Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 26 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 1991, Volume 26, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of Editor, Grayden D. Slowins:


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 west cemetery.

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.

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 Fund.

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 needed.

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 Clerk 1853-1857.

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 suppose.
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.

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 Sebewa.

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 family.
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)



Last update November 15, 2013