Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 22 Number 4
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, APRIL 1988, Volume 23, Number 5. Editor Robert W. Gierman. Submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:


Jordan Lake Road and Riverside Drive, Berlin Township, Ionia County – Three miles west of M 66, across from the State Park parking lot picnic area.
With the Ionia Association of Retired School Personnel, Steve Dice, manager of Ionia Area State Park and interested citizens of Ionia County, we are joining to raise some $1,400 for the restoration needed to keep the Sessions Schoolhouse in good repair. That much money is the estimate for the materials for a new roof, a door and a window. Funds donated will be deposited in the account of The Ionia Association of Retired School Personnel in The Ionia County National Bank. Some $700 has already been pledged for that purpose.

Elaine Y. Broderick (daughter of Edith and Clarence Yager), David Brodbeck and June Heintzleman Courts. Recently Howard Cross has been in intensive care at St. Lawrence Hospital for severe injuries sustained in a headon collision at Mulliken.


The structure stands near where the Ionia County Infirmary used to stand. It is a monument to the early educational activities of this county. It was here that the county system was laid.

It was built in 1847 and is believed to be the oldest cobblestone schoolhouse in Michigan. It was restored by the Board of Supervisors in 1918 and an appropriate bronze tablet was placed by the Stevens Thompson Mason Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Ionia, on August 29, 1918. This was eventually stolen.

It is a granite building with small windows and typical architecture and design of early days. Many early Ionians attribute their early educational training to this school.

Some of the alumni are Miss Clara Sessions, Mrs. L. P. (Bertha) Brock, Milo Adgate, Philo Adgate, Mrs. L. P. (Connie) Loomis, Rev. F. P. Arthur, Amasa Morrison, Clare Allen, Walter Meech, J. E. Morrison, Wade Allen, Hal Taylor, Chester Adgate, William E. Howard, Clinton Gates, Mrs. Wm. Milligan, Julia Tanner, Mrs. Riley Harwood, Mrs. Edith Allen, Mrs. Fred Arnold, Mrs. Frank Bailey were teachers. The first teacher was Mrs. Elizabeth Sessions-Arthur, better known as Libby Sessions.

Teachers received $2 per week and their board valued at $1.50. Water was carried in a wooden bucket from the homestead of Alonzo Sessions and all used one tin cup.

The teacher got there early to build the fires. The pupils carried lunches in Indian baskets, made by Indians in a camp nearby. There were many snakes in summer, but despite this, nearly all went barefoot. In winter they wore homespun stockings and cow hide shoes, well greased with tallow.

When Mrs. Levi (Addie) Marshall was regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, shrubbery was planted, presenting a very picturesque appearance.

The annual report of 1848 of Berlin Township said there were 29 children in District #2, 42 in #3, and 34 in #4.
The primary school fund was $17.00. The number of children in the township for 1849 was: District #1 = 23, District #2 = 28, District #3 = 56, and District #4 was 33, making a total of 140.

The annual report for 1856 gave 284 pupils with 7 districts and $149.04 as the amount of money divided among them.
~ Courtesy of Marion Nielsen

M*A*S*H Continued by Grayden Slowins

A word here about the various Master-Sergeants. Sgt. Leavenworth was really just FROM Leavenworth, Kansas, and I forget his name, which is just as well. He ran the E. E. N. T. Clinic, and had a bad habit of getting the inductees to open their clothing to the waist in order for him to examine their eyes, ears, nose and throat???

Sgt. Kilkoska was a farm boy from the Red River Valley and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. He was good hearted, as was Leavenworth, but he punctuated every sentence with profanity.

Sgt. Ahab was an Arab who mostly smoked big black cigars and read trashy paperback novels. Sgt. Pike was a black man who had been a mail carrier during his brief stint of civilian life in Washington, D. C. Roy Spitzley and I used to observe October 18th every year. In 1974 we realized, while tiling in the west pasture, that day we could have retired at half pay from the Army. He spent “Faarty years in this man’s army” (1915-1955) and refused to leave, even though he could draw full pay whether he stayed or not. He had joined the army as a 16 year old right off the boat from Ireland and knew no other life. His main duty in late years was showing the VD movies to the inductees. He had served in WWI, WWII, and Korea.

The Supply Officer was an ROTC Business College graduate who spent his time reading Playboy Magazine, while I ran the Medical Supply for the U. S. 5th Army in Detroit Area. He didn’t even sign the requisitions, I had a rubber stamp for that. I never negotiated the swaps that Radar did, but I hauled many a purloined sheet of plywood in my ambulance, and C-ration hamburgs canned at Lake Odessa, Michigan in 1943. The Sergeants used them for dog food. All this was in exchange for assorted First Aid supplies.

