THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the Sebewa Center
APRIL 1994, Volume 29, Number 5.
Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
HOLTON, KENYON, VELCHECK, HOWLAND, PROUDFOOT, BARBER, MEYERS, MILLER, THRAMS,
JONES, KNEALE, HOUSERMAN, WHITLOCK, HARWOOD, HEINTZELMAN, LEIK, LEAK, HICKEY,
APSEY, TRASK, YAGER, MOUNT, OKEMOS, CONKRITE, INGALLS, PRYER
MELVIN C. HOLTON, 94, husband of Ina L. Barnum HOLTON, father of Richard, Neil,
Melvin & Lynn HOLTON, Joan HURLBURT, Joyce ENGLAND, Christine VanDEVENTER &
Eleanor BAILIFF. He was a tractor mechanic in Sunfield and a farmer in Sebewa,
SE1/4 Sec. 34 on Eaton Hwy. Buried in Sunfield Cemetery.
NORMAN E. KENYON, 78, husband of Rachel, father of Lynda & Lisa, brother of
Katherine Hobner Kaumeyer Velcheck, son of Edna Howland & Raymond Kenyon. Edna
was daughter of William Howland. Raymond was son of Henry KENYON, who emigrated
from Holland. Norman was a journalist with Portland Review, Ionia Sentinel,
Pontiac Daily Press, Detroit Free Press and Michigan Consolidated Gas Co.
Retired to St. Petersburg, FL. Buried in Portland Cemetery.
RUTH AGNES PROUDFOOT, 99, widow of Samuel, mother of Gerald, Ronald, Mary & Lois
(GEEGH), sister of Amey (Mrs. Fred RUSSMAN Sr.), daughter of Truman H. BARBER &
Mary Alice MEYERS BARBER, daughter of Rev. Daniel & Amey MILLER MEYERS of Sebewa.
Born in Saranac, moved with her parents to north edge of Lake Odessa at age 2,
after eighth grade she worked as housekeeper, dressmaker, telephone operator,
chair canner at Reed Furniture. Lived in Ionia, Grand Rapids, Lowell, Kalamazoo,
Lakeland, FL. Buried Kalamazoo.
WAYNE C. THRAMS, 83, husband of Zella, brother of Eloise JONES & late Clifton
THRAMS, son of Carl & Ida THRAMS. Retired meat cutter and farmer in Sec. 25 & 36
Sebewa on Tupper Lake Rd. Ashes to be buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.
LYLE W. KNEALE, 61, widower of Joyce HOUSERMAN KNEALE, father of Kathleen FORMAN
& Kenneth, brother of LaVerne & Gerald, son of Geneva WHITLOCK & Howard KNEALE,
son of Iva HARWOOD & William H. KNEALE. Farmed in Sebewa all his life. Buried at
FRED APSEY, 62, husband of Vanola May EASTMAN APSEY, father of Sandy VEITH,
Tammy MOREHOUSE, Gary & Allen, brother of Margaret WILLETT, Vivian LEIK,
Beatrice MOSHER & Helen, son of Frederick & Velma APSEY. He worked at Diamond
Reo & Spartan Motors and farmed all his life. Buried in Sunfield Cemetery.
MERLE W. TRASK, 81, husband of Bernice YAGER TRASK, father of Tish WONDERGEM,
Edward & Larry, brother of Edward, son of Guy & Kittie MOUNT TRASK. He ran the
Sunfield Fix-It-Shop Garage and was a member of the Sunfield Fire Department.
Buried at Lakeside Cemetery.
SAVE SHIMNECON! By Grayden Slowins:
Attention! Emergency Alert! The Chief OKEMOS Council of Boy Scouts of America
proposes to log-off and then sell their twenty-acre portion of Meshimneconning
in Danby Township just east of Sebewa for private development! Shimnecon is a
site of historic and pre-historic importance perhaps equal to Manassas and
Gettysburg Battlefields, or at least Little Big Horn Battlefield!
