Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 34 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 (Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI).
JUNE 1999, Volume 34, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of Grayden D. Slowins, Editor:



FRED APSEY, 92, widower of Addie Velma SHELLENBARGER APSEY, father of Margaret WILLETT, Vivian LEIK & Beatrice MOSHER, and the late Donald, David, Fredrick & Helen APSEY, brother of Alice SWITZER, son of Emery & Abbie WHILMORE APSEY. Fred & Velma were longtime dairy farmers in Sec. 29 Sebewa, Tupper Lake Road. Buried in Lakeside Cemetery.

GEORGE COOK, 77, father of Georgia CATT, Kay CROSBY, John & Pamela COOK, brother of Rose AUGST DRAGHI, and the late Gaylord & Merlin COOK and Ilene HOLLAND, son of Gladys SHETTERLY & Clifton COOK, son of Emily & Charles P. COOK, son of Pierce G. & Emily COOK, pioneer farmers in Sebewa Township, Sec. 19, on MUSGROVE Hwy., where Henry SMITH lives. George had been a dairy farmer on the Reuben LAPO – John SHAY farm and later in Sec. 28 & 29 Berlin Township on Portland Road.

THEORDORE F. (Tag) FERRIS, 86, husband of Eleanor CRANDALL FERRIS, father of Frank, Ronald & Keith FERRIS, brother of Genevieve HALL and eleven deceased brothers & sisters, son of Elmer & Laura LANG Ferris. Tag & Eleanor were dairy farmers, first on the John DICKINSON farm in Sebewa Sec. 17 on GODDARD Road and then in Orange Township, Sec. 8-9-16-17-28. Tag was one of the great story & joke tellers of his time and a strong advocate of the American free-enterprise system with minimal government interference. Buried in North Plains Cemetery.

BERNICE GALLOWAY, 93, widow of Gayle (Pat) GALLOWAY, mother of Garold & Gordon GALLOWAY, sister of the late Gretchen, Glendon, Bernard & Doris Scheidt, daughter of James & Dora McGRAW SCHEIDT, pioneer Hardware & General Store merchants in the newborn village of Lake Odessa some 110 years ago. Bernice & Pat were good shepherds. Buried in Balcom Cemetery.

NAOMI GATTNER, 94, widow of Dolph Marcus GATTNER, mother of Anna Marie REYNOLDS & Eveline Joyce IACOVONI, sister of the late Mildred AVES and Maynard, Maurice, Zeno & Thelma LEAK, daughter of Hermena BULLING & Edwin LEAK, son of Mary Ann DAY & David LEAK, son of Mary WOODS & Christopher LEAK. Lived at Traverse City.

Ethel HADDIX, 96, widow of Howard HADDIX, mother of Virgilene HILLER, Adeline ECKMAN, Richard HADDIX, Lorna SHERMAN, Janet THOMAS, Patricia LENZ, Judy WARNER of Sebewa, and the late Geraldine ENO and Sandra McCLOUD, daughter of James & Alice GREGG EDWARDS. Ethel did the bookkeeping for the family sawmill & lumber company. Buried at Lakeside Cemetery.

Leila Ruth LEIFHEIT, 90, widow of Harlan LEIFHEIT, mother of Jim SHULL and the late Keith HOFFMAN, daughter of Frank & Ella Mae AUMOCK BOWERS. They farmed on MUSGROVE Hwy., Sec. 28 & later Sec. 21, Sebewa Township. Buried in TUTTLE Cemetery.

SHIRLEY MERITHEW, 47, mother of Maxim MERITHEW, sister of Ranee DeMOTT, Marcia ALTOFT, John O. PETRIE and the late Michael PETRIE, daughter of Joyce DODGE & George PETRIE, son of Cora BROWNFIELD & George PETRIE, son of Mary E. & Clayton C. PETRIE, son of Elsie & John R. PETRIE. Shirley was a beautician in Zephyrhills, Florida. Her ashes are buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.

