THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the
Sebewa Center Association, Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI.
AUGUST 2000, Volume 36, Number 1. Submitted with written permission of Editor
Grayden D. SLOWINS:
SURNAMES: Shay, McWhorter, Bark, Thompson, Dow
FRONT PAGE PHOTO: SHAYTOWN STORE Built 1884, Picture taken 1886.
Inside page photos: SHAYTOWN STORE in 1941 (with the L.C. LEMMON house in
background), 1941 (with a couple, Max and a woman sitting on it’s front steps);
1971, 1981 thru 2000; photo of Max McWhorter, 1991.
SHAYTOWN STORE by Grayden SLOWINS:
Ephraim SHAY was Clerk of Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan, in 1867 &
1868. He got his training for the Clerk’s job by being an Armey Clerk of Medical
Supply in an Infantry Regiment under General William TECUMSEH SHERMAN at
Chickasaw Springs & Vicksburg Springs, Mississippi, Etc., during the Civil War.
According to the 1867 plat map, he owned 40 acres in Sec. 16 & 80 acres in Sec.
21 Sebewa, later known as the Lancey MEYERS farm. By January 26, 1870, when his
son Lette was born, he had sold this farm and moved to a portion of the 160
acres at the SW ¼ Sec. 25 Sunfield Township, Eaton County, owned by Aaron &
Julia BARK, whose daughter Libbie married Burt McWhorter and became grandparents
of Max McWHORTER, Jr., born 1919. Ephraim received a deed on July 22, 1871, to
at least eight acres of the NW ¼ of the NW ¼ of that SW ¼ at the intersection of
today’s SHAYTOWN Road and Clinton Trail – M-50, as shown on the 1873 plat map of
Ephraim is thought to have had a small stock of general merchandise and a post
office in his farm home beside his steam sawmill. But SHAYTOWN Post Office was
not officially established until 1880 and our cover photo of the store is
labeled “Built in 1884”. He had sold most of the eight acres with the sawmill to
his brother-in-law, James M. HENDERSON, in 1875, and the last house lot was
deeded to someone in 1886. Ephraim (SHAY) had already moved on with his store
and a sawmill to HARING Township, Wexford County, just north of Cadillac, and
the position of Wexford County Treasurer. On September 19, 1876, he ordered mill
parts from Lima Machine Works in Ohio from the Haring address.
By 1877 he had built the first prototype of his SHAY Patent Locomotive, with
bevel gear & pinion wheels and a flexible drive shaft along the side, by using a
flatcar built on two ordinary trucks of four wheels each, a small portable
upright boiler with two vertical one-cylinder engines, and a barrel for water on
one end of the car and a box of firewood on the other end.
Those who followed Ephraim SHAY in the SHAYTOWN Store were:
Albert JENNINGS, Perry J. (Ped) WELCH (grandfather of ‘young P.J.’), William R.
WELLS, Glenn TURNER, and A. G. MOORE. In 1874 Ezra POOLE was a blacksmith in
SHAYTOWN, John & Thomas WATSON were sawyers in the mill. Dr. Charles N. SNYDER
(no connection to Sebewa’s Dr. George SNYDER) was also living there in 1874, and
took a bride, Miss Maggie COLLIER, in 1887. Their house was across from the
store on the east corner, and the small house south of that was the Elmer &
Libbie SHAFFER residence.
The L. G. LEMMON home was on the west side, north of the store. Photos show the
SHAYTOWN Oddfellows Hall #256 located above store. A. G. MOORE advertised “Best
Quality Groceries at the Right Prices” in the 1916 edition of the Farm Journal
Directory. First Postmaster at SHAYTOWN was A. C. JARVIS, followed by Perry J. (Ped)
WELCH. Max McWHORTER has an envelope from Lynette FREEMIRE to Libbie McWHORTER,
address SHAYTOWN, and a reply envelope post-marked at SHAYTOWN in August 1900.
SHAYTOWN School was a half mile south of the store on the southwest corner of
Bismark Hwy. & SHAYTOWN Rd., with many alumni pictured at annual school picnics.
Two other sets of Max’s great-grandparents, McWHORTERS & THOMPSONS, settled
first in Sebewa.
Max McWHORTER contributed greatly to this issue, with both pictures and
remembered stories. He attended Dow School near his family farm, and a number of
his relatives, including his mother, attended SHAYTOWN School. The family was
active in the SHAYTOWN I. O. O. F. Lodge (Independent Order of Odd Fellows)
above the SHAYTOWN Store, and active in the life of that community.
