THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of The Sebewa Center
Association, August 1988, Volume 24, Number 1.
Editor Robert W. Gierman. Submitted with written permission of current Editor
Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: PETRIE, VAN HORN, HATHAWAY, SLOWINS, RYDER, VANHOUTEN, WAY, BARCLAY,
EVANS, LOVELL, WELCH
1918 PHOTO ON COVER; MEMBERS OF THE FIRST CLASS OF THE SESSIONS SCHOOL – Shown
are members of the first class of the Sessions school who attended the
dedication ceremonies of the placing of a bronze plaque on the front of the old
cobble-stone school by the Stevens Thomson Mason chapter of the D.A.R. September
29, 1918. Some of the students have been identified by relatives of the former
students, but a number are still unidentified. Perhaps some Ionia residents can
identify the rest. Those identified are, from the left, first row, William
Howard, Clinton Gates, next two unidentified, Mrs. John E. Morrison, Mrs. Riley
Harwood and Edith Allen; second row, first two unidentified, Mrs. Thomas
Mitchell, Wade Allen, Phoebe Adgate Scheurer, Minnie Adgate, Chester Adgate, the
next two unidentified; third row, Mrs. Bertha Brock (DAR representative, Philo
and Milo Adgate, Mrs. Arthur Loomis, Rev. F. P. Arthur, who delivered the
dedication address, and a son of the first teacher of the school, Amasa
Morrison, John E. Morrison, Walter Meach and John Morrison.
DEATHS FOR THE PERIOD.
Merl Petrie, Carlton Van Horn and Bessie G. Hathaway.
ACROSS IONIA COUNTY BY PRAIRIE SCHOONER By Grayden Slowins
Wilfred has told about the arrival of the Levi Hissong family in Sebewa Township
about 1920 by covered wagon. Here is a story about the Slowins family, who began
preparations 51 years ago this month, in February, 1937, to move from a rented
farm in Boston, across Berlin & Orange, to a newly purchased farm in Portland.
And we were so hard-up in the Great Depression that we even lacked a canvas to
cover the wagon.
Dad was an unemployed auto worker who had returned to his ancestral trade as a
shepherd. I was born near a sheep barn in Sec. 30 Boston, and the first sound I
heard after my mother’s voice was probably the “Baaa” of a newborn lamb. We
lived on three different rented farms in my first 5 years of life, all on US-16
(Grand River Ave.)
In the Fall of 1936, the auto factories began to roll again, but the work was
seasonal, mostly Fall & Winter, so Dad sought a small farm to buy, closer to
Lansing. They had dickered with Charles & Cora Ryder VanHouten, who had sold out
and moved from Sebewa to a smaller farm at Portland. But they weren’t quite
ready to sell yet. So my family bought Albert (Ab) Way’s farm across the road.
It was in Sec. 28, all inside the Village, now City, of Portland. Dick Watkins
lived nearby and was working it.
All summer Dad & Uncle Frank Slowinski farmed both places. They got the crops in
first on the Boston farm. Four men, including two neighbors, planted 10 acres of
corn in a day with hand planters. The field had been marked both ways
(check-rowed) the day before with a horse-drawn marking horse. Then they began
to load plow, roller, disc, drag, etc., on the wagon each day & go to Portland.
Each morning they would milk before daylight, then head east toward the dawn.
After working in the fields all day, they headed west with the setting sun. The
14 Brown Swiss cows were milked by hand and the milk hand cranked thru a
cream-separator. The skim milk went to the calves, hogs, & chickens.
They put village electricity & water in the house and prepared for that first
hard winter. Mother home-schooled me, and on October 10, 1937, it was time to
make the move and live “there” not “here”. All farming tools and supplies that
couldn’t be spared earlier were now loaded on the wagon. They milked early that
morning, and the 5 cows who were to make the move were strung out like a “wagon
train” behind. I can’t recall just how they were tied.
We did have the use of Grandpa Slowinski’s flatbed truck to move the household
goods and some other things, but in those days trucks usually came with no cab
and a homemade affair served without doors – like Randy Wolverton’s silage
wagon. Since seat belts had not been invented yet, and without doors, I was
instructed to squeeze over next to Dad and hand onto his belt. Because sometimes
we reached speeds of 30 MPH on the downhill!
