THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the Sebewa Center
APRIL 1991, Volume 26, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of Editor,
Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: McNEIL, WALKER, THORPE, MEYERS, WARD, BAILIFF, SHIPMAN, GILBERT,
HILTON, MERCER, PECK, PAGE, HOAG, TOW, MOFFET, STUTZ, WENGER, BRAKE, FOX,
CONKRITE, WAINWRIGHT, CATT, McDONALD, HERRON, FENDER, RICHARDSON, YORK, TRAN,
DAVID, PEACOCK, SCHNABEL, REDFERN, HASKINS, BOWERMAN, LOWE, RALSTON
DEATHS FOR THE PERIOD:
Patricia M. McNeil, 64, daughter of Charles & Gladys Walker Thorpe, widow of
Charles McNeil, mother of Clay McNeil and Corinne McNeil Spencer, former Nursing
Aide at Ionia County Memorial Hospital, Farm Bureau & 4-H leader.
Patricia K. Meyers, 39, daughter of Howard & Leona Ward Meyers, granddaughter of
Harry & Mattie Bailiff Meyers, great-granddaughter of Albert & Lydia Shipman
Meyers, Nursing Aide at Ingham County Medical Facility.
Wendell Gilbert, 58, son of Owen & Vernie Gilbert, grandson of Frank, nephew of
Burton, brother of Gerald, Korean Vet., died Michigan Veterans’ Facility, Grand
Rapids, buried at Fort Custer Cemetery.
William T. Haskins, husband of Marie Bowerman Haskins, son of Henry & Jessie
Redfern Haskins, farmer, plumber, excavator, attended Sebewa Center School while
staying with grandparents on Ben Lowe or Walter Ralston farm. Parents are in
MORE EARLY HISTORY OF BOSTON TOWNSHIP by Grayden Slowins
The Clinton Trail passed thru the English settlement in South Boston at Sec. 20
& 29, and the Grand River Trail, or Grand River Turnpike, as it was
imaginatively called then, passed thru Waterville in Sec. 24. The two trails
converged near the Indian trading post east of Ada. Waterville is worthy of some
note, more because of what might have been than for what was. Robert Hilton, of
Grand Rapids, made large land-purchases in the Grand River valley in 1836, and
in his possessions was included a mill-site in Sec. 24, on Lake Creek, in the
present township of Boston. The mill-site was on the line of the highway known
as the Grand River Turnpike, at that time nothing more than a path thru Boston.
Hilton was convinced that the turnpike must become a highway of popular travel,
and he proceeded to lay out a town at his mill-site and christened it
Waterville. Having laid out his town, he must of course give it some sort of
start. In pursuit of that project he donated the mill-site and some adjoining
farmland to J. J. Hoag of Oakland County, conditional upon Hoag’s erecting a
saw-mill at that point. Like Hilton, Hoag thought the Grand River Turnpike would
be a great affair and promised for Waterville an important place in the history
of events. So he gladly availed himself of Hilton’s offer, and in 1837 put up
the mill which he set in motion the following year. In 1838 he followed up his
mill enterprise with the opening of a store, and confidently awaited the surging
tide of travel over the pike. William Mercer, one of the founders of Campbell
Township, spent a year in 1842-1843 at Waterville working for James J. Hoag,
before going to Campbell.
Fate was, however, against Waterville; for although the surging tide did flow to
some extent over the turnpike, it did not get as far as Waterville. Hoag
remained there all of his days and eked out an existence with his mill and farm,
until 1851, when he was killed by the fall of a tree. Thomas Barber had set up a
blacksmith shop a half mile west in 1847, and another sawmill was put in a mile
north in Sec. 14 in 1854, by Peck & Page. In 1864, the Page property passed into
the possession of A. J. Moffett, who carried on the mill business in connection
with a planing mill and a small machine-shop.
Someone along the way put in a stone-ground grist mill at the mill-site in Sec.
14, also called part of Waterville, and its waterwheel was still turning in 1937
when we had our feed ground there. A man named I. S. Tow had begun to
manufacture a protein-vitamin-mineral concentrate for chickens there, and to
peddle it around the countryside in 100 lb bags on the fenders of his old coupe.
But he was not the owner-operator of this Waterville Mill. That person was
Charles Stutz. His ancient mill and Currie & Ives style barn and house have been
the stuff of many paintings fit for calendars or Christmas cards. After his long
life, the mill and buildings have mostly returned to nature, but his heirs are
still around and a grandson-in-law, Les Fox, is still involved in the feed
business in central Michigan.