Another person who looked out for us was the head nurse. She was not as beautiful as Major Margaret (Hot Lips) Hoolihan, but she saw the humor in our situation. She eventually married in the Detroit area, retired with 20 years service, and became shop nurse at Chrysler’s Ordinance Tank plant in Warren, Michigan.

Most of our patients were G.I.’s home on leave, who got into auto accidents or caught the Detroit Crud. Also there were several guided missle stations in Michigan at that time that we serviced.

I never got to go to Germany, but Detroit was better than Korea. Then I had to serve a year of Active Reserve in Grand Rapids, kind of like the National Guard. Weekly training meetings and two weeks at summer camp. In mid-July, 1957, I was in the wheat line in Portland at nine P.M. Dad came to town, worried I wouldn’t make the train. But I jumped into the pickup, went home, bathed, changed, grabbed my duffle bag, and was at Union Station in Grand Rapids in plenty of time for the 1:30 A. M. departure. We took the Silver Chief of the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe to Denver, where we spent two weeks at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. I spent most of the time watching open heart surgery in the amphitheatre. It was the same team that had operated on the President Ike a few months before. I saw them lift a man’s heart from his chest, repair it and replace it. No one hinted we would one day see them put someone else’s heart in a man’s chest.

FROM HERE AND THERE by Edgar Fleetham

In life there are a great many things that we know about. But many of them are superficial, only as we have never had any direct knowledge or experience with them. Then there often comes a time when we are suddenly thrust into a position of reality because of personal involvement.

I have known that sometimes people develop a condition in which the arteries going into and out of the heart get plugged up. This creates a situation in which a person becomes threatened with a heart attack. Sometimes the knowledge of the condition comes only after an attack. I have known about stress tests, heart catheter, baloons to expand the arteries, by-pass surgery etc. These were the things that happened “to the other people”!

Then came the day when I strode confidently on to the treadmill, convinced that “I would show them how it was done”. After all I have been a pretty active person. And then…I blew the test almost before I got started and heard the doctor say “That heart is starved for oxygen”. That was I, who worked almost every day at something physical, who could walk a mile without difficulty and never had knowingly experienced shortness of breath. All of a sudden I was part of “other people” and scheduled in a few days for a visit to a cardiologist. That day came and went with a date in less than a week for a heart catherization. At this time we are waiting for that date in which the next steps will be determined.

This column is written without the intent of zeroing in on a personal situation that has suddenly arisen. After all, I am not unique. I stated that when the lines above related to the fact that I was no different than others. My purpose is to show that we so often talk about conditions and issues of which we have no real knowledge. Only when we personally experience them can we truly understand.

So often we judge others and the decisions in life they have to make with the criticism “now why did they ever do that” or “I never would have done that”. A pretty good New Year’s resolution would be not to think or express opinions on anything or on anyone until we have first hand knowledge. It would make life easier and the world a better place in which to live. Its surely worth considering.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL. By Edgar Fleetham

Since the above was written, Edgar has had quadruple bypass surgery in the arteries around his heart and is home, slowly recovering from the procedure as is also Ray Elliot. Both are doing mild exercise.
We found the same for Charles McDonald of Berlin Township. He had similar surgery in 1987. During this cold weather he takes his walking exercise at the Meijer Store and is “feeling good”.


I moved to Sebewa in October 1936, when I was 12, to live with my father, Frank H. Rathburn, Sr. (1874-1946), who had been married that August to Jessie (Strong) Howland (1874-1969), the widow of William Howland, a long-time Sebewa resident. My father and Jessie had been friends many years earlier in Grand Rapids. They got back together by chance, when she advertised in the winter of 1935-36 for a summer farm helper. He was living in Grand Rapids at the time, and answered the advertisement. He worked for her for several months, and they then decided to get married.

The Howland farm was on the corner of the Sunfield Road and what I think now is called Bippley Road, although there were no official road names in 1936.

I had been living in Detroit with relatives since the death of my mother eight years earlier. I arrived in Sebewa on a Saturday afternoon, and can recall my “city boy’s” excitement of being on a farm, with cows, horses, chickens, outdoor “plumbing” and kerosene lights. There was even a hired man, named Will Meyers, a puppy named Rags and an assortment of cats that lived in the granary.

I went to church (Sebewa Center Methodist) the next day with my father and my new mother, I met a lot of people, but I can only remember one---Gretchen Gierman---who I decided was “pretty cute”.

