Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 2 Number 2
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; October 1966, Volume 2, Number 2.  Submitted with written permission of Current Editor Grayden D. Slowins



     November 8, 1891 was the date of the dedication of the Sebewa Center Methodist Church.  Sunday, October 30 has been chosen as the time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the event.  Prior to the dedication, evangelistic services were held at the school house by Rev. Spencer.  Rev. F. A. VandeWalker was the first pastor.  Presiding Elder, Dr. Buell gave the dedicatory address.

     Everybody is invited and former pastors are urged to attend the Sunday service conducted by Rev. Clinton Galloway at 10:30 AM.  A pot luck dinner will be served at 12:30 at the Annex and a short program will follow. 


     The Sebewa Baptist Church is building a parsonage near the site of the old-time traveler’s inn at “Pine Tree Corners” at Bippley Road and M66 in Odessa Township.  For years a house a quarter mile east of the church on the corner of the Lapo farm was the church parsonage.  During the depression years the church was without a resident pastor, the parsonage was rented and finally it burned.  Rev. Harold DeWitt is currently the Sebewa Baptist Minister. 


     A start has been made by the Church of Christ of West Sebewa to enlarge the church building by adding Sunday School rooms, a Baptistry and rest rooms to the north side of the church.  The foundation has been made and covered.  This church was dedicated December 28, 1902 with its organization largely inspired by the efforts of Benjamin C. Peacock.  Rev. Lowell Harris, a recent graduate of Great Lakes Bible College is the resident minister.  He is employed at Triplex Engineering at Sunfield.  The congregation includes people from Lake Odessa and Charlotte. 


     Although we know the 160 figure is going considerably higher, we have not yet collected dues from several people included in last year’s membership.  Some of you will be contacted with the delivery of this issue of the RECOLLECTOR.  If you have not paid the $1 per person for the 1966-67 membership and nobody bets to ask for it, please send the fee to Mrs. Lucille Meyers, R 1, Sunfield, Michigan and thus be assured you are on the list when future issues of the RECOLLECTOR are mailed. 


     When Arlow Aves installed his mercury vapor light-controlled yard light, that made a total of two such lights in the northwest quarter of the township.  Others recently installed in the township are those of Philip Spitzley, Ronald Stambaugh and Maynard Thrams.  By our count, that is 27 in the township. 


     On our last trip to the school house belfry we noted that the extra coil of rope around the bell wheel indicated that the bell had been flipped over. 



     When the whites began to settle on the south side of the river in Danby they found on the river, in section 22, an Indian village of considerable pretensions as to size and fashion, peopled by perhaps a hundred and fifty Ottawas and Chippewas.  Their village was known variously as Mishshiminecon, Chiminecon, and Michimmeny Cahniny, but meaning, according to the English interpretation, “sour apple-tree”, or “apple orchard”.  Those 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, but beyond those pursuits they cared not to pursue the subject of labor.  Getting drunk and indulging in wild tom-tom dances seemed to be their chief delight and pastimes, and, as they found it no trouble to procure whiskey from Indian traders, they could drink to their hearts’ content.  Their tom-tom dances lasted generally two or three days, and as they succeeded in making a good deal of noise, and grew noisier and drunker as the ceremonies progresses, the whites used to get just 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 on section 22, and until a few years ago, traces of the burial-places could be seen, but now no sign marks the spot.  In this connection, the recollection of John Compton is suggested to effect that an Indian woman who happened to die while coming with this party of savages from Portland to the village, was tied to a pony’s tail and thus dragged over the ground the rest of the way home.  According to an Indian’s philosophy, it probably made no difference to a dead person whether the conveyance was by means of a rope and a pony’s tail or by the more exalted method of a funeral car.

     The Indians cultivated quite a patch of land on the river-bottom in section 22, and got along, after Indian fashion, until about 1846, when 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 their periodical drunken carousals, and were at first inclined to resent his appearance with violence.  Hickey retired, leaving with them, Joseph and Mary, his wife.  The interpreters so mollified the Indians that they consented to have Hickey preach to them, and he, returning at summons, delivered, through his interpreter, 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 promise of encouragement.  John Compton took a hand also in the work and assisted Hickey in preaching, while the interpreters, Mary and Joseph inaugurated school-teaching among them.  See being sown and a harvest promised, Hickey persuaded the Indians to make an effort to become bona fide settlers and husbandmen, in imitation of the white people; in other words, he proposed to civilize them.  Religion had already entered into the savage soul and not a few had been converted either by Hickey or at a camp-meeting at Charlotte, to which a large number repaired in 1846 or 47, and they were accordingly ready to encourage Hickey’s laudable efforts.

