Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 3 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 The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, February 1968, Volume 3, Number 4:

   BACK ISSUES:  We offer full sets of the 286 back issues, almost 48 years worth of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, in 3 binders, for $60 including packing and shipping.  Most are on the Internet, but many of the earlier years did not transfer too well.  An original printed copy is better!  ONLY FIVE SETS LEFT!!  Order from current editor Grayden D. Slowins, 702 Clark Crossing, SE., Grand Rapids, MI  49506-3300                                                         


     Few will question that Michigan winters leave something to be desired and much of that something, sunshine and its heat, is to be found in Florida in the winter time.

     Consequently it is not difficult to make up a considerable list of local citizens who are, or have been, gratifying their desires with a winter vacation in Florida.  West Sebewa ranks high in numbers.  Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth C. Creighton and Linda were the starters.  Following at various times have been Mr. & Mrs. John Lich, Mr. and Mrs. Arlow Aves, and by camper, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Avery and Mr. and Mrs. Homer Downing.  Linda and Larry Lich started most recently.

     Swinging around the Township we have Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Kenyon, Mr. and Mrs. Don Banschoter, Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Stambaugh, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Petrie and Mary, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Thrams, Mrs. Susan Haddix, Dale Steward and Jeff, Mr. and Mrs. Viverne Cook.  As winter residents of Bonita Springs are Mr. and Mrs. Theo Bulling.

     Making a list exposes one to error and omission, so our apologies to anybody left out.  It seems likely that Mr. and Mrs. Francis Warner could also be found at Bonita Springs. 


     One new light that could have been mentioned before is the second for Gordon Piercefield.  A new one at the farm of Neil Ingall brings our count to 43. 

THE LATEST COUNT ON THE SEBEWA CIENTER ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP:  While making lists and counting we throw in our membership figure at 273. 


     If we speak of the Greiner farm, later the John C. Joynt farm followed by the Ross Tran Farm, it would seem that nearly all our readers would know what 90 acres we were talking about.  Recently Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Shaffer sold the farm to Ken Seybold.  Ken promptly sold the house with a lot to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hyland.  The Hylands formerly lived on the Clarksville Road between Petrie and Keefer Highway. 


     John York has replaced the barn that was destroyed by the tornado last April.  The new structure is a pole barn on the foundation of the old barn.  Wayne Brown and crew erected the building. 


     For a hundred years sirup making has crept into the local news at this season of the year.  If any is made in Sebewa this year, one old fashioned warm sugar social would easily slurp down the whole product.  Economics has by-passed the maple sugar and sirup institution. 

TEA WITH KIM by Richard W. Thrams

     In December of 1967 my co-worker-interpreter and I went to the home of a friend, Kim, for tea.  Her parents and my interpreter are refugees from North Viet Nam.  Kim’s father came South and left his wife in the North.  Then he married Kim’s mother and Kim and her sister were born to them.  However, in the middle 1950s the first wife came South and caused much concern.  Finally the father went back to his first wife, leaving Kim and her sister in a fatherless family.  Her sister married and Kim and her mother live in a very crowded area near the Chinese part of Saigon.

     As we were going to her house by jeep we were first on a four-lane street with room for parking on each side.  Then we made a right turn on a street of two lanes with an area to pull over; next we took a left turn into the housing area where the street was only wide enough for two vehicles to pass.  Our last turn narrowed to room for a jeep and a passing motorcycle.  I parked the jeep on the right side as near as I could to the fence.

     Many activities were going on in the street.  People were coming and going, carrying things on their shoulders with a balance board with baskets suspended, one in front and one in back.  There were small children all over the place; the older children were in school.

     The houses were small, side by side, made of wood and bricks.  The front gate sagged and several boards were missing from the fence that enclosed a 6 x 10 foot yard.  I had to duck under the washing hung in the yard.

     Kim met us in the doorway, saying “Come in”.  She had a big smile on her face.  The front of the house was made of rough lumber with cracks between the vertical boards.  A ladder on the outside led to the upper floor.  Inside, the first floor dimensions seemed about 12 x 24 feet.  Her mother was sitting on the edge of her bed.  We gave her a greeting and got a warm smile in return.  Of course my greeting was in English and her’s was in VietNamese.

