Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 36 Number 4
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 Center Association,
FEBRUARY 2001, Volume 36, Number 4. Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI.
Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. SLOWINS:



LYNN E. MORRIS, 88, husband of Ariel DENTON DUNSMORE MORRIS, his wife of 58 years, father of Alaina TROUT, Sharron VanVleck McCargar, and Ardelis ENDRIE, brother of Gertrude BERNDT and the late John MORRIS, son of William L. MORRIS & Cloe Diana MILES MORRIS. Born in Maple Valley Township, Montcalm County, July 16, 1912, he began working at the Coral Creamery at age 12, and by age 18 was managing the business. He moved to Ionia in 1937, as part of Wm. MORRIS & Son Construction Company. They built or remodeled many homes & public buildings in the Ionia area.

He was a member of the old Ionia County Board of Supervisors representing the City of Ionia. He was a member of First United Methodist Church for 64 years and of American Legion, Masons & Lions. He and Ariel were founding members and he was past president of the Ionia County Historical Society and they provided great financial and personal support for the purchase and restoration of the John C. BLANCHARD home. They were also charter members of the Sebewa Center Association, as she was the last teacher in the Sebewa Center School. He will be buried in Saranac Cemetery.

MARGARET (MARGE) D. (DAVIS) SMITH, 88, widow of Laban A. SMITH, mother of Daniel G. Smith and the late Laban A. Smith IV, sister of Mrs. Basil LOWREY and two other sisters and a brother, daughter of Horton & Minnie WHEELER DAVIS. A graduate of Charlotte High School & Western Michigan College, she taught in Haslett, Flint and Monroe. Labe ran SMITH Hardware in Portland, and together they ran SMITH Lumber Company. She was active with horses, travel, local history and genealogy. She served on the Portland School Board, two different districts on the Ionia County Board of Commissioners, and on Portland and Ionia Historical Societies and Sebewa Center Association. She was also a special friend of our founder & first editor, the late Robert Wilfred GIERMAN. She is buried in Portland Cemetery.

SARAH J. (DANIELS) HARRIS, 89, widow of Ernest E. HARRIS, mother of Doris EASTMAN, Betty DAVIS, Barbara GORSUCH, Norman, Ernest, Robert & Roger HARRIS, and the late Larry & Kenneth HARRIS, sister of Albert DANIELS and the late Calvin DANIELS, Ellen SOULES & Evelyn WACHA, daughter of Violet HEATER & Jay DANIELS, brother of Andrus DANIELS, son of Oren DANIELS, Sr., son of Andrus DANIELS, Sr. She will be buried in Lakeside.

SHARON LYNN (BRANDSEN) HOORT, 52, wife of Larry J. HOORT, mother of Julie HOORT, Lisa HAYWARD and Jonathan HOORT, sister of Roger & Russell BRANDSEN, Colleen MONKS and Nancy BALES, daughter of Gordon & Helen Ruth HUHN BRANDSEN. She was employed by Portland Public Schools for 28 years and was currently executive secretary to the Superintendent. She was a member, organist and soloist at Sunfield United Methodist Church. She will be buried in West Sebewa Cemetery.

DONNA M. THORP, mother of Gina COURTS, grandmother of Aaron & Alex COURTS, sister of Dianne BARKER and Richard THORP, daughter of Kenneth & Ruth GOODEMOOT THORP. She spent more than 40 years in the grocery business, most recently as store manager for Carl’s Supermarket in Lake Odessa, in the same building where she started. Like so many people in the Sebewa, Odessa, Berlin area, Donna was the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Oliver WOLCOTT, Sr., an early Governor of Connecticut and signer of the Declaration of Independence. She will be buried in Lakeside Cemetery.

RATHBUN UPDATE: Melissa RATHBUN NEALY COLEMAN is a grand-niece of Frank RATHBUN, Sr., who is buried in East Sebewa Cemetery. She was the first of two U.S. women G.I.s taken prisoner in the Persian Gulf War, and today is the Tenth Anniversary of that war. Melissa was born in Grand Rapids, MI, March 9, 1970, the only child of Joan & Leo RATHBUN, and graduated in June 1988 from Creston High School. She was wounded in action and received a Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medal and a hug from General Norman Schwartzkopf and we wrote about her in August 1991.

Today the only traces are a shrapnel scar on her forearm and headaches and memory loss of Gulf War Syndrome. Now 30, she left the Army in 1993 and is a stay-at-home Mom in San Antonio, TX, for her two daughters ages 7 & 8. She drives her daughters to school and takes computer classes herself. “I’m really not a hero!” she says.


