THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the Sebewa Center
(Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan);
DECEMBER 2003, Volume 39, Number 3. Submitted with written permission of Editor,
Grayden D. SLOWINS:
SURNAMES: ROBERTS, WALL, STEURY, NIETHAMER, SMITH, GIBBS, SLOWINS, ELLIS,
MERRILL, SAWYER, SKINNER, BRONSON, BROWNSON, KELLER, SHAW
LaVerne Ora ROBERTS, 95, widower of C. Jeanette (Jean) WALL ROBERTS, father of
daughters Jan STEURY & the late LaVerna Jean ROBERTS, brother of the late
Forrest & Roy ROBERTS, son of George & Caroline NIETHAMER ROBERTS. Verne worked
on his father’s farm & gravel business opposite Donna Drive on Woodland Road,
the old Edward SNOBBLE farm, managed the Gamble Store in Lake Odessa, worked at
the Reo in Lansing during WW II, the Home Lumber Co. in Hastings, and then for
most of his working years he built and remodeled homes & other buildings in the
Barry, Eaton, Ionia County area. Since high school he also worked for WEED-WORTLEY-BAINE-PICKENS-KOOPS
Funeral Home on funeral days and as ambulance driver when that was part of the
service. A life long member of Woodland Zion Lutheran Church, he is buried at
Lake Odessa Lakeside Cemetery.
IONIA COURTHOUSE PHOTO UPDATE: In the October issue we gave Judge Geer SMITH’S
birth date as about 1896. Lois BRICKLEY DAVIS writes that Geer graduated from
Ionia High School with her brother, William BRICKLEY in 1926. William died June
19, 2003, at age 94 years and eleven months, so was born in July 1908. Geer was
probably born in 1907-1908-or 1909. Therefore the older public officials were
probably retired when he knew them and knew their years of service.
FOLLOWING THE ANCESTRAL TRAIL FROM HEBRON, CT, TO SEBEWA TWP, MI by Grayden
(With front-page photos titled “GENEALOGY TRIP EAST”: Rutherford B. HAYES House,
Fremont, Ohio and Pontoosuc Lake Dam, Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
Wednesday, October 1, 2003, up at 5:00 to unseasonable 38 degrees and left home
via M-50 & I-69……across the short end of Pennsylvania and New York to LeRoy, NY,
near Rochester, by first night. Northern Ohio grows mostly corn & soybeans, same
as central Michigan, plus some nurseries with flowers 7 vegetables. Saw just
three flocks of sheep in Ohio, once an important sheep area, and one of them had
only 5 or 6 sheep, including a black one. East of Cleveland we left the level
farmland. Northwestern Pennsylvania added alfalfa to the corn & soybeans, but
still no livestock, so they must raise the hay to ship to dairy areas. New York
State along Lake Erie has vineyard after vineyard – a lot of grape juice I
guess! Saw a machine for picking grapes, but not in operation. Obviously too
many grapes to pick by hand into a small basket like the ads show on TV. At 4:45
we signed in at Timberline Lake RV Park, LeRoy, NY, for the night……Oct. 2…after
LeRoy the crops changed from grapes back to corn, soybeans & alfalfa
again……entered Massachusetts………saw a flock of twenty Dorset sheep in a lot with
a big round bale. They had nice round bodies, clean white faces & feet…….
Oct. 3…drove to Putnam, CT, visited the Town Clerk. Very helpful, she especially
welcomed a retired Clerk & Deputy from MI. Their Towns in the East equal our
Townships and are the repository for all vital records – birth, marriage, death
– and land records – grantor-grantee. The county just does court records, and
all villages are under the town(ship) as the incorporated unit of government.
The Clerk, Lisa Wilson, explained all this and had records back to 1855. Our
deeds were before that and she directed us to Killingly, the town they split
away from in 1855, for records back to 1700. Another nice Clerk here directed us
to Windham Town Hall at Willimantic for our specific very early needs. There a
third nice Town Clerk quickly gave us access to the typed indexes and
nicely-laminated hand-written transactions.
We soon located the MEACHAM family vital dates & land deals. She made copies at
$1 each for the land. We tried to track modern-day owner with an updated
description, rather than metes & bounds, in order to actually see the property,
but to no avail. Time was a limiting factor here, because most government
offices close at noon on Friday for the weekend. The library in Willimantic did
stay open later and we searched there, but no-one seemed to know the location of
Merrick Brook, a vital landmark in the description.