     Near the door, outside in a wooden box, was an old hen that had just produced one more egg for the family.  On the wall was a picture of the Cross and some miscellaneous items that may be found on the walls of any household.  In the middle of the room on each side were beams that held up the second floor.  Just to the left of one of the beams was the ice box and food storage.  The ice chest was of foam as we use for picnic hampers in USA.  In the corner was the broom and the coal for wood for cooking.  The door to the kitchen was made of a sheet of steel roofing.  Between Kim’s and her mother’s beds were the clothes hanging, a table and chairs and her dressing table with mirrors.  There were shelved for whatnots on the wall.

     We sat and talked for an hour or so while having a pot of tea.  Then Shorty and I left to go to the RX for supplies to take back to Iai Thieu. 


We never grudged the endless time devoted

     To rubbing highboys, keeping pewter coated

With frosty radiance, the paisley shawl

     Aired against threat of moth or mildew.  All

Were treasures of the household legacies

     From stout old generations.  Tending these

Was somehow keeping faith with men who poured

     Into this land their powers’ mighty hoard,

Then, at last, their bodies.


Now we find

     The other precious things they left behind,

Hewn out of courage, mortal fear and danger

     A valiant dream which welded foe and stranger

Into one strength.  These, too, are not bequests

     To stow away in cupboards, attic chests.

The Mayflower pact, a single lucid page,

     The Bill of Rights, whose weathered doctrines age

As sturdily as oak; that Declaration

     Handloomed upon the heartstrings of a nation,

Dyed from its veins—this heritage no less

     Needs the long, patient care, the watchfulness.


                       --F. BG. Jacobs, Maine


     I thought the poem above might fit in your “Sebewa Recollector”.  I hope you like it.   You know, my father, Hugh Wellfare, years ago, taught the Sebewa Center School and George and Viola Gunn were my uncle and aunt.

     Did you know that very few people can find Chief Okemos’ grave because of weeds.  I expect the lettering needs a good scrubbing, too.

     I especially enjoyed reading The Recollector and so did Mrs. Grace Rowe, who grew up near Portland and Mrs. Essie Allen of Wacousta.  The family of my father’s parents lived near Shimnecon when my grandmother was a young girl.   My husband, Glenn Boughner’s mother and family also lived there with the Indians.  All have told us many stories.

     Thank you for the loan of The Recollector.  It gave us many pleasant moments.

                                -- Marian M. Boughner to Angela Evans


     Okemos’s grave is not difficult to find for anyone following Okemos Road almost to its southern end where the sign points east to OKEMOS GRAVE.  The trail then leads directly to the grave.  The weeds and brush are gradually giving way to an arboreal setting.  The scrubbing sounds like a good project for early spring when the dogwood is in bloom. 


     My Dear Wilfred:

     You are to be commended for the great effort you’ve put into “The Sebewa Recollector”.  You’ve done a fine job of editing and it was most interesting.

     However, my view of what is “Underfoot” in Sebewa Township would differ widely from the geologic interpretation.  May I state my views as follows:

 I believe fully in the Bible account—Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”.  Ps 33:9 “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.”  In other words, God spoke this world into existence.

     One writer expresses it thus, “The genealogy of our race, as given by inspiration traces back to its origin, not to a line of developing germs, mollusks and quadrupeds, but to the great Creator”.

 Around 125 years ago, Charles Darwin in his “Origin of the Species” says substantially, “We may well suppose” this and that happens. 

     The Sinclair Oil Co. says “this oil is mellowed 80 million years”.  Isn’t that mere guesswork?

     True science is always in harmony with the Bible.  See 1st Tim 6:20.  “Science falsely so-called.”

     If we are to go by the Scriptures, this earth is only 6,000 years of age, otherwise all the prophecies of Christ’s first and second comings are thrown all out of line.

     It easily accounted for at the time of the Flood in Noah’s time.  See Gen 7:11, “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up….”

     It is well known, now, that there are ranges and mountain chains under the sea.  They could well have been out of water before the flood.

     Another strange infatuation of mankind:  The Mohammedans observe Friday as the Sabbath.  Most of the Christian world observes Sunday, the first day of the week, while the seventh day is observed by some as the true day of worship given as a memorial of Creation.  Might it not be that Lucifer, Satan, or the devil as he is variously known, has crucified the true day, even as Our Saviour was crucified between two thieves?  See Luke 23:33.

     Rather than take the estimates of pseudo scientists which disparage and belittle the work of our great Creator, I prefer, rather than go to the age of the rocks, to take as a basic for my faith the “Rock of Ages”, Christ Jesus.

