high pitched sound, while the larger ones made a
lower sound. Probably were 25 or 30 bells on a string.
One soon learned the sound of each neighbor’s bells and could tell who was
driving past without looking out. My father’s bells were called a graduated
string. Tiny inch bells at the top and gradually changing to one and one half
inch on the middle. They made the most melodious sound. Ma gave them to Arby and
now Ruth Wright has them. She has quite a collection of strings, all from some
of her relatives. Has them displayed hanging side by side on one wall of a room
in her house.
(MISCELLANEOUS RECOLLECTIONS OF MYRTIE):
While going from her home to a neighbor’s because she was afraid of lightening
and thunder, Maude Fowles was struck by lightening and killed in spring of 1908.
A guy got sweet on a gal; he would go over to her house early in the morning and
stay all day. Mother said “enough is enough” and one day she went after him with
a buggy whip. He came home just ahead of her. No, he didn’t marry the girl but
he did go back to see her!
One family wanted to go back home to Indiana so they rigged up two covered
wagons, loaded up the household goods and took off. Ma and two children in one
wagon and Dad in the other. After a time word came back that they had made it
During the smallpox epidemic, one of the victims was a baby about a year old.
She carried the scars (or pits as they are called) to her grave some 80 years
later. The one death was Albert Bradley. His sister was staying at the Oliver
Benschoter home. She was looking out of the upstairs window and saw her father
and another man when they came with lanterns to the cemetery to bury Albert.
Some of the early families in Sebewa were the Jim Browns, Charles Halladays,
Fred Erdmans, John Friends, Henry Allemans, Peter Knapps, Lon Evans, Alfred
Garlocks, Sleight families, Lowes, Conrites, Highs, Cramers, Overlys and Holmes.
One of the first preachers in the Methodist Church played a violin and he
brought it to church. That was a no-no as violins were only used in dance halls
and the devil was in it bigger than a woodchuck!
Another of our other pastors were Burch (who drove a horse and cart and wore a
linen duster), Winn, Ellinger, Swem, Stanley Thayer (who came from England),
Carter and Thompson. I might say, during my growing-up days I was organist for
Sunday School then for church. I taught a Sunday School class, was President of
the Missionary Society, leader of the Little Light Bearers (a branch of the
Missionary Society) and always helped with Children’s Day. After coming to
Portland, I was pianist at the Nazarene Church for a time.
My school days ended with the 8th grade at Sebewa High. Then I went to work. In
the early 20’s I went in to the baby business. Babies were born at home then. My
first baby was Lucille Singlinger; later Mildred, Kathryn Kenyon, Arlene Sears,
two Greenhoe boys at Crystal, two Benschoter boys, Junior and Norton and Glenn
Fender to name a few. The Greenhoe boys are about three times removed as great
grandsons of Johnathan Ingalls.
In 1927, I came to Portland when Gertrude Fischell and I went in to the interior
decorating business. One year we hung 1000 rolls of wall paper and spread
several gallons of paint. Later we bought acreage on Okemos Road and did a
little farming with cows and chickens. Then came I-96 which put an end to that
business. Then we built a house on Riverside Drive. In 1978 we came to the
Portland Apartments. In 1984, Gertrude passed away at the Ionia Manor after 58
Sebewa is a trailer village now. Only a few houses are left. I am the oldest
living native. I have seen the times change from wood stoves, hard coal burners,
furnaces to solar heat and have gone from horse and buggy to automobiles to
airplanes, radios, televisions and a man on the moon – ALL IN 90 YEARS!
November 15, 2013