ELROY SEDORE, 55, husband of Joyce REUBENTHALEN SEDORE, father of Reahelle PAGE and Stacey Peck, brother of Frank SEDORE & Linda GREGORY, son of Neil & Phyllis TASKER SEDORE, daughter of Roy & Rose SCHNABEL TASKER, daughter of Margaret SHOTTWELL & Peter Schnabel, son of Marina GRENIC & Martin SCHNABEL, son of Anton & Regina SCHNABEL.

KEITH V. WILSON, 78, husband of Wilma USBORNE WILSON, father of Janet KUDIRKA, Jane MAZEI, Anita BARCROFT, and Elma, Mary Anne, Tom & Victor WILSON, brother of Rose AINSWORTH, Joyce LUSCHER, Carol CASSER & Royal WILSON, son of Victor & Ella PEACOCK WILSON, daughter of Catherine DOWNING & Benjamin C. PEACOCK, son of Benjamin PEACOCK, son of Ruth COX & John Joy PEACOCK, son of Anna JOY & Abraham PEACOCK. Keith, Wilma & family were life-long dairy farmers, first in Sec. 11 & 17 Sebewa Township on YORK Road, then in Sec. 10, 1 & 12 Odessa Township on HENDERSON Road.

RUTH WHITMAN, 76, widow of John E. WHITMAN, mother of James & John WHITMAN and Jean THORN, sister of Agnes PARIS, Dorothy ONWELLER, Maxine SHINFORF, Doris SCHULER, and baby brothers Richard & Robert BENHAGEL, daughter of Fern CHADWICK & Benjamin BENHAGEL, son of Paulina SLOWINSKI & Frank BANHAGEL, of BANHAGEL Bros. Construction Co., building contractors in brick & stone, who laid the streets and built the homes and public buildings of Ionia City & Ionia County from 1870 to 1970, including the older prisons, churches, Armory, City Hall, Ypsilanti Reed, VanderHEYDEN house, BLANCHARD house, fairgrounds buildings, etc. Buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

OATLEY FAMILY UPDATE: Wilbur GIERMAN gives us an update on Barney OATLEY. Barney first married Anna HANSON and she was the mother of his children. After her death he married Alice AUSTIN, mother of Dan AUSTIN. Anna was born in 1869, died in 1912, Barney was born in 1863, died in 1947, and they are buried in West Sebewa Cemetery.

1. Clarence OATLEY – married Jessie WARING, had orchards at Kewadin, MI; one daughter
2. Maude Mae OATLEY – married Ben PROBASCO, Jr., farmed in Sebewa; sons Uzel & Harold
3. Lula Belle OATLEY – married a KENYON, lived in Lansing, mother of Ethelyn ELLIOTT, Donald, 3 others
4. Carl OATLEY – was married, lived at Traverse City, worked for Michigan Bell

“Dear Ms. Jessop……..I located Samuel Ritter’s farm in the 1891 Plat of Ionia County as you mentioned. He had 120 acres at E ¾ S ½ N ½ Sec. 16 Orange Township. You mentioned that he lived there 1865-1891 and that his tombstone in TUTTLE Cemetery reads 1819-1891. My Sebewa Township Death Records do not go back to 1891.

I did manage to gather the following information from neighbors who remember the RITTERS in Sebewa. Floyd (Skinny) RITTER farmed on 100 acres at E ½ SW ½ Sec. 14 Sebewa in 1937 and until his death about 1970. His brother Harold owned 80 acres at Sec. 21 & 28 Odessa, although he worked for 30-40 years at the Cadillac Fleetwood Plant in Detroit. I would guess them to be grandsons of Samuel. Their father’s name was Anthony (Tony) RITTER, and he drove for Standard Oil out of Lake Odessa, first with horses and then a truck.