Saturday, December 9, 2000, we were up at 4:00AM, left home by 5:00, for a 7:00 flight on a D-95. We were traveling with Larry MERRILL, Executive Director of Michigan Townships Association (MTA), on our way to a Board of Directors meeting of the National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT)……arriving (in New Orleans) at 10:53 Central time…the taxi driver from the airport into town had the windows open. We asked how warm it was and he said 64 degrees going to 67 by midday. The next day was predicted to be 74 degrees going to 77 by midday. He had seen snow only once in 14 years living there. We had left harsh cold and winter at home……after resting in our room for a while and watching the Florida recount on TV, we met Donald & Elizabeth THALL from Kalamazoo for supper at the Bombay Club……we enjoyed sharing all the experiences in our years in the Township Clerk business, as well as our family origins in the Old Country and here in America……Sunday was the main meeting day for the NATaT Board of Directors……more meetings in the afternoon……concerned about weather back home, skipped Monday meetings (and took flight home)…..but when we came down to land in Detroit, there was a 14-inch blizzard……we came home by way of Waverly Road, M-43, M-66 & MUSGROVE HWY.


It’s been a true treasure hunt, writing a book about my grandmother, Nellie MEYERS GIERMAN. The first treasure to come my way was a box of letters she had saved. Subsequent treasures I’ve found on the Internet using the search engine. I particularly like this search engine because it prioritizes sites, and the web site engine. I particularly like this search engine because it prioritizes sites, and the web site I’m looking for is often on the first page of listings, if not the first site listed.

By typing in “railroad maps”, I found a wonderful collection, among them an 1897 Galbraith Rail Road Railway Mail Service map of Michigan that showed the railways Nellie would have taken from Portland to Big Rapids when she attended Ferris Institute (1903). The Ferris State University web site includes copies of some of the old catalogs, including the one listing my grandmother as a student. Mr. Ferris’ vision for the Institute is fascinating to read in itself. The site showed me the way to a colorful 1895 atlas map of Michigan. I haven’t found an Internet source of old Michigan plat maps, but back issues of the SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR and a local historian have been helpful for that and a lot of other information.

The old plat maps reveal that Nellie’s father married “the girl next door”. In one of her letters, Nellie mentioned studying a Millet painting, “The Gleaners”. That too was available on the Internet. The history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, The Epworth League, and the Bay View Association near Little Traverse Bay (which published a magazine called Bay View Reading Circle Magazine) can be found on the Internet as well. The history of the Grange is also available. And, of course, it’s a wonderful tool for genealogical research.

What I can’t find on the Internet are personal descriptions of my grandmother. So if any readers can tell me something about Nellie, I’d appreciate it very much. I picture her as a person with a kind but serious demeanor. I believe she must have had a wry sense of humor. When I first knew her she was already 70 years old and probably not as active in the community as she was at a younger age. So any stories or memories that people have of her would be very welcome, and I’m sure would assist me in my quest to learn more about her.

Though writing this book about my grandmother has caused me to think more deeply about Sebewa this past year or two, I’ve been surprised over the years how my heart wanders back to Sebewa Center---to the more familiar field and woodlot landscape and to the faces and voices of the men and women who peopled it when my grandmother was still alive. When I was a child, there were frequent occasions to make the three-mile trip from my parent’s home (Maurice & Vera GIERMAN) near the GODDARD/MUSGROVE intersection to the Center.

Sometimes my father took me to a Ladies Aid Society dinner at the church. There I would play with other children, or listen to the grownups talk---after making sure that Sadie TRAN was there with one of her incomparable apple pies. The grownups had faces that went with the names I often heard spoken by my uncles, and cousins, are the ones I see and hear in my mind today. Many are long gone.

Since I’ve been writing a book about Nellie, I’ve been thinking more and more of Sebewa Center and the kind of community of people that existed during the period that she lived there. I’m going to guess that when the school districts consolidated and the Center school closed, a major focal point for the community disappeared, and that the close-knit quality of the Sebewa Center community disappeared as well.

But, things change. Perhaps the change in the community was as much the result of the post-war migration of people to jobs in the cities, the increasing numbers of mothers working outside of the home, and the increasing numbers of children going away, to college or jobs in far flung parts of the country and world. Or perhaps I’m wrong and the kind of community I pictured existing for my grandmother (in which the religious, social and economic center of life was contained largely in Sebewa) still exists. The letters to her from home are full of news of neighbors helping neighbors through sickness, fire, accident, poverty and every other misfortune that seemed to strike frequently.

In any event, I wager that there are many treasures there in Sebewa still. Some grandchild or great grandchild will look back into the family tree and focus on some small clue to give life to an otherwise silent face peering out from a photograph. I wasn’t aware, as a child, that my Grandmother might have had dreams of a profession, and I never wondered until recently what her life was like as a young woman. Her letters do not speak directly of a desire to leave Sebewa Center to pursue a teaching profession, but they do reveal that she cared very much for the opportunities at Ferris, both for the classes in physics, algebra, and history, and for the extra curricular lectures and programs.