                                             Cordially your friend and former teacher, 

                                                                    Clyde H. Smith

P.S.  We are here (#1 Sahara Apts., 57475 Lupine Dr., Yucca Valley, California 92284 for the winter and hope to make stops on our way home in the spring in Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and possibly Virginia and Indiana.

 January 14, 1914.  TRAVIS SCHOOL DISTRICT news item from THE PORTLAND OBSERVER:  Will Smith, who was born and brought up in this district, has sold his farm to Mrs. Uri and is moving to the Goodrich farm.  On Tuesday evening, neighbors to the number of 100 came in for a farewell visit.  The ladies brought an elegant supper and before departing, the company presented this worthy couple with a handsome rocker. 


      Particulars of the Terrible Michigan Conflagration.  Appalling Destruction of Life and Property.  (From The Portland Observer)

     Detroit, September 9, 1881

     The scene of the terrible tornado of flame in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan may be readily placed in the mind of the casual reader by the aid of the following explanation.  The Southern Peninsula of Michigan has the form of the map of a left hand mitten laid on its palm.  The space between the thumb and fingers is represented by Saginaw Bay.  Huron forms the end of the thumb and beneath it on the map lie Tuscola and Sanilac Counties with Sanilac to the eastward.  Bad Axe is the center of Huron County, the county seat, and Caro is the center of Tuscola County and is the county seat.  Each of the three counties has about 24 townships approximately six miles square.

     The loss of life and property is immense.  The dispatch from Lexington says that dead bodies are being brought from all directions.  It is estimated that 500 people are homeless and in immediate want of assistance.  The farmers in newer townships whose livestock, houses, barns, and crops were in the area have lost everything.  A farmer who just came in from Austin Township saved his family of eight children in a field of buckwheat.  He says the whole country in that part is totally destroyed and many lives have been lost.  The loss of livestock is simply immense.  The older settled townships escaped with but little loss but in most of the newer townships, nothing remains but a fire-swept blackened wilderness.

     A dispatch from Marlette, Sanilac County says that a terrible state of affairs exists at that point.  The entire section of the country lying to the north and east of that place has been on fire and the number of families rendered homeless will reach the hundreds.  Up to this time 17 persons are known to have met their death by fire.  The horses of Ira Humphrey, the mail carrier, between this place and Davy’s Corners, came home badly burned with a card attached to the saddle written by Humphrey stating his peril from fire.  A relief party found him on the road dead.  He was entirely denuded of his clothes, either having been burned on his person or torn off by himself in his desperation.

     In the township of Argyle, Huron County, the following were burned dead:  Paul Wetzel, wife and five children:  George Krotch, wife and three children; Mrs. Morris Welch and two children; James Gilson and two women, recently from Canada, names unknown.

     The Rev. Z. Grinnell JR., pastor of First Baptist Church of this city arrived from Sand beach at noon today by the narrow gauge and Grand Trunk, passing through most of the burned region in Sanilac County.  He gave a report of a graphic and fearful description of the calamity as he saw it and heard of it from eyewitnesses.  On his way to Port Huron on the narrow gauge it was noticed that at some places the railroad track has proved an effectual barrier to the flames, which did not find fuel in the gravel in the roadbed.  In other places, however, it burned the ties and twisted and distorted the rails, which had to be replaced.  In other places it had leaped clear over the road, taken a new start on the other side.  For the most part it got across in some way and the spots of unburned country were small, few and far between.  From the car windows all the way it presented to the view the aspect of a burned desert of ashes and smoldering embers without a sign of animal or vegetable life, a country abandoned by God and man and to which it was impossible to imagine any one returning.

     The telegraph poles had all been burned and the wires had been reset upon any stick that could be found and for long distances were merely laid along the ties beside the rails.

     One of the most singular and appalling phenomena accompanying the clamity was the awesome darkness, which preceded it and remained until it was over.  The experience of Sand Beach will illustrate that of the whole lake shore.  At sunrise Monday the air was clear as usual.  At 1 PM the people began to observe a singular copper colored appearance of the whole firmament.  A little later this deepened to a red.  By two o’clock it was so dark that people were compelled to take lanterns to find their way out of doors.  Mr. Jenks, a well known citizen, said that he passed his hand back and forth before his face and could not see.  The fearful darkness continued all the afternoon with an occasional rift through which the rays of the sum darted furtively with unnatural brightness to be succeeded immediately with still more blinding blackness.

