Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 22 Number 3
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 Association,
December 1986, Volume 22, Number 3. Robert W. Gierman, Editor;
submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:


A century and two years ago was born Elsie Green Rosell near the Danby Cemetery. She attended the Halladay, Sunfield and Portland schools. She was a first cousin to William Petrie. Dennis and Ida Petrie called on her when they were here from Florida last summer. She is at Rindy Foster Home at Midland 48640.

Last year we lost track of Edna Kenyon’s address but now she has made it known again. She is in a high rise retirement apartment. She was 96 in October. If you would like to send a Christmas Card her address is:

Edna Kenyon, Majectic Towers, Apt. 710, 1255 Pasadena Gardens, St. Petersburg, FL 33707

SEBEWA IN THE SENTINEL, 1886, continued

SEBEWA, Feb. 22 – The amateurs of Sebewa will produce the great temperance drama, entitled “The Last Loaf” at Colwell’s Hall, Thursday evening, Feb. 25th. This troupe is the product of the Johnson district literary society. They sustain their parts very well indeed. The proceeds go towards purchasing an organ for the society.
Died, Saturday, Feb. 20, Laura Miller, age 14 years, daughter of Conrad Miller.
The manager of the G. A. R. social, at Colwell’s Hall last week, offered as a prize for the best lady waltzer a silver cake dish. Several ladies “tipped (sic) the light fantastic toe”, but Miss Lettie Johnson of West Sebewa carried off the prize.
One of our professional men has added a “hair dressing” establishment to his business.
W. A. Price has determined to run business on his own hook---C. D. Woodbury having withdrawn his capital.
Will Heinzleman purchased forty acres of land last week of Sanford Yeomans---consideration, $500.
E. C. Derby of Danby has applied for a patent on his land roller.
There is movement on foot to establish a graded school at Sebewa Corners. If this project is successful, several new districts will be formed.


In recognition of the Centennial of our neighboring village at Lake Odessa in 1987, I shall attempt to relate the bits of history as told to me over the years by people who were around in 1887 when the railroad came thru. My relatives had lived in Campbell, Odessa, and Berlin Townships before there was a Lake Odessa. My own earliest recollections are from the late 1930s, when I stayed in the summer, first with Granddad Brake’s in Aunt Jennie Tasker’s house on Second Avenue, (later the Bernard and Euceba Thomas house) and then at Uncle Duane Gray’s on Sixth Avenue. I hung around the (Haight-Weed) Wortley-Baine (Pickens-Koops) Furniture Store and Mortuary, where Uncle Duane was a mortician. I rode young Freddie Baine’s scooter (the old foot-powered type) down the sidewalks of Fourth Avenue. We bought little things from Mae Armour at the D&C Store. Later I was pharmacist for 10 years, 1957-1966, in the (Russ-Smelker) Hansbarger-Tasker-Hewitt Drugstore.

Many Civil War veterans were alive in my childhood in the 1930s and 1940s. A few lasted into the 1950s and 1 or 2 into the 1960s. Widows lasted even longer. Other people simply remembered the War, even tho they were not involved in it. My memory is of “Grandma” Norcutt of Pinhook or Campbell Corners. She and her husband Zeb (Zebulon) ran the General Store and Campbell Post Office in Sec. 23 before the railroad came thru, bypassing Sebewa, Bonanza, and Pinhook. Later, when Clarksville got started, their son Henry and later grandson Howard continued the business there (now DeJongh’s Market). I believe her son Milo carried on the farming operation and was grandfather to Mrs. Pete Blair of the same location. Zeb had lost a hand in a buzz saw. “Grandma” Norcutt told many stories of the hardships of the Civil War. She ahd also known people in her childhood who remembered the Revolutionary War. She was no relation to us, but her farm home had been a short distance down the road from my Great-grandfather Abraham Brake, Sec. 24 Campbell.

Next I remember Wilbur Walters. His family were pioneer settlers around Morrison Lake. He had attended the American Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876 and carried a cane from it. Wilbur played the fiddle for dances and farmed a bit. He always sasid he knew more people in Lakeside Cemetery than he did on Fourth Avenue.

Some of my best talks were with Walter Wortley. Walter was born about 1880 in Sec. 13 Campbell Township, around the corner from Great-grandpa Brake’s farm. He was the oldest of 8 or 9 kids born and raised on a 40-acre farm. When the railroad came thru in 1886-1887, his father, Joseph Wortley, got a job on the section crew, to help feed his family. Walter got his first job that same summer of ’86, working for his Uncle Abel Bywater across the road in Sec. 18 Odessa. Carl and Addie Bywater were too young to help or not born yet. Walter was six and had not yet started school. But he cultivated corn 10 hours a day for 6 days a week, walking behind an Ajax cultivator and one horse. His Uncle Bywater may have had only 10 or 20 acres of corn, since it was common practice at that time to cultivate corn almost continuously, from the time it came up until the ears were big enough to make the hose sick. And of course there was the Biblical admonition against muzzling her.