Then we drove to Hebron, CT………everything is close in CT, MA, VT, NH & RI, with
the center of almost every Town(ship) being a settled area six miles or less
away from the next settlement. Southwestern Maine is that way, too, as well as
some parts of New York & Pennsylvania. In the Gillead Cemetery just north of
Hebron, we located the ELLIS, MERRILL & SAWYER families. Ann’s 6X & 7X
great-grandparents. Several tombstones – weathered slabs of sandstone – were
inscribed with a woman’s name and “Amiable consort of John” or whoever.
But the old cemetery we were directed to in that same direction was not the one
whose official name is Old Cemetery, so although it was a quaint little
stone-walled cemetery, it was no help. We then drove southwest of Hebron to Hope
Valley and took photos of the SKINNER family mill-pond & mill-race (now
abandoned) and the white wooden Hope Valley Church, also unused now………Oct. 4,
Today back to Hebron for a library visit. Found information on Ann’s BRONSON/BROWNSON,
DICKINSON, EDWARDS, ELLIS, GOODRICH/GOODRIDGE, MACK, MERRILL, PEASE, SAWYER and
SKINNER families……then in the rain to the new Old Cemetery for stones of Edward
& Elizabeth SAWYER, Ann’s 7X great-grandparents……Oct. 5, Farmington, CT. Located
the town reservoir, formerly a mill-pond, for Ann’s 9X great-grandfather John
BRONSON/BROWNSON………Oct. 11…….took a trip 40 miles northwest to Rome, NY, and
found info on General John ELLIS & Asa MERRILL in the Jervis Library there……Oct.
12, Heading west toward Avon & Riga, south of Rochester…..west of Herkimer we
see the first field of soybeans we have seen in the Northeast. Near Syracuse the
corn fields become bigger & better than in the Northeast………We wound a little old
cemetery on Poleville Bridge Road southeast of Avon with 25-30 graves, including
Asenath, Grace, and George MERRILL, wife, mother-in-law, and son of Asher
MERRILL, brother of Ann’s 3X great-grandfather Daniel MERRILL Jr. Then talked to
a woman at the supermarket, who happened to be the sister of the town historian.
Called and got her searching for the record of the grave of Daniel’s first wife,
Nancy PHELPS MERRILL, since there is no stone for her…..Then drove thru
Caledonia to Riga, NY, another little town where Daniel once owned land. They
were in this area of New York in the 1820 & 1830 censuses, and he was a widower
in MI by 1838.
Oct. 15, to Republic, OH and its Scipio Township cemetery……We quickly found the
graves of Ann’s great-great-grandparents, Nathan & Ann Matilda SHAW BALDWIN, 3X
great-grandparents, Robert & Sarah KELLER SHAW, and 4X great grandparents,
Joseph & Mary Magdalene Andre KELLER. After visiting with the village
superintendent we located the BALDWIN home in Republic, and then from
yesterday’s plat map research we drove to and photographed the farm homes of the
above families. With our research appetites quenched and a foot-high stack of
copier sheets to keep Ann busy collating all winter, we headed to I-90 and the
return route to Sebewa Township.
BYRON GIBBS CONTINUES FROM LAST ISSUE:
A small can of juice, a candy bar, and an apple or orange were my emergency
rations. We had no canned “C” rations all through the maneuvers.
Chiggers, a type of tick, were the most annoying insect during the Louisiana
Maneuvers. As we slept on the ground, the chiggers would dig in under your arms
and around your waist. They would not go completely under your skin, just their
heads so they could get blood. Their back end was exposed but if you tried to
pull them out their head would break off and an infected sore would result. The
most effective way to get them loose was to put a lighted cigarette close to
their exposed body and they would back out and drop off.
Many times we were on the move and we slept in our clothes. Sometimes sleeping
was just short naps between moves. There might be three or four days at a time
like this. If it rained, we slept on the ground. When it did not rain there was
quite often an very heavy dew in the morning that kept you quite damp.
Near the end of August, we had gone several miles down a sand road, and had
stopped near a home of an elderly couple. I had described it in a letter to
Gertie, who later became my wife, as having a hand split shingle roof, no
regular windows, just openings with doors. The chimney was clay stones and
sticks. In my photo album there is a picture of this place. It was in the
vicinity of Lake Charles.
