THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR - Bulletin of The Sebewa Center
JUNE 1990, Volume 25, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of current
Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: HOWARD, VANBUREN, WHEELER, BIPPLEY, LUSHER, SNOW-HUNT-MOLTMAKER,
TORREY, SLOWINS, WALKINGTON, CREIGHTON, LENON, GIERMAN
AMONG THE OBITUARIES FOR THE PERIOD are Bernice Reed Howard, sister of our
member Lloyd Reed, Martha VanBuren, Charles Wheeler, Donal Bippley, Gerald
Lusher and Irene Snow Hunt Moltmaker.
Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Torrey celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Lake
Odessa on April 7, 1990.
ALICE JOHNSON’S WHEAT or WELFARE IN AN AGRARIAN SOCIETY by Grayden Slowins:
On a hot day in July or early August about 1943, they threshed Alice Johnson’s
wheat. She was a widow lady and the last resident member of a once proud pioneer
family. The little one-room schoolhouse at the SW corner was called Johnson
school. Almost every kid in school was a Johnson or their mother was a Johnson.
Now Alice received “Public Assistance” to survive thru the year.
But today was threshing day and some English Common Law applied to this event.
William Resevere, Sebewa Township Supervisor, tended bagger on Daniel
Crieghton’s Port Huron separator, powered by an IHC-Titan tractor. The first 20
bushels must be saved for her seed. Every school child knew you planted 7 pecks
of wheat per acre, so 20 bushels would provide enough cleaned seed for 10 acres.
The next 4 bushels went for her year’s supply of flour at the Valley City
Milling Company. Can you believe that a 60-pound bushel of good wheat got you a
25-pound sack of white flour in trade? Then one bushel of wheat for each mature
ewe at lambing time – 12 bushels needed. Then one bushel for each laying hen –
24 bushels approximately (Screenings from the rest would do for this, you
couldn’t feed a chicken straight wheat “because it would paste up her vent!”
So 60 bushels of un-cleaned wheat belonged to Alice Johnson. The remaining
200-300 bushels would be sold by the Township to pay Alice’s back taxes, grocery
bill, fuel bill & Doctor bill. Anything left over was her spending money for the
new year. There was probably not enough to cover back bills, but Alice was a
contributing member of society and no one noticed the shortfall. Besides, they
ate as well at Alice Johnson’s as anyplace. She had killed her best roosters,
made baking powder biscuits, mashed potatoes & gravy, and fresh garden peas. For
dessert there was pie made from Yellow Transparent summer apples!
And by the way – every Memorial Day a big black Lincoln Continental pulls into
the West Sebewa Cemetery and a well-dressed man places flowers on her grave.
Alice Johnson was indeed a contributing member of society! End.
I’ve had a letter from Alice Johnson from Portland Road west of Clarksville in
which she included her dues and a verse from an old clipping which she regarded
worth publishing. But alas, I have her letter but cannot find the verse, so
Alice, please send the verses again and I’ll try to do better. RWG
FUNERAL SERVICE FOR ORA WALKINGTON by John Piercefield
ORA WALKINGTON – Isaiah 54.7, 8, 10
“For a brief moment I abandoned you but with deep compassion I will bring you
back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with
everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you says the Lord your Redeemer.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love
for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord
who has compassion on you.”
We are here today paying our last respects to Ora Walkington and his family.
When Ora Walkington’s life began, the fireworks & celebration of Independence
Day was barely over. Born on July 5, 1908, growing up on a farm near Winn, MI,
was similar to most any small Michigan town; hard work and long hours were
necessary, but pleasure was taken in the simpler things. Simple doesn’t mean
easy; it means that they didn’t have to be entertained or impressed by
electronic inventions as we do. It was a part of life, a part of pride, a part
of themselves and they had pleasure in their work. It was out of this upbringing
that Ora learned to believe in what he knew and trust in what he believed. These
attributes would be a part of Ora the rest of his life: hard work, pride, and
Confidence and determination may have been what caught the eye of a local girl,
he had never seen before. That dance in Nov. 1930 in Winn, MI was the beginning
of a romance that would envelope over 58 years. On Aug. 22, 1931, Ora & Verl
Walkington were married and less than a year later the newlyweds moved into the
grainary, on what was the beginning of their life and their farm in Orange
Ora Walkington was a farmer. Farming is the oldest occupation known to man. It
began at the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve: “The Lord God took the man and put
him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2.15). Because of
Adam & Eve’s disobedience and rebellion, God cursed the ground and caused it to
produce thorns and thistles and declared “by the sweat of your brow you will eat
your food until you return to the ground since from it you were formed, for dust
you are and to dust you will return” (Gen 3.19).
