Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 25 Number 5
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 1990, Volume 25, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:


On Saturday March 3, Fern Conkrite had her 95th birthday celebrated by more than 90 guests at the social room of the Portland Housing Complex. Since Fern broke her hip last fall she has had a difficult time getting mobile again. After an unsatisfactory stay at Belding Christian Nursing Home, she returned to her apartment for care. Things got worse and she cannot remember her trip to Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids. There she was put in intensive care, the surgery redone, this time properly and was soon back at Portland. She recovered nicely, is mobile with wheelchair and can keep up with the others with her almost unlimited store of remembrances of things past.

OUR EUROPEAN TRIP, Conclusion by Grayden Slowins:

At Interlachen we switched to the smaller train and began the climb circling Wengernalp – our very own family mountain! Grandma Brake was a Wenger, und “Ich bin Ein Wenger too!”

First to Grindelwald, where we had to switch to an even smaller cog train. Then we began to catch a breathtaking view of Eiger Glacier & Jungfrau, and as we approached the town of Kleine Scheidegg, we could get a good view of the twin peaks of Wengernalp. They are not high enough to have snow in summer. We usually saw no more than 4-12 beef or dairy cattle in a herd, possibly 20 at most. Even in high pastures near the tree line, we saw few sheep. They were in higher sparse pastures reached only on foot or horseback. Everyone’s cattle roamed freely together in the mountain pastures and drank from hollowed-out-log community water troughs set in springs. There was birdsfoot trefoil pasture at the little town of Wengernalp, and other wildflowers. Tourists are encouraged to hike on the same paths the cattle & sheep use, and the distances are posted in hours & minutes, not miles nor kilometers.

Finally we approached the picture-postcard resort town of Wengen. It is a bit larger than Wengernalp – perhaps 600 year-around residents. But there are always tourists around, skiing in winter and hiking in summer, so population counts are mis-leading. The air and streams are cool and clear, the scenery is magnificent, and the people are surely the kindest, gentlest, and most friendly in the world. This is what we came halfway around the world to experience! The people and their small farms are thrifty and prosperous. They make their living by sales & services to the tourists. But they continue to raise sheep & cattle & hay in the old-fashioned way. The women were raking & forking hay by hand – but they were not Babushkas. They were wearing alligator T-shirts and designer jeans to do it!

We did not talk to any Wengers – who would have been 8th or 9th cousins at best – but we saw the family name (Wenger), not just the town name (Wengen), on a storefront, on a tour bus, and on a tradesman’s pickup truck. We purchased 5 Genuine Wenger Family Manufactured Swiss Army Knives in Wengen, and 28 picture postcards of the town, and ate ice cream cones. Then back to Interlaken in early evening for supper and shooping for Anniversary souvenirs. Then relaxing on the outdoor balcony of our room in the luxurious Royal St. George Hotel dating from 1491, and addressing our postcards. The hotel, which was not part of our package tour, was reserved and paid thru our Lansing travel agent before we left home.

Friday morning our tour group picked us up in Interlaken and we headed for Geneva. Saw United Nations Peace Building, Red Cross World Headquarters, Flower Clock, and Monument to leaders of the Christian Reformation. Nice dinner in our hotel, where Ann & I got to visit with a father & teenage son from the HongCong contingent of our tour group. They were eager to hear about our life-style and knew much about Seattle, Washington and Toronto, Ontario. They have relatives in both cities and consider emigrating to escape takeover by Mainland China in 1995. He works for a Travel Agency and arranged the tour for his relatives. They have a comfortable like in HongCong, including a week at a beach-house every summer, but their living conditions are crowded by our standards.

Into France Saturday morning, heading for Paris. Stopped for juice in Poligny, saw hometown of Louis Pasteur at Dole, and saw sign for the road to Nancy. Stopped at Fontainebleau Castle, south of Paris, and to Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart) Church in Paris. Also Mont Martre Cemetery above ground. I had also spotted cemeteries along the Rhine in Germany and on the train to Grindelwald. They bury head-to-toe there, with no alleys nor space between. I suspect if you are over 6 ft. tall you might have to scrunch your knees up a bit! We had a nice glazed duck dinner in a restaurant with lots of atmosphere, didn’t try the Escargot! This was the weekend of Bastille Day and the peak of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. So crowds were everywhere and some sights, such as the Louve, were closed to us because Bush, Thatcher, and the other Heads of State were there for the celebration and GATT trade conference. But sometimes it worked to our advantage. The freeway into & across the city had been cleared for them, but they let our tour bus pass. Also Notre Dame Cathedral was closed to tourists so big wigs could attend Sunday Service, but they opened it just as we drove up. Also many Parisians left town, like we do during Ionia Free Fair Week.

After seeing the Cathedral, with it’s organ and stained glass Rose Window and flying buttresses, we saw the Arc-de-triomphe, Mary Magdalene Temple, and Opera House. Then to Versailles Castle, with it’s Great Hall of Mirrors where peace treaties are signed, and it’s gardens where negotiators stroll and argue and compromise. Our last view of Paris was from the Eiffel Tower at the 200 ft. level on a clear sunny day.

North to the coast at Calais on Monday morning. The wheat fields of Picardy, France, approach the size of those in the American Midwest, but still no tractors over 65 HP and New Holland Combines with headers not over 4 meters (13 ft.) wide. Saw fields of hops, corn, oats, sugar beets, and potatoes, and a few sheep and Charlais cattle. The trees and field hedge rows reminded us of Michigan, but the buildings were still in village clusters. Passed small cemeteries in the fields, where Ionia County men fought in the trenches in WWI and some are buried there.

From Calais we took a Hovercraft, Princess Anne, to the white cliffs of Dover in 35 minutes. We began to see sheep in Dover, large white-faced sheep and Shropshires and Suffolks. First there were lots of small flocks and then some big flocks.
After going thru customs and eating lunch, we went on the Underground to Westminster Palace, home of Parliament and Big Ben, and into Westminster Abbey Anglican Church. Ann got to listen to Evensong Service on the organ, while I rode to the Tower of London and saw where Ann Boleyn was imprisoned and executed and later her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I was also imprisoned.

Then home on Pan Am Flight 055 non-stop from London to Detroit. Lunch on the plane and Dan met us at Metro in late afternoon, Tuesday.

BACK PAGE by Robert W. Gierman:

In 1852 Benjamin Probasco Sr. bought the land just east of the Sebewa Center Schoolhouse on a warrant he had purchased from his brother, who had been in the Mexican War. On the corner he had built a cooper shop and used it in making barrels and other items that could be sold locally. Then a little later Ben sold the property to Gunn Bros. Prior to 1856 when the schoolhouse was built on the northeast corner at Sunfield and Bippley roads, the cooper shop had been used for at least one term for a schoolhouse and Ben had married the school teacher.

Sometime in the mid 1880s, the Trans came to Sebewa and, needing a house, bought the cooper shop and moved it around the swampy area to the north a half mile to where yet it stands as my garage. Here continues the story told by Sarah Tran, Elem’s wife, told to me in the early 1950s on tape.

“When Elem’s people lived in Ohio there was a slave woman, whom they called a cow and calf. There was a great reward out for her capture. Elem’s mother couldn’t think for the reward. She thought more for helping her. The woman came to the house for something to eat and for something to put around her baby. She gave her a plaid shawl.

Elem’s mother swept the path to a pond of water where the woman got to an overgrown stump for safety. A year or so later when Elem’s people got to Canada, on the street they met the slave woman and remembered her on account of the little plaid shawl that she had around her baby at that time.”



Last update November 15, 2013