Shimnecon is a Native American campsite and was last occupied by them about
1830-1860. It was the home of the Shiawassee Band of Ottawa, Chippewa (Ojibwa) &
Potawatomi Indians, all a part of the Algonquian Nation. Their leader was Chief
OKEMOS. Born an Ottawa in Shiawassee County, he was a scout for the British in
the War of 1812, at the age of 64. They followed the seasons for fish, game,
fruit & syrup; to DeWitt on the Lookingglass River, to the village named after
him on the Red Cedar River, and to the ancient campsite and burial ground at
Shimnecon in the oxbow of the Grand, during a time of frequent smallpox
epidemics. In the spring of 1839, 600 people lived there among their apple trees
and small farm plots. By the fall of 1841, they were reduced to 150 people and
the dead were buried at random throughout their fields. Chief OKEMOS himself
died in 1858 at age 110, was buried by Hall J. and Charles M. Ingalls, and is
the only one with a monument, placed by the D. A. R.
Shimnecon consisted of almost 200 acres when the white man came. The whites
built a mission church & school to convert & teach the Indians, with only mixed
success. Later the Indian school was used as Danby Town Hall and services
continued to be held in the old Methodist Church. Charles W. INGALLS came with
the first colony of settlers to Sebewa & Danby in 1838, and his sons Hall J.
INGALLS & Charles M. INGALLS played with the Indians as children. Charles M.
INGALLS was given an Indian name which was approx. “Bou’edi”. Their grandfather,
Jonathan INGALLS, soldier of the Revolution, 1762-1843, also came and died here
as our only Revolutionary Veteran.
CHARLES W. INGALLS later lived at Ionia for several years, served in the State
Legislature from Ionia County in 1853, and platted INGALLS addition to the
village of Ionia. He died in Harbor Springs in 1889 at age 76.
SHIMNECON was farmed by Charles M. INGALLS well into the 1930s, and now belongs
to the Carl SMITH family. Another portion was purchased by Samuel WAINWRIGHT and
passed to his sons Joseph & James. Some of this was later owned & farmed by the
ANTHONY family. Twenty acres of the WAINWRIGHT farm was purchased by Charles
GILDEN Jr. about 1930 and given to the Lansing Optimists Club. They gave it to
the Boy Scouts and this is the part with the Chief Okemos monument. All the rest
of the land is part of the State Game Area, including the former river ford to
Musgrove Highway & Sebewa.
Fern CONKRITE was born a stone’s throw from Shimnecon on MORRIS Road on March 3,
1895, daughter of Charles CONKRITE & Emma WAINWRIGHT. Samuel WAINWRIGHT was her
grandfather. Let’s all help her celebrate her 100th Birthday in 1995 by saving
DANBY TOWNSHIP INDIAN SETTLEMENTS From THE HISTORY OF IONIA AND MONTCALM
COUNTIES by J. S. SCHENCK 1881:
“When the whites began to settle in Danby, they found on the south riverbank in
Sec. 22 an Indian village of considerable pretensions as to size and fashion,
peopled by perhaps 150 Ottawa and Chippewas. Their village was known variously
as Mishiminecon, Chiminecon, or Peshimnecon, but meaning, according to English
interpretation, “sour apple tree” or “apple orchard”.
These Indians seemed to have chosen the place as a permanent habitation, or at
all events as a locality where they remained steadily for some months each year.
They raised corn and were particularly busy in the spring at sugar-making time.
Getting drunk and indulging in wild tom-tom dances seemed to be their chief
delight, and they found it no trouble to procure whiskey from the Indian
As the ceremonies progressed, their white neighbors used to get a little nervous
for fear the drunken orgies might result in a desire for a quarrel with the
settlers. Happily, the savages confined their demonstrations to the limits of
their village, and at no time manifested an inclination to harm their pale-faced
neighbors. There was a graveyard at the village and until a few years ago traces
of the burial-places could be seen, but no sign marked the spot.
About 1846 Manasseh HICKEY, a Methodist missionary, ventured among them in the
hope that he might do something towards converting them to Christianity. At the
time of his coming, the savages were passing through one of the periodical
drunken carousals, and were at first inclined to resent his appearance with
violence. Seeing that it would not be good policy to press himself upon them at
this time, Hickey retired, leaving his interpreters with them. The interpreters
so mollified the Indians that they consented to have Hickey preach to them, and
he delivered, through his interpreters, a sermon that pleased his dusky auditors
so well they besought him to come again.
Thus the missionary work among the Indians was begun with a promis of
encouragement. John COMPTON, a lay-preacher living in Sec. 33, took a hand also
in the work and assisted Hickey in preaching, while the interpreters, Mary and
Joseph, inaugurated school-teaching among them. Not a few had been converted
either by Hickey or at a camp-meeting at Charlotte, to which quite a number had
repaired in 1846 or 1847.