I also made a decision that weekend about my name. I had been called “Junior” all my life, and detested that nickname heartily. I had attended a summer camp that year, and met a boy named Jerry, who had become my friend. I liked the name and decided that henceforth I would be Jerry. That is how I was introduced, and that is what I was called the next five years.

On Monday I went to the Sebewa Center School to be enrolled in the seventh grade. The teacher was Mildred Ensworth, later to be Mrs. Halladay. My fellow students in the seventh grade were Eleanor Meyers and Margaret Shilton. Ahead of us in the eighth grade, were Howard Meyers, Bruce Downing and Mary Zweep. Behind us, in the sixth grade, were Gretchen Gierman, Virginia Cross and Arlene Sears. Behind them, one year, I think, was Cleo Downing. I don’t remember any of the younger children except Geneva York, who looked remarkably like Shirley Temple.

My major recollection of that first day in school was my embarrassment at being the only boy in knickers and knee socks. That was standard dress in Detroit, but not in Sebewa. I went home that night and gave my Dad an ultimatum—the knickers had to go. We went to Portland that night to buy me blue jeans, or overalls, as they were then called. It took me only a few days to “unlearn” my city language; that roads were not called streets, and the outhouse was not a bathroom.

I am sure there is much to be said for modern education, with big schools and fancy equipment. But I do know that the simple one-room Sebewa Center School was the best thing that ever happened to me. Mrs. Ensworth was a capable and dedicated teacher who really worked with her pupils. I had been a very poor student in Detroit, but my marks and my attitude improved dramatically under her teaching. I still have my old report cards to show it. I also have the certificate signed by Mrs. Ensworth testifying that I was never absent nor tardy during the two years that I attended Sebewa Center.

Mrs. Ensworth conducted frequent spelling bees among her older students, and I had the honor in 1937 of winning the school championship, just barely beating out Gretchen. I went on to the township spelling bee, and lost on the word moccasin.
Early in 1937, the Zweeps moved from the farm just east of us, and were succeeded for a short time by the Jake Van Polen family. My Dad, who was then 62, was too old for farming, so he leased some of our fields to Van Polen to work on shares. I actually did very little farm work, but I do recall at least once plowing on foot behind a horse-drawn plow. And I well remember when I was finally old enough to drive the John Deere tractor the “easy way”.

The Van Polens moved later that year, and were replaced by Alfred and Oma Goodrich and their family of six children—Mary, Orpha, Alfred Jr. (Sonny), Stanley, Byron (Bonnie) and Loretta. The Goodriches moved about two years later and the Ritters became our neighbors.

The other near neighbors were Roy Sears and his family to the north; Frank Bickle, across from the Goodriches; Ross and Gladys Tran to the west, and Harry Meyers and family just north on the Sunfield Road.

My best friends were the Meyers boys- -Howard, Wesley and Harold even though they were all older than I. We spent many happy hours together, playing hide-and-seek and barn tag in their barn or ours, fishing at the millpond, tramping through the woods in the summer, hunting in the fall, and trapping muskrats in Sebewa Creek during December. An eventful spring event was our first “dip” in the icy waters of Sebewa Creek, at our favorite spot in a valley about a mile down stream. We used to follow the creek for miles, from its source in a large swamp somewhere to the south, to the point where it empties into the Grand River.
Harold Meyers had an old Model-T Ford, which served as transportation to Portland on Saturday nights for the movies or to Sunfield in the summer for the outdoor free show. We also drove it to skating parties at York’s pond on cold winter nights. I never quite knew how the word got around, but everybody within miles showed up for the skating parties—young, old and in-between. We youngsters skated and played “crack-the-whip” on the ice. The older folks built fires on the banks and chatted while they sipped coffee and maybe stronger drinks.

Speaking of the Yorks, I remember vividly how impressed I was to learn that Helen York, a “girl”, could skin a muskrat!
PTA meetings at the school were a major social event for those with children. My Dad was elected president in 1937, so we went to all the meetings. My stepmother was active in the Ladies Aid Society at church, and was a major contributor to their wonderful dinners. The food was fabulous. Every woman tried to outdo the others, with fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, homemade bread, pies and cakes, and a host of other dishes.

There were also the “box socials” at the church, where the women and girls brought lunches in boxes which were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The winner then got to eat lunch with the owner of the box he had purchased, so there was spirited bidding, especially among the younger set. No one was supposed to know which box belonged to whom, but word somehow got out, especially when it came to good cooks and especially pretty girls.