MORE TOWNSHIP BOARD SYNOPSIS by Grayden Slowins
In November the Board agreed to share the cost of rebuilding Keefer Rd. bridge
over Sebewa Creek with Ionia County Road Commission and Danby Township. Our
share will be $13,000 - $16,500. If only we could convince them to blacktop that
remaining two miles! Perhaps this will be a co-operative step in that direction.
Much of the cost of the bridge comes from the State & Federal Critical Bridge
Also in November the Board authorized cleanout and repair of the Gunn & Ramsey,
Gunn & Luscher, and A. M. Ralston Drains. Branch #1 of Gunn & Ramsey had been
authorized in October. After hoping to keep the cost under $1 per foot, the
final bid average of 38 cents per foot or about $6.25 per rod was very
gratifying. The bidders gambled on good winter weather, little breakage of
equipment, a turn-around in fuel prices, and completion in a timely manner. All
of these came together and a beautiful job was done. Only some final cleanup of
spoils in the Spring remains to be done. Drain Commissioner John Bush will see
that it is done right.
Projects for cleaning, widening, deepening, straightening, extending, repairing
or replacing tile, and repairing along the roads, are in the works for Wilson &
Pumphrey, Sweet & Samine, and Collier & Mud Creek Drains. There are some hurdles
to be overcome, some in structure, some legal, but the drains will be
maintained. Sebewa’s main business is agriculture, and without drains we would
once again be Big Rattlesnake Swamp.
Sebewa residents on Century Telephone thru Sunfield Exchange can now dial 9-1-1-
for Police, Fire, and Ambulance emergencies. The rest of Ionia County will have
it by late 1992. Our ambulance service is provided by Lake Odessa Ambulance
Service. There is no interruption in this service, even tho negotiations are
underway on how to administer the service.
We have made our last payment to the Sunfield-Sebewa-Danby Fire District
Building Authority for the new firebarn. Our share of the cost was approximately
$75,000, spread over the last three years.
Our cost to subsidize the ambulance, as well as many other items of income &
outgo, is based on the United States Decennial Census. Sebewa’s new headcount is
1160 – up from 1108 in 1980. Not a significant increase, but about in keeping
with the rest of Ionia County and the State of Michigan as a whole.
Our on-going studies into our Mennonite Wenger & Brake ancestors recently
revealed an interesting bit of American History. It seems that from September
11, 1777, when the British defeated George Washington’s army at Brandywine,
until June 18, 1778, when the city of Philadelphia was evacuated by the British,
the seat of our government, the Continental Congress, was in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, in the heart of Mennonite Country.
This seems a timely spot for a word about the current Re-monumentation Project
in Michigan. That portion of the Northwest Territory which was set off as
Michigan Territory, and then the State of Michigan, was surveyed in the years
1815-1855. It was divided into townships as the basic unit, each 6 miles square
except where bordering on the Great Lakes or other natural barriers. These
townships were subdivided into 36 sections, each 1 mile square, more or less.
The townships were grouped into counties, intended to be 24 miles square and
containing 16 townships. Many counties and townships were combined into larger
groups at first, and for political, economic & geographical reasons were not
always re-divided as intended.
At the corners of township sections and quarter-sections, government surveyors
placed “monuments”, 4-foot pine posts usually, to mark their measurements. These
“government corners”, at half-mile intervals along section lines, have served
ever since as reference points for locating and describing every parcel of land,
both public and private in every Michigan county. In addition they establish the
rights-of-way for roads, utility lines, access easements, etc.
Historically, each county has been responsible for perpetuating the locations of
its government corners, usually thru the office of the County Surveyor. Various
objects, including stones, concrete, pipes, rods, clay drain tile, plowshares,
even gun barrels, have been used to replace them. In other cases, the markers
have been damaged, obliterated, or removed, sometimes intentionally, sometimes
not. But the monumentation has never been coordinated statewide.
Ionia County and much of the surrounding area was surveyed by Lucius Lyon,
founder of Lyons and co-founder of Grand Rapids. His work needs to be updated
and permanently re-marked with the new standard markers of long-lasting
materials. The new State Statute requires each county to appoint or elect a
County Surveyor and completely re-survey and re-mark the entire county within 20
years, and check all section corners at least once every 20 years thereafter.