At the end of the week, Walter received 5 cents per hour or $3 for 60 hours. He went to Bonanza and bought a pair of work shoes for $3. He had walked barefoot thru that hot sand all week! This was his first pair of real work shoes and he was financially independent. His mother never again needed to buy him any clothes, although she continued to knit socks and mittens for him, and made linsey-woolsey shirts, underwear, etc. Within a couple years he owned the cultivator and by age 10 he owned the horse. He soon went out on threshing crews. But he noticed that a laborer got $1 a day and his dinner, while a teamster got $3 a day and his dinner and the horses’ dinner. Besides, the teamster got to ride the wagon and build the load instead of pitching bundles skyward all day. This was important to not-tall people like Walter and myself. I had the same problem when I started out at age 10, behind the Rumely Oil-Pull and the Red River Special. Soon he had his own team – by age 12. At age 14 Walter completed the 8th Grade and headed for the new town of Lake Odessa. He went to Mr. Weed, who had succeeded Haight in the furniture – casket – funeral business, and sasid “I want to learn the trade”. “Okay” said Mr. Weed, “But you will have to sell your team. We already have two teams of blacks for the hearse”. This was one of the biggest disappointments of his life. Fifty years later Walter retired with $20,000 invested at 5% interest and thought he was set for life. But he lived another 20 years and his widow another 20 years beyond that. Thank Heavens for Supplemental Social Security, because they had retired before self-employed people could pay into Social Security.

Mrs. R. A. Colwell was still alive into the 1960s. her husband was a young lawyer in Ionia when his father, E. F. Colwell, joined with the financier, H. R. Wager, in platting and promoting the business district on Fourth Avenue. They owned a number of the original buildings and he maintained a law office here too. She still owned in 1960 the row of wooden buildings between the Drugstore and the Theatre, occupied by the bakery, barbershops, photo studio, etc. Other early lawyers still around then were Thomas Johnson Jr. and Charles Ernsberger.

Next I remember Mr. Andrew Muir. He and his wife lived in a little house by the alley between Mrs. Shellhorn and Scheidt’s Hardware, where the telephone building is now. I believe Mr. Muir was a Spanish American War Veteran in 1898, because he told me about coming home from “The War” as a young man and being unemployed in mid-winter. He took a job husking corn from the shock on shares, for a widow lady who lived on the little farm in the triangle across from Lass Implement (now Stamms), later owned by A. A. Kimmel. He later farmed on his own, and in old age he bought his prescription each month from me---75 cents for 30 Thyroid one grain as I recall. Anyone who has ever husked corn from the shock with a husking peg over jersey gloves, knows what the simple comforts of life are. You huddle in your Mackinaw on the leeward side of the shock to conserve body heat. You carry the corn out of the drifted field in a basket on your shoulder. Hot soup at noon tasted mighty good.

Other members of Lakeside Barracks, Spanish American War Veterans, were Lew Terry, originally from Orangeville, Barry County, who was a barber in the theatre arcade, and Thomas Benton, whose occupation before retirement I do not recall. Another Spanish War Veteran from my childhood days at Portland was old Doc Bradfield. He had served in the Horse Cavalry in both the Spanish American War and World War I, I believe. He always led the Memorial Day Parade at Portland on his white horse. He ended his life in disgrace and in prison, for performing an Abortion, I believe, 40 years ahead of his time, I guess!

