Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 33 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 1998, Volume 33, Number 6. Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI.
Submitted with written permission of Grayden D. SLOWINS, Editor:


(Photo on front page of JOEL GUILD, Ionia and Grand Rapids Pioneer)


Louis Campau, the fur trader, is frequently thought of as the founder of Grand Rapids. In November of 1826 he built a temporary shelter among the Indians camped at the site of the future city. The following year he constructed a log cabin and trading post and soon brought his wife, Sophia, from Detroit. Indian trails led to and from this spot on the banks near the rapids in the river the Indians called OWASHTONONG, or the-far-away-waters, so named because it was the longest river in the territory. On the west shore opposite CAMPAU’S post was Rev. Isaac McCOY’S Baptist mission, established in 1823 to try to “civilize” and convert the Ottawa Indians to Christianity. Eighteenth century conflicts between the Indians and the whites had already considerably reduced the number of Indians in the area; with the further encroachment of new settlers the remaining Indians were quietly shoved westward or northward. Almost all the Indians were gone by 1837 and the Baptist mission closed.

Meanwhile, Louis CAMPAU had staked his claim and on September 20, 1831, purchased seventy-two acres of land bounded today by Michigan St. on the north, Fulton St. on the south, Division Ave. on the east, and the Grand River on the west. His receipt from the Land Office at White Pigeon describes it as the North-East Fraction of Section 25 in Township 7 North of Range 12 West, containing seventy-two acres, at the rate of $1.25 per acre, for a sum of $90.00. This lay in the Township, now mostly City, of Walker, because Division Ave. is the Town Line. CAMPAU later added a blacksmith shop to his trading post. Lucius LYON, who had surveyed the area, recorded a claim on September 25, 1832, on the land between Division Ave. and the river north of Pearl St. They platted separately and this accounts for the jog in Monroe and other north-south streets.

After a survey in 1833, Louis CAMPAU sold the first two lots on the south-east side of the jog in what was to become Monroe Avenue at CAMPAU Square to Joel GUILD for $45.00. GUILD built the first frame house in this area and thus is credited with being the first permanent settler of Grand Rapids. Later it became a meat market and today the McKAY Tower stands on the old GUILD House site. But GUILD had more claim to the title of first permanent settler, as we shall soon see.

On October 13, 1832, at the same time he recorded his claim for a quarter-section at IONIA COUNTY SEAT, Samuel DEXTER also entered a claim to four 80-acre lots lying on the east side of the range line (Division St.) – a tract two miles long by eighty rods wide, next to the west line of Sections 19 and 30, Township 7 North of Range 11 West, Grand Rapids Township. This land is bounded today by Wealthy St., on the south, Leonard St. on the north, and Cass Ave. on the east.

Joel GUILD recorded on July 6, 1833, a claim to 40 acres at the south-east quarter of north-west quarter Sec. 30, the area now occupied by Central High School and Davenport College. Obviously there was a contest as to which location would become the most important city in West Michigan, and Samuel DEXTER hedged his bets by staking a claim in both Ionia and Kent Counties.

In the fall of 1832 Samuel Dexter went back to Herkimer County, New York, and set about organizing a colony of emigrants. In the spring of 1833 they started. The company numbered sixty-three persons. They were: Samuel DEXTER, Erastus YEOMANS, Oliver ARNOLD, Joel GUILD, Edward GUILD, and Darius WINSOR, with their wives and children; and Dr. William B. LINCOLN, Patrick M. FOX, Winsor DEXTER, Warner DEXTER, and Abram DECKER, single men. Among the papers of Mr. YEOMANS, after his death, was found, written with ink and very much faded, the following: “Memorandum of Journey to Michigan – Left German Flats April 25, 1833. Buffalo, May 7. Landed at Detroit May 10. Left Detroit May 12. Pontiac May 14. Fuller’s in Oakland County May 15. Gage’s May 16. In the woods May 17. Saline May 18 and 19. Camped out from May 20 until arrival May 28. (Editor’s note: This would seem not to be the present city of Saline in southern Washtenaw County, which would be way off track of the DEXTER Trail from Pontiac to Ionia through Oakland, Livingston, Genesee, Shiawassee and Clinton Counties.)

