Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 31 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 1996, Volume 31, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. SLOWINS:



EDLA SEARS BROWN, 81, widow of A. H. BROWN, mother of Christine, Harold, and Richard BROWN, sister of Frances, Verle, Wallace and Arlene SEARS, daughter of Edna & Roy SEARS, son of Wilmont & Anna Jane HALLADAY SEARS, daughter of Rosabella GATES and Abel C. HALLADAY, son of David & Nancy CARPENTER HALLADAY. Rosabella GATES was daughter of Ezra GATES & Elizabeth INGALLS GATES, daughter of Jonathan INGALLS, Sebewa’s soldier of the Revolution.

JOHN C. DICKINSON, 76, husband of Ramona CRANDALL DICKINSON, father of Roselyn MEYERS, Sharon PURDY, Linda, Lyle, Thomas & James DICKINSON, brother of the late Ray DICKINSON, Ruby FERRIS, Gladys TITUS, Charlotte DRAPER & Ida Mae LEETH, son of Frank & Rosa KELLEY DICKINSON. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corps, worked at A. C. Spark Plug, served in the U. S. Army Air Corps in WWII, farmed in Sebewa, owned & operated FELL’S Motel, worked at FULLER’s Furniture and at real estate sales, was Sebewa Township Trustee and on Berlin-Orange Fire Board.

MILDRED L. CROSBY, 97, widow of George, mother of Nancy Lehman, daughter of Charles & Nora Ann TOLE LOTT. She farmed in Sebewa, retired at Fort Myers, Florida.

JON R. WARREN, 53, husband of Cheryll GIERMAN WARREN, father of Matthew & Michael WARREN, brother of Eleanor BARBER & Julie PACKEY, son of George & Beulah INCH WARREN. He resided most of his life in Ovid, served in the U. S. Air Force, and was an attorney in Genesse County. He received the Genesse County’s Attorneys’ Civility Award.

CLARICE LUCILLE SCHWAB SHOWERMAN CLINE, 81, wife of Richard R. CLINE, widow of Robert E. SHOWERMAN, mother of Louise HILL, Ralph, Joyce, Robert and the late John SHOWERMAN, sister of Rose Ella HUBBEL, Sarah Jane JANE, and the late Francis and Garland SCHWAB, daughter of Mylo & Armeda OAKS SCHWAB. She was a rural teacher, bookkeeper at All-In-One Feeds and Portland Co-op Elevator.

ORRIN CHARLES AUSTIN, 79, husband of Elaine, father of Phillip and Rodger AUSTIN and Delores WOODEN, brother of Lura PROCTER and late Wayne AUSTIN, son of Orrin & Marilla NEWMAN AUSTIN. He was retired from General Motors.

HARRIET A. EVANS, 90, wife of Herbert, mother of Janey CARTER, Harold and Ronal EVANS, sister of Alta LYNCH and Nellie WOODCOCK, daughter of Glen & Nellie POTTER NICHOLSON.

FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF IONIA (with front page photo):

Organized February 24, 1864, this bank reorganized as the State Savings Bank of Ionia in December, 1896. It was originally located west of CORNELL Alley on the north side of the middle block of Main Street. In 1904 the State Savings Bank absorbed the Ionia County Savings Bank, which was located in the building shown above on the northeast corner of Main and Depot Streets, and that became a branch. In 1905 the Wellington C. PAGE private bank was absorbed. During the 1920s the main office and the branch were combined in the above location. In 1952 the building was completely remodeled and the name changed to First Security Bank. In the 1970s it became Independent Bank Corporation. See April 1992 issue for the history of the Webber Brothers Bank, which we now know as Ionia County National Bank, but which was really Second National Bank.

