THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center
Association. OCTOBER, 1989, Volume 25, Number 2. Submitted with written
permission of current editor Grayden D. Slowins.
SURNAMES: SESSIONS, ADGATE, MEYERS, GIERMAN
THE SESSIONS SCHOOLHOUSE – Here is the triumph of the final restoration of the
exterior of the old Sessions Schoolhouse. With the fine new Ionia High School
and Heartland Institute now opened, it would seem it might be a long time before
people would be asked to spend time inside the old building that was closed for
school operation in 1898, so long ago that only John Adgate, now near 94,
remembers visiting school there as a tad when he was too young to attend school.
All the rest have passed on, leaving their descendants aplenty in the Ionia
environment and scattered about the country.
After riding in the parade at Saranac as Mr. Saranac in the Bridge Festival
parade, John Adgate arrived at the Sessions Schoolhouse September 9 to help
celebrate the restoration of the building by talking to the group of some sixty
people about visiting the school where his older brothers and sisters were in
attendance. It seemed that when his mother had her fill of his enthusiasm, he
would be sent across the road to the schoolhouse to be with the older children.
It has been said that the small building accommodated as many as thirty-five
children. A wood stove was central with a smoke pipe through the midroof. The
walls were lathed and plastered and the children’s desks were around the room.
Since the building was replaced by a larger brick schoolhouse to the west, it
had varied uses as a holding place for people with communicable diseases to a
place to shelter sheep. It was then that the wooden floor was replaced with
concrete and a big hole in the stonework was made for easy entry for the sheep
from the south side.
By 1918, under the prodding of Bertha Brock and the Daughters of the American
Revolution, the Ionia County Board of Supervisors decided to restore the
building as a relic as it was recognized as the oldest cobblestone schoolhouse
in Michigan. The work was done, windows were planked closed, and the door also
of plank was nailed shut. A marker of bronze noting the restoration was placed
in the window to the north east. Shortly there came vandals and the marker was
stolen, leaving the DAR with the feeling that nothing could ever be safe in that
In 1959 the Board of Supervisors again repaired the roof and then sold the
entire County Farm to the Department of Natural Resources for use as part of the
Ionia Recreational Area. Because the building is recognized as a State
Historical Site, and a National Historic Site, it is protected from demolition
by any person, owner or other. Because of this recognition, Steve Dice of the
Ionia Recreational Area had figured that the DAR did not own the building. It is
now established that the title to the building and the lot passed to the DAR
with the purchase of the County Farm property.
Noting the condition of the roof and the door I asked Steve to see if he could
get it in his budget for repair. This was tried and failed to be approved. Then
Steve said if local people would pay for the materials he would get volunteers
to do the work. Last year a group of men from Saranac replaced the roof with
care to keep it like the original pattern, but that left the creaky old door as
was shown in Dick Evans “Along the Michigan Road” in 1988.
I prevailed on Sherm Pranger to make the door repair. That turned into a project
for Sherm’s grandson, David Vollinck, to do the work to earn his Eagle Scout
Badge in the Saranac Boy Scout organization. They did a beautiful job. That left
another project for Dan Zander another Saranac Boy Scout to earn his Eagle Scout
Award. It was the painting up with masonry of some of the stones that had
loosened, then with the mowing of a parking lot getting a loud speaker system by
Ralph Bartelt who also served as chairman we were ready for the ceremonial
program Jerry Roe, a State Historical Commissioner gave an enthusiastic report
on this and other ventures in Historic Preservation, recognized people whose
near relatives had attended the school and everybody had coffee and cookies that
The Ionia County Retired School personnel, the Historical Societies of Lyons,
Portland, Sebewa, Lake Odessa, Ionia, and Saranac and Boston provided the funds
for the restoration along with several private donations.
Fortunately Monroe McPherson had in his collection of Historic Ionia a picture
of the bronze medallion that filled the window though later stolen. From that
picture we were able to get another like it and David Vollinck securely fastened
it to the door as is pictured here. It seems that about once in thirty years the
building needs a restoration. We hope that the youngsters as yet unborn will
respond when that time comes. Robert W. Gierman
SEVEN WEEKS OF “WHERE’S MY WHATCHACALLIT”
On the first day after my 80th birthday things started out well. Maurice and
Vera had been here for ten days, visiting around the community, playing golf and
seeing old friends, and attending our Sebewa Center Association free ice cream
social, which was twisted around to be my 80th birthday party. Many of you
missed that event because it got late before my surprise came, with all kinds of
well wishes and the presentation of the Special Edition of the Recollector. More
than 20 people waited out the affair before driving home.