That was a long and tedious expedition; but those who were on it soon forgot its few hardships and through life remembered and loved to recount its many exciting incidents and pleasures. Cutting their way through the previously untrodden wilderness, and camping at night in the woods, wherever darkness stopped them, was no frolic in the ordinary sense; but they were vigorous and healthy and companionable, and the adventure was novel and exhilarating. There was brush to be cut through, swamps and jungles to pass around, streams to be crossed, and many a hard lift for the men of the party; while the women aided with as much good will in preparing their frugal lunches and their resting places, and the children were in the spirit of play. Only one seriously sad incident occurred, the death of little Riley DEXTER from scarlet fever. But the entire narrative may perhaps best be told by one of the pioneer party. Mrs. Harriet BURTON, a daughter of Joel GUILD, who was one of that colony and was still alive in July 1889 at the age of 76 years, and familiarly called “Aunt Hattie”, relates the following story of that journey and its incidents:

“We (Joel and Edward GUILD and their families), started from Paris, Oneida County, N.Y., taking goods and teams. At the Erie Canal we went aboard a boat purchased by Samuel DEXTER for the party. In all there were sixty-three of the company. We had our horses to draw the boat, and the boys to drive. At Buffalo the boat was sold, and we shipped our goods and took passage on the steamer Superior for Detroit, where we selected only such goods as we could carry overland, and left the rest to be sent around to the mouth of the Grand River. We stopped in Detroit two or three days, buying oxen and cows, and laying in supplies.

Every family had a wagon. From there we went to Pontiac, where we staid two nights in a tavern. The third day we went about ten miles and camped near a tavern, where the women and children found shelter, and the rest slept in tents. The next day we left the roads and went into the wilderness, with no guide except a compass and a knowledge of the general direction to be taken. That night, I think, we reached the cabin of a Mr. Gage, twenty miles from any other white man’s habitation. As many as the small house would accommodate slept in it; the others camped. All were quite weary.

“Mr. WINSOR, who was lame, Mrs. WINSOR, with her sick girl, Rosalind, and the small children, rode. The rest of us walked, and it was hard walking. After leaving there, all had to camp out. Each family had a tent, the six tents were pitched together as one long tent, and every night twenty-three beds were made upon the ground. At Pontiac, Mrs. DEXTER’S youngest child, a boy, became sick with scarlet fever, and seemed to grow worse every day. But we could not stop, for our progress was slow and our supplies running short, so we traveled on to the Shiawassee River, where we procured a guide.

“It was raining when we reached the Looking glass River, and that night the little boy was so sick that his mother and Mrs. YEOMANS, whose own babe was but four weeks old when we started, and myself, sat up all night, holding umbrellas over the two little ones and nursing them. It was late when we started the next day, and we went only about four miles before reaching timbered land. Thus far we had been traveling thru burr oak openings. That night the boy grew worse, and his mother and I sat up nearly all night with him. Our provisions were nearly gone, and we could not stop, but about noon Mrs. DEXTER called a halt, noticing a change in the boy. Dr. LINCOLN gave him some medicine, but in a few minutes the little sufferer was dead. We could not tarry, but went sadly on carrying his body, and camped early; when my mother furnished a small trunk that had been used for carrying food and dishes, which served for a coffin, and by Muskrat Creek, as the sun was going down, the little one was buried. A large elm by the grave was marked, and logs were put over the mound and fastened there, to protect it from wolves that were plenty in that vicinity. The mother seemed broken-hearted and we all were grieved, but could not tarry there.

“We had reached the point where we had to eat the meal that father had bought at Pontiac for the horses, letting the latter pick their living as best they could from grass and twigs along the way. Each family had cows – in all fifteen or twenty. We made a log-heap fire, filled a large brass kettle with water, placed it over the fire, stirred in meal and made hasty-pudding, which, with milk from the cows, was our only food. After reaching the timber land, we girls had to rise early and get breakfast for the young men, who would then start ahead to cut out the road, and only came in when it was time to camp at night. At the end of sixteen days out of Detroit, we reached the Grand River at Lyons, where father and our family made a brief stop, while the rest proceeded at once to Ionia.