    They therefore empowered Hickey to buy land for them, and he made at once a purchase of Mr. Fitch, or Portland, of one hundred and eight acres in the bend of the river on section 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 Mishshiminecon, in remembrance of the old village on section 22, and as time passed by, the savages gravitated slowly into a civilized existence, dressed and lived like white folks, and followed the pursuits of agriculture with considerable zeal and a remarkable industry.  Their chiefs were Dayomac and Manuquod, while among others somewhat proiminent were Onewanda, Nacquit, Megumwatin, Sishebee, Nikkenashwa, Whiskemuk, Pashik, Squagun, Thargee, and Chedskunk.

    Shortly after locating them in their new village, Hickey (who exhibited, by the way, a remarkable spirit in converting the Indians) obtained some financial assistance from a benevolent lady living 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 apartments, in one of which, school and church services were held, while the other served as the residence of the teacher or the missionary.  The first school in the mission-house was taught by John Compton, who was also their preacher from time to time during their stay there, and came to be regarded by them eventually as their spiritual leader.  They took kindly to school and church, and betrayed upon frequent occasions a religious fervor and enthusiasm seldom equaled by white people.

    Compton taught for them in early spring, and although he had to cross the river every day to teach, and once when the river was full of running ice, he was so prompt in his attendance that the Indians bestowed upon him the name of Te-cum-a-gaw-shee (meaning “wade through the river”).  After a while Manasseh Hickey being called to newer fields of labor, was succeeded as missionary by Rev. Mr. White, who, during his residence there lived in the mission-house.  While he lived there, his wife died, and he married a young lady engaged as Indian teacher.  Her name cannot be recalled.

     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 tone 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 a year or so has been used as a town-hall.

     The Indians remained in Mishshimnecon and prospered until about 1856, when, under act of Congress, they were removed, along with other bands, to their 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. 


Part VII      By Richard W. Thrams


     In the middle of January 1966 the Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, died while making the peace settlement with Pakistan at Tashkent in U.S.S.R.  On the 25th of January by a special train from Delhi, his ashes were brought to Allahabad to be placed in the Sangram.  From the Allahabed train station there was a large parade all the way to the river’s edge.

     We were listening to a radio description of the parade when we decided we should go see for ourselves what was taking place.  We (my Peace Corps partner and I) took the teapot off the stove, grabbed the camera and off we went.  As we could not take our bicycles, we got on a tonga (a horse-drawn cart) and started in the direction of the parade.

     Just as we were well started, our postman saw us and came after us on his bicycle.  He had our pay checks and we were glad to stop and sign for them.

     Soon we left the tonga at a place where we could rent a boat.  After haggling a little we got a fair price for the boat rental and got to the Sangram some 20 or 30 minutes before Shastri’s ashes did.  We got several good pictures of the goings-on.  The river was not so crowded with boats as it was for the Kumbh Mela ceremonies.

     The police guard, by using boats, had a section of the river roped off.  Two planes flew over dropping flowers and petals and then the funeral boats started out.

     Our boatman thought it would be better to the other side or from the Jumna River to the Ganges.  We were about to go home when a Saddhu stopped us.  He belonged to a religious sect whose members wear orange colored robes.  Part of the sect (men only) wear nothing at all.  The Saddhu wanted to give us a blessing.  In his boat he had a display of dolls, holy flowers and a temple.

     He asked us if we would like the one-rupee, the two-rupee or the five rupee blessing.  Having no idea what a good Westerner should do, we said the one-rupee blessing would be fine.  We washed our hands in the holy water (Ganges River).  He then gave us some flower petals to toss into the river, and we repeated a few words after him, paid the rupee and then accepted the final blessing as he placed a peacock feather on our heads.

     Now, as if that were not enough, there came people trying to sell milk to be poured into the river.  This we did not do.  We thought our day was blessed enough.  All the conversation was in Hindi.

     Everyone who goes to the river feels it is his duty to put something of great value into the river.  With cows being one of the most holy things here, putting milk in the river is one of the most common things to do.  We headed back up the Jumna where we got the boat.  We asked the boatman if we could row.  He agreed and we rowed part of the way back.  He sat there as if he were king of the river.  Not many times in the history of India has an Indian sat thus while Westerners did the work.  On this day there were more than 1 ½ million people in the Sangram River area. 


