THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the
Sebewa Center Association, Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI.
APRIL 2000, Volume 35, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of Editor
Grayden D. SLOWINS:
SURNAMES: Caswell, Tew, Leak, Briggs, Spitzley, Miller, Buxton, Reed, Harwood,
Merrill, Halladay, Gates, Carpenter, Ingalls, Brown, Showerman, Ritter, Schwab,
Gibbs, Coon, Ames, Whitford, Washburn, Brown
DENARD O. CASWELL, 91, husband of Mathilda KRELLWITZ CASWELL, father of James &
Jon, only child of Mary Pearl TEW & Orr CASWELL, son of Elizabeth LEAK & William
CASWELL, son of Emaline BRIGGS & Henry CASWELL, who settled in Sebewa Township
on Sunfield Road about the time of the Civil War. Henry & Emaline lived on the
40 acres across from Eugene PROBASCO and their daughter Emma became his wife and
mother of young Benjamin PROBASCO.
William CASWELL was age 6, in 1870, when he worked as a mail carrier at the
building of our barn here on the John OLRY farm, by handing up square nails the
carpenters dropped. He was age 14 and working here as a hired-man when this
house was built in 1878-1879. He was a horseman in Sebewa Corners, then spent
the rest of his life caring for horses at Lake Odessa. He ran the Livery Stable
behind the Burke Hotel, drove the black teams on the Weed & Wortley hearse, and
retired to the race-horse barns at the Lake Odessa Fairgrounds. He died at age
99 years, 11 months, and 23 days, on May 20, 1964, and is buried in Lakeside
Cemetery.Bill & Lizzie CASWELL had two sons, Orr & Chalmer. Chalmer had a
daughter, Helen BRACEY, and sons Bill, Richard & Jack, whose death we reported
in April 1998. These boys lived in the Sheridan-Greenville area, but Chalmer
always worked around the family livery and auto garages and chauffeured for
Orr CASWELL started working for Sam KART in the Ford Agency in Lake Odessa, as
soon as he was old enough to leave the livery stable. Then he had his own agency
selling DODGE cars where the Carl SENTERS & Conrad LASS auto dealerships and
FATE’S Market were later located in Lake Odessa. In 1926 he advertised NASH
Automobiles in the Lake Odessa WAVE. He was also Odessa Township Treasurer in
1924. He spent his last years raising Jerseys on the family farm, due to poor
health. He died in 1929 and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery.
Denard ORR CASWELL was delivered March 19, 1908, on the family’s kitchen table
in Lake Odessa. He graduated from Lake Odessa High School and his Grandmother
Hannah Marie (Mari) TEW had left a letter that he was to have $1000 for college.
But in the Great Depression years there was not enough liquidity in the TEW
family store to fund it. So he lived on the family farm where MONTGOMERY
Excavating is located on M-66. But his bride of one year died there of
Tuberculosis. She had been Deputy Ionia County Register of Deeds.
Denard bore his grief by opening a small gas station on the present site in
1936. He stayed open 24 hours a day and slept at his desk in the wee hours until
the bell rang for service. He obtained the PACKARD franchise in 1946, the NASH
franchise in 1949, the MERCURY franchise in 1956, the FORD franchise in 1958. He
added RV sales in 1969 and had the GULF Oil bulk gas dealership all those years.
He snow-skied until age 75, swam and came to work every day until age 80. Rev.