“In a few days father and Mr. DEXTER started from Ionia on horseback, by way of the Rapids of Grand River, for the Land Office at White Pigeon. On reaching the Rapids, they met Uncle Louis CAMPAU, who wanted them to settle here. He had taken some land and was platting it into lots; he did not “talk Yankee” very well, he said, and he wanted a settlement of Yankees here. So father went and took up a the forty that is now the “KENDALL Addition”, and also some pine land a little southeast of here. When he came back from the Land Office, he bought, for $25, a village lot of Mr. CAMPAU.

“Uncle Louis and some of his French help went to Ionia for us with bateaux (a flat-bottomed boat with tapering ends). All of our family came down. At the mouth of the Flat River, now LOWELL, we went ashore. Dan MARSAC was there in a log shanty. There was no clearing. Many Indians were about. We next landed at Rix ROBINSON’S trading post, now ADA. Found Indians there also. Soon after, some Indians met us on the river and Uncle Louis talked with them in their own language. He said they informed him that a Catholic Priest, Mr. BARAGA, had arrived. We reached the Rapids and landed that evening on the east side by the foot of Huron St., near where the BUTTERWORTH and LOWE Iron Works are now. Two log houses and a shop were there. All about were woods, mostly. We were received with a warm welcome by that good woman, Mrs. Louis CAMPAU, who did her utmost to make us comfortable. This was Sunday, June 23, 1833, the day that I was twenty years old. We staid there a few days; then removed to Mr. CAMPAU’S fur-packing house and store, where we lived till about the first of September, when we removed into the new house that my father built.”

The family of Joel GUILD then consisted of himself and his wife, six daughters, the eldest 20 and the youngest three years of age, and a son, Consider GUILD, then 18 years old. Harriet was the eldest daughter. They came from West Winfield, Herkimer County, N.Y., to Paris, Oneida County, and then here. The lot which Mr. GUILD purchased was on the east side of Monroe at its juncture with Pearl Street, and at the base of Prospect Hill (really lots 1 & 2 of the original plat combined). There he immediately set about building a house, which he so far completed as to be able to move into it in ten weeks. It was the first frame house built at Grand Rapids, and the lumber for it was procured at the Indian sawmill which had been built for the Mission. That pioneer dwelling was an unpretentious story-and-a-half structure, about 16 by 26 feet on the ground; had two windows in the lower and one in the upper (or gable) west end, and two windows with a door between, on each side, north and south. The east end was close in to the hill.

At the river’s edge, about 150 feet directly west, was a fine spring, over which Mr. CAMPAU had a milk-house, and further south was the storehouse for furs and Indian goods belonging to his trading station, of which Mrs. BURTON speaks, and in which the family lived while building their new dwelling. Midway between their lodging house and the spring just mentioned was where the cooking and other domestic work was done, by an outdoor fire. An oak log was used for a backing to this primitive, wide-open and roomy fireplace, with its wooden crane and pothooks and hangers, and a large tin baker (oven). Many barrels of flour, with meats and other accompaniments in proportion, were prepared there for the table. A few loose boards and some green boughs constituted the roof of this temporary kitchen.

Meantime there were numerous comers and goers, for the fame of Grand Rapids and this valley was beginning to be noised abroad, bringing hither not a few land seekers and explorers. And thus it happened that very quickly, notwithstanding the meager accommodations, the GUILD House became a sort of boarding house or tavern, even before the structure was completed.

In a letter written just six months after the day of arrival of their family, Joel GUILD and wife described to her brother, Jesse VAUGHN, and wife, living in New York State, the experience of their first half-year in Grand Rapids. The letter is still in existence, a large sheet of foolscap written full, yellow with age, without envelope, and bearing the 25 cent postmark of those days. It reads as follows:

“Grand Rapids, December the 23d, 1833.
“Most Respected Brother and Sister: We embrace this opportunity to indite a few lines for your perusal, hoping these few lines may find you and yours enjoying the blessings of health, peace, and prosperity. After saying to you that we have no reasonable excuse for not writing before now, and promising to do better for the future, we shall commence by giving you a short account of our journey to this place.