PEACE CORPS  Visiting The Farmers  PART VIII

     In the last two weeks of February 1966, my co-worker for Ludhania, the officer in charge and I made a final trip to Ludhania to select the farmers who would receive the tractor placements for our project.  The Ludhania district is the most progressive of all of India.  Nearly one third of all the tractors in India are within 50 miles of the city of Ludhania.

     Punjab state in northern India has set up four new campuses and one of these is at Ludhania.  The Punjab Agricultural University has a cooperative exchange program with Ohio State University.  It is now getting ready to graduate its first class.

     With that as a background I will tell about the trip and several of the things we did or saw.  I found that in going into this area I had to be quite careful of how I said things or in what manner suggestions were made to the farmers.  This was a progressive region and I wanted to take ever advantage to learn about the local farming methods.  Before we found out these things it seemed well not to talk too much about them to the farmers and thus be caught in seeming ignorance.  My Indian co-worker is a college graduate but has had no farm experience.  After the third or fourth day I began to have a good idea of how the farming shaped up.  By then I could pass along the ideas of the things I had seen and occasionally inject a new one.

     But the Indian farmers, knowing that I am an America, assume that I must know everything or I would not be there.  Many ask me what college I graduated from.  The easy answer was to say I did not attend college (though I did take night classes at the University of Alaska while there in the Air Force).  This seemed harder to explain than just saying I have not been to college.  The best answer seemed to be that I came from a large farm.

     One farmer we talked with seemed rather unusual.  He had been in East Africa on a 700-acre plantation with his brother.  But, being the oldest son, his father had asked him to come back to India to take over the farm.  He was fluent in English and talked freely with me.  The Indian farm was of 60 acres and was tilled by 25 HP tractor of Indian make.  With this farmer I could ask many questions that I could not get across in Hindi or by using my co-worker as an interpreter.

     Several of the farmers where we visited knew English.  This made the trip quite interesting.  Here at Allahabad, few of the farmers speak any English.

     The most common tractor in India is the Massey-Ferguson.  It is made by using about 60% Indian parts.  They hope to make the complete tractor here in a few years.  The Russians have brought in a 14 HP and a 52 HP tractor.  There are three or four more four-wheeled tractors starting to be made here in the 19-45 HP class.  Last year Massey-Ferguson made slightly over 3,000 tractors here.  This was 60% of all the tractors made and sold in India.  That is a smaller number in comparison to the 80 million farms in India.  The Massey-Ferguson dealer in Ludhania has a waiting list of nearly two years for delivery.


PEACE CORPS, Dinner With a Muslim Family  Part I

     In February our cook invited the three of us to his home for dinner.  The holiday was nearly the same for Moslems as Christmas is for Christians.  It seemed to be a great honor for any Indian family to have Westerners in their homes and this feeling spread over the village.

     The three of us went to the village just at dusk and were directed to our cook’s home by nearly everyone who saw us coming.  The sons took our bicycles and we went in for dinner.  We ate by ourselves with the whole family looking on.  We sat in a small open area maybe eight feet square with a stairway on one side leading to the roof.  The lights were two lanterns, a full moon and starlight.

     We had a fine meal and ate it Indian style, meaning eating with your fingers by placing the chapatti (Indian flat bread) on what you were going to eat.  Desserts are usually two kinds of sweet rice, both very good, and we had both.

     As a Western way of saying thanks we asked the family over to our home for dinner.  The return dinner, about 3 weeks later was more Indian than the first.  The cook said his family would be over the next night and that was that.  We told him to make the meal the way he wanted it.  He said he would have beef curry and sweet rice again.

     The cook and his family are Moslem so the women wear barka—that is the outer dress and it is removed when not in public.  It is worn over the head with the part over the face made with a flap that can be turned up or down and can be seen through when down.  The berka are black and go all the way to the ground.  The mother and the two oldest girls wore berka and the youngest girl did not.  She will start wearing one in a year or so.  Other family members who came were two sons, the husband of the oldest girl and the cook’s nephew.  The oldest girl had an eleven-month old son.

     When the meal was ready to serve, we all sat around in a circle on the living room floor and ate. The food was good but the conversation lagged because of the language difficulty.  With some help from the cook, who speaks some English, we had a pleasant evening.

     As the evening came to a close we were asked to come to the haircutting of the first grandson.  This is a big day for a family.  The haircutting is really a shave.  We attended and had a very good meal.  I think we must have had a taste of all the food that was there.  Some of it was quite hot in flavor but still good.

     Before we ate, we were taken out to where the children were to eat.  There were 8 or 9 tables set in a U shape.  The tables were four feet by six feet and about sixteen inches high.  The children sat on these and had their legs crossed.

