Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 24 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 Center Association, December 1988, Volume 24, Number 3. Editor Robert W. Gierman. Submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:


Sometime between 1898 and 1918 this is how the Sessions School looked when it was used as a sheep shed. In 1918 the Board of Supervisors did a restoration that replaced the south wall that had been opened.

DEATHS FOR THE PERIOD are those of Floyd Carrol, Stuart K(R?)ussma(ul?), Thelma Kaufman Pew, George Wiskemann, Olive S. Henderson, Guy Taylor and Robert J. Branderson.

As I promised last issue, here is more about Britain as I saw it. As I grow older and now at 79 I can notice that I do not function quite as well as when younger. It seems that when I have one thing well in mind, I pursue it and other things are somewhat neglected or forgotten. We look at Britain on a map and at a glance think it is small and we could drive around it in a day or so. We toured in a 49 passenger Volvo COACH and chalked up 1600 miles on our trip.

London is at the southeast part of the isles and has a warmer climate than most of the land mass of the British Isles. Sycamore trees grow freely there but, go north a bit and those Sycamores or Plains Trees disappear as in Michigan crossing Grand River to the north, climate allows very few Sycamores. I was keeping an eye out for a Gingko tree but did not find one though Ginkos are listed in “The Trees of Britain and Northern Europe”, a book I bought there.

Britain, too, lost its elms to the Dutch Elm Disease. The demand for ship building timber there, followed by clearing for many, many small farms on any previously forested acres eventually ended Britain as a forested land. That way of cutting accounted for the great amount of clear cutting in our east as the great timbers fell and headed for Britain for ship building. Nobody seemed to know the importance of leaving some of the land to keep growing a forest.

Even up into Scotland the forests had been cut and not until the last 30 or 40 years have the highlands there been replanted through a government scheme. Now, traveling those highways we could see small mountain after another covered with pine plantings.

On our tour we had three stops at farms. The first one was a large one of 300 acres. The family was expecting us and had coffee, tea and light dessert for everybody. There were a surprising number of chairs throughout the house. I asked our hostess how old the house was. She said 250 years while the one next door was 300. After that I did not again show my picture of our 141 year old Sessions School. Houses in Britain are generally built of stone, the available material. If once they had timber, now most of it is gone.

The farmer there in his mid eighties had spent his life on that farm. His wife had died and he was remarried. Two sons worked the farm. It had been that way for two or three generations, the same family renting from the same family of owners. That, apparently was the custom there. Two little granddaughters flitted around having a good time with the visitors.

Outside we donned our disposable plastic boots and went to the outbuildings. Barns and sheds were of more recent construction, a bit similar to our newer farm buildings in Michigan. In one building there was a grain drier, droning to prepare the wheat crop for market. Farm tools and tractors were evident, some with familiar names and others quite functional but different.
In the farm yard was a large bed of silage with wood reinforcement at the sides covered with a huge plastic with nearly a hundred old tires whose weight protected it from the disturbance of the wind. There was a herd of Holsteins here but they were out to pasture. Only the bull and some young stock were in sight. A mow of large round straw bales filled one building. We had seen many round bales of hay or straw stacked at field edges, tightly wrapped in black plastic. More later. RWG

Ionia Sentinel Standard 10-11-60; Reprinted with permission

An old landmark in Ionia county was restored the past year, by action of the Ionia County Board of Supervisors.
The oldest cobblestone schoolhouse in the State of Michigan, the Sessions school, is located in Ionia county on West Riverside Drive on the south side of the road across from the county infirmary.

All that remains of the old schoolhouse is the outside structure and the roof, which was replaced by workers in the last restoration project. Vandalism over the past 100 years has caused much concern to members of the Ionia County Board of Supervisors, who have tried to preserve the old schoolhouse as a memorial to their ancestors. Decay and vandalism over the years have removed wood floor, plaster, windows and the front door. Vandalism in recent years has caused damage to the east side, the south end of the building with part of the stone walls knocked down.

Workers have relayed the walls and boarded up the windows. They have also placed a new plank door to prevent entrance to the old building. A new shingle roof to help maintain some of the original appearance was also placed on the building.
It had been forty years since the building was last restored. The Ionia County Board of Supervisors voted in 1918 to have the old schoolhouse put back in shape.

September 29, 1918, the Stevens Thompson Mason chapter of the DAR placed a large bronze tablet on the outside wall of the schoolhouse, which is known as the Sessions School. The tablet has since disappeared.