1. Jane RITTER – married Ray REYNOLDS, was a volunteer at Pennock Hospital in Hastings, MI. Has one son, Rex, at home
2. Jean RITTER – married a HARRIS; lives in Chicago
3. Max RITTER – bulldozer operator, deceased
4. Paul RITTER
5. Maynard RITTER

If other readers of THE RECOLLECTOR have information on the descendants of Samuel RITTER of Orange Township, or the record of his & his wife’s death, we will pass it along.
Sincerely, Grayden D. Slowins, Editor”


The French girls called him “Le Petit Soldat” (The Little Soldier). That was when the five foot, four inch Lawrence FRIEND was serving with the U.S. forces in France. No, he wasn’t a G.I. in WWII. He was a Doughboy in WWI. The Great War. The War To End All Wars. That was over 80 years ago. FRIEND turned 100 years old in August 1998.

The French government is now honoring the remaining handful of Doughboys who served on French soil with their highest military and civilian award, the “Legion d’Honneur”. The esteemed Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. To date about 300 men qualifying for the award have been located. It is estimated that perhaps 3,000 are still living. No awards are to ge given posthumously and each man is decorated personally by a member of the French government.

FRIEND received his medal on March 19, when Deputy Consul Didier SAMSON of the French Consulate in Miami made the trip to Friend’s home in Big Pine Key, Florida. The former soldier stood at erect attention as the deputy consul pinned the medal to his chest, shook his hand and bussed him on both cheeks in the French tradition.

Lawrence FRIEND lives with his daughter, Marilyn POWELL. POWELL heard of the award effort and notified the French Embassy about her dad. She was on hand for the ceremony, as well as her daughter, Chris POSTHUMA of Ada (known to many Lowellites as a former employee of Pfaller’s Clothing), her son, Pat POWELL of Grand Haven; another daughter, Terese BROWN of Summerland Key, Florida, and her husband Roger of Lowell and Summerland Key. Another of Powell’s daughters, Geri SMIT of Lowell, was unable to attend. Following the award ceremony, the family treated Lawrence to his favorite lunch of fried oysters at a local seafood restaurant.

Lawrence FRIEND was born in Sebewa Township, Ionia County, in August, 1898. The family farmed, and he grew up as an accomplished horseman in a time before the automobile had evolved. He remembers going on a cattle drive as a very young man. He and “some other fellas” drove about a hundred head from Sebewa up to Greenville. The 30-or-40 mile trip took them over a week and they camped along the way. He was still riding his granddaughters’ horses well into his ‘80s’.

When FRIEND first tried to “join up” he was told that at 5’4” and 130 pounds, he was “too damned small”. He persisted, and ended up with a unit formed mostly of boys from Texas and Oklahoma. They received their training in Florida and boarded ships for France. In what was undoubtedly a stroke of luck, the diminutive soldier ended up as a truck driver in a commissary unit.

Though he was not in the front line trenches, his duties often brought him under the veil of German artillery fire. Besides transporting supplies, FRIEND’S unit was responsible for guarding those commodities. At one point he was left to guard a quantity of supplies for three days. Thirty days later he was still on guard, out of food and swapping marmalade from the supply cache for fresh eggs offered by the local French women who had taken him under their collective wing. There is an unmistakable twinkle in the old soldier’s eye when he relates that particular story. He still hates marmalade, but one suspects a lingering fondness for French women.

Having never been a health zealot, FRIEND’S zest for life probably best explains his longevity. He smoked until age 62, just recently had to give up alcohol because it interferes with a medication he is taking, and still never turns down a slice of pie when it is offered. He drove his own car and lived in a two-story home on Jones Street in Ionia until five years ago. He gave neighbors and family several thrills when he frequently climbed his ladder to clean second story windows well into his nineties.

He lived most of his life in Ionia, where he worked as a superintendent at a furniture factory, “The Reed” he calls it. He was working at the Lyons Chrysler Trim Plant when he retired. Gertrude, his wife of 72 years, died in 1990 at age 92. Another daughter, June Seiler, resides in Ionia. With her four children, he has descendants totaling eight grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, and 15 great-great-grandchildren.

After retiring, the FRIENDS split their time between Ionia, summers at a trailer on a lake in Northern Michigan, and another trailer in Florida during the winters. More than anything, he loved taking a grandkid fishing. Aided by a heart pacemaker implanted two years ago, FRIEND enjoys reasonable health for a man of his years. He walks with the aid of a cane, and his hearing is moderate with his hearing aids in place. His eyesight is diminished, but he still enjoys wrestling on TV. END.