Father Michael DANNER, an Ionia native, officiated at his funeral. (See Volume
28 Number 1, August 1992, for more on Denard’s TEW, CASWELL, and LEAK ancestry.)
OTHER RECENT DEATHS:
ANNA MARY SPITZLEY MILLER, 105, widow of George M. MILLER, mother of Leon,
Helen, Jo, Paul, Florence, George, Lawrence and the late Francis, Aileen & John,
sister of Theresa, Anthony, Arnold, Louis, Henry, Isadore & Pauline SPITZLEY,
Catherine WILLEMS, Ida FOX, Amelia TANGHE, Rosella HUHN, Genevieve CLARK and
Laurina – Sister Mary ANTONIO. She was a farmer, gardener, painter, and
world-traveler. (See Volume 27 Number 4, February 1992, SPITZLEYS)
LOZIA REED BUXTON, 75, wife of Harold, mother of Ferol BALL, Jeanette WEST &
James BUXTON, sister of Doris REUSSER & the late Lois FRY, daughter of Beulah &
James REED, son of Clara HARWOOD and Thomas Hosea REED, who settled in Sebewa
Township on what is now the Linda WOLVERTON farm before 1891. She was an active
member and past president of the Ionia Business & Professional Women.
LEAH P. MERRILL, 96, widow of Monroe MERRILL, mother of Joyce WISNER & the late
Barbara Lenore MERRILL, sister of Janet FAULKNER. Altho this family lived in
Lowell for many years, Monroe was born & raised in Sebewa, son of Roscoe MERRILL
& Grace Lillian HALLADAY, daughter of Rosabella GATES & Abel C. HALLADAY, son of
Nancy CARPENTER & David HALLADAY, who settled in Sebewa Township in the 1850s.
Rosebella GATES was a daughter of Ezra GATES & Elizabeth INGALLS, daughter of
Jonathan INGALLS, Sebewa’s Soldier of the Revolution, who is buried beside the
road, near the old MERRILL homestead.
Front page photo of large trucks: “SYDNEY J. BROWN - MICHIGAN
LIVESTOCK TRUCKER – 1901-1992
THE GIBBS FAMILY OF SEBEWA & ORANGE TOWNSHIPS by Byron GIBBS
In 1855 Robert and Mariam GIBBS homesteaded 40 acres in Isabella County, MI,
described as the SE ¼ of the SE ¼ Section 29 Chippewa Township. This is at what
is now the corner of Shepherd Road and Deerfield Road. The deed shows
Certificate #12773 dated 10 March 1857 and is recorded in Isabella County Book 1
of Deeds page 144.
In the first winter their shelter was open on one side to the weather. A fire
was kept constantly going on that side to keep away the wild animals at night. I
think the wolves worried them the most and Mariam kept a musket by her side at
night to protect them the most and Miriam kept a musket by her side at night to
protect her family.
At that time there were seven children. Their ages in the winter of 1855 were:
Albert, 14; George Riley, 13; Sarah Jane, 11; Eliza Ann, 9; Norman, 7; Byron, 5,
and Mary Alice, 1.
BYRON was my grandfather. The shape of the shelter I do not know, except that my
father said he was told it was open to the weather on one side. It was possibly
a lean-to but not a complete cabin. I am not sure what household goods they had
or how they transported what they did have to the homestead. Robert had to go to
the nearest Land Office in Ionia to pay the government for the land.
ALBERT GIBBS, born June 6, 1840, in Coshocton County, Ohio, enlisted in Co. D.,
21st Michigan Infantry, and died January 28, 1863, was buried in Nashville
GEORGE RILEY GIBBS, born August 26, 1842, in Holmes County, Ohio, enlisted in
Co. D, 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment, married Mary Ann HOWLAND.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: Frank, Mable, Marian and George, Jr.
SARAH JANE GIBBS, born January 4, 1844, in Knox County, Ohio, married Columbus
SANDBORN, who enlisted in Co. K, 21st Michigan Infantry.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: Chester, Helen, Albert Riley, Lawrence, May, Arlie and
ELIZA AN GIBBS, born July 24, 1846, in Knox County, Ohio, married Fred BURHANS.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: Mentie, George, Nellie and Levi. The two girls died early.
NORMAN GIBBS, born May 1, 1848, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, married Mary
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: Marthea, Norman, Jr., Anna E., Nellie J., and Thomas C.