     Many thought the end of the world was at hand and were filled with terror.  The horrors of the imagination were soon intensified with the approach of flames.  The stories of the universal desolation of the west of them, the dread that they were fated to a frightful death and then by the arrival of the charred, blackened shapeless remains of the poor victims.  This awful condition continued all along the shore until Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock, when the wind, carrying the cool moist air of the lake to the fevered heads of smoke and ash begrimed faces of the people.  It was sweet as the breath of God and was accepted as thankfully.

     The scenes of horror in the woods were too horrible for any pen to portray.  Dead were found everywhere, very rarely recognizable and in most cases, undistinguishable as human beings.  Many were mere masses of burnt flesh, which fell apart when touched.  In very few could sex or age be distinguished.  From one body the head fell when it was lifted up.  From another, that of a young woman, the legs separated and hung suspended by the tendons.  In some places, families were found reduced to an undistinguishable heap of roasted and blackened blocks of flesh where they fell together, overwhelmed by the rushing flames.

     The manifold horrors of the calamity were multiplied by fearful tornadoes, which cut off retreat in every direction.  The awful heat of the atmosphere raised the smoke that blew from the ground and it hung above the earth in an impenetrable mass, shutting out all light and leaving the poor creatures below helpless and blind until the fire caught them and closed their agony in death.

     Now and then flames shot up in tremendous masses, which would be seized by a tornado and carried bodily a quarter of a mile away and then pushed down to gain to start the flames in a new quarter.  In this way, helpless fugitives fleeing for life were pinned in by seas of flame and roasted like rats in a cage.  One farmer, two miles from Sand Beach, who was plowing with oxen, noticing darkness and thinking he had plenty of time, waited to turn his cattle and horses loose.  He then hurried to the house, finding his wife gone to a neighbor’s.  He took two children himself, and gave three others in charge of his oldest daughter.  Before they had gotten many rods from the house, the flames had got before them.  They hurried off in another direction but the girl pushed on over the burning grass with the other three.  He escaped.  The bodies of the other four were afterwards found in heaps, charred beyond recognition.

     Judge Ballentime of Verona Mills says that 53 lives were known to be lost in the neighborhood of Sand Beach.  The fire suddenly reached Verona Mills on Monday and the town was soon wiped out.  The wind was so strong that Ballentine and wife were picked up and blown 15 or 25 yards.  A woman and her husband were found lying against a tree, dead, the woman being partly delivered of a child.

     The devastation caused by the fires of 1871 is nothing in comparison to the fires of the past few days.  In the vicinity of Richmondville, Western, Forester and Marcer Townships, reliable information leads one to say that upwards of 300 persons perished in the flames.  There was no escape from them.  The woods and the ground were so dry and no warning of danger was given.  Faster than a race horse came the fire.  It would embrace a house or a barn with its contents and away to the next.  Persons who have been through the terrible ordeal say that in ten minutes from the time the fire struck there would be no vestige of a house left.

     A correspondent said “I have just returned from a trip through the burned district and a description of the sights would make the reader’s blood turn cold.  In many instances men, women and children were found lying on their faces where they had fallen when overtaken by the fire.  Children were lying on logs where they had clambored for safety.  There was no finding each other when once separated.  Many took refuge in wells and root houses, thinking to escape but in almost every instance were suffocated”.

     Details of the disaster in Huron are as bad as here.  I believe that when the returns are in it will be found that 1,000 persons perished in the flames.  Forester Township will turn out Thursday to bury the dead cattle, sheep and horses, the stench from which is unbearable.  The Rev. W. T. Allington found 16 dead bodies near Deckerville.  Only five buildings were left between that place and Mindon.  John Flytewager’s family, several children and wife were all burned together in Paris Township with fifteen others.  The Day family were burned; Morris Clifford, wife and child, a man and a woman are lying dead in the road between Donner’s Mill and Tyre; fifteen families were burned in Moore and Argyle; 500 families are reported at Mindon as having burned out; a woman and seven head of cattle were burned at Smith’s Mill, half a mile from Tyre.  Wherever a house is left, people flock to it like sheep to the fold, in some places as many as six families being in a log shanty.  They must have relief from the blow or great suffering will be the result.  I saw many families today who had not had one meal since Monday and do not know when they will get one.  Their teams are all gone, their cows and other stock burned.  Desolation stares them in the face.  They talk about their misfortune and many of them say that, bad as it is, it might be a great deal worse.  They are glad to get away with their lives.  Many of the men are Canadians who have been over but a short time.  They had just begun to get things in comfortable shape.  Many need medicine and medical attendance.