But on this final grand moving day, clothing, kitchen supplies, Mother, and Baby
Sister Sandra rode in the care with Uncle Frank. As eldest son, I was allowed at
age 5 to “ride shotgun” on the team & wagon. When I rode a horse, I always rode
the “off mare” and hung on tight to those knobs on the collar. We started east
along the shoulder of US-16. The high wooden wheels with steel rims clattered on
the stones and on the cement when we had to duck around culvert abutments. There
were cars & semis passing, but you had time to reach safety when you heard one
There were also laying hens in crates on the wagon. We had not received a share
of the Boston sheep and would buy a new flock from Mr. Martin, father of Walter
Martin who bought the Charles VanHouten place. The farm we left belonged to
Mattie Cool, mother-in-law to Uncle Elwood Brake, Sec. 22 & 27 Boston. We were
headed for Sec. 28 Portland.
The first sight of interest was the historical marker for the first roadside
picnic table in Michigan, or the USA, or maybe the whole World! Next was the
beautiful, deep, winding valley of Lake Creek and then Miltenberger’s Pond, from
which we had hauled water when the well went dry.
In Berlin we passed the farm, general store, and gas station of County Clerk
Lylia Patrick, grandmother or great aunt of Duane Patrick. Then past the farm of
Walter A. Lee, whose brother Reuben Lee had an insurance fire in Boston about
1932. Two elderly people removed every item of furniture in the dead of night,
including the piano, without assistance from firemen or anyone else! Then past
the farm of (William) Henry Harrison Sherwood, whose youngest son is Wayne. We
American farmers were a proud & patriotic lot back then, before the disastrous
wars in southeast Asia. We named our children after Presidents and Generals, not
Rock Stars. We had William (Tecumseh) Sherman Keefer, Ulysses (S.) Grant Keefer,
and Sheridan Wilson Keefer still living in Orange & Portland Townships at that
Next came the farm home and gas station of Charles Rudd, grandfather of Leon.
Then the Martin & William O’Beirne sheep barn, said to be the longest barn in
Ionia County when it was built, being older than the Ed & Emory Townsend sheep
barns. It was owned by Mary A. Gierman when we passed that way in 1937. It fell
down some years ago and the land is now mostly owned by Leon & Janet Gierman
Rudd. If you turned south at this point, before I-96 Freeway cut thru, you would
have passed the neat & thrifty farms of the Schnabel & Slowinski families.
Heading east instead, we passed the Robert Schnabel, Paul Hausserman, & Minnie
Sarlouis farms, and crossed into Orange (township). We passed the Fred W.
Brickley farm, and those of Thomas Christianson, Alfred Ferris, Guy Lapo, Riley
Sandborn, A. Fred Klotz, Alfred Whitlock, Lucinda Burhans, Warren Rowe and
George Rowe. As we neared Portland, we passed what had been the Prine* Barclay
showplace and had recently been purchased by Edwin Rowe. He too had an insurance
fire in Sec. 11 Orange. Uncle Frank got a job working for Ed Rowe, but within
the year Ed hanged himself & his dog on a big oak tree down the lane. Josie
continued to run the farm for a while and died just a few years ago at almost
100 years of age. Uncle Frank went to work at the prisons of Ionia & Jackson and
retired with 40 years service.
In 1942 at age 10, I became Master Shepherd and in 1957 moved the operation to
Sec. 27 Sebewa. During the 45 years since 1942, I have hauled more than 10,000
lambs to the Portland Stockyards. Every one of them was born on our farm. We
never purchased a lamb. The first trips were made with an Allis-Chalmers “C”
tractor and a little red 4x6 trailer that held 9 fat lambs, since I was too
young to drive a car or pickup. The yard was owned by Stiles & Co. before
Michigan Livestock. Guy Harwood was manager and then Charles Croel. Both are now
dead. Sydney J. Brown was their trucker and he became manager for MLX. He has
been succeeded by Larry Squires. At today’s price, around 81 ½ cents/#, 10,000
lambs would be worth almost $1 million. But of course many went at 15 cents – 18
cents back then and when they reached 25 cents we thought we were in heaven! I
have never missed a lambing season, even while in college or the Korean War. But
the land where I tended my sheep so many years ago is now covered with houses &
condos. Slowins Avenue crosses the creek approximately where the farm lane
bridge stood. END
*Prine Barclay was married to Rosetta Gunn, daughter of Joshua Gunn. Prine had
come to Sebewa to help build the Sebewa Center Methodist Church. His penciled
autograph is to be seen on a brick, high on the north west corner of the church.