Inscription on the tablet read as follows: “Sessions School House, Built 1847”. Doubtless the oldest cobblestone schoolhouse now standing in Michigan restored by the Board of Supervisors of Ionia county in 1918, tablet placed by Stevens Thompson Mason chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution of Ionia, Michigan, August 28, 1918.”

Taking part in the 1918 dedication ceremonies besides Rev. Arthur were Mrs Oliver Kidd McGannon, who was regent of the Ionia chapter of the DAR, Mrs. Bertha Brock, after whom Bertha Brock county park is named, Mrs. Marion Hosford, granddaughter of George Hosford, a well known early settler of Ionia county, Mrs. Carrie Sessions Loomis and Mrs. Levi Marshall.

An old clipping from an Ionia Daily Sentinel of August 30, 1918 lists some of the first students of Sessions school who attended the ceremonies. They were Clinton Gies, Mrs. Lewis Tanner, Mrs John E Morrison and William H. Howard. Old scholars from way included Clare Allen of Jackson, Mr. Marsh of Muir and one woman came from Illinois to attend.

Residents of Ionia, outside the DAR at the ceremonies included Judge A. B. Morse and wife, K. R. Smith, A. R. Lode and many others.

Restoration work in 1918 included individual fashioned windows, hanging of the old door with a latch, placing of a new roof and miniature corduroy road laid across the deep ditch in front of the school, which was left after the road was built.

The schoolhouse was built in 1847 by Alonzo Sessions, former lieutenant governor of Michigan and the Crane brothers, James and Nathan, masonry workers, who had worked for Sessions in payment for some land they had bought. It was built entirely of field stones on the 1,000 acre farm of Sessions. Sessions also had a home built of cobblestone, which was taken down to make way for the county infirmary (1907).

For 51 years the Sessions school continued in operation. A new brick school was built on the north side of Riverside Drive on the county farm about 1898 as the Sessions school was too small to take care of the increased enrollment.
After Chester Adgate bought the Sessions property, he sold 326 acres to the county which included property where both schoolhouses and the present county farm are located.

An old class roll book which is owned by Robert Patrick whose mother-in-law, Mrs. John E. Morrison attended the Sessions school, listed 30 students in 1875. Although Patrick did not attend the Sessions school, he said he knew many of the students, living in Berlin Township all his life. He said he attended the Eddy school which is located near the Patrick farm, which has been in the Patrick family for 100 years. The farm is located on the David Highway near Jordan Lake road.

He said the youngsters attended school differently in his time than they do today. The only time they went was when the farm work was done. Thus, most of the older boys only went to school for a few months in the winter and late fall and early spring. He said some of them went while still in their twenties to finish school. The roll book Patrick has shows the ages of the students from five to twenty years of age.

Responsible for the last restoration plans were members of the Welfare Committee of the Ionia county board of Supervision of Keene township, chairman Gary Newton of Otisco and Jerry Burns of North Plains township. Harold Bennett of Berlin township was appointed to serve on the committee of the restoration of the school.


I didn’t want to hit the ewe, but I took a shot and missed the first shot. The dogs were 2 or 3 beagles, a mixture, and one big yellow collie. I had never seen any of them before. One beagle started coming back and he got pretty close to the gate. I got him with the old Mauzer, he wasn’t over 10 or 15 feet from me. Couldn’t help but get him. Then here was another one behind him and I got that one too. I got all the beagles. I couldn’t see the collie and I had to load the gun by that time again. While I was loading the gun, here comes the collie along the fence, to see where his partners were. So I got 5 dogs right there in a pile, had them laying touching each other. But the sheep were ruined and after that we just bought feeder lambs, quite a lot of times.
Now we are approaching the E. C. Derby farm. That’s Turner Creek coming across Keefer Hwy. from the west. It starts up in Sec. 12 Sebewa, where the Stiffler boy just built that new house on the land we used to own. It comes down across Floyd Carroll’s and across where George Livingston lives, that was the Bill Turner place. The upper end is called the Sweet & Semaine Drain. The Derby barn set right there close to the road, where Hitchcock’s south driveway goes it. You can sort of see the old barn grade coming in right off Keefer Hwy. The house was up on the hill to the south, right across from the old Hart house. Now they have sold their son this part where that pole toolshed is and that north driveway. Ray just has a 50 ft. drive out to the road. This old road that curves around here is where they came in when they took gravel out of here years ago. The son is a heavy equipment operator by profession and he changed the lay of the land to smooth over some of the mess made by gravel digging. The old Hart place was Ingalls before that. Doc. Morse owned this whole thing and then this half was sold to Skip Spurgeon and Devereaux got the south half. Spurgeon was going to develop this and sell lots, before he got that from your dad’s place. I came out here with Steve Smith to appraise it and at that time there were no roads visible. The County or State had taken gravel out from the south side, too, but the roads were all grown up to brush. You can see some of the road was up at the next higher level there. Hitchcock’s started cutting their way back to the river, built a shop back there, and lived in it while they built the house.
We never hauled gravel out of here, on this side, when I was young. We got it over on the south side, where Pat Laughlin owns. My dad was Township Pathmaster and he always worked out most everybody else’s road tax. After using the horses and wagon, he bought an old Model-T Ford truck and built a dump box on the back of it and hauled gravel with that. He and I shoveled and hauled 18 loads of this gravel onto Keefer Hwy. one Thanksgiving Day, and that’s the last gravel I ever shoveled out of the bank with a shove.

