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:
SURNAMES: CARROL, R (K?)USSMA(UL?), KAUFMAN PEW, WISKEMANN, HENDERSON, TAYLOR,
BRANDSON, GIERMAN, EVANS, LOVELL, WELCH
PHOTO OF SESSIONS SCHOOL
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.
MORE ABOUT BRITAIN AS I SAW IT by Robert W. Gierman
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
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 COUNTY HAS OLDEST COBBLESTONE SCHOOL (THE SESSIONS SCHOOL)
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
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
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
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
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
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
LLOYD EVANS’ INTERVIEW, Continued:
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
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.
REMINISCENCES OF MYRTI CANDANCE LOVELL WELCH – Continued
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
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
“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
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
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.