Richard O. McWHORTER came from Ohio to the Sunfield-Roxand Townships area in the
late 1840s. In 1850 he married Rachel Ann TUNISON, daughter of William & Susan
TUNISON, who arrived in the Dow neighborhood in 1838 to take up land adjacent to
their brother-in-law John DOW, who arrived in 1837. In 1851 Richard & Rachel Ann
settled in Sebewa Township, Ionia County, in a location now unknown.
They remained there until 1858, when their cabin burned and all possessions were
lost. By 1860 they had returned to Sunfield Township and taken possession of
what became the family farm along today’s Dow and McWHORTER Roads. Richard was
killed in the Civil War on June 18, 1864, at age 36, leaving a widow and
daughters Susan & Loease and son Burt, age one and a half years. Rachel Ann, who
was born in 1830, died in 1921 at age 91, on some of the same land her parents
had taken up 83 years before.
Burt & Libbie BARK McWHORTER had stayed on his mother’s land and added more.
Their son, Max McWHORTER, Sr., got the next 80 acres west on McWHORTER Road,
which had belonged to the C. M. VanHOUTON family. Max Sr. & Glycie CHATFIELD
McWHORTER moved their family into Sunfield Village in 1934.
During the Great Depression they hoped to make a better living running a
restaurant. They didn’t feel a need to lock the farmhouse when they left, and
when Max Jr. & Joyce moved back 14 years later, not a window pane was broken and
no signs of vandalism. Max’s brother Carroll now owns land that belonged to
Rachel & Burt.
Because of those years spent in Sunfield Village before World War II, Max was
able to write the Main Street pages for the History of Sunfield book published
in 1995. Several merchants mentioned in that book came from Sebewa Township and
some had previously run stores in Sebewa Corners. Frank N. (Peanut) CORNELL was
a pioneer merchant in Sebewa Corners (East Sebewa) who migrated to Sunfield and
employed young Griffen WEIPPERT, also from Sebewa and later manager of the
Sunfield State Bank, as a clerk.
CORNELL sold general merchandise in the corner building diagonally across from
MAPES Furniture Store, and it included everything from groceries to clothing to
fence posts & fence. Later F. N. CORNELL worked for the War Department at Camp
CUSTER in Battle Creek and then came back to sell World War I Army Surplus in a
wooden building where the Post Office now stands. Finally he had a small store
in what is now the beauty shop just west of the G. A. R. Hall, and sold what
appeared to be the leftovers of both previous businesses.
The DEATSMANS who ran a general store in what is now the Community Rooms were
from Musgrove Hwy. in Sebewa. Elmer CREIGHTON, Sunfield’s last blacksmith, was
from Sebewa. Elmer was a blacksmith in the Army Air Force in WWII. He was
stationed in England and patched the holes in bombers when they came back from
runs over Berlin. After burying him in the West Sebewa Cemetery, I imbedded a
small anvil & ball-peen hammer in the foundation of his marker.
“SEBEWA TOWNSHIP 1867 map (part). Town 5 North Range 6 West;
from the tax assessment roll, Isaac BRETZ, Supervisor.
Joshua & Sam GUNN bought from Ben PROBASCO, Sr., then Sam GUNN sold out to his
brother Joshua (father of Fred, father of Alton) and bought Ephraim SHAY farm.
Ephraim SHAY thereafter followed saw mills. Ben PROBASCO moved around corner as
SUNFIELD TOWNSHIP 1883 (part).
REPORT OF ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SEBEWA CENTER ASSOCIATION: Bruce
GATHAM from Harbor Springs gave an excellent slide presentation on the life of
Ephraim SHAY. It was like a Grand Finale however, because only 17 people came,
11 for the meal and 6 more for the program, and NO officers! Four of the five
officers have said over the last couple years that they do not wish to continue.
Only Sharon HUNT KYSER, Secretary/Treasurer, has not declined, but all remain in
office until replaced or we quit. The group requested that the Sebewa Township
Board find a way to cover the liability problem and continue to use the building
as a voting precinct. This has been done with the aid of Cathy HOORT, Attorney,
and Greg DZIEWICKI, insurance agent. The building and grounds have been leased
to Sebewa Township for a period of five years at the rate of $1 per year, plus
electricity, furnace oil, lawn mowing, and Bodily Injury & Property Damage
Insurance. Repairs to building, pump, well, furnace or premises will be the
responsibility of the Sebewa Center Association.
Those present also voted to cease collecting dues as of July 1, 2000. We will
continue to edit & publish the RECOLLECTOR for a while longer, and if you were
in good standing on July 1, you will continue to receive it until the Treasury
runs out or the Editor does. For reasons of age, health & plain lack of energy,
we will not continue the rigid schedule of six issues per year, but probably
four or five, writing about our travels, local history & genealogy.