IONIA IN 1897 – 1898 by Ralph BENEDICT:

My father built a house on Lincoln Avenue at the head of Cyrus Street. He was a mail carrier who had started when city delivery first came to Ionia. He worked at that for 32 years. I was born there in 1893. One of my first memories is of a dark evening in October, 1897, when the fire whistle blew. I could hear it plainly, although it was a mile away on Jackson Street (at the Pere Marquette car shops). I went out to look and there it was, a red glow in the sky that got bigger and bigger and finally started to die down. Father came home late for supper. He had been at the fire, which was at the flour mill on the corner of Main and Dexter.

The mill was (originally) powered by water from West Creek, which came from across Lincoln, ran under the brewery, and then into a pipe that surfaced again beyond the railroad tracks. There was a drain hole in the brewery floor and a tap where water could be drawn to fill the sprinkler tank wagon. This creek was to make headlines about 10 years later when the county went dry and the brewery has some unsold beer that the government impounded.

One July day they came to destroy the beer by dumping it into the creek through a hole in the floor. At that moment the sprinkler man began to fill his tank – not knowing that he had a cargo of watered beer – and started to sprinkle with it. This strange fact was duly noted in the local paper and it came to the attention of the national wire service, which let the rest of the country know that Ionia was the only town in the nation that sprinkled the streets with beer.

Now we came to 1898. I was 5 years old and two things happened. The first was that I got to see the departure of the men going to the Spanish-American War. The second was that I had to go out and start battling the establishment, in this case the school system. This I opposed to no avail. The base of operations of the establishment was on Union hill. The high school sat at the corner of Lincoln and Union, with the grade school on a slight elevation 150 feet south. It was three stories high with two cupolas on top and a two-story wing to the north. Between them a one-story building served all sanitary needs. A fence from this building to the grade school kept the boys’ and girls’ playgrounds separated. Piles of three-foot wood stood waiting for the furnace. Nearby was the janitor’s house with a bell tower where he rang the bell to start school. His name was SISSON. The kindergarten was in the basement of the north wing, which was to be my home-away-from-home for the next year. I spent nine years in that building and had ample time to improve my knowledge of Ionia by talking with people to hear what they said and did, and to see other things that the whole town was engaged in.

The corner of Main and Jackson could be considered a suburb of the business district, which was two long blocks away down Main Street. About 1902 the wood block pavement was taken up, and a mile and a half of brick pavement was laid on Main Street, which was a vast improvement.

The business district on the south side of Main started at HUDSON Street with the Methodist Church and its clock tower and steeple. Down HUDSON Street and across the first tracks was the Grand Trunk station. Across from it was the railroad water tank standing beside the pottery buildings.

Facing the street was the gas plant, which was soon torn down, as it was too small and a much bigger one had been erected on STEELE Street. Across the tracks on the (northwest) corner of HUDSON and ADAMS – then called Front Street – stood the HUDSON House Hotel. That is now a parking lot. Up the street on the corner Jim FANNING had a saloon, also known as the Methodist saloon, a name not popular in some areas. It was a two-story frame building that was moved up Main Street to Mill Street, where it became a grocery store for many years. This was done when the MORSE-BABCOCK law building was built in 1904. Next there was a small house on the land now the home of the telephone building. A motion picture theater named the Royal occupied one of the two stores in the next building. The other was a meat market with the usual sawdust on the floor.

Back of this building on KIDD Street, Alexander T. MONTGOMERY had a livery stable with horses and rigs for hire. It also housed three hacks of which one or two met each train. His brother Frank had another stable next door. Across the street stood the BAILEY House, a three-story (four actually) hotel with a bar and dining room. The Ionia Theatre occupies that site now. DONOVAN ran a candy store next door. ENGELMAN’S saloon was next and then a barber shop. The ground floor of the next building at BROAD Alley was the Post Office. Across the alley (on a lot owned by A. BROAD) was PECK & PECK stationary store, later WHIPPLE’S. Then SHUMWAY’S saloon, Charlie LAUSTER’S grocery market, and one more. The new WEBBER Block, rebuilt after the old one had burned about 1895, extended to the corner of Depot Street. The ground floor had WEBBER’S office, Herman VanALLEN Drugs – later Koss Drugs, Dr. Paul STAMSEN Sr.’s optical shop, and Ionia Hardware Co.

