Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 27 Number 3
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,
DECEMBER 1991, Volume 27, Number 3:


EDNA G. KENYON, 100, daughter of William, sister of Robert Howland, Amy Howland, & Katherine Stron, widow of Raymond Kenyon, mother of Katherine Hobner Kaumeyer Velcheck & Norman Kenyon. Born near Lapeer, she moved with her family at age 12 by team & wagon to a farm on Bippley Road in Sebewa Township. Married to Raymond in 1913, they farmed at 11167 Keefer Hwy. for 61 years and she stayed another 10 years, still sharp as ever when she retired to Florida at 94. She never failed to cast her vote and she danced at her 100th Birthday Party!

HOBART CARPENTER, 92, son of Laura Heick & Claude Carpenter, who was grandson of Charlotte & Cyril Carpenter, son of Rev. Samuel Carpenter. Samuel (1776-1861), Charlotte (1816-1887), & Cyril (1810-1873) were originally buried in the Carpenter-Reeder Cemetery on the SW corner of Kimmel Rd. & Tupper Lake Rd., but when that cemetery was taken up abut 1905, they were moved to West Sebewa Cemetery. The generation between Cyril & Claude was a Dr. Carpenter in Woodland, whose name we cannot bring to mind. Hobart was husband of Edna Narregang, father of Betty, Beth, Beverly, Linda, Lois & Jerry. He sold Hudson & Essex automobiles & International farm machinery with his father in a building in the middle of the east side of the 1000 block of 4th Avenue in Lake Odessa. After burning out in 1920, he managed the Kroger store and then operated his own grocery store. During World War II he worked for Nash Kelvinator in Lansing and retired from General Motors in 1966. His was one of two recent deaths who listed their lodge as the long-gone Knights of Phthias.

MARIAN A. RALSTON, 84, daughter of William & Sylvia Ward, widow of Leland M. Ralston, mother of Laura & Leland L. This family lived in the former Johnson School on Bippley Rd. and were no relation to the pioneer family of Andrew Ralston across from us on Musgrove Hwy.

FAITH M. SHOOK SHILTON, 77, widowed second wife of Iril Shilton, she had children & grandchildren of her own and a summer home at Wolverine. She worked as a cook, waitress, and nurse-maid to old men. She also flew around the world to Australia!

WINIFRED B. SMITH, 80, daughter of Georgia Cahoon & George Clow, wife of Burton Smith, mother of Selma & Burton Jr. This family once lived across from our farm on Musgrove Hwy. in Sebewa Township.

MINNIE BAZAN, 78, wife of James Bazan, mother of Carol, and others. This family once lived in the Alton Gunn tenant house on Bippley Rd., as well as on the Elon & Marian Lakin farm on E. Grand River Ave. in Danby Township.

HAROLD W. FIGG, 71, son of Voight & Harriet Butolph Figg, brother of Joyce, Jannette, Florence & Kenneth, husband of Annette, father of Anita, Kathy, Diane, Frances, Janisce, Jill, Karl, Jeff & John. Born on the family farm on Tupper Lake Rd., Sebewa Township, now part of the Gilbert farm, he lived at Mulliken and retired from Mapes Furniture Co.

MARY FRYOVER, widow of Herbert Fryover. They were long-time members of the Sebewa Center Association, lived in Portland.

NELSON C. EASTMAN, 89, SON OF Wilford & Rosie Eastman, brother of Arthur, Forest, Lennis, Roy, Herman, Bertha & Milo, father of May Apsey, Leona Brooke, Leta Thompson, Lyle Eastman & Jeanette DuBois. Born on Grand Ledge Hwy, just east of Sunfield, he farmed on the SW corner of Sec. 34 Sebewa Township. He started with a fine pair of Belgian horses and later used Farmall tractors, did a neat job of farming.

HARLAN LEIFHEIT, 89, son of Herman & Minnie Boreman Leifheit, brother of Elmer and others, husband of Ruth, step-father of Keith Hoffman and James Shull. He was born at Millbrook, southern Illinois, came to Ionia County with his parents at an early age. The family farmed at various places in Orange and Sebewa Townships and he settled on the east portion of the old Ed Demaray farm. He was a carpenter and led 4-H woodworking groups for many years.


LABAN ATWATER SMITH was a prominent pioneer farmer in the Township of Portland. He arrived in 1866 and accumulated over 700 acres of land in Sec. 9 – 10 – 11 -17 by the time of his retirement in 1890. The accompanying photo of his homestead from Schenck’s HISTORY OF IONIA & MONTCALM COUNTIES, 1881, can be recognized as the Portland Country Club. Chapman’s Portait & Biographical Album of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, 1891, is our resource for his ancestry and life.