We covered a lot of miles on maneuvers. One night we rode 115 miles in trucks to
get 40 miles. During maneuvers we had been the following places at sometime or
other: Lake Charles, DeRidder, Longville, Roseville, Oakdale, Pineville, Eunica,
Forest Hill, McNutt, Leesville, Bunkie, and Turkey Creek. I have not been able
to locate on the state map Roseville which was near Lake Charles or McNutt near
Turkey Creek. These may have been too small to be listed.
About Sept. 10th, I must have had some extra time to rest because I had listed
in a letter all the things I had in my pack and things I carried. By this time I
had six rolls of exposed film in the water proof rubber sack.
By September 24 we were camped in a nice dry wooded area called Turkey Creek. We
had dug the garbage pit and had out pup tents all pitched in a neat row. It was
a pleasant evening and we wondered why the area was called Turkey Creek. There
appeared to be no creek in the area and the camp area was dry. After the evening
meal we went to sleep in our pup tents. We had trenched the tent as usual so if
it did rain the water would run off. During the night there was the patter of
rain on the tent but we slept soundly, good and dry. Sometime during the night I
felt something cold, slide down my back which woke me with a start. At first I
thought it was a snake, but soon found out it was water. We got a box or some
Jerry Cans from the kitchen to put our packs and equipment on to keep dry then
went back to sleep in the water with our heads propped up. When we got up in the
morning, we found the whole area flooded with a couple of inches of water. After
some coffee and breakfast I got out my camera which had been kept dry in the
waterproof rubber sack and took some pictures of the company area. These
pictures in my photo album show clearly what a mess the camp looked like and how
wet and muddy we all were.
On Friday, Sept. 26th, we had a nine-mile double time march with packs followed
by 15 mile ride on trucks then we camped in an area with red sticky clay.
Maneuvers were now nearly over and on Monday, Sept. 29th we arrived back in Camp
Livingston before noon. We had been on the Louisiana Maneuvers from Aug. 11th to
Sept. 29th. Seven weeks we had been living out of our packs and carrying them,
eating out of our mess kits and sleeping on the ground and setting on the ground
If Gertie who later became my wife and my mother had not saved so carefully all
the letters I wrote it would not have been possible to write this in the detail
that I have.
From an enlisted man’s point of view, we did gain something from the seven weeks
of being out in the weather, many times with little sleep, soaked with rain and
sometimes with very little to eat. We were physically conditioned and perhaps
more importandly mentally conditioned, knowing what we could go through if we
had to. Everyone had learned something from the 2nd and 3rd Army Maneuvers.
The first thing after the Louisiana Maneuvers was getting the equipment and
clothing clean. There, we were then inspected. On Oct. 3rd we had a 126th
Infantry Regimental Review followed on Oct. 4th by a 32nd Division Review.
There was a trip to the New Orleans recreation area near Lake Pontchartrain on
Friday Oct. 10th and back Sunday evening on army trucks. While in New Orleans,
this time I had an opportunity to go to the St. Louis Cathedral.
Some of the National Guard were back home in Michigan on furlough. Training was
not as it usually was for a short time. Construction work was still in progress
at Camp Livingston. Some of the churches were now being completed. The one
nearest to our area was completed and dedicated Sunday Oct. 19th.
By October 23 we had received tetanus shots and were firing on the 1000 inch 22
caliber range. The bulls-eye on the paper targets were about the size of a
quarter as I remember.
It was now getting so there were some rather cool nights. We would have the gas
heater on in the tent but the gas pressure was low so we did not have sufficient
The entire company now took its turn at guard duty around Oct. 30th. It was cold
and we wore the WW I wool overcoats and wool gloves. The guard duty consisted of
guarding prisoners from the guard house who were on a work detail digging
During the Louisiana Maneuvers I had taken many pictures and a number of fellows
wanted to get reprints to send home. I sold reprints at a couple of cents over
cost to cover part of the cost of the film. I think almost everyone in the
Company must have some of these prints.
By Nov. 9th it was much colder and it was necessary to keep the gas heater in
the tent on full blast. On Armisist Day Nov. 11, 1941 the 32nd Division marched
in Alexandria, Louisiana.
(To be continued)