My Dad was a Republican, and he had a friendly rivalry with Ben Probasco, who was a Democrat. In 1937 Dad was elected justice of the peace, and also treasurer of the school board. (Homer Downing and Carl Gierman were the other school board members. I remember one very nasty winter day when only three students got to school—Cleo Downing, Gretchen Gierman and myself, the children of the three school board members).

My sister Peggy came to live with us on the farm in 1939, but never went to the Center School. She went to grade school and high school in Sunfield, where I also attended high school.

I have so many wonderful memories of those days:

*The threshing season, when a dozen or more men and boys would gather at one farm after another with the old steam threshing machine. The younger men pitched the bundles of wheat in the fields onto wagons for hauling to the barn, and others then pitched them into the machine. Older men handled the horses, watched over the thresher, and took care of the “bagger”, where bags were filled with the outpouring grain. The boys got the easy jobs, such as keeping the water pails full and directing the flow of straw onto the rapidly growing straw stacks. At noon, work came to a halt for “lunch”. And what a meal it was. All the wives of the workers brought food. One woman couldn’t have fed that hungry crew!

*The April Fool’s joke I played on my Dad about 1940. He had just bought some new chicken feed that was supposed to increase egg production. That morning, I took all the previous day’s eggs, and added them to those already in the hen’s nests. When he went out to gather the eggs that afternoon, he came bounding in all excited. “That new feed is great”, he announced. “Look at all these eggs.” Then I told him what I had done, and shouted “April Fool!” He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

*The time George (or was it Rob?) Gierman bought some young pigs from my Dad, and asked me to help him load them on his truck. After he had most of them aboard, and was gathering the last one or two, I somehow let them all jump off the truck and was gathering the last one or two, I somehow let them all jump off the truck and scamper away. He had to round them up again, and was very disgusted with the “city kid” who couldn’t handle baby pigs.

*The time somebody’s dog started killing sheep throughout the township. There were some mighty angry farmers who wanted to find that dog and shoot it. My dog Rags was a suspect for a while, but then one night it snowed, and a group of men followed the dog’s tracks from some newly-killed sheep to its owner’s house. I don’t remember whose dog it was, but it was shot on the spot. My Dad, as justice of the peace, had to negotiate a fair price for the dog’s owner to pay for the dead sheep.

*Neighbors for miles around came to our place during haying season with broken hay ropes. My Dad was an old Navy man, and the only person around, I guess, who knew how to splice broken ropes. He tried to teach me how to do it, but I never caught on.

As I look back, I realize that I was living in those first years on the farm during the very last days of a life style that had existed with little change since the last century- -the outdoor pump and windmill, the kerosene lamps and candles that lit our rooms, the outhouse, milking our own cows, making our own cream, shearing our own sheep, butchering a hog in January, making maple syrup in March and apple cider in October, storing apples, potatoes, cabbage and carrots in the cellar for winter, taking a warmed-up soapstone to bed on cold winter nights, waking up to a rooster’s crowing in the morning, cooking and heating water on a wood stove, cutting and splitting wood for the winter fires, raising our own vegetables in Dad’s garden, and even an old-fashioned corduroy road to bump along on near the Cross farm north of the Center. And a final touch—Frank Bickle driving by in his horse and buggy! My great-grandfather, who died in 1875, would have felt right at home in the Sebewa of 1936.

*My first car, a 1931 Model-A Ford that I bought in Portland about 1939 for $65, using the money I had made trapping muskrats, skunks, possums, weasels and an occasional mink. (Howard Meyers and I made a few extra dollars weeding onions for ten cents an hour at a muck farm somewhere in northwest Sebewa). I drove that car to high school for two years, then in the summer of 1941, drove it to my grandmother’s in Maryland, to relatives in Boston, and then back to Maryland, where it broke down. I sold it for $5 and bought a bus ticket home.

It was that December that I listened to a radio report one Sunday afternoon that said the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I asked my Dad “Where’s Pearl Harbor?” He replied, somewhat sadly I thought, “In Hawaii, and I have a feeling you will be seeing it one of these days.”

He was right. I enlisted in the Marine Corps a few weeks later, and spent 26 months in the South Pacific with the Second Marine Division. On my last night in Sebewa, Gladys Tran had a farewell party for me and Howard Meyers, who had joined the Navy. A year later, my sister Peggy married Burt Daniels, her high school sweetheart, while he was home on leave from the Merchant Marine. A short time later, he was dead, one of the first local boys to die in the war.

After the war, my Dad offered to give me the farm if I wanted to be a farmer, but I was not interested. So he sold the farm and moved to Lowell, where he died a year later, aged 72. Mom lived to be 95, and was lively and alert almost to the end. She was a most remarkable lady, a fact that, sadly, I didn’t appreciate in my years on the farm with her. We grew quite close in later years.