They therefore empowered Hickey to buy land for them, and he made at once a
purchase of Mr. FITCH of Portland, of 108 (180?) acres in the bend of the river
in Sec. 21, the property now known as the Ingalls farm. The land was laid out
into twenty lots and the Indians applied themselves forthwith to the business of
making clearings, building log houses, and tilling the soil. The village took on
the name of Mishiminecon, in remembrance of the old village on Sec. 22. As time
passed the savages gravitated slowly into a civilized existence, dressed and
lived like white folks, and followed the pursuits of agriculture with
considerable zeal and remarkable industry.
Shortly after locating them in their new village, HICKEY obtained some financial
assistance from a benevolent lady in New York for the purpose of erecting a
mission-house. For this house, John Compton selected the logs and hauled the
first load of lumber, the sawing being done at the Sebewa mill. The house was
divided into two parts, in one of which school and church services were held,
while the other served as the residence of the teacher or missionary. The first
school in this building was taught by John Compton, who also was their preacher
from time to time and eventually came to be regarded as their spiritual leader.
COMPTON taught them in early spring, and although he had to cross the river each
day to teach, even once when the river was full of running ice, he was so
faithful in his attendance that the Indians bestowed upon him the name TE-CUM-A-GAW-SHEE,
meaning “wades through the river”. After a while Manasseh Hickey being called to
new fields of labor, he was succeeded as a missionary by Rev. Mr. White, who
during his residence there lived in the mission-house. While there his wife
died, and he married a young lady who was engaged as Indian teacher.
Presently there was more demand for church and school room, and so a new
school-building and church-edifice were erected. Rev. Mr. SHAW preached the
dedicatory sermon in the new church, and of that circumstance it is related
that, in the glow of enthusiasm, he made too wide a swing with his left arm and
knocked one of the pulpit lamps from its place to the floor. Preaching was, of
course, delivered through an interpreter, and the interpreter on the occasion in
question is said to have so closely followed the minister, both in tome and
gesture, that his reproduction was wonderfully faithful and needed but the
knocking off by him of the right-hand lamp to have rounded the picture to
perfection. The old church-building still stands, and until within the last year
or so has been used as a Town Hall.
The Indians remained in Mishiminecon and prospered until about 1856, when, under
act of Congress, they were removed, along with other bands, to the reservations
of Northern Michigan. Beyond the presence of the old church, there is only an
old burial-ground to bear testimony of the existence in the town years ago of
the little community of Methodist Indians.
OKEMOS THE WARRIOR From a paper read to THE MICHIGAN PIONEER SOCIETY, by O.
A. JENISON - 1879:
I present you with an ambrotype likeness of the old Indian Chief OKEMOS. In
doing which, I wish to say that I know it to be genuine; it is not a copy,
neither does it come to you second-handed. Okemos sat for this very picture to
my certain knowledge, in 1857, and it has never been out of my possession from
that date to this.
Within the last year, since having concluded to present you with this likeness,
I have thought it not inappropriate to compile and rewrite a few incidents in
his life, in the undertaking of which I was not unmindful of the fact that
sketches of his life had already been written by much abler biographers than
myself, and to them I am somewhat indebted for portions of the life and
character of this noted Indian Chief; but the principal part of this biography I
obtained from gentlemen who were personally acquainted with him, could speak his
language, and who traded and bought furs of the tribe for many years.
I wish to say right here, that in writing up the biography of this man, I have
carefully read his history as portrayed by Campbell in his POLITICAL HISTORY OF
MICHIGAN, Tuttle’s HISTORY OF MICHIGAN, F. J. LITTLEJOHN’S LEGENDS OF MICHIGAN
AND THE OLD NORTHWEST, together with many newspaper accounts of his heroism and
The date of the birth of OKEMOS is shrouded in mystery, but our research
discloses the fact that he was born at or near Knaggs Station on the Shiawassee
River, where the Port Huron & Lansing Railroad now crosses said river. OKEMOS,
at the time of his death, was said to be a centenarian, but a century contains a
number of years that but a few out of the many are permitted to see. In a sketch
of his life given in the Lansing Republican under date of April 6, 1871, is said
he probably took to the war path in 1791; this is the earliest account I find of
him in any written history. Judge LITTLEJOHN, in his LEGENDS, introduces him to
the reader in 1803, and expressly says “In our data, local delineations, and
topographical outlines, the reader may trust to our general accuracy”!
