Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 39 Number 2
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
(Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan);
OCTOBER 2003, Volume 39, Number 2. Submitted with written permission of Editor, Grayden D. SLOWINS:



JOHNANNA BARTUS SEARS, 78, wife of Wallace SEARS, mother of John & Loren SEARS and the late Raymond SEARS & Charlene SEARS PATTERSON, sister of Edith COSTIE and the late Larry HANSELMAN, daughter of John & Minnie TIPTON BARTUS. Johnanna was a member of Portland Seventh Day Adventist Church, a graduate of Cedar Lake Adventist Academy, and was married to Wallace for 60 years.

VERA LUCIELLE KENYON ROSS, 85, widow of Frank ROSS, mother of Pamela K. ROSS, sister of Dorothy SILKY, Gwendolyn FENTON, and the late Virginia TERRILL and Paul BISHOP, daughter of Floyd A. & Allena May KENYON BISHOP. Born in Sebewa, she grew up in Portland & Lansing, graduated from Portland High School & St. Lawrence School of Nursing. She enjoyed traveling & genealogy and was a long-time member of Sebewa Center Association. Allena May KENYON was daughter of Mary Allena FULLER & Henry Nathan KENYON, who emigrated from Holland to Sebewa.

SCHNABEL-SNOBBLE FAMILY UPDATE: In the February issue Louis Horace SNOBBLE’S birthplace was given in two different places as 1858, and his age at death in 1962 as 1904. This was a double typographical error, as his correct birthdate is 1868 and age at death is 94.

SLATER FAMILY UPDATE: Lewis SLATER has a sister, Marilyn Louise BURDINIE, and a brother, Duane L. SLATER. Their father’s cousin, Forrest SLATER, celebrated his 90th birthday on August 13, 2003. His daughter-in-law, Gretchen SLATER, wrote a nice article for the Weekender about his service in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) seventy years ago this summer. They went to Camp Custer in Battle Creek for physical examinations and induction, were issued clothing & supplies, received physical conditioning. They earned $1 per day, of which $25 was sent home to their struggling families each month and the other $5 they were allowed to keep.

The Department of Labor supervised the enrollment. The camps were run by the Army and the work was supervised by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture & Interior and the State Park Service. They repaired waterways, built bridges & dams, fought fires, built park structures and planted millions of trees. Of 135 men who applied from Ionia County, 80 passed the exam and 70 actually went. The extra ten were to be called if any had to drop out. Forrest SLATER was one of the original 70 men.


Veterans of World War Two are said to be passing on at the rate of 1100 per week, and it’s time we got their stories in print. One of those Vets with ties to Sebewa Township is Byron GIBBS of Mount Pleasant, MI. His great-grandparents, Robert & Mariam AMES GIBBS, settled in Sebewa Township in late 1858, and on January 11, 1859, purchased their forty acres in Section 11 on the south side of YORK Road, later owned by Jacob EVANS, then Joe EVANS, and now home of Iva & Stanley PUNG. Robert & Mariam are buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.

Mariam GIBBS was the daughter of Lorenzo G. & Adda L. AMES, who owned twenty acres in Section 11 on the south side of Clarksville Road eventually reduced to ten acres and then to 7.5 acres by the TRAVIS School and Christian Reformed Church & Parsonage. Byron got the school parcel back when it closed and sold the 8 acres only a few years ago. The AMES family is also buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.

Robert & Mariam GIBBS had eight children, several of whom married and produced many descendants in the Sebewa area. A more complete story may be seen in THE RECOLLECTOR, Vol. 35, No. 5 & 6, April & June, 2000. In summary however: Albert GIBBS, born 1840, died while serving with the 21st Michigan Infantry in 1863, and is buried in Nashville National Cemetery.

George Riley GIBBS, born 1842, married Mary Ann HOWLAND, and they had Frank, Mable, Marian, George. Sarah Jane GIBBS, born 1844, married Columbus SANDBORN, lived on KNOLL Road in Section 4 west of SHILTON Rd., and had Chester, Helen, Albert Riley, May, Arlie, Alice & Lawrence (Lon) SANDBORN and all the descendants that entails! See SANDBORNS in RECOLLECTOR Vol. 35, No. 1, August, 1999. Many of these SANDBORNS are buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.