When Joshua Gunn died around 1900 there was controversy over the settlement of
his estate between the Barclays and Fred Gunn. The Barclays sold the east one
half of the north west quarter of section 22 to James Cassel. The Barclays then
bought the property just west of Portland on Grand River Avenue.
As Prine was a first class carpenter, he proceeded to build for Rosetta and
himself a beautiful and well finished home. With some persuasion and surely some
money, this home became one of the first in this part of the state to have rural
electric service from the Portland electric plant.
As luck would have it, my brother, Charles Albert Gierman had a birthday on the
same date as was Rosetta Barclay’s. Our family was once invited to the birthday
dinner celebration with the Barclays. I remembered we borrowed Uncle Carl’s car
and went there for the dinner. We where shown around the new house, which was as
yet not quite finished.
Rosetta died before Prine did. He sold the house and moved to Oregon where he
also died. I never heard of a reconcialiation between Rosetta and Fred. RWG.
We have enough material to fill our ten pages but how could I do this without
mentioning the hot and dry weather of the summer of 1988?
There is more to the Joshua Gunn and other Gunn and their stories but that will
have to wait until another issue.
A TEACHER LIST, School District #1, Fractional District of Sebewa and Danby.
Courtesy of Fannie Sandborn, who compiled it from old school records.
4-17-1865 Julia Olmstead; 11-20-1865 Lucy A. Warren; 5-14-1866 Anna Dorin;
11-12-1866 J. H. McClelland, 11-18-1867 J. H. McClelland,
11-16-1868 Oma C. French; 6-8-1868 Frora (Flora?) Lewis; 5-4-1869 Harriet Howe;
11-8-1869 Grace W. Brooks; 5-2-1870 Ella Meredout; 11-14-1870 James Stringham;
5-1-1871 S. Tillie Carpenter; 11-13-1871 Jerome Sterling;
5-27-1872 Elvina Probert; 11-2-1872 James A. Stringham; 5-25-1873 Elvira Probert,
5-1-1871 L. Tillie Carpenter, 11-13-1871 Jerome Sterling; 11-18-1872 James A.
Stringham; 5-19-1873 Elvira Probert; 11-17-1873 Wesley Meyers;
5-5-1874 Elvira Probert; 11-2-1874 John W. Davids; 5-3-1875 Effie Kibby;
11-8-1875 J. H. McClelland; 5-1-1875 Mary Merryfield; 8-21-1876 Julia Cartright;
11-13-1876 J. H. McClelland; 5-17-1877 Liddy Shipman; 5-7-1877 Nellie Colburn;
11-11-1877 Ransom J. Taylor; 11-5-1879 Susie M. Bedlow;
12-8-1879 S. A. Wyman; 4-12-1880 Cleophus DeCamp; 8-12-1880 Cleophus DeCamp;
4-11-1881 Cleophus DeCamp; 11-14-1882 S. F. Deatsman; 8-1-1881 Della Brown;
10-3-1881 Della Brown; 11-14-1881 Cassius Sacket; 11-7-1883 Della Brown;
11-22-1884 Edward D. Way; 1885 Edward D. Way; 1885 Jas. D. Burkhead; 4-11-1887
W. J. Hutchison;
9-12-1892 May L. Spaulding; 11-14-1892 S. F. Deatsman; 3-6-1893 S. F. Deatsman;
9-4-1893 Jennie Lyda; 9-10-1894 Levi A. Burhans; 9-9-1895 Levi A. Burhans;
9-7-1896 Lottie Erdman; 11-2-1896 Lottie Erdman, 4-5-1897 Edith Henry; 9-6-1897
Edith Henry; 11-1-1897 Edith Henry; 4-4-1898 Edith Henry; 9-5-1898 Ora C. Allen;
11-22-1899 Nellie High;
6-12-1900 A. Bruce Gibbs; 1901 A. Bruce Gibbs; 9-1-1902 Agnes Erdman; 8-23-1902
Agnes Erdman; 9-7-1903 Agnes Erdman; 6-1-1904 Loren Grieves, 4-25-1904 Reva
Benedict; 9-5-1904 E. M. Roy; 8-31-1905 E. M. Roy; 9-3-1906 Dorothy Samain;
6-8-1907 A. Bruce Gibbs; 6-20-1907 Anna L. Wilton; 1908 Maude Samain; 1909 Maude
Samain; 9-30-1911 Elizabeth J. Cornell; 1913 Belle Young; 1917 Ruth Morganthau;
1918 Gladys H. Pickens; 1919 Gladys H. Pickens; 1921 Don McCormick; 1922 Don
McCormick; 1923 Ruth M. Grieve; 1924 Thelma Keister; 5-22-1925 Marguerite M.