LABAN A. SMITH was born at Honeoye Falls, Monroe County, NY, November 14, 1828, son of Lucy Thompson & Marvin Smith, son of Lydia Gates & Benjamin Smith, son of Hannah Atwater & Daniel Smith, son of Anna Morris & Samuel Smith, son of Elizabeth Paterson & Thomas Smith, who were married in New Haven, Connecticutt in 1662.

On his mother, Lucy’s side, Laban A. Smith was the grandson of Dorcas Andrews & John Thompson, son of Esther Perkins & Timothy Thompson, son of Sarah Pardee & John Thompson, son of Mercy & John Thompson, son of Priscilla Powell & John Thompson, son of Eleanor & John Thompson, who signed the Connecticut Colony Constitution in June 1639.

MARVIN SMITH settled in Bloomfield, Ontario County, NY, with an uncle at age 12. He went back to New Haven, then called East Haven, for his second wife, Lucy, in 1826. It is noted that his youngest sister was named Evelyn.
Laban’s wife Hannah was a daughter of Daniel & Elizabeth Bachus Gillette. Laban & Hannah were married November 17, 1852. In 1857 they moved to Elkhart, Indiana, in 1865 to White Pigeon, Michigan, and in 1866 to Portland, MI.
Laban Smith was a member of the Baptist Church and a Republican in politics. He first voted for General Winfield Scott, a Whig, for President, then John C. Fremont, the first Republican candidate for President, then Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican to win, and all Republicans thereafter. He was Portland Township Highway Commissioner for several years, Township Supervisor 1875-1879, and Ionia County Superintendent of the Poor 1880-1890.

Laban & Hannah divided their land among their six living children and retired to the village of Portland in 1890, when he was age 62. They lived on the west side of Smith Street, in the second house south of James Street. He was a Portland Village Trustee, and devoted much of his time to reading in his home library of choice books.

1. Leonard Laban Smith 1854-1926, married Della Gale.
2. Benjamin Marvin Smith 1856-1929, married Eva Webster 1870-1929.
3. Harriet W. (Hattie) Smith 1861-1919, married Charles Frost.
4. William Gillette Smith 1863-1903, married Cynthia Hurd.
5. Henry Davis Smith 1865-1882.
6. Morton John Smith 1867-1872.
7. Daniel Gates Smith 1871-1957, married Dana Webster sister to Eva.
8. George Thompson Smith 1873-1960, married Tressa Chalker 1873-1919.

LEONARD LABAN SMITH & Della Gale farmed in Portland Township. Their children were:
1. Florence Smith, married Veryl Tyler.
2. Clara Smith.
3. Laura Smith.

BENJAMIN MARVIN SMITH & Eva Webster farmed in Portland Township, first place east & later southwest of the old homestead.
Their children were:
1. Mary Webster Smith 1893-1971, married Charles Lockwood.
2. Ruth Hannah Smith 1898-1943, married Frank McGowan.
Harriett W. (Hattie) Smith & Charles Frost farmed in Portland Township, second place west of the old homestead. Their children were:
1. Dana Frost, married Mr. Budd, lived Lima, OH.
2. Laban Frost, lived in California.
3. Inez Frost, died age 12.
4. Elmer Frost, never married, lived with Stegengas.
5. Harriett Frost, 1902- , married Conrad Stegenga 1900-1957.

WILLIAM GILLETTE SMITH & Cynthia Hurd farmed on the old homestead in Portland Township, but were living in Grand Rapids when he was killed in the famous East Paris train wreck during a snowstorm. Their child was:
1. Raymond Smith, never married.

DANIEL GILLETTE SMITH & Cynthia Hurd farmed on the old homestead in Portland Township on the first place west across the road from the old homestead. Their children were:
1. James Smith, lived in California.
2. Richard Smith, lived in Seattle, died in Oregon, 1991.
3. Eva Louise Smith, married Fred England Jr., lived in Portland, worked in Bank, retired to Cadillac & Florida.

GEORGE THOMPSON SMITH & Tressa Chalker farmed in Portland Township on south side of Goodwin Rd., two miles west of the old homestead. Their children were:
1. Irene Smith 1894-?, married Dale Blackman 1893-?
2. Harold Smith 1895-1925, had polio, never married.
3. Laban Atwater Smith II 1897-1972, married Hermene Hamlin, Alice Rand, and Margaret (Marge) Davis.
4. Earl Chalker Smith.