Eliza Ann GIBBS, born 1846, married Fred BURHANS and lived on the west forty acres of what was later the George THORPE/Louis BOWER farm on the north side of Clarksville Road in Section 2. Eliza & Fred had Mentie, George, Nellie & Levi BURHANS. Norman GIBBS, born 1848, died 1909, married Mary E. WASHBURN, lived on KNOLL NORTHRUP, Norman E. GIBBS, Anna GIBBS EVANS, Nellie GIBBS ARNESEN, and Thomas GIBBS. Both sons lived on KNOLL Road and the daughters nearby. All of Norman’s family is buried in East Sebewa Cemetery. The EVANS descendants may be seen in RECOLLECTOR Vol. 24, No. 1-2-3, August, October, December 1988 & No. 5, April 1989.

Robert H. GIBBS was born & died in 1853 in Seneca County Ohio, before the family came to Michigan. Mary Alice GIBBS, born 1854, married Simeon COON, lived in Sebewa, Michigan & possibly Omaha, Nebraska, had sons Albert & Orren COON.

Byron H. GIBBS, born 1850, died 1908, married Nellie MAPES, owned & farmed the east forty acres of what later became the THORPE/BOWER farm on north side of Clarksville Road, Section 2, as well as what remained of his grandparents Ames’ farm on the south side. Their children were (Albert) Bruce GIBBS & Fannie GIBBS. Fannie married George THORPE and they acquired first the west forty from her Aunt Eliza BURHANS and then the east forty after Nellie’s death in 1930.

Nellie was the daughter of Henry & Adelia MAPES, who had twenty-one acres on the south side of KNOLL Road in Section 3. Henry had a blacksmith shop there and was a Civil War Veteran. Byron & Nellie, Henry & Adelia are buried together in East Sebewa Cemetery, under the big tree by the road, near Polly BAKER, the oldest inhabitant of the cemetery and shirt-tail related to the GIBBS family thru the NORTHRUPS. Henry MAPES got his government marker only about ten years ago, thanks to the efforts of young Byron.

A. Bruce GIBBS attended Portland High School in segments, while teaching HALLADAY school in 1897-1898 and again in 1899-1900, and Sebewa High School in 1900-1901 & 1901-1902. He also attended Ferris Institute and Ypsilanti Teachers’ College in between teaching rural schools in northern Michigan and Ohio. In 1912 he began working at Sunfield Bank and in 1913 moved to Clare County Savings Bank in Clare, MI, as bookkeeper. There he met and married Jessie Estella KREBS, who was working in Clare as a milliner, but grew up in Chester Township, Eaton County, and graduated from Charlotte High School. Children of Bruce & Jessie KREBS GIBBS were Byron GIBBS, born December 7, 1916, and Estella Jane GIBBS, born & died on May 7, 1921.

Byron GIBBS attended grade school and high school in Clare. The family was extensive gardeners and always enjoyed taking a summer vacation at harvest time to help Uncle George & Aunt Fannie THORPE on the farm. This reminds us of another MAPES, named Harry, who was an undertaker in Sunfield and enjoyed nothing more than returning to the farms of Roy PUMFREY, Gerrit SMITH, Glenn OLRY and others, to tend bagger on the threshing machine and later the combine. After high school Byron GIBBS went to Michigan Technological University at Houghton to obtain an engineering degree.

Byron GIBBS married Gertrude Bridget REGAN, born July 22, 1914, died October 8, 1980, a beautician with her own shop. They had one daughter, Louise GIBBS McCRACKEN of Mt. Pleasant, born January 7, 1947. Byron’s second wife was Ruth CARLSON GIBBS, born August 27, 1927, died July 10, 2000. After living many summers at a home in Manistee, Byron has moved back permanently to Mt. Pleasant, to be near his daughter. We begin printing his WW II memoirs on the next page and will need several issues to complete them. END


April 17, 1941 – December 7, 1941 – In the spring of 1941, most things were getting back to normal. The effects of the great depression which lasted from 1929 to mid 1940 were now disappearing. Jobs were available and there was the feeling good times were back.

There was trouble in other parts of the world. The German army had over run Eastern Europe in 1940 and the Japanese had invaded Manchuria and China. Their military strength was growing far beyond that needed to defend their homeland.

At this time the United States had a standing army of only 500,000. This was much too small to effectively defend this country. Our President realizes this was an alarming situation and Congress passed the first peace-time draft which became effective Sept. 16, 1940 to train for one year young men of military age. On October 15, 1940, the National Guard was mobilized for one year of Federal Service to train the men inducted for military training.

On April 17, 1941, I became one of those inducted for one year of the military training. I had registered in Detroit with the draft board #19 and been given the draft number 769. I received a notice to report on April 17, 1941 to the US Army Induction Station at 1040 West Fort Street, Detroit. I drove my 1940 Ford Deluxe maroon two door sedan and parked it on the street by the Induction Station not realizing I would go into the Army immediately and would not see my car again for many months.At the Induction Station, there were about 350 of us processed that day. I was given a serial number 36111271 and told we were now in the Army. We went immediately, by train, to Camp Grant Illinois Reception Center near Rockford arriving there the next morning April 18, 1941 at 6:00 A.M.