Stiles; 8-16-1926 Claud J. Scott;
4-22-1927 Don McCormack; 6-4-1928 Don McCormack; 1933 Gladys Baum; 1937 Gladys
Baum; 1938 Margaret Wainwright; 1939 Esther Mosser; 1940 Esther Mosser; 1941
Margaret Braendle; 1944 Elaine Kohn; 1945 Clara Wise; 1947 Esther Bonhagel; 1948
Ivah Aikens; 1949 Lula Dushee; 1955 Lula Dushee; 1955 Eleanor Branton; 1957 Lula
Durkee; 1957 Alice Martin; 1958 Lula Durkee;
1958 Nora Peters; 1959 Nora Peters; 1959 Mildred Halladay; 1961 Mildred Halladay;
1961 Mildred Halladay; 1961 Paul Webster; 1969 Mildred Halladay; 1969 Mason
From 1930 on where dates are missing, the same teachers served as listed on the
The schoolhouse was sold to Richard Wolf for use as a dwelling after remodeling.
Since his death it remains as a place that used to be.
Here we have the address of Frank H. Rathbun: 11308 Popes Head Road, Fairfax, VA
FLOYD EVANS INTERVIEW By Grayden Slowins:
I’m Floyd Evans, live on Emory Road in Danby Township, 6577 Emory Road, born
November 19, 1908. My parents were George Evans & Anna Evans, formerly Anna
Gibbs of Sebewa Township. It’s the E1/2 of SW ¼ Sec.7 Danby Township. Then I’ve
got, across the road in Sec. 18, another 57-58 acres that I added later.
At the present time I have on my head a cap that my granddad wore in the Civil
War. He served in the Civil War and had come from Pennsylvania originally, and
then landed in Bath, Michigan. I don’t know how long he lived in Bath, a short
time anyhow. Then he came over to Sebewa Township Sec. 11. His name was Jake,
Jacob W. Evans, and Susan was my grandmother’s name. They got there, I don’t
know just what year, about 1880s. (Note: They appear on the home 40 in the 1875
Dad was born over there. He had brothers, Joe was the youngest one, and Bert –
Herb’s dad and Mildred Brown’s dad, and another brother, John, was the oldest
one, and a sister, Carrie. John lived in Owosso for years and ran a candy store.
He wasn’t a farmer. The rest of them all ended up being farmers. Along about
1923 or 1924, in that area, he went to California, and that’s where he died. He
had a daughter, an adopted daughter, named Grace Ewing. I never saw her after
they went to California either. We used to get a letter from her, but haven’t
for several years. She was a little older than I am. She’d be probably 85 or so.
Joe stayed on the homestead. Bert, after he got married, lived 2 or 3 different
places. He lived over where Ron Arnesen does; and someplace before that, but I
don’t know where it was. Then he ended up where Sid Brown owns now. That was
across from Bill Rosevere. Bill was Supervisor of Sebewa for years. I used to go
over and cultivate his corn for him while he went to Supervisors’ Meeting. He
was quite a fellow, William Rosebere, he lived for being Supervisor.