BYRON GIBBS, born May 1, 1848, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, married Nellie MAPES.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: (Albert) Bruce (my father), and Fannie, who married George
ROBERT HARIUM GIBBS born January 2, 1853, in Seneca County, Ohio, died September
MARY ALICE GIBBS born August 11, 1854, in Wood County, Ohio, married Simeon
THEIR CHILDREN WERE: Albert and Orren.
I have been unable to find out what happened to Mary Alice COON. There is no
death record in Ionia County, or in the index of deaths in Michigan, no
separation record, no probate court information. I found a Mary COON in Kent
County death records, but her parents were not GIBBS.
The 1880 Census shows Simeon COON as married, not widowed, not divorced. The
only clue I have is as a small boy I remember my father, Bruce GIBBS, saying
some woman in the GIBBS family had been seduced by a traveling salesman and then
abandoned. I can fully account for all the other GIBBS women. My
great-grandmother Mariam GIBBS was keeping house in 1880 for her son-in-law
Simeon COON and her two grandsons, Albert COON & Orren COON. She had a Bible and
in the front her address is shown as Sebewa and also as Omaha. I find no record
of her travel to Omaha and I often wonder if she went there to help her daughter
Mary Alice, who may have died there. If someone could find clues in the old
Portland newspapers as to what happened to Mary Alice COON between 1873 – 1882,
I am willing to pay for this research.
ROBERT GIBBS & Mariam AMES were married January 1, 1840, in Holmes County, Ohio,
by Robert McFarlund, Justice of the Peace. They moved around frequently, as can
be seen by the birthplaces of their children. The occupation shown on the 1850
census for Robert was clerk. The same census showed Mariam did not read or
write. In 1858 they sold the property in Isabella County and moved to Sebewa
Township, Ionia County. When the 1860 census in Sebewa Township was taken,
Mariam was shown as head of the family and Robert was living alone at a
In a separation agreement dated May 1, 1860, Robert says he will not be
responsible for support of his family and leaves the responsibilities to Mariam
and his oldest son, Albert. They were to receive 2 cows, 10 sheep, 6 hogs, 1
hive of bees and all household goods except 1 clock, 1 bed and bedding, and half
the potatoes in the garden. Robert kept the 40 acres of land in Section 11
Sebewa, where they were living. His name alone was on the deed.
The information on the divorce decree is as follows: The decree of divorce was
granted in Ionia Circuit Court on January 9, 1863. The decree was signed by
Louis B. LOVELL, Judge, but was not countersigned by the Register of Said Court
and is not recorded in the Journal of Said Court, and not filed by the Register
of Said Court. It seems strange that normal procedure was not followed.
MARIAM GIBBS, in the “Mother’s Declaration for Pension” dated April 7, 1863,
based on the death of her oldest son, Albert GIBBS on January 28, 1863, during
the Civil War, states the names of her children under sixteen years of age as
follows: Norman GIBBS aged fourteen in May last, Byron GIBBS aged twelve in
November last, and Mary Alice GIBBS aged eight in August last, all residing in
Sebewa, Ionia County, Michigan. Mariam did receive a pension of eight dollars a
month as a result of Albert’s death.
Because Mary Alice GIBBS was shown in the 1863 Mother’s Declaration for Pension,
I again reviewed the Sebewa 1860 Census. The head of the house is shown as
Marium GIBBS, age 37 (actually 39!), Albert age 19 (20), George age 17, Sarah
Jane age 16, Eliza age 13, Norman age 12, and Byron age 9. Several houses away
Mary A. GIBBS, age 5, was shown at the residence of John EILIFE, where there was
another youngster about her age. The census taker was there on Tuesday, June 26,
1860. The census taker took Wednesday off and started again on Thursday, June
28, 1860, where he had left off. He had recorded Eliza GIBBS at her home on June
26, then recorded her again on June 28 at the residence of John ABLES. The
census then as now had over-counts and under-counts!
ROBERT GIBBS married his second wife, Mary WHITFORD, on March 8, 1863, in the
Township of Washington, Gratiot County, Michigan. The 1870 Census of Allegan
County, Salem Township, shows Robert GIBBS age 52, occupation Eclectic
Physician, his wife Mary age 26, and a son Elmer age 6, who was born in Indiana.