     The territory burned over is peopled by at least 50,000 inhabitants, one half of whom had settled here within ten years.  The conditions which made the fire so destructive were these:  Fully two thirds of the timber over the entire burned tract was destroyed by the great fire of 1871 and was piled up in miles of windfalls or, if standing was mere kindling wood.  The settlers preferred burned lands of fallen timber.  The roads were lined on either side by it and many who perished were caught on these roads and hemmed in by a labyrinth of this burning hemlock, black ash and pine.

     There had been no rains over this region since spring to wet down any depth.  Even swamps, which were usually covered with one or two feet of water, had become dry as tinder.  For weeks there had been no heavy wind.  The prevailing winds had been from Lake Huron with which the fires did not run.  On the day of the great fire there was not a square mile in all the burned region that did not hold more or less fire.

     Monday morning opened with a cloudless sky, the mercury gradually rising to 100 degrees and over.  The wind was south running southwest and by noon increasing to a 50-mile gale.  At noon at many places, lamps had to be lit and a sickening sense of fear and impending calamity overspread the whole population.  About four o’clock the wind assumed the violence of a tornado.  The flames were of a ghastly bluish hue, giving no light but licking at the timber, houses, barns, stacks, animals and people with a restless fury and this at places where no fire was known to be for miles around in the morning.

     On Tuesday the extent of the horror began to be known.  Dead men, women and children at what had been their doorsteps, at their gates, in the fields and on the highways, some untouched by fire, others charred and blackened, one poor woman in the agony of childbirth was half burned.  The living with burned feet, ears, or hands, many women and children entirely naked were separated from the rest of the family, blind hopeless and despairing.

     F. Murray, postmaster and telegraph operator at Richmondville gives the following graphic account of the burning of Richmondville:  Monday morning fires were visible to the westward, there being then a slight breeze but all this died away by ten o’clock and then there was no smoke whatever.  Afterward it commenced to growing dark and by eleven o’clock, lamps were lighted.  The darkness was not caused by the smoke nor was it the darkness which comes from heavy clouds but it was the quick-coming darkness of night fall.  So intense was this darkness that the lamps threw shadows as do the electric lights.  By the rays of a lamp standing in a store window, he could see people carrying water 40 rods away and in the path through its beam could recognize their persons.  There was now a faint breeze and Mr. Murray thought the darkness was caused by the drifting in of the dead and scentless smoke.  This continued until after four o’clock when another peculiar phenomenon appeared in the shape of balls of fire in the air.  The first one observed by Mr. Murray was not larger than a hen’s egg.  A neighbor extinguished this one but a moment later a larger one fell near his store which he extinguished by stamping upon it.  He says the glowing mass appeared to be a vegetable substance, was light like charcoal or rotten punk.  As he put his foot upon it, it fell into fragments.  This was but the harbinger of destruction for by the time he had extinguished this one, many others glowing balls were falling all around him, looking like meteors, as they flashed through the inky sky.  As they struck the ground, some of them would burst into countless fragments while others would bound and roll along a short distance but no matter whether they burst or not, immediately a tongue of flames would leap forth from the parched earth, casting a lurid glow over the scene that was terrible to the sight.  Five minutes later the village was in flames at every point.  Mr. Murray and a neighbor ran to the store of the former and attempted to remove the safe.  They succeeded in dragging it as far as the door but were obliged to abandon it and flee for their lives, barely escaping the flames that now surged around them.

     The heat was intense, the flames being fanned with a furious wind that rushed into the seething vortex from all sides.  As soon as the balls of fire commenced falling, the women and children rushed for the lake, a portion taking refuge below the grove of trees to the north of this landing, the remainder going to the water’s edge beneath the high bank further down from the shore.  This last frightened band was joined by Mr. Murray.  The bank was here 30 feet high and the refugees at this point, by lying down close to the water’s edge, could breathe with little difficulty.  Ashes fell in showers, however, covering the surface of the water and creating a lye so that it was only by wading out some distance and going below the surface that drinkable water could be obtained.

     The other party fared much worse for the smoke from the grove was dense and choking.  Their sufferings were intense but by lying prone on the wet sand and frequent immersing the body, they managed to avoid smothering.