Four dollars added to the cost of each Deed registered will build a fund to pay
the cost. In the long run the price will be more than worth it in the cost of
private property surveys, to say nothing of peace of mind.
Another marker which has not fared so well is the bronze plaque mounted on a
large stone at the County Farm Cemetery in Ionia State Park. Vandals have pried
it loose and carried it off. Monument-man Steve Yenchar has inquired and found
the original mold is still available to make another. Application is being made
to the State of Michigan for financial assistance, but local help may also be
LATEST BULLETIN: The lost has been found – by a jogger.
All monuments at East Sebewa Cemetery have been restored after the October
vandalism, except for that of patriarch Elihu Halladay and wife Amanda. Their
large white marble edifice is badly shattered and will require the use of a
large tripod to lower it into place while the pieces are re-built around it and
secured with a special adhesive. Rus Gregory plans to photo this event when
Steve Yenchar and Dave Fountain undertake it in the Spring. Elihu was Sebewa
INTERVIEW OF FERN CONKRITE by Grayden Slowins
My name is Fern Conkrite. I was born March 3, 1895, daughter of Charles Conkrite
and Emma Wainwright. My parents owned a farm on the south side of Morris Road,
just west of Shimnecon off Okemos Road. It was the W ½ NW ¼ Sec. 21 Danby. My
grandparents Wainwright were right around the corner on Okemos Road and my
grandparents Conkrite had originally settled in the same Section 21, but around
on the Charlotte Hwy. side of the river, just south of the Centerline Bridge on
the west side of the road. But they soon moved to the SW ¼ Sec. 28, where Keith
Merryfield is now. Granddad died young and left a widow with a large family. He
must have owned that farm between the 1875 Plat and 1891 Plat, because he
doesn’t show on either book. My parents moved to the town of Sebewa when I was
two years old and always lived there after that. It’s that house still standing
there on lot 51 Jackson St. on the Cornell side of town. Dad ran a general store
for a short time in the west half of that double building on the south side of
Mill St. (Musgrove) on the Sebewa side of town. That was just an experiment, I
Otherwise he did mostly what you’d call day labor. They had set up housekeeping
when they first married in the Sam Bigham house, which stood in the same spot
where the Lippencott-Fyan house is now. Then they moved to the farm in Danby and
I was born there. We moved back when I was two, and yesterday I had a big party
for my 96th Birthday!
That’s why I can’t remember the G. A. R. Hall. I told you they hadn’t met in the
last 95 years, and that’s true. Your Recollector shows they formed the Henry
Rice Post #151 G. A. R. at Sebewa Corners on May 15, 1883, and last met on
December 14, 1895. So I just missed it, although I was born then, but not living
in town yet. Let’s take a look at that list of G. A. R. members from the
February 1984 Recollector. I remember quite a few of them:
J.S.M Peabody – that’s John S. Marshall Peabody.
Z.B. Slater – he lived over on Petrie Rd. (Sec. 13).
G. W. Snyder – that would have been Dr. George Snyder.
A. N. Evans – Alonzo, Lon – farmed at Bruce Walkington’s old place, then lived
on Lot 30 east of Nancy Puffer-Jim Bedell house.
Thos. Waddell – lived in town of Cornell Lot 2.
S. DeCamp – lived in Cornell, last house east on Musgrove, north side.
G. E. Friend – George lived in the old homestead on the southwest corner.
F. N. Friend – his brother, lived in Portland, I guess.
L. W. Overley – lived in Sebewa, couldn’t trust them, oh my.
A. B. Lippencott – Allen lived where John did later.
M. Middaugh – lived over on Tupper Lake Rd. (Sec. 33).
J. M. Bradley – John had a store & house north of I. O. O. F. hall.
D. D. Krebs – lived west of Sunfield.
F. Linhart – that’s from Sunfield too.
L. B. Waring – always lived with the Lippencotts.
O. W. Daniels – Old Oren from over on 66.
J. C. Clark – from West Sebewa.
J. A. Britton – also from West Sebewa.
Elkanah Carpenter – lived near you. (Gilbert’s Sec. 28).
Jonah Carpenter – also near you. (Ronald Stambaugh Sec. 27).
Sam Bigham – Fyan house, but Harry Gibson farm before that.
James H. McClelland – Fred Hart’s place, twin sons Willis & Wilton.