After we left Buffalo we had a comfortable passage to Detroit, at which place we landed in safety in three days. We staid at Detroit two days to refresh ourselves, also to purchase teams and wagons and cows. After we had supplied ourselves with such necessaries as we thought proper, we started for Grand River, a distance of 180 miles. We were sixty-three in number, men, women and children, all in good health and in good spirits. We had a good road thirty-five miles. We then left the road, hired a pilot, and proceeded on an Indian trail; winding our way through a wilderness of about 150 miles inhabited only by wild beasts and Indians. Our progress was slow, as we passed through many forests of as heavily timbered land as I ever saw.

Our women and children underwent considerable fatigue, as they traveled most of the way on foot, and sleeping on the ground at night, and almost suffering in some instances for water, as it was very scarce some part of the way. But we all enjoyed good health, and kept up good spirits. I heard no-one of the number complain of being homesick. We had the misfortune to have the canker rash amongst the children when we were in the wilderness, and to add to our sorrow, we buried one of Mr. DEXTER’S little ones, about two years old, in the wilderness about forty miles from inhabitants. By the help of a skillful physician that was with us, the rest of our children were soon restored to health. We had provisions a plenty, and a good pilot, and in sixteen days from Detroit we landed on Grand River. The land here in this country generally appears to be of first quality. Our water is good as I ever saw in any country, and a plenty of it. People are flocking in from all parts. The country is settling very fast with respectable inhabitants.

You will naturally expect me to say something of the situation of my self and family; therefore I shall commence by saying that myself and family are all enjoying good health, and have enjoyed as good health since I saw you as we ever did for the same length of time.

As to my situation, I am alone as it respects the inhabitants who came to this country with me – we are separated. They all settled in one neighborhood, near the junction of the Maple River with the Grand River. We stopped there about two weeks, and we all lived in Indian wigwams. After looking for a home, I thought it best to move about fifty miles down Grand River to a place called Grand River Falls. I landed here on the thirteenth day of June 1833. No-one here then that could speak English excepting a French trader by the name of CAMPAU. I bought 120 acres of first rate land near this place, and since I bought I have had the satisfaction of going with the Commissioners and sticking the stake for the Court House in our county within twenty-five rods of my land.

There is now a village laid out here and recorded, and the lots are selling fast, from twenty-five to two hundred dollars each. I own two village lots. I bought the first lots that were sold, and have built a framed house, the first that was ever built within one hundred miles of this place, and I am under the necessity of keeping tavern, as my house was built first. I moved into it the last day of August, and from that time to this my house has been full by day and by night. Some of the time we have had twenty in the family. Our women have plenty to do and are able and willing to work. Abby says must write to you that she baked nine barrels of flour by the side of a white oak log after we came here before we moved into our house. Our girls have as much sewing as they can do. We are all perfectly contented, and I think we are doing tolerably well.

Our river is eighty-five rods wide at this place, and the greatest water privilege there is in the Territory; here is twenty-five feet fall in one mile of the river at this place. We expect mills built here another season. I have a full set of mill irons stored in my cellar for that purpose. We have plenty of provisions here, although they come as yet by water from Detroit. Here is plenty of fish and plenty of game, and the greatest country for honey that I ever saw. Direct your letters to Grand Rapids, County of Kent, Michigan. We have a post office here by that name.”

The fact that they were the first of the pioneers of permanent settlement of Grand Rapids by the white people, entitles the GUILD family to some prominence in a history of this place. Louis and Toussaint CAMPAU were here before, as traders with the Indians, and then determined to remain here, and were joined by their brothers.

The SLATERS and McCOYS were on the mission ground on the west side of the river, in what was then Indian territory, but soon moved away. The coming of the GUILD family, therefore, marks the date of the beginning of permanent settlement. Of Joel GUILD’S family there were nine – himself and wife, plus Harriet, Consider, Emily O., Mary L., Olive, Elvira E., and Lucy E., in the order here named. Of these children only the oldest, Mrs Harriet BURTON, remained living in 1889.