     We sat in the open end of the U to see the children.  Also here was the water drum and the basket of chapatis and, of course, the several types of meat kettles.

     We were then taken to the main house where a table and plates were set up and we had our meal.  Most of the family came by and thanked us for coming.  Then we thought it best to leave.

     When we first arrived at the village we were taken to the place where the chapatis were being made.  This was a room with a fire pit (hole) about fifteen inches across at the top and was much larger below.  The chapatis were about a foot across and nearly one inch thick.  They are round.  They are baked by pressing them with a flat stone on the side of the fire pit and then picked off with tongs and piled in the corners to keep them warm by the fire pit.


PEACE CORPS          Village Industry           PART IX

     This is a story of what it is like to be a Westerner in a small Indian village.  While we were primarily interested in selecting farmers for our project, we were also interested in some small industry that might make some equipment we would wish to purchase for use with our tractors.

     We stopped our jeep in the street a few yards from International Machines Ltd., Jeragoon, Punjab state.  There were three men outside pounding out some steel brackets.  Inside there were a couple of men working drills and grinders and two more were in a back corner working the forge.

     All this was taking place in a building about ten feet wide and twenty to twenty-five feet long.  So many parts in the process of manufacture were scattered on the dirt floor that we could not walk through it.  As we entered, the owner reached up and shut off all the electric power from the master switch.  This stopped the noise so we could talk.

     We told him what we were looking for and why.  By this time his brother, who had another shop nearby, came around to see what we wanted.  They were enthusiastic about our selection of their shops and invited us to see their tools.  This stop makes a thresher and a small bullock disk.  The brother’s shop made a maize (corn) sheller and several types of irrigation tools.

     While in the first shop we went back to the store room and looked over the thresher, asked what was its cost and what it should do in an hour and how much horsepower it took to run it.  One of the brothers said they were making some changes in it so it would clean the wheat better.  He explained how it would be done.  I asked why they thought the change was necessary.  He answered that farmers complained about the wheat being too dirty.  Then I asked what would be next year’s change.  They thought a bagging attachment would be a big thing.  Now the grain is caught from the thresher in a basket.

     As we were leaving the storehouse they said that tea was ready.  The three of us, my co-worker, an engineer at the University of Ludhania and I had tea.  We had a small table about 18 inches square and three chairs.  These were placed between the grinders and left so little room, nobody could get through.  Outside we could see people who had gathered to see what was going on.  They were mostly children—some 50 or 75.

     After the tea we went over to the other shop to see its products.  The corn sheller is made of a 55-gallon drum with wooden paddles inside.  The grain falls out the bottom and a fan blows air to clean it.  All of this equipment works.  Both of the brothers are just village blacksmiths, with no schooling except at the village level.

     I was much impressed with these men for they are the people who will get the food production going at a faster rate even though they do not till the land.  The implements must work or they do not make a living. 


     The account as recorded in THE PORTLAND OBSERVER with dates as shown.

March 11, 1879.  A horrible and outrageous murder was perpetrated in Sebewa last Friday by a friend in human shape named McElroy, upon an old man named Henry Snyder.

     Snyder wanted to get possession of his property on which McElroy was living, after Snyder had purchased it at a mortgage foreclosure sale a year previously.

     Snyder went to the house with notice to quit the property accompanied by his son, Joseph Snyder, Dan Fender and J. H. Kimball. Before the last man had got to the door and before the notice had been read, McElroy stepped into another room, returned and fired a charge of buckshot into Snyder’s groin.

     McElroy was caught after a chase to Ionia.

March 18, 1879.  On Sunday, before or after service at the church, a man named Elliot announced on the outside that all friends of Snyder, deceased, were requested to meet at Horn’s corners, the next morning.  Early Monday morning, a large crowd was gathered at the place named, who chose the following committee to confer with Cook, McElroy’s son-in-law, and tell him “to git” viz:  Elliot, Josh Henry, James Chambers, James Layard and James Gray.

     Horn’s corners is on the county line, at the corners of Barry and Eaton counties and the McElroy house is about 60 rods north, on the Sebewa side of the road.

     This committee waited on Cook, told him he must leave and asked how much time he wanted to get his property away.  He said three days.  Committee said no.  He asked for one day.  They went back to consult, and returning, said he could have just one hour and they would help remove the things.  All hands commenced removing the contents of the house, and placing them in the field on the Odessa side of the road.

