Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 32 Number 6
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 Association,
JUNE 1997, Volume 32, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of Grayden D. SLOWINS, Editor:


JACK S. SMITH, husband of Dorothy, father of Jacqueline CARR, Raymond & Phillip SMITH, brother of Robert E. SMITH & Mary Jane HUXTABLE. He was a farmer, elevator employee, agriculture teacher, Sunfield Township Treasurer, then Supervisor.


School districts were originally designed to be the lowest units of government in Michigan and the Northwest Territory. A congressional township was 36 square miles and could be evenly divided into 9 statutory school districts of 4 square miles each. Thus no child would have to walk more than two miles to school. This did not always work out, due to irregularities of geography or other reasons.

Sebewa was never quite that way from the start, due to patterns of settlement and the government land which needed to be drained before it could be farmed. In 1875, ten school districts were located all or part in Sebewa Township. Some were more than 4 square miles, and the fractional districts shared from another township were less. BIPPLEY was a fractional district lapping over from Odessa on the west. KNOX was located in Portland Township, with fractions in Orange, Danby & Sebewa. PIERCE was fractional lapping over from Orange just west of KNOX. Actually HIGH & HALLADAY were fractional too, lapping out of Sebewa into Danby.

Reading left to right and top to bottom on the attached map, the ten school districts were: West Sebewa, TRAVIS, PIERCE, KNOX or BIPPLEY, Sebewa Center, Sebewa HIGH, BALDWIN, CARPENTER, HALLADAY.

By 1891, BIPPLEY school district no longer came into Sebewa from Odessa, and BALDWIN & CARPENTER districts had disappeared. They were replaced by JOHNSON, GODDARD & BISHOP, so there were still ten school districts in Sebewa Township.

The fate of these buildings is as follows:
West Sebewa – a home
TRAVIS – falling down
PIERCE – fell down
KNOX – was a home, later burned
BIPPLEY – was a home, now gone
Sebewa Center – community center
Sebewa HIGH – a home
BALDWIN – gone
CARPENTER – was a granary, now gone
HALLADAY – a home
JOHNSON – a home
GODDARD – a home
BISHOP – was a corncrib, now gone.

In 1997, about one-third of the township is in Portland School District and two-thirds in Lakewood School District.


A good time to start the shepherd’s year is September 1st. All Spring lambs should be weaned by or before this date, sheared, and placed in the feedlot to finish for market or later breeding selection. All mature ewes should be dried off on dry pasture or hay for a couple weeks, then advanced to better pasture, with grain added the last three weeks before breeding and first two weeks during breeding. One-half pound per head per day of a corn & oats mixture is sufficient for this period of stimulation, which is called “flushing”. Grain the rams too……

The market lambs are started off in the feedlot with medium quality alfalfa hay & plenty of fresh water…..

Rams should be placed with groups of about 30-40 ewes at breeding time. November 7 is the breeding date to get new lambs April 1…….

Be ready for that first lamb the last few days of March……

Let the new family eat, drink, rest, dry, and get acquainted, before you attempt any assistance with suckling……

Put in ear tags before turning out of the maternity pen…..

When all have lambed, the flock can be turned into the yard, and when the pasture is several inches high, usually the second week in May, they will be ready to go……

Our ancestors in Switzerland and the shepherds in New Zealand today do not feed wheat, because they are not in grain-growing areas. They pasture sheep in the mountains in summer and bring them to the valleys in winter. This style of sheep-raising also produces good lambs, but on grass alone.

This set of instructions is prompted by the fact that after 65 years of Shepherding, arthritis and degenerative joint disease and rapid muscle deterioration are forcing our retirement. We have simply worn the old body out handling all those bales of hay all these years. We have also given up the care of the Sebewa Township Cemeteries, but will continue as Township Clerk & Editor of The RECOLLECTOR. Hopefully the proper medications in the properly regulated dosage, plus physical therapy, and minus the activities which aggravate the condition, will allow us some relief.

We were ordered to quit in April, during lambing, when the excruciating pain & swelling caused almost total shut-down of body movement. But we persevered and will send the ewes to a good home in September, with a young family we trained as shepherds, where we can visit them.

We close with a story about our good friend and mentor, the late Edwin NASH. One day a woman from a public health organization came to the Board of Commissioners and urged them to fund a new program to educate the public about better health maintenance. She told of a farmer who came to the Emergency Room with parts of three fingers cut off in a corn head. The doctors sewed and bandaged him and sent him home that same afternoon. A few hours later the nurse purposely passed his farm on her way home from work, to see how he was doing. To her horror, he was back in the cab of the combine. She jumped out and reprimanded him: “You could get infection in that hand from all the dust, and besides you are still in shock from the trauma and could have another accident! Let somebody else do it.”

He replied “Lady, there are 100 cows in that barn and if I don’t pick it, they don’t get to eat it. And it’s up to me, there ain’t nobody else”.

The public nurse said “Doesn’t that show these farmers need educating about taking care of themselves?”

In his quiet, dry way, Ed NASH said “He__ no, it just shows the public needs educating about what it means to be a farmer!”

HAZEL BROS. FARM DRAINAGE: Founded in May, 1885, by George HAZEL, who dug a ditch around the Village of Bonanza. In May, 1996, his great-great-granddaughter joined the crew. We predicted then that she would soon be driving that big Laser-guided STEIGER tile plow. This spring she has been seen doing just that. Good for her! You go girl!