Joel GUILD’S brother, Edward, came down from Ionia in the spring of 1834, and soon after came another brother, Daniel GUILD, as did Darius WINSOR. The three GUILDS, with their relatives by kinship and marriage, constituted a circle of three or four score persons; no inconsiderable share of the little settlement in its beginning.

Joel GUILD was then a man in the full vigor of life, not large, but compact and muscular in build, and of extraordinary exuberance of spirits. He met with an accident – fracture or dislocation of the hip, which caused a limp in his gait; but nothing could dampen his jovial good nature, nor his disposition to keep all who were about him in good humor. For more than a quarter of a century it was the custom of that family to meet several times a year at the home of some one of their number, and have, as they were wont to say, a jolly good visit. Joel GUILD had little faculty to accumulate property, or he might have grown rich. He was a stirring, bustling, busy man, but always seems more to enjoy the spending of money for the entertainment of his family and friends, rather than hoarding it. He was inquisitive and better than any almanac for consultation as to the names and whereabouts of the people of this valley, for many years. Joel GUILD was chosen Assessor at the first Township election here, and was the first Supervisor of Paris Township, where he lived many years, and finally moved back into the city, which was his home when he died, May 26, 1856, aged 68 years. Abby, his first wife, died in 1844”……END.

THE OTHER SAMUEL DEXTER – We wrote about Judge Samuel William DEXTER, founder of Dexter, MI, in the August 1993, Volume 29 Number 1 issue of the Recollector. Samuel William DEXTER was the son of a lawyer, also named Samuel, who was Secretary of State under John ADAMS, served in the Massachusetts State Senate and the United States Senate. Samuel William moved from Boston, MA, to Detroit, MI, in 1824, and founded the town of Byron in the southeast corner of Shiawassee County. He expected Byron to become the county seat, but when Corunna got it, and his wife died at the birth of their second child, he sold Byron to his wife’s brother and traveled back to Ohio to find a second wife.

With his new wife he founded DEXTER, in Washtenaw County, and built a large house which still stands. It has great white pillars, twenty-two rooms, 9 fireplaces, 55 windows with inside shutters, a beautiful walnut banister, and is called Gordon HALL, after his mother’s maiden name, Catherine GORDON. He owned a 629 acre farm which straddled the corners of Dexter, Webster, and Scio Townships. He saw this as the perfect junction for a barge canal to connect the Huron River at Ann Arbor with the Grand River at Jackson, by way of the Portage River through the swamps of what is now the Waterloo State Recreation Area. This scheme did not pan out either, but he farmed and practiced law and was Circuit Court Judge for Washtenaw County when he died in 1863.

Judge DEXTER’S second wife lived there until her death in 1899, then it was sold and used for a rental property. His last surviving descendant, granddaughter Katherine DEXTER McCORMICK, repurchased and restored it in 1938 and lived there until 1950, when she gave it to the University for faculty housing. The following clipping from the University Historical Record tells more about Samuel W. DEXTER. His first settlement at Byron, Shiawassee County, was very close to our Samuel’s DEXTER Trail as it cut across on his trip from Herkimer, NY. Also our Samuel had two brothers, Steven and George Washington DEXTER, who settled at Whitmore Lake, Washtenaw County, before coming on to Ionia County Seat.

ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SEBEWA CENTER ASSOCIATION: Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, pot luck supper at 6:00PM. Bring table service and a dish to pass, beverages provided. A very important business meeting concerning the future of the organization will follow at 7:00PM. New Officers must be elected. Janet GIERMAN RUDD’S term as President and LaVern CARR’S term as Trustee expire. Other officers are Wes MEYERS, Jr. – Vice President, Sharon HUNT KYSER – Secretary/Treasurer, and Duane MEYERS – Trustee.

NOTE CARDS: Sharon KYSER will have available for sale at the Annual Meeting, note cards and envelopes designed by Deanne GIERMAN PUMPLIN with a drawing of Robert Wilfred GIERMAN at SUNSHINE on the front. The price is $1.50 for a package of 4, $2.25 for a package of 6, $3.00 for a package of 8.


Last update November 10, 2013