The Battle of Sandusky, in which OKEMOS took such an active part, was the great
event of his life, and this it was that gave him his chieftainship and caused
him to be revered by his tribe. For a detailed description of that memorable and
bloody fight, I am indebted to B. O. WILLIAMS, Esq., of Owosso, who for many
years was an Indian trader, spoke the Indian language, and received the story
direct from the lips of the old Chief.
In relating the story OKEMOS says “Myself and cousin Man-ato-corb-way with
sixteen other braves enlisted under the British flag, formed a scouting or war
party, and leaving the upper Raisin (River) made our rendezvous at Sandusky,
where one morning while lying in ambush near a road lately cut for the passage
of the American army and supply wagons, we observed twenty cavalrymen
We immediately decided to attack the Americans although outnumbered, concluding
we could effectively cripple them at the first fire, which followed by a dash
with the tomahawk would accomplish our design. Accordingly we waited until they
had approached so near that we could count the buttons on their coats, when we
commenced firing at close quarters”.
The cavalrymen with drawn sabers immediately charged upon OKEMOS and his
followers, and then commenced the bloodiest and most decisive battle in which
OKEMOS ever engaged. In fact, from all that I can learn, it was his last battle.
OKEMOS says that he and his cousin fought side by side through this conflict,
and their experience was about the same throughout the engagement; each one
firing from two to three times while dodging fire of the Indians, the sound of
the bugle was heard, and casting their eyes in the direction of the sound, they
saw the road and woods filled with cavalry, in describing which OKEMOS says “The
plumes on their hats looked like a flock of thousands of pigeons just hovering
for a flight”. The small party of Indians was immediately surrounded and cut
down to a man; not one escaped the sabers of this dashing charge, and all were
left for dead on the field.
OKEMOS and his cousin each had his skull cloven and their body gashed in a
fearful manner, and as a finale, in order to be sure that life was extinct upon
leaving the field, the cavalrymen would lean forward from their horses and with
their sabers pierce the chests of the Indians even into their lungs. Thus they
were left prostrate upon their backs, entirely unconscious from the first heavy
blows that crushed through their skulls. The last that Okemos remembered was
after emptying one saddle and springing toward another with clubbed rifle raised
in the act of striking, his head felt as if being pierced with a red hot iron,
and he went down from a heavy saber cut. All knowledge ceased from this time
until many moons afterward, when he found himself being nursed by squaws of
their friends, who, with others, had found them some two or three days after the
The squaws thought all were dead, but upon being moved, signs of life were
discovered in Okemos and his cousin, who were at once taken on litters to a
place of safety, and by careful and untiring nursing, finally restored to a
partial health. The cousin always remained a cripple, his suffering having
induced chronic rheumatism which distorted the joints of his hands and feet.
The iron constitution with which OKEMOS was endowed by nature, restored him to
comparative health; but he never took an active part in another battle, this
last one having satisfied him that “White man was a heap powerful”, and shortly
afterward he solicited Colonel Godfrey to intercede with General Cass, and he,
with other chiefs, executed a treaty with the Americans, faithfully adhered to
the remainder of their days.
OKEMOS did not obtain his chieftainship by hereditary descent, but this honor
was conferred upon him after having passed through the battle just
described---for his bravery and endurance his tribe considered him a favorite of
the Great Spirit who had preserved his life through such a terrible and trying
ordeal. The next we hear of Okemos, he had settled with his tribe on the banks
of the Shiawassee, near his place of birth, where for many years, up to 1837-38,
he was engaged in the peaceful avocation of hunting, fishing, and trading with
white men. About this time the smallpox broke out in his tribe, which together
with the influx of white settlers, destroyed their hunting grounds and scattered
The plaintive, soft notes of wooing young hunters’ flute, made of red alder
wood, and the sound of the tom-tom at council fires and village feasts was heard
no more along the banks of our inland streams; for years before the tomahawk had
been effectively buried, and upon the final breaking up and scattering of the
bands, Okemos became a mendicant, and many a hearty meal has the old man
received from the old settlers of Lansing with a grateful heart.