Around the corner beside the hardware store on the street, a small portable building housed a peanut and popcorn stand run by a man named WILKINSON. Behind this stand, two or three one-horse drays with a driver stood waiting for the business of anyone that needed some light hauling done. HICKS Bros.’ saloon completed this block before you came to the Pere Marquette depot on the corner. Across the street was a junk yard that was later moved to south JACKSON Street when the Ford garage was built. This is now a parking lot, too.

Up on the corner of Main was a jewelry store. Next door Charles BRADLEY had a furniture store which he operated along with an undertaking business. He was assisted by his oldest son Matt, who was learning the business, and by Joe BOYNTON. When Charlie died, these two continued the business until Matt got his license and Joe left to start his own funeral business. (Later FULLER’S Furniture & Rugs started in this location.) Next came the Wellington C. PAGE Coal Co. and their private bank specializing in money drafts to the old country. RECTOR’S Bakery was next and beyond him Bay COMSTOCK’S saloon, later replaced by Mike AGOSTINI’S new Confectionery. The SILVER and GRAFF block butted on CORNELL Alley. It was a two-story building, home of Nathan SILVER’S clothing store and a drug store.

Across the alley (where Dr. Alanson CORNELL opened his practice & drugstore in 1838) stood BATSON’S restaurant. This fell to the wreckers and a new building was put up, occupied by ALLEN Bros. Racket store and later by GAMBLES.

Next was another clothing store and then George GUNDRUM’S drug store – later McNAMARA Bros. Drugs. Beyond was J. E. BEATTIE shoe store, G. W. FRENCH Jewelry, and Tom BUCK men’s clothes, all in the three-store Geo. W. WEBBER block, which had been the birthplace of R. HUDSON & Son Clothiers – later the J. L. HUDSON Company of Detroit. West of these stores was a fairly large lot with a house set back from the street with an ornamental iron fence in front. It was the home of Dr. T. R. ALLEN, who kept a horse and buggy with driver which he used for his calls. The buildings there now are occupied by a variety store and TOWNSEND (JOHNSON) Drugs. Beyond this was Net SPAULDING’S Hardware, which became FATE’S Market and back to Ionia Hardware. A saloon which is now the Martha WASHINGTON finished out the block to the corner.

Down the street next to the railroad was an elevator and between the two railroads was the Pere Marquette freight house. Beyond this was the SOROSSIS Garment Factory (which moved from Lansing as the Michigan Overall Company). On the other side of the street stood the new gas plant. In one corner of this building 30” up is a stone that marks the high water of 1905. South of this a ways was the Capital Wagon Works (also moved from Lansing and later updated to HAYES Ionia Autobody Co.). Between the gas plant and the railroad, HALE built a flour mill, and between the railroads, opposite the freight house, was W. C. PAGE’S coal yard. Another elevator occupied the northwest corner of ADAMS and STEELE.

Up on the corner of Main was STEVENSON’S drygoods store. A grocery and meat market were next west, and then the LIVERTON building, in which there was a two-lane bowling alley. Later the alleys were moved to the basement and a lunch counter took their place on the first floor. A high board fence hid a vacant lot next door, which was later built upon for a garage and later it was the A & P store. Beyond this lot were five stores, the first being Coney Island and fifth a bakery. Years later the bakery became a theater and the site is now a parking lot next to the armory. The armory stands where the old DEXTER flour mill used to be when this story began.

South beside the railroad was SCHEIDT’S blacksmith shop and between the tracks was a lumber yard. Beyond this was HEARSEY’S planing mill. On the other side down by the river was the fairgrounds. Opposite the lumber yard a stockyard used to load cattle into freight cars. This land between the tracks was later to become the site of the REED furniture factory. On the corner of Main, Ted CALLOW built the CALLOW House Hotel about 1900. This had a succession of owners until the REED company, which had no more use for it, had it town down. It was later the site of a gas station. That completes the south side of Main Street.