     In about half an hour the mob numbering 115 persons, besides several lookers-on, who took no active part, came on, after the manner, we suppose, of mobs in general, whose ardor in the face of such foes as defenceless women and children have found shelter at the Eagle Hotel kept by H. W. Jackson for the present.

     Tuesday morning constable Covert and Cook went to Sebewa.  Covert was warned that it was not safe to keep Cook there, but replied that he proposed to stay and keep Cook with him until the property was secured.

     No one would give Cook shelter, those who would have been willing, not daring to do so; so both Covert and Cook slept outdoors with the goods.   The next day the goods were distributed among four of the neighbors—Samuel Swinehard’s, Dan Martin’s and J. Chamber’s barns and Deitrich’s store, no person daring to run the risk of having their buildings burned by storing all of the goods.

     Covert and Cook started on Wednesday on their return driving 13 head of cattle belonging to Cook which were left at James Humphrey’s, about 8 miles south of Ionia where they stayed all night, arriving here about noon yesterday.

     There have been some threats that the mob would take McElroy from the jail, and Mr. Covert was told that a party would seize him when he was taken out for examination.  Mr. Covert gave the people there some good advice, to the effect that no one who was not willing to be made cold meat of should consent to be one of the party.  There seems to be no general apprehension of any attempt of this kind.  The distance is too great and the roads are too muddy, and their sober second thoughts have had time to exert their beneficial influences.

     McElroy’s account of the shooting differs from the other side only in the somewhat essential feature that when Snyder had backed nearly out of the room, he suddenly sprang forward and grasped the gun and that in the struggle for its possession it accidentally went off.  We understand that this statement is corroborated by Alvin Cook, his son-in-law, with whom he lived and who claimed to have witnessed the whole affair.  It does not seem to receive general credence, however.

MARCH 15, 1879.   The examination of McElroy, the Sebewa murderer is in progress before justice Spencer.  Owing to the large crowd of excited neighbors present the first day, the court was adjourned to Fireman’s Hall, and extra precautions taken to prevent any violence, the prisoner being escorted to and from the hall by a strong guard of officers.  No demonstration was made, however, though if revengeful eyes were basalisks, he would have been struck dead a hundred times.  The only witnesses sworn thus far have been for the people.  The defence will open their side of the case today.

     Comment from correspondent “Mohawk” of Sebewa Corners—Great indignation is felt here towards McElroy, the murderer of Henry Snyder, and hope is freely expressed that Ionia County will of once, punish a murderer according to his deserts.

APRIL 9, 1879.  Friday afternoon witnessed another rather noisy demonstration from parties interested against McElroy & Co., but with driving around the square with a “threatening air”, annoying the jailer and family, and disturbing quiet citizens who wanted to be about their own business, the mob vented their excitement and went off in fairly good order.

APRIL 16, 1879.     The Ionia Standard says that fourteen citizens of Sebewa who were arrested for complicity in the McElroy affair, went to that city on the day appointed for their examination in a procession of about a dozen teams, and created considerable excitement for a little time by their braggadocio action in driving around the public square, and hooting at McElroy, who is confined in Ionia.

APRIL 23, 1879.  The examination of the Sebewa and Odessa rioters has been set for May 19th, before Justice Spencer of Ionia.

MAY 15, 1879.   The McElroy murder case was opened Tuesday morning with a large number of witnesses on each side, and will be a very interesting case.  Sixty extra jurors were called before a jury could be found ignorant enough to try the case.

MAY 21, 1879.  McElroy jury could not agree—9 for acquittal; 3 for conviction.  The jury in the McElroy case, came out nine for acquittal and three for conviction.  The fact that many of the most important witnesses had a hand in the mobbing affair after the murder had a strong influence against their testimony.  It has been a luck thing for the defense that the trial of the riotors did not come off first.

JUNE 11, 1879.   Ionia.  We noticed Mr. McElroy a few days since asking in the sunshine at the open door of the Ionia county barn, adjacent to said county’s (so-called) jail, instead of being in a cell without windows boarded, and of course, Mr. McElroy was afraid to be in a cell without windows boarded, and of course, he is so “awful ‘fraid” now that he wouldn’t run away if all the dogs in Ionia were at his heels, and he on the open street at “pitch dark midnight” with nobody in sight or hearing.  Of course he won’t “escape”; he can’t anyway, but—surprising—if he should, wouldn’t it be a good thing to save the county more expense, and that was the fade of the McElroy story in the newspaper reports.

  From THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Robert W. Gierman, Editor, R 1, Portland, Michigan  48875     


Last update March 15, 2013