The 1880 Census of Ottawa County, Chester Township, shows Robert GIBBS age 62,
occupation Doctor. The record shows his father, John GIBBS, born in England. His
mother, Ann HAMMOND GIBBS, born in Pennsylvania. His wife Mary is age 35 and son
Elmer is age 16, and a daughter Lilly D. is age 7. Byron GIBB’S family record
book mentions the names of two other children, Eunice A. and Jay. Since they
appear on no census records, I assume they died very young.
When Lilly D. GIBBS married Alvin R. HATHAWAY on November 3, 1892, her residence
was shown as Portland, Michigan, and his as Pompeii, Washington Township,
Gratiot County, Michigan.
ELMER E. GIBBS, the son of Robert GIBBS and Mary WHITFORD GIBBS, died September
22, 1882, age of 18 years, 5 months, 14 days, of typhoid pneumonia, in Chester
Township, Ottawa County, Michigan.
Mary Alice GIBBS was married to Simeon COON on July 4, 1869, at Portland,
Michigan. The marriage record shows the same. Ten years later the 1880 Census of
Sebewa shows Simeon COON age 36 years. His mother-in-law, Mariam GIBBS is
keeping house and taking care of her grandsons Albert COON age 9 and Orren COON
age 7. In 1882 Simeon COON remarried. The 1900 Census of Portland Township shows
Simeon COON age 56 and wife Etta COON age 37 years. Simeon COON age 63 died in
Portland November 5, 1907, the result of a train accident. Son Albert COON age
64 died in Portland August 7, 1935. Son Orren COON age 23 is shown on the 1900
Census of Gratiot County, Pine River Township. His wife Edna was age 19.
ROBERT GIBBS died August 5, 1889, at the home of his son Norman in Sebewa
Township, Ionia County, and is buried in East Sebewa Cemetery. (Perhapss Lilly
was living there with her father when she married.) Robert GIBBS was age 71
according to his tombstone.
MARIAM AMES GIBBS, born April 12, 1821, died January 25, 1896, is also buried in
East Sebewa Cemetery, but on a different lot.
CHILDREN OF NORMAN GIBBS & MARY WASHBURN married as follows: MARTHA (MARTHEA)
GIBBS married Adelbert (Del) NORTHROP and had no children.
NORMAN E. GIBBS married Emma LUSCHER and had Nelson, Minnie, and Ruby (Mrs.
Charles WILSON). (See Volume 35 Number 1, August 1999, for LUSCHER family
ANNA E. GIBBS married George EVANS and was the mother of Floyd EVANS. (See
Volume 24 Number 1, August 1989, for EVANS family history.)
NELLIE J. GIBBS married Hans ARNESEN and had Norman ARNESEN, Ron’s dad.
THOMAS C. GIBBS married Elizabeth M. DOWNING and had Kathleen (Mrs. Sam FRYOVER).
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SEBEWA CENTER ASSOCIATION: Monday, May 29,
2000 Memorial Day, pot luck supper 6:30 PM. Bring table service and dish to
pass, beverages provided. Business meeting at 7:30 PM, Wes MEYERS, Jr’s. term as
Trustee expires, and the other Trustee seat is also available.
After the business meeting, a program on Ephraim SHAY and his Locomotive will be
presented by Bruce G. GATHMAN of Harbor Springs, MI. There will be much about
the man and his family, as well as his engine. Bruce has many slides and a
video, showing the area where Ephraim SHAY operated his logging railroad around
Harbor Springs, and all his inventions.
We attended SHAY DAYS in Harbor Springs on July 16-18, 1999, and enjoyed their
program very much. We also shared our information about Ephraim SHAY when he was
Sebewa Township Clerk, founder of SHAYTOWN, founder of HARING, near Cadillac,
and a very interesting and inventive Sebewa native.