The north side started with the Courthouse, Dr. DEFENDECKER’S house, and the Baptist church. Behind it on KIDD Street was the fire barn, which had a 40-foot tower on the back used to dry hose. This burned down and it is now the site of City Hall. On the corner was the Episcopal church. Across the street was a house and lot which became the site of the Post Office.

The PERRONE building occupies the site of another old theater. Stage shows would occasionally play here for a week at a time, with a different play every night. On the corner of Main was a two-store building, one of them being a Variety store. The other store was run by Charlie JACK, who sharpened lawn mowers, repaired bicycles, and had a stock of Edison cylinder records. He had a roller outfit out front which you could put your bike on and ride ten miles without moving ahead an inch. Next came the TOWER Block, then Henry VOELKER’S barber shop, where he employed three barbers besides himself. It had a tile floor and a cabinet that contained a number of his customers’ own private shaving mugs with brushes. He was assisted by a colored man named William PEARCE, who kept the floor clean, shined shoes, helped the customers on with their coats and brushed them off with a long whisk broom. He also took care of the bath house. At that time there were numerous single people who rented a room that contained just a bed, a chair, and a small dresser, with no bathing facilities except a pitcher & bowl. With the coming of the safety razor, Henry’s business declined. He closed up shop and went into the real estate and insurance business. He was succeeded in that business by Al SLOWINSKI upstairs in the WEBBER building and it is now part of the CARR Agency.

Next came a grocery store and another bakery. Beyond the alley was a three-story building with the Masonic Temple on the second and third floors. Downstairs Henry BOWERS operated a cigar stand and ice cream parlor. He made his own ice cream and it was the best you ever tasted. Out front on the pedestal with wheels on it stood a wooden Indian holding a bunch of wooden cigars in his hand. This was our favorite hang-out when we were downtown. Next door Pat WELCH ran a saloon. Beyond him was a poolroom and lunchroom, a grocery store, the electric office, and the State Bank on the corner. The electric store later became the home of the RACKET Store, owned by the ALLEN brothers and moved from the southwest corner of CORNELL Alley.

Back of the bank was the Sentinel printing plant, with George KUHTZ’S laundry between it and what is now the Plaza Hotel. Across the street was a two-story brick double building and a couple wooden ones used as a roller skating rink. On the corner was the National Bank. Its president was Herbert WEBBER. The last two years of my school days I was janitor at this bank for two dollars a week, which kept me in spending money. The next store was the gas office.

Next to this Mike AGOSTINI ran a fruit market. When local option closed Bay COMSTOCK’S saloon across the street, Mike bought the old building and replaced it with a new brick one that he occupied for forty years. Mike’s old building and the gas office were replaced by a two-story building that the ALLEN brothers moved their Racket Store into and turned it into a department store. This they operated for some years until J. C. PENNEY took it over.

Next door was the Family Theater operated by Mark MOORE. It was started with silent movies and a piano player in the pit, plus an occasional vaudeville act. Upstairs was the press room of the Daily Standard before the merger. A store called the Sugar Bowl was located where Corcoran’s west half is now, and John & Fred YOUNG’S hardware finished the block up to CORNELL Alley. The hardware store was the only store in town that did not have a ceiling. The ceiling joists had nails driven into them from which pots and other bulky articles were hung for sale. When a ladies dress shop took over this store years later, a ceiling had to be put in.

SMITH & SMITH Stationery (also wallpaper, paint & bulk chemicals) was on the other side of the alley. Back of it a one-story brick building housed a steam laundry. Next a row of nine buildings housed a jewelry store, clothing stores, the State Bank which was fifth from the alley, a furniture and undertaking parlor, and a harness shop. The store which G. W. FRENCH Music occupies today was the original home of Thomas A. CARTEN’S department store. It dealt in drygoods, rugs, carpets, and women’s ready-to-wear. It had been expanded into the store west of it, and an addition was built facing STEELE Street. John WAGNER’S clothing and Charles IRELAND’S Hardware finished the block. Further north up STEELE Street were two blacksmith shops and across from them Dr. BURGER, Veterinarian.