CONTINUATION OF FERN CONKRITE INTERVIEW: Other G. A. R. members listed were:
Alford A. Garlock, J. W. Reeder, Asa Pike, L. N. King, Elisha Braley, V. B.
Polmanteer, L. J. Heaton, Mansil Pike, L. Braley, B. F. Dean, J. L. Shaver, D.
W. Litchfield, J. F. Hyde, William Wadsworth, E. A. Truxton, John Arnold, Robert
Force, Perry Arnold, Wm. Miner, Burt Judson, C. J. Yeager, Lt. G. W. Lusk, and
of course Manley Conkrite, brother of Charles.
CELEBRATING 107 YEARS – VERTIE CATT McDONALD
Vertie Catt McDonald was born in Odessa Township, Ionia County, February 13,
1884, daughter of George Catt and Nancy Jane Herron. That was during the
Presidency of Chester Allen Arthur, and a year before the first of two
non-consecutive terms of Grover Cleveland, thought by some Sebewa residents to
have been the last great Democrat President. Her parents farmed in SE ¼ Sec. 18
Odessa Township, where her father had re-located from Rochester, New York, after
coming on a sailing ship from England in 1852.
Celebrating her 107th birthday doesn’t seem so strange. Her brother Orvin Catt,
lived to be 97, and her half-sister, Ida Catt, lived to the age of 90. And
several other Sebewa women have lived past age 100 in recent years. The most
recent being Florence Cassel at 102, who, by-the-way, was
great-great-grandmother to little Adam Meyers and his sister Sarah, and Vertie
is their great-great-aunt in a different lineage. Those kids have a
life-expectancy well toward the end of the 21st century. Adam is namesake of
Adam Fender, Sebewa Supervisor 1897-1917.
Vertie and her late husband, Frank, farmed in Sebewa for over 50 years. Vertie
also made the rounds with a horse and buggy to teach piano lessons at area
homes. She now resides at Thornapple Manor, near Hastings. She never had any
children, but she has lots of nieces and nephews, including Hazel Richardson of
Hazel Richardson is in the process of selling her farm house, reportedly to Mike
Kennedy, and will move to Galveston, Indiana, to be near daughter Kay and
Zack and Eleanor York have sold their farm to Mike Cook, son of Gerry Cook on
Keefer Hwy. Zack and Eleanor have also sold their home in Kalamazoo, and will
move to a retirement home.
The Sadie & Elem Tran house has been sold once again, this time to Eric Howard
of Portland. He is a Corrections Officer at Ionia, and is undertaking extensive
remodeling, inside and out. Most of the plumbing and interior finish is being
replaced, as well as the mis-applied stone facia on the outside, etc. He will
add a two-car garage wing, a skylight, and other enlargements.
SEBEWA TOWNSHIP BOARD OF MINUTES for the recent months tells us that Evelyn
David resigned as Assessor on June 30, 1990. She had fulfilled this position
very capably since July, 1977, when Charles McNeil died. Her husband, Ken, had
succeeded her as Supervisor in November, 1988, but he also resigned, as of
September 30, 1990. Jim Stank was appointed by majority vote of the Board to
complete the un-expired term as Supervisor, and automatically became Assessor.
He received a six-month temporary certification from the State, and after
successfully completing the classes and exam, has received his permanent
certificate. Brian Pinkston was appointed at the October meeting to fill the
Trustee position vacated by Jim Stank. Jim is descended from John & Christena
Sayer and lives on the John Friend farm. We think Brian is descended from John
J. Peacock, he lives on Joe Schnabel farm.
That school picture (on front page of this issue of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR) is
the Frost School (Danby Township Dist. No. 3).
Front row on the left is Marian Pryer Lakin, Gertrude Fishell, Pauline Smith,
Della Peake, Dorothy Burgess, unknown, Margaret Pryer, Robert Wooden, Archie
Youngs, unknown, unknown, Howard Youngs.
Back row on the left is Ethel Hudson, Clarissa Lyon, Donna Bugbee, Sarah
Barrington, Edna Chase – Teacher, Irene Burgess, Leo Davenport, Louis Hunt, Bill
Atwell, Ted Atwell, George Hudson.
Edna Chase, the teacher, married Harry Brown and started all that Brown family.
She’s the mother of Burton and grandmother of his 13 kids.
(Fern Conkrite Interview will continue next issue)