Of course I helped thresh back in those days, over in that neighborhood. Usually
I drove Uncle Bert’s team, and I hauled bundles quite a bit for some reason over
in that neighborhood. Herb was working here & there. He worked I the milk plant
quite a few years, so he wasn’t around at threshing time and I drove their team.
That 80 over in Sec. 12 Sebewa became for sale in the Knox estate, and in 1940,
I think it was, I bought it to add to our farm operation. I thought I needed a
little more land, which I did. I bought this across the road here in 1936-1937.
Got it from Ed Buck. That was known as the Gene Mathiesen place. Mathiesens
lived in Portland, you’ve probably heard the name. I don’t know what business
they were in, but they were business people and they owned some land around the
countryside. I can’t remember when they owned it. Buck owned it all the time I
can remember. He was a stock buyer and farmer, owned a big farm over in Orange
Township. He had 40 acres over on Tupper Lake Road where Louis Folkerson lives
now. Ed used to pasture his cattle over here, that was how he came to buy this.
He used to ship in his cattle and drive them out and start them on pasture here,
then when pasture got short, drive them on over to that 40. Then in the Fall, at
time to house them, he’d take them back over to Orange.
There was a house & barn down the road here, but he rented the house mostly to
thieves. They never had a well down there with water fit to drink. So they had
to come up here to our well to get water. They’d drive my mother’s old hen &
chickens home and that sort of thing. When I started farming, I rented it from
him. He had run out of renters. Various ones who had lived there did dabble at
farming it for him, too. About the last one that did the farming was Albert
Coon. He was a bachelor. He lived all over the countryside here, wherever he
could get inside someplace. He seemed to have a team of horses and a plow, and
he’d do a little farming. That wore out and the barn got in pretty bad shape and
someone tore it down. Then I bought the place. I had rented it 3 or 4 years from
him. One day he came out here and he said “You’ve worked this place for (however
long it was), why don’t you buy it?” I didn’t have much money at that time and I
said so. I had it to beans that year & we did have a pretty good bean crop, it
looked like we were gonna get some money. Anyhow he said “well, come on down to
the Bank tomorrow morning and that’s all there is to it”.
“Gee!” I said, “I still don’t have any money”.
“Well”, he said, “You’ve got a stack of beans over there”.
“Ya, part of them are mine and part yours”.
“Come on down to the bank in the morning”. So I went, and darned if he didn’t
give me a Deed to the place and said “You can pay me for it someday!” He wanted
to get rid of it. It was only $3000 or something like that. It didn’t amount to
anything, and yet in those days it was a lot of money. So I’ve owned it ever
When I got out of High School in Portland in 1928, I started that Fall working
on the Clarksville Road over here. That’s when they graveled from the city
limits out to Sunfield Road. I worked on that all Fall, worked in the gravel pit
down by Portland-Danby bridge. That’s where the gravel came from for that road
originally. Then I worked around the farm here that winter. I intended to follow
that contractor. He had a big job the next summer up north, road building. He
was Sam Solomon from Lansing. I liked the work. But in the Spring of 1929, Laban
Smith came out one day & wanted to know if I wanted to work in the Hardware
quite a bit with the rest of the kids, and it sounded pretty good. Paid $18.00
per week and I was staying at home. Solomon stopped in one day when he heard I
was working at the Hardware, and wondered if I was going to work there. That was
alright with him, as he had plenty of help anyhow. So I worked there four years.
(To be continued).
REMINISCENSES Continued By Myrtie Candance Welch
MY ENGLISH TEACHER
Miss Aldrich was never married. Her name was Charlotte Z. Aldrich. She always
signed her assignments in this manner: Cza. Someone in our class decided it
would be fun to play a joke on Cza. On our next papers we turned in to her, each
one, instead of signing our names, signed our initials, joining the letters
together in the same manner she used.
Next day, before Cza began our class, she stood at her desk and said “Girls,
don’t ever sign your names like that or you’ll turn into an old maid like me”.