When I was a kid going to school, this was pretty clear land. Derby used to farm back in here and pasture, and most of these trees weren’t here. He didn’t really have much flat land. Of course it’s been dug up and changed around. I hadn’t been back in here for years, until that time with Steve Smith, and it had all grown up to trees.

That gravel there came out of that hole. There’s still patches of gravel here. They got gravel out to build their private road. Gary, the boy, bought two old cranes, got them for practically nothing. He was a crane operator for Brown Bros. in Lansing for years. They cut their way back to the river, built their road, built that shop building, and lived in that for a year or two, while they built the house. The boy lives here, too, he never married. They have a daughter, too, in Florida. She’s an attorney, graduated a couple years ago.

This was quite a gully, a regular waterway to the river, before they changed the lay of the land around and filled in. That big gully going down to the river used to go all the way up thru here. This was old Clanty Derby’s pasture land, all this. When we go back, I’ll show you where I used to cut across on the way home from school. There, this is about the area where I used to cut across. From where that pond is over there, I came down in here and the old brick yard was right in this area where the house is now. I can remember a few boards and maybe part of a roof of a building setting here. I used to cut across here and there used to be an old hoot owl on a tree in that washout lots of times. He would hear me being kind of quiet and he would hoot, and after a while take off. He may still be there – some big hoot owls are here yet.

When they built the house, they found pieces of brick & tile. There was a piece of tin from the roof still here. Apparently they mined clay first for the bricks, then got down to gravel. Right there are some of the brick fragments, by that wild cherry tree. About a 20 ft. radius has never been dug up. There is some old iron from the equipment, and that looks like some pieces of the tile they made. This corner piece is part of a brick. Wish we had pictures of the clay & gravel mining and the brickyard. Someone said Deveraux had some. (The Don March house in S ½ of SE ¼ Sec. 36 Sebewa would appear to be the only house still standing that was built of Sebewa Brick. It was the home of Henry & Eva Snyder, parents of Winnie Benschoter, now 92, and later was owned by her brother Vern. There was at least one more house of these soft red bricks in Sebewa. It stood on the NE ¼ of NW ¼ Sec. 6 Sebewa, although the bricks were mostly fallen away already 30 years ago, and all is gone now. Our Odessa Township neighbor, Ray D. Farrell, was born in that house 98 years ago, on February 4, 1890. He married Hattie Eldridge November 15, 1917, and they honeymooned by horse & buggy to jobs at a logging camp at Seney, U.P. Mich. They have been married over 70 years. Sebewa has always grown them tough! Ray’s mother & baby sister are buried in our west cemetery.)

I never got back in here when they were really hauling gravel- I was working in the Hardware then. That was after Derby’s time – along in the 30’s. I don’t know where they went with it, where they used it. I know the County got some of it, but where they graveled the roads, I don’t know. Hitchcock found a 1924 Ionia County Road Commission license plate around the remains of an old truck. They had a stationary drag line in here to dig the gravel. You can see where it pulled back up to a rock or stake with the cable wrapped around it, and a pulley. The buckets went out on one line and back on the other.