     As soon as the smoke and heat had somewhat abated, Mr. Murray ascended the bank and found not a vestige of Richmondville but an old rookery, long since deserted, as a dwelling, and a frame hotel.  Around these nothing was standing and the flames had charred them on all sides.  The flames disappeared but glowing embers lighted up the scene.  The women and children were then removed to the hotel when it was five or six could see, their eyes being so inflamed from the smoke, cinders and sand that they were blinded.

     Potato and corn fields were found that had escaped the conflagration and in the hotel was found about 25 pounds of flour.  The cooks were soon at work and bread, potatoes and roasted corn comprised the bill of fare for breakfast.          The end.    

     At a roadside park on M 25 near Bay Port is the Michigan Historical Marker of the Michigan Historical Commission that gives this calm assessment of the fire.


     Small fires were burning in the forests of the Thumb, tinder-dry after a long hot summer, when a gale swept in from the southwest on Sept. 5, 1881.  Fanned into an inferno, the fires raged for three days.  At least 125 persons died and thousands more were left destitute.  The new American Red Cross won support for its prompt aid to the fire victims.  This was the first disaster relief furnished by this great organization.”

     The American Red Cross was then newly founded by Clara Barton at Dansville, New York.  She directed the relief of the fire victims from Dansville.

     Sebewa’s response to this disaster is found in the local news items of September 21, 1881:

     Mr. McClelland raised over $40 cash in the southeast part of Sebewa for Northern fire sufferers.  A. M. Ralston aided in solicitation and the Sebewa total contribution for the relief became $19.35.

     In later times but long before the Red Feather United Fund, the Township residents responded with aid in disaster situations.  One such collection went to farmers of Kansas who had lost their crops to grasshoppers.  Another contribution was made to Upper Peninsula miners whose families were suffering during a strike there. 


     I have been asked by Wilfred Gierman to put down some thoughts about my early impressions of Sebewa Township, particularly of the area of the Sebewa Center School.

     While I never lived in Sebewa, I have had a wide acquaintance there for a good many years.  My first contact with the people of Sebewa started in the fall of 1914 when I started high school in Sunfield.  I came from four miles south of Sunfield and at that time, even the adults didn’t have a wide acquaintance, as they have today but I quickly came to know the students from Sebewa.

     My mind runs back to Elmer Gierman, Verne Guy, the Joynt brothers and their sister, Muriel, Olga Stinchcomb, Margaret Vanderpoel, Glen Smith, Clyde Smith, Alton Gunn, Ross Tran, Burr Duffy, Bernice Collier, Homer Downing and his sisters, the twins, Ila and Ione and Mamie Williams.  Of course there were several more whose names have slipped my mind.  Although the people from south of Sunfield referred to the residents of Sebewa Township as “Those Sebewa Swamp Angels”. I don’t think a more solid or substantial group of citizens were ever settled together in a community than this group.

     It seemed that the communities were divided into groups by names such as the Gunns:  Fred Gunn, Alton Gunn, George Gunn, Emery Gunn and Ike Gunn.  Another family was that of Charles Gierman and his sons, Elmer, Carl, George and Robert; and Elem Tran, father of Ross  Tran; the Ralstons, Charles and Joe; Jacob Sayer and son, Clarence;Ed Demaray, Glen Olry, William Smith and sons, Clifton, Clyde, Glen and Burton; John Brownfield; the Showerman family, consisting of Hugh, Frank and Ernest; Gene Probasco and his son, Ben; Theron McNeil and his brother, Bert McNeil; James Cassel and his sons, Vernie, Frank and Nig; Zeke Downing and his sons, Homer and Vernon.  And to continue, there was John Joynt; Stacy and Orville Brown and another very strong family, the Petries:  Clayton Petrie and his sons, William, George, Ray and Carl.

     Outstanding in my memory is the terrific stability of the character and the operations of all the people in that area north of Sunfield.  I think so much of the differences in financing (and incidentally I have spent a lifetime financing farmers and still do) but all of these people were so firmly established, they lived well, they easily paid their debts; they lived off their own soil.  All had a diversified operation—a few cows, a few hogs, a flock of chickens—doing all of their own work with inexpensive tools and family expense was kept at a minimum.  They had large gardens and raised their own fruit.  When they had produce to sell, they were in a position to put that money into something to solid.  Very seldom did they have to ask for credit and when they did, it was but for a very few dollars and for a very short time.  We also remember that when automobiles came around, all of these people were able to buy the going type of auto and pay for it.