As soon as I could get to a pay phone I called Keith Detwiler who worked with me as second shift electricians at the American Metal Products CO. I asked Keith if he would get the spare keys off the dresser where we stayed and pick up the car and later drive it to mother’s in Clare.

At Camp Grant we were issued a wool shirt and pants and some other clothing. We were given the standard intelligence test. The food there was good I had noticed in a letter home. The stay at the Camp Grant Reception Center was not long.

We were loaded on a train Monday, April 21, 1941 and arrived at Camp Livingston, Louisiana the night of April 22, 1941.

About eight thousand selectees from Michigan and Wisconsin were assigned to the 32nd Division at Camp Livingston in April. The 32nd division was a Michigan and Wisconsin National Guard division that had been mobilized October 15, 1940 for one year of service. First they were at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana then to Camp Livingston.

A number of us were assigned to Co. M, 126th Infantry Regiment for a couple of days then to Co. C which was a National Guard Company from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most of the men that joined Company C at the time I did came from Detroit, Saginaw, Bay City and the Grand Rapids area.

Company C area had squad tents with wooden floors and wooden sides up about three feet. There was a gas heater in each tent. There were five or six to a tent each having a steel cot with mattress, mattress cover, two wool blankets, white sheets, pillow and pillow case. The walkways to the tents were white oyster shells and the area was very neat. There were just two permanent buildings in the company area. There was a new white painted mess hall and the latrine.

We were issued a steel foot locker, barracks bag and some additional wool clothing. My civilian clothing was sent home. The first from Camp Grant and the reminder from Camp Livingston, as we were told, we would have no need for civilian clothes.

In the mess hall, there were long picnic tables. The dishes and silverware had not all been unpacked yet. The dishes were heavy porcelain and the large heavy cups had no handles. This struck me as being rather odd, large heavy cups with no handles.

The first two weeks we were in quarantine and confined to the company area. We received a smallpox vaccination and a typhoid fever shot. The doctor checked us frequently during the quarantine period. I had written home that there was a government run store where we could buy tooth paste, razor blades, etc. At the time I did not know this was called a post exchange.

During the first six weeks we were taking basic training. This included close order drill, care of equipment, manual of arms, etc. During this time the pay was $21.00 per month less the $6.70 deducted for a $10,000.00 Government Life insurance policy, this left $14.30 in cash at the pay table.

We were issued WW I flat type helmets, a gas mask, and blue denim fatigue or work clothes consisting of pants, jacket, and a flat blue denim-rimmed hat. This work uniform was strictly for work and most did not fit well. During this period we were issued new M1 rifles which had to be cleaned of the cosmoline which kept the metal free of rust. It was not long before we found out the flat WW I helmets were not comfortable.

My first trip to Alexandria, LA was May 10. In my letter home I wrote that there were 10 soldiers in uniform on the street for every man, woman, and child there. I checked my weight there at 144 lbs. On a penny scale and took the bus back to camp early. The camp now had about 20,000 soldiers.

We had good cooks at our Company C mess hall. At this time I think 240 men were being fed by two cooks. They were assisted by a detail of six to help by cleaning and washing the dishes and pots and pans.

Our first Commanding Officer was 1st Lt. Bill Fitzgerald. It was not long before he was transferred and 1st Lt. Arthur Bush became Commanding Officer. 2nd Lt. George S. Read had joined the company sometime in late April. Very shortly after, I joined Company C.

Lt. Bush was thorough in his inspections and carefully checked the mess hall. This he did very often. Sometimes sampling the food before it was served. When the bugle call sounded for mess, Lt. Bush and Lt. Reed were usually the last ones in the mess line to be sure there was sufficient food and it was well prepared. Our mess hall earned the reputation of being the best around and we frequently had visiting officers from other companies.

By the end of May 1941, our basic training was now completed and the monthly pay increased to $30.00 less the $6.70 for government insurance leaving $23.30 at the pay table. Now I was able to send home money orders each month to my widowed mother. I really had very little need for any money.

We were still wearing wool uniforms and the temperature, some days, was 100 degrees. We were finally issued cotton pants but no shirts, so we had to continue wearing wool. We did shortly receive the cotton shirts and a second pair of shoes.