THE LIFE OF EPHRAIM SHAY by Grayden SLOWINS, (With photo of Mr. SHAY on front cover):

Our cover story is about Sebewa’s own Ephraim SHAY, whom we have written about in April & October and other times in the past. We summarize here as background for reviewing a great book, now out of print, by Michael KOCH called “THE SHAY LOCOMOTIVE, TITAN OF THE TIMBER”.

Ephraim SHAY was born July 17, 1839, in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio, the son of James & Phoeba PROBASCO SHAY. He came to Michigan with his family about 1855, and they settled first at Muir, near his mother’s brother, Henry PROBASCO, who ran a cooper shop and later a meat market. James SHAY died and was buried in Muir Cemetery in 1861. Phoeba SHAY brought her family of fice living children, out of an original eleven, to a forty-acre farm in Sebewa Township. Her farm surrounded the Sebewa Center School and was diagonally across the road from her brother, Benjamin PROBASCO, and just down the road from another brother, EHPRAIM PROBASCO. Her house stood on the green patch just west of the present-day GIERMAN-HADEWAY-CARR barn. Her mother, Mary PROBASCO, came with her from Ohio & Muir, and is buried with her in East Sebewa Cemetery, but is memorialized in a stained-glass window in Muir’s First Christian Church.

Ephraim SHAY was the oldest son at age 22, when his father died, and the family moved to Sebewa. He may have been off to war before his dad died. At any rate, we know he never attended Sebewa Center School, and in fact was teaching way back in Ohio, after finishing the 8th Grade. He went back to Ohio and joined a unit there with his buddies as a Medic in late 1861. After the war, at age 26, he came back to Sebewa, bought 80 acres near his mother, later the Lancey MEYERS place, and got married to Jane HENDERSON. Besides farming, he worked in GUNN Bros. Sawmill and held the office of Sebewa Township Clerk in 1867 & 1868 at age 27-29.

Soon he went out on his own with a sawmill and founded SHAYTOWN, now a ghost town, southeast of Sunfield. He had a General Store and a U.S. Post Office where 35 families got their mail in 1880. Then he moved his sawmill to Haring Township, just north of Cadillac, and again had a General Store and Post Office. He also moved up to being Wexford County Treasurer. All this time he was thinking about and tinkering with steam engines. Sawmills had started out with waterpower and advanced to steam engines. But the steam engines were stationary or mounted on a wagon and pulled around by horses. Ephraim wanted to make them movable, motive, so they could pull things – log cars & ore cars - so he invented the steam locomotive in 1877.

Ephraim SHAY did not have the only locomotive and probably not the first locomotive, but his was different from any other locomotive and he was able to patent it. Instead of transferring power from cylinders and crankshaft to the drivewheels by means of eccentric & pitman (which had a jolting effect), he used beveled (helical) gears & sliding shafts (jackshafts) with his patented universal joints, to transfer power directly from the two or three steam-powered, side-mounted cylinders & crankshaft to the drivewheels. This gave less speed, but terrific pulling power for a small engine, and allowed them to run on temporary trackage, sometimes even using wooden rails in the woods & mines. He used wood-fired steam and later models used oil-fired steam, similar to RUMELY Oil-Pull farm tractors.

He used 36-inch rail spacing instead of the standard 4 foot 8 ½ inch spacing, and could take sharp turns & steep grades. After making several for use in the north woods, he leased the patents to Lima Locomotive Corporation of Lima, Ohio. They built and sold thousands of them for use all over the world in the logging & mining industry. They were used in Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Austria, Hungary & Japan, as well as in the States of California, Carolinas, Colorado, Montana, etc. One last passed thru Ionia in May, 1968, enroute from its home in a park in Cadillac to make a movie in Chicago.