     The young people who read this might be interested to know who now lives on the places where the families I have mentioned did live.  Clarence Sayer now lives on his father’s (Jacob) farm.  George Carr lives on the Gierman homestead.  Mrs. Alton Gunn lived on the Fred Gunn place; Ruby Wekenman lives on the Charles Ralston farm; Grayden Slowins is on the Olry farm.  Ray Thuma is on the Brown Bros. farm; Phil Spitzley on the Frank Showerman place; William Colby owns the Zeke Downing farm; George Petrie on the Brownfield place; and Kenneth Seybold on the Emory Gunn farm.

     In writing of this community a person can go on and on because there are so many nice things to be said.  When I first came to town, about the first Sebewa people I became acquainted with were Vernie Cassel, Theron McNeil and Ben Probasco, and if ever there were three rip-snorters in their younger days, it was these three men.  Of course, there was one nice thing about it—all three were teetotalers.  That helped a lot, although I distinctly remember one of these men drawing wheat to town with a Model T Ford truck all one afternoon and later always swearing he never recollected that he had been in Sunfield.  Naturally the threshing was being done and the machine operated by the other two members of this triumvirate.

   I think many times of Glen Smith.  I graduated in the same class from high school with him.  Early in life he became crippled with arthritis and finally became helpless; but he still tried to keep an interest in his church and do a little something for it.  I remember how, for several years---once a year---I received a letter from him asking me if I could help his church in a financially way and that was his method of working for his church, writing a painful letter to a few of his friends, trying to raise some money to pass along for the good of his church.  How lucky can a person be?  He and I were the same age and in the same school.  When I think of an instance like this, I feel that a person must consider his own good fortune because the thing that befell Glen could just as easily have happened to any of us.

     It was and is a pleasure to me to be associated all these years with the so-called “Sebewa Swamp Angels”. 


     In our December issue in the article about West Sebewa by Dora Johnson, an error in punctuation let Evangelist Humphrey breathe his last at the church meeting when actually it was a local old timer.   John Cook, who died in church.  He was known as “Old Doc Cook”. 


     Last fall most people saw the TV pictures or read the news story of the jet crash into the supermarket in Arizona.  The story would have had more local interest had it been known that the supermarket was in the shopping center developed and owned by Wesley Joynt.  The accident there has delayed Wesley’s plans to bring his family to Bradenton, Florida to join Mr. and Mrs. William Joynt and Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Gierman in a winter vacation. 


     Recently the house owned by Kenneth Seybold on the former Harry Heitaelman farm was burned as a clearing operation.

     A similar performance was carried out the same week by Bruce Walkington with the little house to the west of his residence on Musgrove Highway.  Part of that house had been trucked to the north woods years ago to serve as a hunter’s shack. 


     At half past eleven o’clock on the night of the 8th inst. When our village (Sebewa Corners) had become quiet and nearly every one retired for the night, a terrific explosion was heard, which made the glass jingle in nearly every window in the village and brought the startled citizens to the doors and windows to ascertain the cause, when it was discovered that the store of U. T. Watrous was on fire, the front partly blown out and the flames leaping high above the roof.  The explosion was caused by a keg of powder in the Watrous store, tore a hole through the dividing wall into the adjoining store of A. Nichol & Sons, and scattered burning goods in all directions.  It soon led to another partially filled powder keg and with the resulting explosion, the triumph of the fire fiend was complete.

     Had our citizens not worked with truly commendable courage and persistence, not a building would be standing east or southeast of the stores.

     Immediately after the first explosion took place, one of our merchants was seen striding through the muck with hat and coat on, but he had forgotten his pants and neither cold nor mud reminded him of the fact until, happening to look downward, he beheld the nude condition of his lower limbs and the huge and queer track he was making in the mud.

     Another prominent citizen, while hurrying around the corner of one of his buildings, which stood windward of the burning store and which was beginning to smoke, shouted in stentorial tones, “Slosh on the water!”  received two gallons of cold water full in his face from the bucket of an excited amateur fireman.

                                  FROM THE PORTLAND OBSERVER, November 11, 1881 

Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association
Robert W. Gierman, Editor
R 1
Portland, Michigan 48875  U. S. A.


Last update March 07, 2013