We now were having field problems and short maneuvers. We were finding out what it meant to have breakfast before daylight and possibly no other food that day and sleep out on the ground soaking wet. There were two seasons we were told, the rainy season and the wet season. This seemed to be quite true.

Thru June 1941 we had a number of Combat problems and short maneuver. By mid June I received the Kodak No. 1 Kodamatic Camera, tripod and exposure guide I had ordered. The lens on the camera was f4.5 – 32 with shutter speeds 200-100-50-25-10-B-T and focus adjustment from 3.5 feet to infinity. This Kodak Vigilant S – 20 took excellent pictures with 620 black and white Vericome film.

On the weekend of July 4 (Thurs. 3rd – Sun. 6th) a percentage of the company was allowed to sign up for a trip to New Orleans Recreation Area at Lake Pontchartrain. We were transported there by army trucks. I took pictures of Tulane University, Sugar Bowl, Hugey Long’s home and the old French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square and the cemeteries. The French Quarter streets were busy at all hours of the day and night. Some bars including the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street were open 24 hours a day and there were street vendors late at night with their push carts selling hot tamales.

During the day I rode the street cars the full 14 mile trip for seven cents to get a good view of the city. The city of New Orleans is unique in that it is 40 feet below sea level. Here I found out auto license plates in Louisiana cost $2.00 and no driver’s license was required.

After we returned to Camp Livingston, we got back to having field problems. One time we returned to camp after a heavy rain and found some portions of the company area flooded and some tents pushed out of line in a foot of water. The tent I was in was higher and did not get water in it.

My turn for KP came up July 13th, 14th, 15th with four others. We were up at 2:30 a.m. and put in a 17-hour day. At this time we had the dishes of 170 soldiers to wash plus the pots and pans and clean up in the dining area and kitchen.

We were then firing on a range a couple of days later and I qualified as a marksman. While on the firing range, our cooks brought out the noon meal. There we ate from our mess kits. I believe Lt. Arthur Bush had us rinse the mess kits and cup in boiling water before eating. Lt. Arthur Bush and Lt. George Reed were the last two in the mess line to be sure there was enough for everyone. After eating we washed our mess kits in a large garbage can of hot soapy water and rinse them in another can of clean boiling water. The cans were kept hot by immersion gasoline heaters.

We now frequently had alerts at Camp Livingston. This meant preparing our pack for a 10-day trip and taking our foot lockers, bunks, mattresses and all other things to the mess hall for storage as if we were leaving for good. Sometimes we would just go on a short march and come back and get everything back in our tents.

By July 10 we had mosquito bars over our bunks and slept inside this netting at night. We always had our rifles handy. At night they were slung from the edge of the cot within easy reach. Lt. Bush would say he wanted us to feel the rifle was a part of us and wanted us to become so familiar with it we did not feel right without having it in our hands or within reach.

Some soldiers had some rather odd slang. Jim Downey who had been a bellhop at the Book Cadillac would sometimes say he was “going to take a Duffy”. This seemed to mean he was going to go where he could not be found and take it easy.

With all the rain, I knew it was going to be necessary to keep my camera dry somehow. Many times we got soaked to the skin. I had mother make a rubber sack the camera could slip in easily and it was twice as long as the camera so it could be folded over to give a waterproof seal. This then slid easily in the leather case and I made a sack like canvas cover to go outside the leather case so it would look like military equipment. Spare film went in another rubber sack with envelopes, stamps, and stationery.

It was now getting so the alerts were more frequent and bunks and everything would go into the mess hall to be later removed and put back in our tents.

On Monday, August 11, 1941, we left for large scale Louisiana Maneuvers which were large scale army Maneuvers. We carried everything in our pack we would need for ten days or so. Some extra clothing went in a barracks bag in a baggage truck with some company field equipment. At first we were near Lake Charles. Sometimes we were friendly forces during the war games and wore blue arm bands. Other times we were enemy forces wearing a red arm band. During this time our mailing address remained unchanged except that APO#32 was added.

There was a persistent rumor that the length of military service was going to increase by eighteen months. The National Guard was looking forward to completing their one year of service in a couple of months and going home. The rumor was not well received by them, but so far it was just a rumor.

On August 15, 1941, we were assembled with the rest of the division to hear the Commanding General speak. His appearance was greeted by some “boos”. His speech to the assembled soldiers made it official that there was an 18-month extension of service. There was nothing but silence after the announcement. Everyone was silent, reflecting the change would make in their lives. Now the service was to be two and one half years instead of one.

I think there was some disciplinary action given the entire division because of the initial greeting given to the General on his appearance, but I do not remember what it was.