In his young days, I should think his greatest height never exceeded five feet
four inches; he was lithe, wiry, active, intelligent, and possessed of undoubted
bravery; he was not, however, an eloquent speaker, either in council or private
conversation, always mumbling his words and speaking with some hesitation.
Previous to the breaking up of his band in 1837-38, his usual dress consisted of
a blanket coat with belt, steel pipe hatchet or tomahawk, and heavy long English
hunting or scalping knife stuck in his belt in front with a very large bone
handle prominent outside the sheath. His face painted with vermillion, on his
cheeks and forehead and over his eyes, a shawl wound around his head turban
fashion, together with the leggings usually worn by Indians, completed his
outfit, which during his lifetime he never discarded.
None of his biographers have ever fixed the date of his birth, contenting
themselves with the general conviction that he was 100 years old. In this I
respectfully disagree with them for the following reasons: Physically endowed
with a strong constitution, naturally brave and impetuous, and inured to the
hardships of an Indian life, he took to the warpath early in life and our first
notice of him is in 1791.
I reason from this that he was born about 1775, in which case he lived about 83
years; again the old settlers of Lansing well remember that up to the last of
his life, his step was short, quick & elastic, to a degree seldom seen in men
even of that age. He died at his wigwam a few miles from this city, and was
buried December 6, 1858, at Shimnecon, Ionia County, his coffin rude in the
extreme, and in it were placed a pipe, tobacco, hunting knife, birds’ wings,
provisions, etc. He had surrendered his chieftainship a few years previous to
his son, John, but he never forgot that he was OKEMOS, once chief of a powerful
tribe of Chippewas, and nephew of Pontiac.
Please forward any ideas for saving Shimnecon to: NAN SIMONS, EDITOR, PORTLAND
REVIEW & OBSERVER, 1138 EAST GRAND RIVER AVENUE, PORTLAND, MI 48875.
HEINTZELMAN UPDATE: The descendents of Harry HEINTZELMAN prefer this
spelling, but some of Walter’s family use HEINTZLEMAN. The old Sebewa records
show it both ways, as well as HINTZELMAN for William.
HENRY LEIK and now his sons are owners of Sunfield Post Office, not George.
Charles did not negotiate the Russian wheat deal in 1970s, Commodity Credit
Corporation did that. The Export-Import Bank, for which he works, deals more in
factories, industrial equipment, and other new businesses in struggling
WILSON LEAK, of Lansing, son of Merton G., son of John Francis, brings info on
the Elijah Leak family. See August 1992 for Leak story.
ELIJAH & SARAH ANN LEAK’S CHILDREN WERE:
1. James LEAK, born 1849, died 1850.
2. John Francis LEAK, born 1851, died 1939, m. Elizabeth BELL.
3. Zereane LEAK, born 1853, died 1915, m. George COLLIER.
4. Eli LEAK, born 1856.
5. Herman LEAK, born 1859, died 1952 Flint, m. Lizette LATHROP.
6. Sarah Ann LEAK, born 1861, died 1938, m. James BRADEN.
7. Geraldo James LEAK, born 1863, married Mary DONALDSON.
8. Martha Jean LEAK, born 1866, died 1868.
9. Elvira Edith LEAK, born 1872, died 1934, m. Burley BRADEN.
PRYER UPDATES: FIFTH GENERATION:
MARILEE ANN (not Irma) PRYER.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE:
1. David Loyd NAGEL.
2. Michael William NAGEL.
ALICE MAY PRYER, born May 2, 1935
THEIR CHILDREN WERE:
1. Lance Gerald LODES.
2. Randy LODES.
CLYDE PRYER, born January 3, 1904, died December 27, 1972, unmarried.
MERLIN WILLIAM PRYER, born December 25, 1904, died February 16, 1960, unmarried.
VERNON’S FAMILY: Vernon married Mary Jane PLUMER.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE:
1. Patricia Ann PRYER.
2. Thomas Warren PRYER.
3. Ronald Plumer PRYER.
4. Terry Robert PRYER.
DONALD was born August 3, 1915, married Josephine WHITE. They lived in Copemish,
MI. He died April 15, 1986.
1. Shirley Pryer.
MAXINE PRYER, born September 4, 1921, married Robert FREITAG in 1941 and lived
at Washington, DC.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE:
1. Nancy FREITAG.
2. Janet FREITAG.
3. Fred John FREITAG.
4. Paul Robert FREITAG.