Next I remember Bill Caswell. He was father of Chalmer and Or Caswell, grandfather of Denard O. Caswell, great-grandfather of Jon D. Caswell. Bill was born on a 40-acre farm at NW ¼ Sec. 23 Sebewa Township in 1864. He died in Lake Odessa at his home on Washington Blvd. in 1964, at the age of 99 years, 11 months, and 23 days. At the age of 6, in 1870, he carried square nails to the carpenters at the building of my barn. Nails, hinges, other hardware, and windowglass were the expensive items for building in those pioneer days. So kids followed the carpenters, picked up dropped nails, and handed them up. The old story goes that a man bought 10 pounds of nails to build a barn, sent the kids behind the carpenters, and had nails left over. In 1878 Bill was age 14 and a hired man here when my house was built. We talked a lot about his long life when he was 95. He was a horse man thru and thru. First he ran a livery stable at Sebewa Corners. When the railroad came thru and bypassed Sebewa and Bonanza, he opened a livery behind the Burke Hotel at the NW corner of Fourth Avenue and Third Street in Lake Odessa. It was a natural progression for his sons to sell, repair, and store cars at the SE corner of the same intersection, in a building later used by Zerfas, Senters, Lass, and now Fates Family Fare. Bill’s sons moved the business to Ionia. Or had married a daughter of the Tew family when they moved their General Store from Tremaine’s Corners, south of Ionia, to Lake Odessa. My Grandpa Dan Slowinski had been hired man at the Tew farm near Tremaine’s Corners and picked the future Mrs. Caswell up out of a manure pile when she fell into it. Chalmer Caswell was chauffer to Governor Fred Green of Ionia. In those early days of automobiles, many people stored their car at the dealer’s, like a livery stable. Bill spent his last years hanging around the horse barns at the Lake Odessa Fairgrounds in Bonanza.

The final person I think of at this time was Leo Fialkowski, born in Prussia, died in Berlin Township, 1947. He was the last relative of the Schnabel – Slowinski family to come over from Germany, and was always called “The Dutchman”. Uncle Martin and Aunt Marina Schnabel were the first ones to arrive, coming in 1854. They assisted many others to make the trip later, and always met them at the Ionia depots, after the railroads came thru there in 1857 and 1869. When Leo was to arrive, Uncle Martin waited all day with his team at the Ionia depots of the Grand Trunk and Pere Marquette Railroads, but no Leo. The next morning a messenger came knocking at his door and said to go and sign for his freight at the new Lake Odessa Depot. What freight? He hadn’t ordered anything. “It’s a man”, said the messenger, “and the lapel tag says ‘Deliver to Martin Schnabel, Berlin Township, Lake Odessa, Michigan, U. S. A.!’ “. “Oh, God! It’s Leo!” said Martin. Leo’s mother was a sister to Mrs. Michael Slowinski and to Mr. John Kloss, so he was a cousin to Albert Kloss and to Dale also.

A final chapter in the life of Great-Grandfather Abraham Brake comes to mind in the events of this week. He and Caroline Cosens Brake had 12 children, nine of whom grew up, and their descendants are scattered across the world. But five of them remained in this area, including the four youngest:

Lucinda (Mrs. Isaac) Amon, whose great-grandchildren own the Snyder Implement Co. of Alto and Portland.
Anna Elizabeth (Mrs. Allen) Amon, whose daughter Elizabeth Lenon died August 2, 1983, at age 83.
John F. Brake, (my grandfather) whose youngest and last survinging child Ida (Mrs. Walter) Livingston, whose remaining sons Burdette and Karyle live in Campbell.
Martha Jane (Jennie)(Mrs. Frank) Tasker, whose daughter Gwendolyn Redstrom died December 22, 1984, at age 83

There are two John Brakes in my generation, but none in the next two generations to take possession of the family heirloom – a horse-hobble carried by Great-grandfather John Brake in the War of 1812. The Mennonites served on both sides in the Battles of Canada as unarmed teamsters. They were instructed to wear their black hats day and night, and not one was ever shot. They hauled the supplies, then dropped back while the “English” on both sides fired their cannons and muskets. At dusk the German-speaking Mennonite boys went back onto the field to gather the dead and wounded. Perhaps one possiblility now-a-days is for a daughter to retain her name in marriage and produce a son, John Brake! Royalty have been doing this for centuries and now it seems popular with common folks.


A sleigh had two sets of runners. The front ones turned as you guided your horses, the back pair was stationary. Followed the turn of the front pair. Usually a wagon bos, with a high seat in front for the driver, was used to carry passengers or grain to the mill, your groceries, etc. Sleigh bells were not used on these horses, but a larger bell was placed on each horse’s neck. These were called team bells.

Lots of logging was done in the winter time. To draw logs, the box was removed. The first winter Ray and I were married (1911), he drew logs into town from some wher south of here. Would get up at 3:00 a.m., have his breakfast, then go bring in a load of logs before he began his daily Dray-line job here in town. Brought in a little extra income.
Ray kept his horses in a barn on Washington street, where P. J., then Gary later, used to live. While he was gone for his team, I used to start my days work, then I’d hear his bells coming and be in the window to wave my hand; but as soon as the sound of the bells were gone, I’d crawl back in bed, feeling guilty to be so nice and warm when I knew Ray must be cold. Sometimes, he would get off the sleighs and trot alongside to warm himself up. When I heard the sound of his bells coming back into town I’d get up, light the lamp and be in the window again. Guess I forgot to say we lived down south of here where you turn to go to the school house. Can see the house now from my window.