In the days and week s following the official announcement of the 18-month increase, we would hear some National Guard soldier in the distance shout “Ohio” (standing for ‘over the hill in October).

The maneuvers continued with one unit sometimes part of an attacking force and at other times on the defensive. We could see how short units were of heavy weapons. Fence posts were made into simulated water-cooled machine guns. Mortars were made from a small diameter galvanized sheet metal pipe painted black with a wooden base to make up for those weapons the units did not have. Tank units were also without sufficient tanks and we saw sometimes a jeep with a sign on the front saying it was a tank.

To add realism to an attack, we were sometimes issued a few rounds of blank ammunition with the caution not to fire at some attacker at close range.

During maneuvers we were fed by our own cooks. If we were in reserve, we had the kitchen set up with field ranges and we would be camped with our pup tents neatly lined up in the company area. There we would sleep at night in the tents. Our first duties in setting up would be to hand dig the trenches for the latrines and then a garbage pit 6’ x 6’ x 6’ near the kitchen.

Our drinking water supply to fill our canteens always came from the large rubberized Lister Bag we called the “company cow” which must have held 25 gallons or so of water. This was hung from a tripod of poles or from a tree branch. All of the meals during maneuvers were eaten from our mess kits and we sat on the ground.

If we were in an attacking force and on the move, our kitchen truck might locate us for breakfast before daylight. We would be given a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and an apple or orange for lunch. The sandwich usually was two slices of bread with some apple butter or jam that would not spoil during a hot day carried in the pack. Jam did not work too well in a sandwich as ants could always seem to somehow get at the sandwich. A jam and live ant sandwich is hard to eat unless you are pretty hungry.Our next meal after breakfast, served from our kitchen truck, would be a late after-dark supper unless the mess personnel got captured. In this case there was nothing till the following day. I soon learned to carry something to eat when I could buy it.
(To be continued)

Information provided by Ionia County Probate Judge Geer SMITH in 1973, and Woodland Township Supervisor/Commissioner Victor ECKHARDT in 1993:

Judge Geer SMITH was born about 1896 and served with some of these men in their later years. He thinks it is the picture which typically was taken when a new crop of supervisors had their organizational meeting. He says the only term of office in which all these county officials would have been in office at the same time was in 1892-1894.

Victor ECKHARDT was born in 1905. His mother was Bertha VOELKER, whose family had a barbershop and later an insurance agency in Ionia. His wife was Eulah SCHNEIDER, whose father was George Schneider, a farmer on TUPPER Lake Road and Odessa Township Supervisor, shown in the photo in fourth row, left end, with his back against the pillar.

Chester ADGATE, second row, left end, was Berlin Township Supervisor and owner of the pioneer Alonzo SESSIONS farm, which became the Ionia County Infirmary Farm and is now part of Ionia State Park.

Adam FENDER, Civil War G.A.R. Veteran, second row, right end, with light coat & droopy moustache, was a farmer on South State Road and Sebewa Township Supervisor, in 1897-1917 by the family’s record.

Michael SLOWINSKI & Christopher SLOWINSKI, front row, first & second from left end, were farmers on HARWOOD Road in Berlin Township and helped build the courthouse in 1883-1886. Chris was a stonecutter, stone mason and Mike was a carpenter/joiner. Third from left is unknown, probably a supervisor. Fourth is Ed MURPHY, County School Commissioner, now called Superintendent. Fifth is Frank D. M. DAVIS, Circuit Judge. Sixth is Royal A. HAWLEY, Prosecutor and later Judge.

Seventh is Alexander T. MONTGOMERY, Sheriff, who also ran a livery stable in his building where the Commission on Aging is now located. His son George was a classmate of Geer SMITH in Ionia and at the University of Michigan. George became a longtime Democrat State Representative from Detroit and his funeral was held at Ionia First Methodist Church after 1973, with burial in Highland Park Cemetery. Geer says Alex was an old man by the time his three children were ready for college, so his younger wife moved to Ann Arbor to provide them a home. Alex stayed in Ionia and sat in his rocker by the window, watching the world go by. Eighth man is unknown, probably another supervisor.

The County Clerk, Treasurer, Judge of Probate, and Register of Deeds are probably also in the photo, although Judge SMITH could not pick them out. Probably they are some of those with crisp derby hats. The remaining seventeen unidentified men would bring the County Board of Supervisors to twenty from the sixteen townships and Ionia’s four wards. Portland was still a village and had no wards nor supervisors. Belding was apparently not quite to city-hood yet either, according to the old Plat Books. Some others in the photo may have worked on the building besides the SLOWINSKIS.



Last update November 10, 2013