FLORENCE SMITH & Veryl Tyler farmed a mile south of Goodwin Rd. and west on Peck Lake Rd. in Secs. 13 & 24 Orange Township. Their children were:
1. Mignonne Tyler 1921- , married Howard Hodnett.
2. Dean Tyler 1923- , married Elizabeth Jones from a mile north of the old homestead on David Hwy., Sec. 4 Portland Township.

MARY WEBSTER SMITH & Charles Lockwood were leaders in developing the Portland Country Club on the old homestead. Their child was:
1. Ruth Lockwood 1916- , married Donald French.

RUTH HANNAH SMITH & Frank McGowan were actors & musicians, directing the Lowell Showboat, etc. Their child was
1. Frank McGowan II, married Elizabeth Sullivan.
Harriett Frost & Conrad Stegenga farmed on the Harriett & Charles Frost farm and lived in the house on the south side of the road after the big house had burned. Harriett’s unmarried brother Elmer lived with them, as well as Con’s father. Con worked in the Development & Testing Department at Oldsmobile. Their children were:
1. Ellen Stegenga 1923- , married James Sullivan & Jack Winchester.
2. Jean Stegenga 1927- , married Maynard Barrus.
3. Evelyn Louise Stegenga 1933- , married Richard Haueter 1927-
4. Jack Stegenga 1927- , married Laura Platte.

IRENE SMITH & Dale Blackman’s child was:
1. Lois Smith 1922-1962.

LABAN A. SMITH II & Hermene Smith farmed in the Portland area and built up a large Registered Holstein dairy herd. Due to asthma Labe was forced to sell out, and it was one of the saddest days of his life when the cows left. He entered the employ of Bill Stocum in the Hardware Store previously owned by Duncan Kennedy in the Opera House. Soon he purchased the store in partnership with Leo Lehman. Laban & Hermene were divorced and he married Alice Rand. They were divorced and he married Marge Davis.

Marge was a Flint school teacher, originally from Charlotte, MI, who came to visit her sister, Winifred (Mrs. Dr. Basil) Lowrey, and married Labe. After raising a family, they sold the Hardware Store and she joined him in running East Side Lumber Co. They also raised riding horses and were active in the Portland Historical Society. Labe was elected Ionia County Commissioner in 1968 with the first class, and when he died in September 1972, she was appointed in October and elected by write-in in November for the Portland District. After retiring at the end of 1976 and moving to their horse-farm, she was again elected in November 1978 to represent the Danby, Sebewa, Orange, E. Odessa, S. Berlin, S. Ionia District. She retired again at the end of 1982.

LABAN’S child with Hermene was:
1. Charlene Smith 1921- , married Harry Hoyt.

LABAN’S children with Marge were:
2. Laban Atwater Smith III 1943-1954.
3. Daniel Smith 1946- , lives in Seattle.

EARL CHALKER SMITH’S children were:
1. Mary Alice Smith.
2. Harold Smith.
3. Gerald Smith.

Mignonne Tyler & Howard Hodnett’s children were:
1. Dean Hodnett 1946-
2. Cirrue Hodnett 1949-
3. James Hodnett 1951-

Dean Tyler & Elizabeth Jones’ children were:
1. Michael Tyler 1947-
2. David Tyler 1950-
3. Margaret Ann Tyler 1954-1954

Ruth Lockwood & Don French’s children were:
1. Gail French 1940-
2. Tom French 1942-
3. Cathy French 1944-1990
4. Charles French 1953-1955
5. Kristi French 1956-

Frank McGowan II & Elizabeth Sullivan’s children were:
1. Sheila McGowan
2. Raymond McGowan

Ellen Stegenga & James Sullivan’s child was:
1. Kathy Sullivan 1944-

Jean Stegenga & Maynard Barrus’ children were:
1. Timothy Barrus
2. Suzanne Barrus

Evelyn Stegenga & Dick Haueter’s children were:
1. Teri Haueter 1959- , married Kevin Carrigan
2. Amy Haueter 1959- , married Mark Bailey. Teri & Amy are twins.
3. Karen Haueter 1965- , married Kevin Everts.