These woods where he went for the logs must have been close by, for he would be back in town before daylight. Had to be ready to meet the 8 a.m. train to pick up freight for the merchants. What a cold winter that was!

A cutter was the only other conveyance used in the winter time when snow covered the roads. Just sleighs and cutters. Two horses were driven to pull the sleighs, but a cutter used just one horse. These vehicles were sort of a square looking type with the seat in the very back. The back then curved around, down the side, shaping down towards the floor. This gave one protection so you wouldn’t fall out, and could tuck the blankets or robe around you to keep warm. Then the sides continued on to the front, making a sort of dashboard. This body was mounted on runners, like those on a child’s sled only of course larger and longer. The whole cutter was maybe four feet wide and perhaps six feet long. It cleared the ground at maybe twelve or eighteen inches. Not so high. You could easily step right in, about like going up one step on the porch.
So what are we waiting for? The runners are on, the horse is between the thills, LET’S GO. Climb in, no brakes to be used. You may step on the bottom of the blankets to hold them around your feet, tuck them tightly then around your legs and up your body as high as they will reach, usually about to your arm pits. You feel sort of like a mummy but it is necessary because “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Cold or not, it used to give me a thrill even though we might only be going to Vermontville. So different than a buggy ride.

Before Ray and I were married, sometimes we would go for a cutter ride in the evening. Usually it was Sunday night, not many people out. Such a beautiful world, snow every where, fields, trees, roof tops, everything covered, smoke coming from the chimneys of the houses we drove by. The hush and silence of the winter’s night almost took one’s breath away. As our horse trotted along the way, the only sound we heard was the jingling of our sleighbells, cutters just glide along noiselessly. Gave me the feeling of us being the only ones in the world and we were just soaring along into space. Sort of lonely but happy, just to be alive. We look up at the sky and see the moon shining down upon us and our snow covered world, making it almost as light as day. Next, the clouds begin to break away and out comes the first star. Must make a wish and say “Star light, Star bright, wish I may, wish I might have the wish I wish tonight”. Still think of this, even now, when I see my first star.

Other stars soon follow my first one, until the sky is dotted all over with them, sparkling like diamonds. We located the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and also the Milky Way. Didn’t see the man in the moon try to dip right in and take a drink but the sight was so beautiful and fairy-like that you might. The beauty of the winter night around and the diamond studded sky made us feel, as we drove home, that we were driving on Hallowed ground. We feel like a King and Queen, this great, big, beautiful world is ours. You modern guys with your noisy snowmobiles can have your speedy fun, but I’ll just float along silently in my old cutter, taking time to enjoy the wonders of the world around me.

In 1900, the year before my father died, we were invited to his brothers, John Lovell’s for Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Sleighing didn’t always come as early as this but this year, the snow came and the ground was never bare until spring. We had good sleighing all winter.

Uncle John’s family lived south of Sunfield on what is now known as the Dan Aungst farm. Five miles from our place. Such a beautiful winter morning, ground, trees, and buildings covered with snow, sparkling in the early morning sunshine. I can hardly wait to get started. Hurry everybody! At last, here comes Pa and Arby from the barn. Horses prancing, act as though they were as anxious as I to get started. Pa and Arby have filled the bed of the sleighs with nice clean straw covered over with horse blankets for us to sit on. Ma climbs up on the drivers seat with my dad; Arby Mae, Sylvia, Grace, Pearl and I sit on the straw covered bed. More blankets to tuck around us and we are started at last. Down the road north ¾ mile to Dellwood corners, then east one mile to Bismark School house. There we stop and pick up my father’s aunt and her son. Her name was Aunt Diana Pickens, (she lived to the age of 102); the son’s name was Thomas. Their home is now owned by Lloyd and Rose Steward. We go north two miles from Aunt Diana’s and next east one mile on what is now St. Joe Highway. Here we behold the most gorgeous sight! This whole mile bordering on the south side of the road, was covered with timber. Huge, tall trees, their snowy braches glistening in the sunshine, growing so closely together, looked to me like a huge snow bank.

On then down east to the Brethren Church, one-fourth mile north and we are at Uncle John’s. Don’t remember much more of this day, except Aunt Allie had roast turkey. It was a first time for turkey for me. They raised their own. Of course, I remember the rest of the family, Bessie, Donna, and John Jr. All older than I. Don’t recall the ride home but I’ll bet we sang most of the way, because if my dad was riding somewhere, he sang. He loved music.