She did hope to get a teaching certificate. But her stay at Ferris and her correspondence (and thus her written thoughts) were cut off when her father (Albert MEYERS) was severely injured by a horse and Nellie had to return home. She subsequently taught school at the Center for a year, and then in 1906 married my grandfather, Robert E. GIERMAN.

I encourage any of you readers to save your treasures. Among my grandmother’s letters were letters from Nettie WAGNER, Bessie CARROLL, Mary ALBERT, Mary PITTENGER, Mrs. A. K. STEWART, Ida MORGAN, Louise GUNN, Maud ZIONTS, Minnie SINDLINGER, Bertha SULLIVAN. If you have any information about Nellie to share, you can get in touch with me as follows: DEANNA GIERMAN PUMPLIN, 4671 Magnolia Street, Port Townsend, Washington 98368. Email: Phone: 360-385-5917.


I’m not sure why I was asked to write an essay. Maybe it’s because I just turned 81 years old and I should have acquired some wisdom. I’m not sure wisdom comes with age - - maybe all we get is more experience. I’ve been around for 81 Christmases! I don’t remember every one. I think I can say I never had a bad one. It’s always a wonderful time of year. I know that for some people who are lonely or who have dreams they can’t fulfill, this can be a difficult time of year, but for me, I can’t recall a Christmas that wasn’t a joyous affair. I remember going to the Congregational Church in Greenville, the church decorated so beautifully and everyone singing together and every kid came home with something, a piece of candy or an orange. That was always a pleasant memory, a happy time……Just think, in 1919 (the year I was born), the Model-T Ford car was “the car”……When I was 11 or 12 years old, I worked with an old farmer on our farm……For us the year 1927, before the Great Depression, was a boom time. My dad was a prosperous barber. That Christmas, he bought a pony for me at $75, plus $5 delivery. Two years later, in 1929, he was broke. I remember the Depression days, the WPA workers and the CCC camps………When we opened our first small grocery store in Greenville, we hauled groceries the 15 miles from U.S. 131 to Greenville via M-57………A 17-year-old young man from Greenville who wanted to be a barber had worked with my dad for several years and then left to pursue work in another city. He returned to Greenville and bought my dad’s barber shop for $350, plus one month’s rent on the building of $25………with that $375, plus credit, we opened the grocery. The first year in the grocery business, we heated the store with a pot-bellied stove. We used pine stumps for fuel. We could get them free from our farm fence-rows. We sold raw (unpasteurized) milk that took on a different flavor when the cows grazed on fresh alfalfa. How our customers complained!

My parents were a powerful presence in my life. I learned so much from both of them, especially from Dad’s examples and from his stories, like the one about being a new immigrant in Chicago.

I remember the Christmas gifts - - we were elated to receive a gift of any kind, even clothing was much appreciated. One year there were two gunny-sacks under the Christmas tree with something alive inside. One contained a bantam hen for my sister, the other a bantam rooster for me. Some of the other gifts we received were marbles, leather “hi-top” boots, mittens, gloves, a scarf, games like lotto or checkers, an orange and candy. Over the years I remember receiving a little red wagon, a sled, and then ice skates.

Today, there are so many conveniences, we take them for granted. Not long ago, TV wasn’t invented. Coal and wood stoves were the norm. Cars had to be cranked by hand to start them. We didn’t even have a phone at our house. We had to walk two blocks to the neighbors to use a phone. I think the most remarkable progress has been in the health field. We are living longer and healthier with each generation.

The “good old days” for me were wonderful. I just wouldn’t want to live them again! I’d like to start now and be 60 years younger. Old age, as one doctor said, isn’t for sissies. But if you have loving family and good friends, you’re rich. END

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This Editor is a personal acquaintance of Fred Meijer’s sister, Doris, mentioned above, and her husband, Herman RADER, a retired township official from Winfield Township, Montcalm County. Fred himself bagged my groceries after visiting about that friendship in the Men’s Room.)

ODE TO THE GOODWIN BRIDGE – This Bridge was built by Burton DRAKE, and ice may jam, old earth may quake, cyclones may come and floods may rush, Tails of comets, too, may brush; The sun and moon may change their course and lightning may exhaust its force, Yet the bridge will stand, a monument to Labor, Skill, and Good Cement.

The above poem is one of the many written by CHARLES GOODWIN, SR., known as the Bard of Christian Bend, under the pen-name J. K. SWIPES. They were published as the “Complete Works of J. K. SWIPES”, by the Portland REVIEW & OBSERVER. Charles GOODWIN was the grandfather of Esther (Mrs. Mick) BAILEY and was great-uncle to Ann SLOWINS.


Last update November 10, 2013