I don’t know what relation Clanty Derby was to Carl & Hugh Derby in Portland. Some, I think, and Carl & Hugh were cousins, not brothers. Clanty & Millie were old people when I was a kid going to school. (They owned the farm in the 1875 Plat Book and the 1906 Plat Book.) I don’t know what year they died, nor if they went to a home or anything, or whether they died here. People always called him Clanty, even tho the Plat says E. C. Derby, probably Clancey. He died first, I know that, because she lived there in the house alone for some time. One day we had a school picnic, the last day of school in the Spring. It was an awful hot day and my folks took me up to school with a lunch basket and our dish to pass. Expecting the basket to be pretty empty, I could carry it home. But it was hot and I got awful tired. I stopped and went in and asked Mrs. Derby if I could have a drink and if she would take me home. She drove an old Model-T Ford. But she said I could walk home. She wouldn’t take me. But I got home and didn’t die – thought I was gonna! She was a different old lady, she didn’t want to have anything to do with kids. “Don’t step on my grass” she would say. The kids never bothered here, they knew enough to keep away.

No-one lived in the place after her that I know of. It more or less fell down. It was once a show-place too. Why nobody ever got ahold of it and restored it or kept it up, I don’t know. Must be the family paid no attention and it kind of disappeared. The barn was torn down or the wind blew it down. I don’t think either building burned. I can still see, in my mind, the trim on the front of the house. There was a cement sidewalk from the road to the front porch, with all its curly-cue carvings on the railing and around the eaves. It was a yellow house, with the trim in white, I think. It had been painted quite a few years before.

I never could see that he did much farming when I walked across here. This was all cleared and pastured, but I don’t know how he ever raised enough winter feed for his stock. The most farming he did was over on the Laughlin area on the south side. A little hay and some oats for his horses and cow, 6 – 8 acres at most. He ran a threshing rig for spending money. There used to be parts of old Separators and Steam Engine boilers lying around in the grass.


With Johnnie and Sylvia living in just two small rooms took a bit of doing. Sylvia soon had them looking so cozy and neat. They didn’t mind, they were happy and starting down the road of life together made this a real HOME.

The kitchen was a little cramped at times. Johnnie always had a hired man who lived with them, besides threshers, corn huskers, etc. Always called for a gang of men. We managed. I say we because at vacation times I was there helping Sylvia about as much as I was home.

The new house was built after I graduated and I spent the whole summer there. It was Sylvia’s pride and joy. I was always sorry about the old one, but so happy with this one. It was better for Grandma Rachel too. The north room with a nice big bedroom adjoining was planned especially for her. I really think she was proud of it herself.

Grandma’s life ended in this house on June 1, 1918 at age 95. Soon after this a big change came up in Johnnie’s life. He was asked to move. Myrtle, his oldest sister, had been married a couple of years to Robert Steadman, living in rented rooms in Grand Rapids. I cannot remember what Bob did but Myrtle was a telephone operator.

Coming home to her mother, asking for help, Myrtle said she was pregnant and they would not be able to live on Bob’s salary, no home to call their own, etc. Johnnie’s mother asked him why he and Sylvia couldn’t move to their farm down by Grand Ledge. If they would, she could rent this farm to Myrtle and Bob so Myrtle could have a home.

Of course it was a shock to Johnnie but he really thought he’d be better off on his own place than renting here. It was a much better farm than the 120 he was working so he told his mother he’d leave. He told Sylvia and she didn’t want to go so far away from the Dow neighborhood. Going to Grand Ledge into a strange place with strange people, Sylvia said she just could not do it.
In talking to a very special friend, David Parker, who lived on Dow Road, the first house north of the Dow Church, David solved his problem. They decided to trade, farms, David saying that Mrs. Parker would just as soon go down there.

Sylvia was so happy, they moved, Johnnie remodeled the house, making it really nicer than the new house on the Welch place. It was here that Sylvia died from the terrible disease of cancer on July 31, 1922. It was a sad ending of a happy marriage.
“Ped” and Lucy Welch, Father and Mother Welch to me and I shall call them that in this chapter. I, never in my life, called them by their first names and I cannot do that, even now. “Father!” Sylvia and I were so fond of him and we enjoyed calling him that. I think one reason was that having lost our own father so long ago, we were happy to have one now. I know he was as fond of us as we were of him. He never spoke an unkind word to either of us.

When Father and Mother Welch and Ray bought the grocery and shoe store in Sunfield, Father asked me to go with him to the wholesale house in Grand Rapids to help him buy the shoes. We went on the 11:00 train, coming back on the 6:00 P.M. At the wholesale house he introduced me as his daughter, not daughter-in-law or he could have said Ray’s wife. But, no, I was always Daughter to him and Sylvia was too.