Thinking of this great big woods makes me wonder if that wasn’t where Ray went for his logs that winter of 1911, I told you about. So much timber was sold and cut down at that time. I know it was close to town because he never was gone very long. I’ll just bet that is where they came from. I think Charles Brown owned that place, perhaps not then but he later lived there. Some of you will remember him.

A few years after the death of my father, some things to make life easier for a woman were invented. For instance, small portable stoves to cook on. The fuel used for these was kerosene or gasoline. They made quite a difference at our house. We never cooked our meals in the Summer Kitchen anymore. Could set one of these small stoves on top of our wood-burning range or on a shelf. Also a portable oven came on the market. This was a big help, saved on wood as well as a lot of leg work, carrying things outside to cook, then carrying it back in to eat.

Another thing was spring and mattresses for our beds. Can’t help but think the old fashioned straw tick was much more sanitary than a mattress but not nearly as comfortable.

Using a material called ticking, these were sewed together like a huge pillowcase, excepting both ends were closed. Down in the middle center of the top was an eighteen or twenty inch slit fastened together with buttons and button holes. Through this opening, the tick was filled with fresh oat straw. Crammed so full you could scarcely button the opening. Next procedure, carrying the bulky thing up that hill, into the house, up the stairs, and get it in place on the bed. Ma, Mae, Sylvia, Grace each grasp a corner and lifting it high enough to clear the ground, they are on their merry way. The awkward thing was not heavy, oat straw being very light.

I called it a merry way because it was just that. Sylvia had a way of turning any task, however hard, into fun. They talked, laughed and giggled all the way to the house. This tick goes upstairs, so that will take a bit of doing. There were banisters along each side of the stairwell at the top. So they’d stand the tick through the doorway, two of the girls leaning over the banisters at the top pulling on it, the girls at the bottom pushing, and then with one last mighty heave, over a banister the unwieldy thing was upstairs and in place on the bed. Most of our beds had a tick filled with feathers, which was placed over the straw one. Eased the hardness just a bit.

Earlier in the day this room had been completely cleaned. Curtains, bedding, throw rugs washed and dried. If the tick was not new, it also had to be washed. Feather bed and quilts hung on the clothes line to air. Even the carpet had been taken up, carried down stairs, threw over the clothesline beating the dust out with a carpet beater. I got to help a little now, I could whack away at the carpet, also the feather tick. Probably my whacks were not very hard ones but every little whack helped. When they put the carpet down, I never was allowed to pound a tack in but now I came in handy. A tack puller was handed to me and I was ordered to pull the tacks out. I didn’t mind doing that but after I pulled them out and placed them in a saucer, I was told to sort out the bent ones so Ma wouldn’t have to pick around for the good tacks when she was laying the carpet again. Didn’t like that, too puttery, I’d rather beat the carpet and see the dust fly.

This one bed is finished, just four more to go, and they will all be clean and sanitary. Sanitary or not, I’m very thankful for mattresses and springs.

Just must tell you this, then I’ll leave the beds and housecleaning, because they are making me tired. When Sylvia and Johnnie were married, they began home keeping at Grandma Rachel Welch’s. Just two rooms, Grandma Rachel had built onto the side of her house, for her son, Grandpa Ped, (Johnnie’s father) to live in when he was married.

I used to be there quite a lot helping Sylvia. No place for me to sleep in their part of the house, so I would have to go upstairs in Grandma Rachel’s part. At bedtime, carrying a lighted oil lamp in my hand, I’d start on that LONG journey across Grandma’s kitchen, then up the stairs to the ROOM. This place was filled, almost to overflowing, with Grandma’s things she had no use for anymore. One thing I remember was her spinning wheel. I thought it was all junk, but today it would be very valuable.

A stand to put my lamp on and the bed was in one corner of the room. This bed was very old. In place of slats, ropes were strung across and up and down to form a place for the tick. If you thought the slates were hard, you should have slept in this. You could actually feel the ropes. The whole place was very spooky, my little light didn’t reach more tan three feet away and what did I know the things that were hiding to come after me when I’d blow out the lamp. Didn’t dare to leave it lit, might tip it over in the night and set fire to the house. Every night when I’d start for bed Sylvia would say “Are you sure you are not afraid, Myrtie?” Always answering “No, I’m not afraid” when I was already shaking in my boots and my teeth were chattering.

All of Grandma’s treasures were burned when a few years later, fire destroyed the old, old house.

Always wanted to rummage through that upstairs room but didn’t dare. Grandma Rachel would have called me a snoop. I was always on pretty good terms with her and wanted to keep it that way.




Last update November 15, 2013