I lived in Toledo for a while, then Detroit, where I went to Wayne University under the G. I. Bill of Rights and earned a degree in journalism. I was a newspaper reporter for 13 years, and then a Congressional aide in Washington for 16 years. I have now been retired seven years.

Except for an occasional visit, I have seen very little of Sebewa, where I lived so happily for five years. My Dad and Mom are buried there in the little cemetery overlooking Sebewa Creek, among the graves of so many of their old friends. Whenever I do visit there, I stop at the cemetery and reflect on those long-ago days when life was so simple, uncomplicated and self-sufficient. End

REMINISCENCES Continued by Myrtie Candance Lovell Welch

My mother always mourned the fact that she, who wanted so much to have an education, never had the opportunity. When she was a girl, anyone who could read well and add, multiply, subtract and divide figures formed a class of pupils qualified as teachers.

My mother became a very good reader, also quite adept with figures. The teacher informed her she was now ready to teach a class of her own. Also the lady said she would help my mother to find the pupils. Ma said she was so thrilled; but her mother wouldn’t allow it. Ma would have to leave home to do this and Grandma Croy wanted all her girls nearby. She allowed time to work for their near neighbors but for no one else.

Ma in later years had five daughters and a goal to make each one a schoolteacher or at least go through high school. Mae graduated from Woodland, only ten grades there, and went directly into teaching.

Then Sylvia and Grace both finished eighth grade, but the tables turned on our mother. Instead of her not wanting her girls to leave home, the girls didn’t want to leave. She tried making them go on to high school but they absolutely refused. As I look back, it was probably more fear of having to associate with all of those town young folks. There was such a discrimanation between town folks and farmers at that time. Town folks did really feel above the farmers. That feeling was there until quite recently.

Anyway, when I was ready for high school, my mother simply rented the farm, bought a house in town, moved in with her four daughters. When school started, Grace started in along with me. Ma tried to get Sylvia to start, too, but she didn’t want to. She, Grace and I in the same class? Sylvia would have been a senior if she had gone on from eighth grade and Grace a sophomore.
Grace got through the tenth grade and then quit. She was such a good student but too proud for her own good. She was so ashamed to be so far behind girls of her own age. Sylvia found a job right after we moved to town. She was a typesetter for the local weekly newspaper, The Vermontville Echo.

The first house we bought was the second house on the south side of the street east from the Opera House corner. We were practically on Main Street. It was a very friendly neighborhood and we soon felt right at home.

The people next door soon became our best friends. This friendship lasted the rest of our lives. They had a daughter named Ethlyn, Sylvia’s age, and the two girls became pals. It was this girl that Sylvia named Lucille for. Her last name was Kidder. She kept in touch with our family long after Sylvia was gone. She was a wonderful friend.

Ma didn’t care too much for this place we bought. It would soon be spring with no room for a garden. Ma without a garden? That would never do, so she began looking for another house.

Soon she found just what she wanted except the house was very small, a living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a kitchen. Otherwise it was perfect, so she bought the place at once. It had a nice big garden, a large lawn, the house back off the street, a barn to keep a horse in, chicken coop—we now could raise chickens again. It was just what she wanted. We would just have to get used to that small house. It was located on East Main Street with the schoolhouse just around the corner, practically at our back door. We sold our first house, moved and tried to tuck ourselves into this little place. It took some doing but we made it. This is where we lived when I worked in the restaurant. I told you about that earlier in this history of memories.

V. H. S. RAH! RAH! RAH! September of 1903—There I was registering as a freshman in Vermontville High School. I was scared but happy to be back in school again tackling the strange subjects of algebra, Latin, history and English.

There was one large assembly room and two small classrooms behind this big room. All grades ninth through twelfth were seated in the big room. The principal, a man, conducted his classes at the front, watching over the students who were not in class. Two classrooms, one for each lady teacher, were located behind the assembly. Classes passed into these rooms to hold their sessions. It was so different from Bismark. It really made me proud to be a part of this big school.

Vermontville had literally a high school. The building was on a very steep grade. Looking down from the west windows, one looked right over the tops of the houses on the next street. We could see all over that end of town and way out onto the farms located north of town. It was a beautiful view. The hill made a wonderful place to slide with our sleds, not only at recess and noon time but at sliding down hill parties when the children played there on Saturdays.

On the lower floor of this building were two rooms for children from kindergarten to eighth grade.



Last update November 15, 2013