Now I’ll try and tell you what I can remember of the life of Father and Mother Welch. I’ll need to skip dates for a few years. I have written before that they went to housekeeping in the two rooms built by Grandma Rachel especially for them. By the way, this old house of Grandma’s was the first frame house built in the township. I am just assuming it was here that little Cora, their first child was born and died. Next was Johnnie.

This I do know, on October 16, 1889, Ray was born in Shaytown. At that time the folks had a general store there and also the Post Office. Father was Post Master. They sold this business to Will Wells. Living there for three years, Mr. Wells moved to Woodbury, operating a general store there for years and became quite prominent in the affairs of Sunfield Township.

Whether the folks bought the eighty acres north of the cemetery before or after they lived in Shaytown, I cannot tell you. This is where they moved when they left Shaytown and where their five girls were born. Father was a farmer and owned and operated a grain thresher with a big steam engine, bean thresher and a portable sawmill. In those days, if you needed a barn, usually you had the material right on your own land. Every farm had a big woods. The trees could be sawed into the lumber without buying it.
Father had this portable sawmill and many barns around the area were built of the lumber he prepared. The big beams, the rafters, the flooring, with every piece cut for its proper use. It was a good deal like the ready-cut houses of today. About this time in the early 1900’s people began cutting down their woods, just having the trees cut down and sawed into logs. Clearing off these woods gave the farmer more land for cultivation.

In 1906 Father was on just such a job as this, when a terrible thing happened. An accident occurred, resulting in the loss of his right leg. Father and his crew of men were working on this big job down by Quimby, Michigan. It was so far away they would stay for a week, just coming home from Saturday until Monday. This Monday morning, he and his engineer, Ora Moore, arrived before any of the others. Fire must have built in the engine and kept going to get the steam up to a certain pressure for power to run the saws.

Father stepped up to the conveyor to do some oiling. Ora, being busy with the engine, didn’t see him, turned the switch to start the saw and, quick as a flash, Father was carried to that powerful saw just as though he was a log. It cut off his foot just above the ankle.

Someway Ora, with help from the people where Father was working, managed to get him into town where the crew was boarding. The doctor from Hastings came soon enough to stop the bleeding. Johnnie was called by telephone. He and his mother left immediately.

Ray was left behind but couldn’t take it, not knowing what was happening, he hitched up one of their horses and started for Quimby. Ray’s folks didn’t have very good horses for driving, just big clumsy work horses. I guess Ray must have thought he’d get there just as soon by walking. His slow progress was making him more nervous than ever. My brother Arby lived on the old home place on Ionia Road. Ray was going there; he knew Arby had a good driving horse, so he stopped, telling the story and asked to change horses there. Ray was only fifteen years old and Arby thought “I wonder if he knows how fast to drive a horse that far”.

If a horse were driven at top speed without a slowing down every little ways, you could “break their wind” and they would be no good again. Arby said he took another look at Ray and thought “He can take my horse, if he spoils her it’s all right”. He said Ray looked so young, so frightened and sad. He loaned him the horse. Ray returned it that night in just as good shape as ever. Arby told me this himself. Ray and I were “keepin’ company” at the time, so I was glad to have Arby say that.

Ray and Johnnie brought Father’s foot back; made a box for it, burying the foot in Welch cemetery on the Welch lot. Father kept complaining of the pain in his foot that wasn’t there and someone came up with the idea the boys had not buried the foot in the same direction that Father was lying in that bed. So the poor boys had to dig up their box and see whether it was lying straight or not. Of course it was just a superstitious whim, for the foot kept right on paining him.

The next thing, gangrene set in. The doctor had to cut Father’s leg off below the knee to stop the spreading of the blood poisoning. This didn’t stop it, so later they cut it off again about six inches below the hip, leaving a stub just long enough to fit a wooden leg. Those nerve spasms that bothered him so much in just the foot, kept on in the whole leg and did at times all the rest of his life. Father was only 42 years old when this happened. The doctor was pretty wonderful, working under the conditions of the times, to have saved his life. It was just a private home, no electicity, no running water, nothing convenient for anyone. Mother Welch stayed there to care for him with Mrs. Caslelein helping her.

I don’t remember how long it was before Father was well enough to come home. He used crutches for a while, then later he got an artificial leg. He became very clever with that leg, could walk so well that you could scarcely detect it.



Last update November 15, 2013