On the Main Street corner was Bert LAMPKIN’S Clothing store, later HILER & BAIRD and then just HILER’S. The Elks bought the three-story building next door and behind, for their temple, and remodeled the top two floors. Before the Elks bought this building, they held forth on the third floor of the WEBBER block. The first floor housed a pool room, later a restaurant, and finally HILER’S took it over as part of their store. The remaining stores consisted of a pool room, a restaurant, newsstand, a low building, a shoe store with cobbler shop in back, and Susey AGOSTINI’S block with a barber shop, his fruit stand, and a saloon.

Beyond DALLAS Alley was another saloon then MANSFIELD & HOAG feed store. They kept grain and hay which they sold to people in town who owned driving horses. Their main business was putting up ice on Prairie Creek pond, which they peddled to homes during the summer. The coming of electric refrigerators made their ice business obsolete. The automobile did the same for their hay trade. Their place of business became a garage (later Orson E. COE garage) and the first gas pump I ever saw was there. A few more stores and a vacant lot finished up the block. Up Dexter Street was the American Hotel, now the Ionia Hotel, mostly a rooming house.

Some of the buildings show little change in appearance. The stone ornamental window caps and tin cornice at the roof line look the same as when they were build. Usually only the ground floor has had a face lift. (Editor’s note: Ralph wrote this about 1976, when he was in his 80s. He may have a few stores out of order and they may not all have been there at the same time. But he had a terrific memory! If anyone knows if or how Ralph BENEDICT, or Helen BENEDICT in the story that follows, was related to any of the many BENEDICTS in the Ionia & Portland area, past or present, please write.) END

ANOTHER BENEDICT: My mother, Helen Frances BENEDICT, was born November 29, 1883, on the farm across from Portland Municipal Dam. There were two or more houses on the farm, and the one she was born in at the top of the hill has been torn down. My grandfather was George M. BENEDICT and he sold the land to Portland where the dam was built. She attended GIBBS School on Peck Lake Road and graduated from Portland High School June 19, 1902. After high school she taught three years, 1902-1905, at the GIBBS School. The railroad ran along side the school and the trainmen would wave at the children as they went by. My father, Peter David HEMINOVER, worked for the railroad, thus they met, and were married in October 1905.

Frances CHURCHILL REYNOLDS and Helen CHURCHILL SHAEFER were Mother’s age and Nettie Jane PHELPS a little younger. Mother was a Suffragette in the march down Woodard Avenue about 1920, and served on a jury just before her death on March 10, 1932. She had an older brother, Dale BENEDICT, and a younger brother, Don M. BENEDICT. Her mother, Junia BERNARD BENEDICT (born in North Plains) preceded her in death February 14, 1932. In 1938 my father and I moved from the farm to the house Mother had inherited in Portland, until his death in December, 1944. Enclosed is a photo of Mother and her students. Signed: Marijune HEMINOVER SNYDER, P.O. Box 697, Overgaard, AZ. (Photo shows students and teacher of GIBBS School, 1902-1905).


My Thanksgiving celebration was tempered by a long pause for honest reflection. So many of us blandly remark that this holiday offers us an opportunity to ‘count our blessings’.

I noted all the items on my usual list – good health, good friends, a loving family, a job I enjoy. But this year was different because of the loss of someone who touched what a famous poet once referred to as my “gypsy soul”.

I am truly blessed to have known the Sage of Sebewa, Robert Wilfred GIERMAN. Has a more gentle, unassuming man ever walked this Earth? Not in my lifetime.I met Robert in the roundabout way I’ve come to know many fine folks. Someone mentioned his name in connection with an event I might find interesting and, after a couple of telephone calls, I found myself standing on his doorstep. He greeted me by saying “So you found me”. Two hours later, I left with the impression Robert was a treasure well worth the hunt.