Jack & Laura Stegenga’s children were:
1. Michael Stegenga
2. William Stegenga
3. Beth Stegenga, married Douglas Stiffler

Charlene Smith & Harry Hoyt’s children were:
1. Brian Hoyt 1952-
2. Wendy Hoyt 1957-

Beth Stegenga & Doug Shiffler live in the beautiful new brick house with home-sawed hardwood interior trim and a backyard pond at the 5400 E. Clarksville Rd, and have twin babies, the sixth generation of the Laban A. Smith family, which brings us back to Sebewa Township!
Their children:
1. Clayton Forrest Stiffler 1990
2. Cristin Elizabeth Stiffler 1990


Recent newspaper articles have focused on homesteaders in the Dakota Territory a century ago. One such man was Harold Albert (Harry) Meyers (1891-1971). He was born in Sebewa Township, son of Lydia Shipman (1857-1935) & Albert W. Meyers (1852-1912), son of Amey (1836-1873) & Rev. Daniel Meyers. Harry attended Sebewa Center Rural School and worked on the home farm with his older brother, Archie. About 1912-1913, after his father’s death, he went to Golden Valley, North Dakota. They still called it Dakota Territory, although the two States had been admitted separately into the Union in 1889, and Harry really went after the land rush that settled the big wheat farms. Others from the Berlin-Orange-Sebewa area who had gone earlier were Peter & Levi Schnabel, the Letts brothers, and Robert Ainsworth.

Harry had a small farm of his own there and a small coal mine. He met and married Mattie Bailiff (1901-1939), daughter of Lynn (1880-1950) & Tina Bailiff (1882-1951). His mother, Lydia, came out on the train to visit them. Their oldest son, Harold, was born there. Then they returned to Michigan about 1921 and Wesley was born here. Harry’s brother Archie (1890-1934) had been left to run the farm here alone and had built the strange 1/3 slice of a gambrel roofed, glazed tile dairy barn, which still stands today against Howard’s new pole barn. Archie was crippled, gave violin lessons, and had a small orchestra. He never married and died young. So Harry returned to operate the home farm. His older sister, Nellie (1879-1955), had stayed with their Aunt Jennie Meyers Barber at Saranac, attended High School there, and had one term at Ferris. She married Rob Gierman and became the mother of Robert Wilfred Gierman.

Other Bailiffs soon followed to Michigan, including Lynn & Tina, their daughter Alice, and their son Garland and family. They had been migrant farm workers in the west. (See Garland’s story in THE RECOLLECTOR Volume 4, Number 5, April 1969.) Here Garland went to work for Lake Odessa Canning Company operating a stationary pea thresher. He & Grace lived in the north house on the Clarence Sayer farm and worked on the farm too.

Later they farmed on shares 14 years for Glenn Olry on what is now our farm. Lynn & Tina Bailiff lived in the George Gunn house just east of Lancey Meyers and worked in the cemeteries. Their son-in-law Harry Meyers was Secretary of the Sebewa Center School Board and Clerk of Sebewa Township. Since the Clerk has responsibility for the cemeteries, this was probably the start of the tradition of using family help in the Sexton job.

Harry’s maternal grandparents, William Shipman (1823-1896) & Angerona Carpenter (1828-1914), had come from Jonesville, Michigan, about 1874 and selected this farm because it had lots of stones! Stones were supposed to indicate good wheat ground. After fighting these stones for four generations, Howard & Wes recently sold truck-loads of them to a contractor for erosion control and ground stabilization. They came in with big dump trucks and a front-end loader and hauled them away. Some went to Sunfield, some to Flint, and some as far away as Indiana for lawn decoration.

They almost wished they had all those back the family had buried over all those years! The stones are part of the Grand Ledge Moraine deposited by the glacier and circling from Grand Ledge thru Ionia County and up thru Edmore. Angerona Carpenter Shipman was distantly related to the Sebewa-Odessa-Woodland Carpenters, of which see the obituary of Hobard Carpenter elsewhere in this issue.
Harry & Mattie’s children were:
1. Harold Meyers 1920
2. Wesley Meyers 1921
3. Howard Meyers 1923
4. Eleanor Meyers 1924
5. Ardell Meyers 1934

George Allen was not a brother to Edna & Vernon Allen. The Allen family in Sebewa begins with William Allen. His son was Thomas J. Allen, whose wife was Rosilla F. Allen. They lived on what is now the Vernon Pifer farm on Keefer Hwy., formerly Thomas Huizenga’s, and the Luurt or Grace Huizenga forty across the road in Danby, and the eighty next south of that. Their sons Merritt S. Allen and Ora Clark Allen inherited the farms, O. C. on the Danby side and M. S. on the Sebewa side. Merritt married Carrie (Kaddie) Soule and their children were Edna, Weldon, Vernon & infant Nelson Merritt.
Ora C. Allen married Carrie Wilkins, brother of Frank Wilkins, who married Kitty Emery and lived next door on what became the Raymond & Edna Kenyon farm. Their sons were George Thomas Allen and Faye Wilkins Allen. After selling the north forty to Merritt, they moved to a little old house on the south eighty, and when Ora died young, Carrie sold that to George High. George Thomas Allen married Myrtle Mack, lived on the Densmore farm on Looking Glass Ave., ran an ice business, died young. Children – Tom Allen & Maxine Sandborn.