From Adam’s sin death became the end for all men and the earth would no longer
cooperate in harmony. This is not saying that farming is cursed by God, but
rather the whole earth was cursed and was placed in disharmony with man because
of sin, opposed to man’s work, whether it be thorns & thistles, drought,
hurricane, or earthquake.
Knowing that hard work lay ahead, Ora & Verl Walkington, newlyweds, began living
in the only building, the grainary, in 1932. They were farmers in the truest
sense of the word, committed and ready to work. Farming like many other
vocations in the 1930s was tough. By 1929, with the stock market collapse, and
banking crisis, there was also an ongoing crisis in agriculture in the US that
was started after World War I.
Many Europeans were returning to their farms & the demand & prices for American
grains had fallen by some 30%. “American farmers had over-expanded acreage under
cultivation during the war years, bringing marginal land into production. So as
prices fell, farmers had to produce more to meet their expenses”. But hard work
and farming have gone hand in hand for years, since prices were depressed,
trading commodities (eggs, grain, vegetables, for sugar, coffee, fruits &
seeds), became the way of business in the rural communities.
The times were hard but the people were enduring. It was that enduring,
persistent quality of commitment to hard work that was so much of Ora’s life.
At the end of 1935, Verl was expecting the birth of their first child. She was
afraid that the child would freeze to death in their present home. Ora consoled
her and promised a house by fall. Their present house was started in July and
finished Oct. 1936 before Loren, their first son was born. They built their life
and farm together during some of the hardest economic times in our country’s
history. Verl and Ora, as many others, survived by being committed to each other
and to their common goals.
Their farm became their testimony to the community of commitment. From the care
of the animals to the flower beds around the house. How many people mow the
roadside bordering their land for nearly a mile, as Ora did? These structures
were built and maintained with discipline and pride. From the original grainary
to the house built in 1935 to the 100-year-old barn bought at 40 Acre Town,
where it was disassembled board by board then reconstructed on site. Building a
farm is no easy task. Those of us driving by can only see the results of their
labors, I want us today to appreciate and honor their labors and the quality of
work and character it took in building literally from the ground up.
There was no doubt that Ora considered himself the ruler of the household. He
had a definite mind set and when he set his mind to a task or idea, a team of
horses couldn’t change him. He was a determined man and gave 100% to the cause
at hand. A good friend and neighbor of Ora’s, Duane Pinkston, told me a story
about a farmer and a friend who one hot July day were sitting in an
air-conditioned restaurant. And as the conversation turned to the weather, the
one asked the other what his sons were doing. He replied that by now the one
would be putting up hay, and another would be cultivating, and the last one
fitting up another field.
When the friend said to the farmer “Don’t you realize that it’s going to be 90
degrees in the shade?” the farmer replied “That’s just what my boys said to me
this morning, but I told them not to worry, they wouldn’t be in the shade”.
That in itself illustrates how some view work and their family, but that was not
Ora Walkington. He was not one to make others work while he sat and watched. The
Walkington family worked together & Ora was the leader by example. He was not
opposed to discipline either for himself, his family, or others but he never
imposed harder requirements on them than he expected from himself. Sometimes
Ora’s authority was on challenged by another like the state milk inspector, or
an insurance salesman, but there was no doubt in their minds as they left whose
property they were on or where Ora stood on the issue.
Discipline and overriding authority were Ora’s way of expressing his concern and
affection in raising up a family that would know the meaning of hard work,
honesty, and determination. To the rest, it was his way of getting the job done
best. He may not have been long on diplomacy, but he was rich in commitment.
The true test of love is time, time spent and time in duration. Ora’s life was
focused on his family. He didn’t have the goal to be a public official and
travel the area for his own interests. Rather he served for years on the Board
of Education at Kilmartin School where all six of the Walkington kids went to
school. Education was important and Ora spent time encouraging and assisting the
children to do better. So important that one spring, rather than call off school
because the roads were filled with mud and impassable by automobile, Ora &
August Hoort hitched up the wagon to a team, threw a tarp over the wagon and
took the children to and from school.
And time was spent giving the kids an alternative to the high school pressures
to have drinking parties after the J hops, or driving the miles to Lansing or
Grand Rapids for prom night. Ora & Verl would open their home to the kids for
ice cream & cake or chicken dinner at their own expense. You may not have heard
the words “I love you” but you could see it in action everyday.