Ginkgo trees brought us together that summer of 1993. He was deeply distressed over the cutting of a female tree planted next to the Portland Congregational Church in 1910. These trees were regularly imported from China by turn-of-the-century missionaries – a fact which lead the species to be nicknamed Missionary Trees.

He felt the tree was significant for both historical and horticultural reasons. With assistance from Elin and Harry DOEHNE of The Michigan Wildflower Farm, Robert hoped to cultivate new plants from root, leaflet, and branch cuttings. These Missionary’s daughters would actually have been genetic clones of the parent tree since Ginkgoes reproduce sexually. Unfortunately, none of the cuttings survived.

What did take root was a growing affection for this soft-spoken man. My persistent inquiries concerning the progress of his Ginkgo project earned an invitation to Sunshine Forest.

On a late September afternoon filled with all charismatic color of autumn in Michigan, we strolled through Sunshine together. Robert created his woodland park from a stony, 20 acre field his father had insisted was “good for nothing but sunshine”.

In a sense, he was right. All that sensational sun nourished thousands of light-hungry spruce, pine, and maple saplings planted by Robert over the course of 40 years. Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, we talked of many things as we toured his forest. He shared his unique understanding of the secrets hidden in rocks and minerals, seeking out certain stones in the old abandoned gravel pit to illustrate his thoughts. He whispered the story of a turtle that laid its eggs deep in the earth of the path we walked, coming up each year from a spring which slips and slides along his property to feed Sebewa Creek. He led me to the foot of a huge wild cherry tree shaped like a monstrous tuning fork, looming in stark contrast to the soldier-straight pines he planted with consummate care. He hinted at his passionate attention to the history of his township through the creation and loving stewardship of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR.

There are too few instances in life where a spell is cast and time stands still to reveal the continuity of creation with a crystalline clarity. My afternoon with Robert was the stuff of myth and magic. I wrote about my experience at Sunshine Forest in a column on caretakers of local woodlands. Please indulge this repetition.“In my mind, God’s first and best cathedrals are forests. Sunlight streams through this woodland’s lush, living canopy with the same intensity and radiance of rays through a church window. Filtered by fine needles, beams illuminate selected spots, dividing dense darkness with glimpses of divine light.”

I was touched by that light and by the bright spark of Robert GIERMAN’S soul. He was the spirit of this forest and will rest in its embrace for time everlasting. His good friend Bill DAVIS will scatter Robert’s ashes among the silent sentinels of that beloved landscape.

Sunshine Forest has new stewards, the people of Sebewa Township. It was his wish that the bountiful beauty of this place be shared with all who could appreciate its wonders.

I would like to walk that path again someday. In the murmur of Robert’s trees lies a chance to perhaps recapture the mystery of a single moment spent in grace and harmony – and the company of a fine and gentle man. (Photo of “Robert Wilfred GIERMAN holding a Ginkgo cutting”)

MEMORIALS: At the request of various persons, a Robert Wilfred GIERMAN Memorial Fund has been established for the maintenance of Sunshine Park. Donations may be sent to LaVern E. CARR, Sebewa Township Treasurer, 3098 E. BIPPLEY Road, Portland, MI 48875.

A MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR ROBERT WILFRED GIERMAN has been set for Saturday, May 18, 1996, 1:30 PM at the Rosier Funeral Home in Sunfield. People will then be invited to visit Sunshine Park and an informal committal service for his ashes will be conducted by William B. DAVIS. “Bob GIERMAN stories” will be welcome.

GOOD READING: Ask your librarian for THE STEADFAST HEART by Clarence Budington KELLAND. The story is fiction. The names of local people are mixed & matched. The descriptions of Portland (called RAINBOW) in the 1890s are strikingly accurate.



Last update November 15, 2013