Ephraim became a millionaire from royalties on his locomotives – back when a million dollars was a lot of money. But he moved his sawmill twice more, first to Boyne City and then to Harbor Springs. After logging ran out, he gave rides to tourists on his train and repaired Great Lakes freighters in his machine shop. He died in 1916 in Harbor Springs and is buried there with his wife, son Lette & wife Katherine & granddaughter Kate.

SHAY LOCOMOTIVE – From the internet:SHAY

Ephraim SHAY (1839-1916) was a logger himself, and like those who try to build a better mousetrap, he decided to build a better logging locomotive. In 1880, he constructed a successful prototype, basically a flatcar with a steam boiler mounted amidships, fuel and water on opposite ends. What set this locomotive apart was the unusual cylinder arrangement. Two vertical cylinders drove a crankshaft, which in turn drove a pair of geared trucks through a system of universal joints and sliding shafts (jackshafts). On most SHAYS, the boiler is offset to the left of center to balance the cylinders on the right.

In 1882, Ephraim assigned the rights of the locomotive that would bear his name to a company that would eventually become Lima Locomotive Works (Lima, OH, pronounced LIE-mah). They refined and enlarged the design. SHAYS could burn coal, oil or wood, and varied from tiny two cylinder, two truck models to three cylinder, four truck monsters weighing over 400,000 pounds.

SHAY produced a distinctive sound, due to the rapid firing of the cylinders it seemed they were going about 60 mph, whereas they were actually chuffing along at 12 mph! This slow speed, high tractive effort locomotive could climb grades as great as 14 percent. One other advantage the SHAY had was the exposed cylinders and running gear. This made repairs relatively easy, as everything was accessible.

When the SHAY patents expired in the earl 1920s, the WILLAMETTE Iron & Steel Works (Portland, OR) constructed locomotives that closely resembled a SHAY. These “WILLIAMETTES” never reached the popularity of the SHAY (only about 33 were built).

SHAY production lasted until 1945. There were 2,771 SHAYS built, of which approximately 84 still exist. It’s a testimony to the SHAY design and construction quality that many of these remain in active service – usually in tourist railroads – for many decades after they were constructed.

In the center of Cadillac, MI, you can see a city park display honoring Ephraim SHAY, with a two-track SHAY on display. You can also visit the location where the first SHAYS were built, to see modern replicas run by the current landowners – George ICE.

Come Celebrate the Life and Genius of EPHRAIM SHAY July 16-18, 1999 – In Ephraim SHAY’S House “THE HEXAGON” – East Main Street, Harbor Springs, Michigan
Slide Show on Ephraim SHAY
Slide Show on Emmet County Railroading
Railroad Photo Display – SHAY Model Trains – Train VideoAvailable for Sale: Railroad Prints & Photos – Historical Postcards – Souvenires – Refreshments – Cost: $3 Button (available at door)

THE SHAY LOCOMOTIVE, TITAN OF THE TIMBER – By Michael KOCH, is a 485 page book giving the live of EPHRAIM SHAY, the story of the Lima Machine Works, later called the Lima Locomotive Corporation, and a detailed photographic history of many models of the engine, including specifications. Ephraim’s life story is pretty much as we gave it, except to add that he had one son, Lette, who married Katherine ROE, and had three daughters. One daughter married a RATLIFF, and her son, W. B. RATLIFF, contributed a brief biography of his grandfather. Another daughter, Katherine, married Donald MORRILL and they are buried with her parents & grandparents at Harbor Springs.

The name PROBASCO is believed to be of Polish origin, and was spelled PROBATSKI and PROBATSOY before evolving in American to PROBASCO.

Ephraim SHAY is buried in Lake View Cemetery at Harbor Springs. The large black stone is reputed to be a meteorite found on the SHAY property. A smaller, flag-decorated tombstone is the standard grave marker supplied by the government for identifying graves of Civil War Veterans. It shows he served in Company D of the Missouri Infantry – but his first name is incorrectly spelled “Ephriam”. Often it was misspelled Ephriam, and these problems with the spelling and pronunciation of his name were probably one reason why the inventor so often signed in “E. SHAY”.



Last update November 10, 2013