Next time we turned in our papers we signed our full names, even the middle one,
like Myrtie Candance Lovell. Miss Aldrich, after looking at our papers, said
“Now, that’s much better. I felt I just had to warn you”. She was full of fun
and we did our best to please her.
Miss Aldrich lived across the street from our house. I used to help her look
over papers and mark them on Saturdays. I liked that. We had her as a teacher
only in my Freshman and Sophomore years. She moved away to California. The whole
town hated to have Miss Aldrich leave as she had taught in Vermontville for
years. She was a very dedicated teacher.
When she left, she gave me her bicycle. I was certainly thrilled with that.
Later in my school live, Ma moved back to the farm and I used to ride my bike
back and forth to school.
Coaster brake bicycles were never even heard of at that time. No brakes at all,
every time the wheels turned, so did your legs on the pedals. The only way you
could slow down was to stop pedaling and drop your feet to the ground, letting
On the way to school was a very steep grade called Corey Hill. I couldn’t pedal
my bike up that far, so I walked, pushing the bicycle along side of me. It was a
long hard climb. On the way home, going down, you had to fight the speed of your
bicycle by dropping your feet to the ground every now and then. This to me was
rather boring and I just had to do something outlandish to liven up the trip
home a bit. From the tope of that hill you could see a long way down the road to
the north. I thought “I’ll bet it would be fun to put my feet up on the handle
bars and ride on down”. So, looking to see that no one was coming or that no one
was anywhere around to see me, my next thought was “I’ll do it” and up went my
feet. Perched on that small bicycle seat, with both my hands and feet on the
handlebars, I began rolling down that hill, gaining speed at every turn of the
wheel. I felt like I was flying like a bird and I must have looked like one,
Now the road at the bottom of this grade was covered with white sand, just the
kind you put in sandboxes. I’ll bet you think I fell off. Well, I didn’t.
Hanging tightly to the handlebars, I plowed right straight through. The sand did
break the speed of my bike, slowing it down just enough for me to drop my feet
down to catch the pedals.
I reached the foot of the grade just in time, for around the curve in the road
came some people driving toward town. I rode my bicycle along past them like a
perfect little lady, which certainly I was not. Hypocrite, I think.
JOHNNIE WELCH AND SYLVIA LOVELL MEET.
Time August 17, 1904. Place---Sunfield Farmers’ Picnic. Mable Wright, Sylvia’s
friend (their friendship formed on the west road from Bismark (invited Sylvia to
come to Farmers’ Picnic that year with her and her boy friend, Arthur Dow.
Arriving in Sunfield, the three were walking down the street and met Johnnie. He
and Art were second cousins. Naturally they stopped to visit a little,
introducing Sylvia to Johnnie, who was alone. Soon they decided to make it a
foursome and spend the day together. Before the day was over, Johnnie asked
Sylvia for a date. Telling him she would think about it and write her answer to
him later, Sylvia came home with Art and Mable.
On the way home, she fired questions at Art to find out what she could about
Johnnie. After all, he was a perfect stranger, never had heard of his parents,
didn’t know anything except that he was a farmer. She knew Ma would want to know
a little about him before letting Sylvia go any place with him.
Next day, after repeating all the things Art Dow had told about this stranger,
Ma decided he must be quite a bit older than Sylvia but he was a farmer and
that, of course, pleased her. Finally Ma asked “How old is he?” Sylvia said that
his birthday was the day before hers, but left unsaid their specific ages
because Sylvia was two years older than John. Ma never knew until their license
to be married was published. Sylvia didn’t lie. Ma didn’t ask for years.
So, after the talk with Ma, Sylvia wrote to Johnnie and gave him permission to
come over. Addressing the letter to Mr. J. W. Welch, not knowing that was his
Grandfather’s name and she should have added Jr., she touched off some
fireworks. The girl Johnnie had been dating for some time lived right across the
road from his grandparents. She picked up the mail, delivering it to them.
Always if there were any letters, Grandma Rachel and Grandpa John would have
Sadie (the girl friend’s name), open them, reading them aloud. Sadie did just
that with Sylvia’s letter. Johnnie always said that her reading it saved him the
embarrassment of telling Sadie himself.