Update on Schoolhouses in Odessa story: Although the fate of the wooden Russell School is unknown, the Bonanza School which succeeded it was a two-story brick building. It can be seen in an early photo of Bonanza on display at the Library. It was in use only a few years, then torn down and the bricks used to build a house on 5th Avenue, third house north of M-50, west side, across from the Tom Johnson rose garden. It was owned by George VanTeflin, then his stepson Claire Pickens, and his son Tom found the school’s headstone while digging in the yard. The Bretz Schoolhouse was torn down by Lewis Rush and used to build two houses on Johnson St. south of Garlocks.

As we mentioned last time, Mable was the daughter of Charles P. Cook Sr., who lived where Henry Smith does, granddaughter of Pierce G. Cook of the same location, who also ran a store in Sebewa Corners during the Civil War and later was Justice of the Peace in Portland. Her Uncle Edward H. Cook was killed in that war.

Leon Williams’ father was a half-brother to Mamie Downing’s father, Lewis G. Williams. Leon’s father died when Leon was 6 or 7 years old and he was raised by his grandparents Gray on the farm where Cecil Gray lives now, at the corner of Eaton Hwy. & Goddard-Saubee Lake Rd., just over into Eaton County. Leon taught school winter terms at the Johnson School and courted Mable Cook. He also taught Travis school and roomed with George Goodemoot, grandfather of his son Gerald’s future wife Ruby. Schools needed a man teacher in winter term, because some of the scholars were 20-year-old boys!

Along with the above information, Gerald provides us with the Nineteenth Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture for 1880. Their principle business was governing Michigan Agricultural College, as the report shows. Much space is given over to information and experiments of the kind we would call Agricultural Extension today. The hottest group of machines being tested were wind engines (windmills)! Several were pictured, including a wooden model like the one on this farm when we moved here. The president of MAC got $3000 per year and the six professors got $1800 each!

RECENT ACTION OF THE SEBEWA TOWNSHIP BOARD will give residents free access to both Lake Odessa and Portland Libraries. A major source of support for libraries is the penal fines from the courts of Michigan. These are distributed on a per-capita basis by the State Library Administrator, thru the County Treasurer, to the library of choice for each local unit of government. Sebewa had contracted for this service with Portland Library since 1977, which was before Lake Odessa Library got organized. Current comparison shows about equal numbers of Sebewa residents using each library, due to proximity and the two school systems. Hereafter the penal fines will be distributed 50-50. Another advantage is that Lake Odessa Library belongs to the Lakeland Consortium of West Michigan. This will allow our residents who hold cards at Lake Odessa to have no-charge use of the Ionia Library, and access by computerized catalog to any of the library resources in West Michigan.

SEBEWA CENTER UNITED METHODIST CHURCH celebrated the Centennial of its dedication on Sunday, November 3, 1991. There were five former ministers present in addition to current minister, Gordon Spalenka: Robert Carson, Clinton Bradley-Galloway, Chris Schroeder, Kenneth Lindland, & Joseph Spachman.

Sixteen new members joined during the morning service: Bob & Nancy Bessemer, Delores & Amy Stank, Leo & Marge Carr, Ilene Carr, Ruth Seybold, Tom & Mary Dowker, Debbie & Ed Smith, Lisa & Terry Walkington, Ray & Joan Heintzelman. Counting Charles & Karen Darling and their three children, who joined earlier in the centennial year, the church reports a gain of 21 members.

The only woman minister this church has had I the past 100 years was Rev. Margery S. Mathews, who went on to become a District Superintendent and then the first woman Bishop in all the Christendom. She also served as Chairperson of the National Council of Methodist Bishops and as Delegate from the National Council of Churches to the World Council of Churches in Brussels, Belgium. She never forgot those people in Sebewa whom she served as a seminary student, and said they prepared her well for whatever came afterward. She died at Clark Home in the same bed in the same room in which my mother had died.

MORE ON THE ALLEN FAMILY: George Allen Sr. was a half-brother to Merritt & Ora. He ran a clothing store in Portland and married Anna Probasco (East Cemetery) and Mary Newman, had no children. Mary was daughter of the founding Newman family and they lived in the ancient house that became Bandfield’s. Dr. George Allen of the Allen Hughes house on Academy St. was no relation, nor was Civil War Captain E. M. Allen who founded the bank and built the Fred Rowe house, nor “Dam” George & Tom Allen, nor even Earl Allen of Sebewa. Our Tom Allen married Joan Haley and of course Maxine married Riley LaVern Sandborn.



Last update November 15, 2013