Another honorable trait of Ora’s was that of routines and loyalty. He didn’t
like change much; he was one who ate meals at the same time everyday. If you
came for lunch at 12:30 you missed out or if the preacher wasn’t done at 12
noon, he would get up and leave, and he and Verl were never late to anything.
Once, going to a relative’s wedding up _________________________________.
______________see Grandpa & Grandma Sage and maybe take in a matinee. This
routine was upset when the grocery store quit staying open late! This upset Ora
as everything was working well the way it was. He was loyal to his family,
friends and businesses in the community. Trading at the same hardware, car
dealership or elevator until a major problem in service or availability changed
his pattern. His loyalty went hand in hand with service as he traded with the
Portland Coop, and served on the Board of Directors for 23 years. With his
leadership and loyalty as well as the others on the board, the Coop prospered
With all his work and discipline and persistence, there was an overriding
optimism. No task was too big and time was better spent working rather than
complaining. There was always time to rest later, but now there was work to be
done. Ora’s labor was not selfish, if a neighbor had a need and required
assistance, he would be there and do anything for you. Private and frugal in
some respects, yet open and generous in others. But throughout his life, very
little was done without the family in mind, for their benefit and their training
and their future.
Later in years, the children grown and now with children of their own, Ora began
to mellow, not slow down but somehow the tough exterior was giving way and
changing in the expression of love and concern that had been there all along. He
and Verl enjoyed going to Florida where they could relax without the work at the
farm challenging them to get it done. They also enjoyed their grandchildren and
loved them dearly.
Ora’s testimony of love in later years could be exhibited in his whittling.
Taking a solid plank of board and whittling out a length of chain with an anchor
was no easy task, and the care that went into each stroke of the blade is
apparent. Wooden crosses were carved and donated to the church choir members.
Even as Verl was struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease in the Belding nursing
home, Ora would visit every Tues. and Thurs. for almost three years. He was
determined and faithful, standing by the wife who had loved and labored with him
for nearly six decades.
After Verl’s death, Ora accepted a challenge by Bill Weisgerber to match
donations for a new bulletin board outside the LeValley Methodist Church. Ora
helped install that sign.
Ora lived in a generation that I believe will never be duplicated, with the
amount of change scientifically, technologically, socially, or financially. But
few history books record the lives of individuals that make up the majority that
live through the changes, and no book will probably be written of anyone from
the West Sebewa Community, but if there were such a book written, Ora Walkington,
and the Walkington family would be prominent in its pages as a pillar in the
community attesting to all generations who follow of the importance of
determination, loyalty and ___.
As we opened we will close, Genesis 3:10.....”by the sweat of your brow you will
eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were formed, for
dust you are and to dust you will return”. We will all come to the end of our
lives by either death or the return of the Lord and the judgement follows, and
our spirits will pass into either eternal life with God or eternal separation
The choice and preparation is left to us. The offer is made by Jesus the Christ,
Himself sacrificed for our sins, allowing us access into God’s presence, grace &
goodness. Let us strive to say with the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-8….”For I
am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have
fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now
there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which is the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to
all who have longed for His appearing”.
What was said of Verl can also be said of Ora Walkington, let us learn from them
and remember the true meaning of commitment to others, backed by love and labor,
no matter what the cost.
Wilbur and Marcella Gierman belong to the SCANDINAVIAN SOCIETY OF GREATER
LANSING. That society is hosting the TVETA FOLKDANCES from Joh?k?oping, Sweden
on the day previous to our Memorial Day holiday meeting. Wesley and Lucille will
be hosting two of them and Wilbur and Marcella another pair and all will be
attending our meeting. The FOLKDANCES have been on a world tour and after
concerts in Singapore, Australia, Fuji Islands, California and Las Vegas they
are making a stop at the Lansing Society before leaving on June 1 for Epcot
Center, Disney World and back to Sweden. Here will be your chance to try out
your limited Swedish or their English. As you may guess, Grandma Hannah
Heintzleman was Swedish.
The year 1900 was a good one for producing long lived babies. First came Mrs.
Elfa Meyers Creighton and Theo Lenon, both born in May. Elfa has already
celebrated with a trip to the West Coast and Theo is having a big party at the
Sunfield Methodist Church in the afternoon of Sunday, May 27. Then along in
September Elmer Gierman will have his 90th birthday at the Masonic Home in Alma.
We wish the best to all of them.