Saturday morning Maurice and Vera hustled around and left for their summer home
in Fairglade, Tennesee. I left that morning for Ionia to get my car serviced at
9:30 and did not return until 12:30 p.m., playing around a bit after my car was
serviced. I know that my “Meals on Wheels” delivery came at 10:45 but I had
arranged with the man to bring the food trays inside when I could not be here at
his time of delivery and so he did.
One tray for the refrigerator and one for the toaster oven to keep it hot until
I was ready for it. But I had forgotten to check the toaster oven. It was left
with the switch on “toast” and when the door was closed, it began to heat and
heat and heat. Normally I had left it with the toaster switch in the “off”
position and the thermostat controlled things so that the food was nearly kept
warm. The result was that when it got to boiling and past it still did not shut
off and you can imagine what happened to that corner of the kitchen.
When I opened the back door and saw black streaks running down the wall and air
so dense with black (plastic) smoke I could hardly see, I knew I had a fire but
no flame. Luckily no doors or windows were left open, so there was as yet no
flame. Wilbur also poked his head in and backed off quicker than I and the fire
department was called. It took them a little time to get here and all I could do
was to sit in the lawn chair and await their arrival. I heard a crash and
thought perhaps the ceiling had fallen in. Instead when the firemen put up the
ladder, broke the window and inserted the hose, it was evident that the kitchen
cupboards with all the dishes, canned goods and other paraphinalia had tumbled
to the floor. There was no flame until the window was broken.
Solder on the hinged glass cover to the old recently restored clock melted and
dropped the cover to the table. Fans were put in place to remove the heavy
smoke. Every little cobweb seemed a rope of soot. Although the fire damage was
entirely in the kitchen, the smoke accumulated in the rest of the household was
terrific. It was then that I began to hear tales of smoke and clean up going
back many years.
Next was to contact my insurance representative. My policy allowed keep in a
motel but I chose my house at Sunshine. It was good to have a place of my own
but without water there it made for many complications. We arranged for a
contractor to repair the kitchen and clean up the smoke damage. He sub-let the
clean up, the electrical repair, and the plumbing. A big van was placed in the
yard to keep the cleaned furniture and boxes and boxes of books and papers.
Once stacked away in there I don’t know where to look for papers that I need, my
tooth brush nor comb and all the other things used in keeping up daily life. All
closets were emptied of clothes and taken to Ionia for cleaning. Fortunately for
me my washer and dryer kept in operation and I could get by with the frequent
laundering I could do.
My routine was to sleep at Sunshine, get up and have breakfast. Make my coffee
in a hot pot on my bed, my toast in a new toaster resting on the back of an
overstuffed chair, cereal and milk from the refrigerator following by fruit and
roll, hurry home for a shower, get back to Sunshine to meet the food man, get
home at noon for lunch and the mail and keep out of the way of the help.
Now the kitchen has been refinished, the cupboards in place with soon the new
floor cover, move in the range and refrigerator. Walls have been gassed with
ozone and repainted so maybe before frost I can get back to some kind of
VANDALISM AT THE BIPPLEY ROAD EAST SEBEWA CEMETERY.
If my memory serves me correctly that cemetery has been vandalized four
different times in the many years it has served the community. Located as it is,
well away from any houses, it seems to attract that something that seems to
smolder inside many persons who enjoy trampleling on the cares of others.
A few years ago my great grandmother’s stone along with others was snapped over
to the ground. These old and somewhat brittle stones seem to attract the
distructors. At that time the Amey Meyers, cut in the rock had become well
weathered and hard to read, so I took it to Steve Yenchar who is employed by the
Lowell Granite Company to cut a new inscription on the back side of the stone.
He brought it back with a legible inscription and showed me how to reset it with
epoxy where it had broken and there it has stood since---until a time this
summer when vandals went through the cemetery again, snapping and pushing over a
dozen or more markers including Amey’s.
I noticed that some repairs had been made but Amey’s stone still laid there. I
went back there with my weekend visitor, Jacob Peter and his little son and with
his help I planned to apply the epoxy and erect the stone as I had previously
done with some others. But to my surprise the job had been done. Grayden Slowins
with Steve Yenchar had worked through the cemetery and as much as possible
restored the broken markers and monuments. Our good wishes to our township
government for their timely works. RWG