CHARLES M. RALSTON, a well-known and progressive farmer of Sebewa Township, Ionia County, and one of the directors of the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Ionia County, is a native of Ohio, but has lived in this county since he was a babe in arms and may almost lay claim, therefore, to life-long residence in his county.

He was born on a farm in Seneca County, Ohio, February 25, 1867, son of Andrew M. and Catherine SPITLER RALSTON, who later became well-known residents of this county.

Andrew M. RALSTON was born April 3, 1830, in Brook County, Virginia, the fourth in a family of ten children, having two brothers and seven sisters, and moved to Holmes Country, Ohio, then Seneca County, when a boy with his parents, Daniel and Elizabeth PARKS RALSTON. He grew up in Seneca County, then they moved to Wyandotte County, where Daniel RALSTON died in 1867. His widow is still living there in 1916. Andrew RALSTON, at the age of twenty-one, began cutting wood on contract, and for two years worked also at the carpenter’s trade. In the spring of 1854 he came to Michigan and married Ann M. CRAPO, niece of former Governor CRAPO, and settled in Sebewa Township, this county, after marriage. To that union two children were born, of whom one is now living, Gideon D. RALSTON, of Six Lakes, and Florence A. Upon the death of his first wife, Andrew M. RALSTON returned to his old home in Seneca County, Ohio, and there he married Catherine SPITLER. He and his wife remained in Seneca County for about four years after their marriage and then came to Michigan. Mr. RALSTON resumed his farming operations in Sebewa Township, this county. When he purchased this place, it had about twelve acres cleared, and a small log cabin. He became one of the most substantial farmers in that neighborhood and served the public for some time in the capacity of Supervisor and then Treasurer of the Township.

They were members of the Presbyterian Church in Sebewa. Andrew M. RALSTON died on January 21, 1897, and his widow survived a little more than fifteen years, her death occurring on February 28, 1912. They were the parents of three children, of whom the subject of this sketch is the eldest, the others being Joseph G., a well-known farmer of Sebewa Township, and Walter E., of Cement City, this state.

Charles M. RALSTON was but one year old when his parents established their home in this county and he grew up on the home farm in Sebewa Township, receiving his education in the schools in that neighborhood. He was carefully trained as a farmer and has followed that vocation all his life, now farming one hundred and seventy-five acres.

On June 20, 1894, Charles M. RALSTON was united in marriage to Harriet OLRY, who was born on a farm adjoining the RALSTON place, March 9, 1873, daughter of John C. and Lora KELLY OLRY, and who received her education in the schools of Portland, graduating from the high school in that place. After his marriage, Mr. RALSTON established his home on the farm where he now lives and ever since has made his home there. His wife died on June 25, 1914.

Mr. RALSTON is a Republican and has for years taken an active part in local political affairs, having served as delegate to county and state conventions of his party. He for years has taken a prominent part in the Grange and is past master of the Grange at Sebewa and of the county Grange. He is a progressive and enterprising citizen and is one of the directors of the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, Incorporated, the officers of which concern are as follows: President, Frederick PITT; Vice-President, George JORDAN; Secretary, J. L. FOWLER; and directors, William H. MADISON, Peter KOHN, Albert DELZELL, Charles M. RALSTON, and Nathan GOULD.

Mrs. RALSTON was a member of the Grange, and for ten years was lecturer of the county Grange. She was highly esteemed and her death was mourned by all who knew her. Her remains were interred in Lakeside Cemetery, Lake Odessa.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Harriet OLRY RALSTON grew up on the farm where we have lived for the past forty years. Charles M. RALSTON grew up on the farm across the road, long owned by Bert & Lilah TOWNER and recently purchased by Ron & Vivian PATRICK. After their marriage, Charles & Harriet (Hattie) RALSTON lived on the next farm west, later owned by niece Ruby & Bill WEKENMAN. When Harriet became an invalid, they moved here with her parents, Glen & Fern OLRY.


This story was told to my mother by the wife of an old couple who ran the Ben Franklin store in Portland back in the late 30s-early 40s. The story is about that woman’s mother, who had been born in an eastern state. One mid-night when she was about eight years old, she and her six-year-old sister were awakened by their father and told to each put all their personal belongings in a pillow case, bring a blanket, and get into the buggy tied out front. “Mother has left us and we are going to Michigan Territory. We will never speak of her again.”

Many years later a traveler came thru from her childhood hometown. When she told her story the traveler said “Your mother didn’t abandon you that night; she died in childbirth!”

ANNUAL MEETING: Monday, May 26, Memorial Day, pot luck supper at 6:00. Bring table service and a dish to pass, beverages provided. Business meeting 7:00 PM, elect Vice President.

Bill DAVIS will speak briefly about the 17 boxes of books, papers, maps, deeds, school inspector reports, etc., from the Robert Wilfred GIERMAN estate and what to do with them. Program at 7:45 by Tom HUGGLER, free-lance writer, photographer, Sebewa resident east of Sunshine. His articles appear in Outdoor Life and similar publications. He will show slides of his recent Siberian grouse-hunting trip 300 miles northeast of Moscow.



Last update November 15, 2013