THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the Sebewa Center
AUGUST 2004, Volume 40, Number 1. Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan.
Submitted with written permission of Editor, Grayden D. SLOWINS:
SURNAMES: CATT, FENDER, VANDEVENTER, RICHARDSON, THOMAS, KENYON, OSMAN,
CAMPBELL, FULLER, UNDERHILL, HILL, SLOWINS, WENGER, SLOWINSKI, LICH, WENGER,
HUNT, SHAY, BAUER, GIBBS
HAZEL MAY CATT FENDER VANDEVENTER RICHARDSON, 87, mother of Kay FENDER MEYERS,
sister of LeRoy & Glendon (Pete) CATT, daughter of Bessa THOMAS & Orvin CATT,
son of George CATT, who settled on BIPPLEY Road in Odessa Township before the
Civil War. Hazel worked at Maynard-Allen Bank in Portland and served as Sebewa
Township Treasurer. Her farm is on CASSEL Road in Sebewa.
HENRY NATHAN KENYON, 84, husband of Hilda OSMAN KENYON, father of Norma Jean
DIETZ, Sharon Kay BUTTS, Max & Larry KENYON, brother of Edward KENYON and the
late Mildred IVES, son of Roxanna CAMPBELL & Nathan Henry KENYON, son of Mary
FULLER & Henry Nathan KENYON, son of Susanna UNDERHILL & Nathan Henry KENYON,
son of Elizabeth HILL & Randall KENYON, son of Susannah & Barnabas KENYON, a
Revolutionary War Soldier from New York State. The family came to Holland, MI,
about 1866, when Henry’s grandfather was age 12, and to Sebewa Township on EMORY
Road, on what is now Mrs. Floyd CARROL’S farm, about 1914, after a few years in
Sunfield, and two years after Nathan & Roxanna were married. Henry was a farmer
on PETRIE Road in Sebewa and an animal caretaker at Michigan State Health
Department. Buried in East Sebewa.
FRONT PAGE PHOTOS OF:
Van Buren County Courthouse, Paw Paw, MI; Claire Allen, Architect, 1901
Cass County Courthouse, Cassopolis, MI; Rush, Bowman & Rush, Architects, 1899
OUR FLORIDA TRIP CONTINUED by Grayden SLOWINS:
Friday, March 5, 2004; 61 degrees & sunny, with a high today of 90 degrees. Tiny
chameleons, also called geckos or eastern fence lizards, are everywhere outside.
They are cute & harmless……
March 10…….Visited Vera LICH and her sister from Washington State………The Willard
KENYONS are one of several familiar Lake Odessa couples she mentioned in the
church………John & Neil LICH and the kids originally built an A-frame home on their
40 acres, which included part of the lake. They acquired the land thru their
mentors Walter & Mary Jane WENGER HUNT, muck farmers of Sebewa & Clarksville,
MI. It was an orange grove until frost killed the trees………we once jokingly
talked of taking the sheep in a semi to pasture in that orchard for the winter
and returning with them in time for spring lambing.
March 11………After lunch I went for a walk and stopped to tell Wally about my SHAY
Locomotive Tee-shirt. He was familiar with that engine and its bevel-gear drive
principles, but didn’t know about the name & life of Ephriam SHAY from Sebewa
March 12……Florida Antique Engine Show………Grandpa Dan SLOWINSKI owned an IHC Titan
engine & a Port Huron grain separator………Our neighbor Alfred BAUER, with whom I
worked, owned a Rumely Oil-Pull & a Red River Special grain separator……A
Mennonite couple who had once been Old Order Amish were from our ancestral home
area in Lancaster County, PA. BAUER, with whom I worked, owned a Rumely Oil-Pull
& a Red River Special grain separator.
(To be continued)
BYRON GIBBS’ WORLD WAR II MEMOIRS CONTINUED
– Nov. 21, 1942-January 13, 1943:
From an area near Soputa we carried supplies forward at night and then we were
behind the Australians who were in contact with the Japanese. We were in this
area for a day or so. The fellows had been warned not to smoke early in the
morning as the rising smoke would give away their location. I remember one group
on the left of the trial smoking early in the morning and the Japanese put a
mortar shell right to the location.
As we moved up in the Australian position, we passed several Australians who had
a Japanese tightly tied with field telephone wire and laying in what appeared to
be a shallow grave. They had a pistol pointed at his head and were trying to get
him to talk. We were told he was a Major captured wearing his sword and trying
to climb a tree. The Japanese apparently understood English but was not willing
to talk. Whatever happened to him I do not know. I do not recall hearing any
pistol shots in this area.
The first Japanese casualty I saw was a young marine in a clean fatigue uniform.
They said he was shot attempting to cut a field telephone wire.
On Thanksgiving Day November 26, 1942 we had orders to take over forward
positions from the Australians. The 3rd Platoon of Company C was the only
infantry platoon under Major Boerums Command. We were it. I remember eating part
of a can of cold corned beef as we started to move up. This was my only meal
that day. I, as Corporal, was in command of our squad as Sargent Weber was sick.
Our squad was on the right side of the trail advancing as skirmishers to make a
frontal attack. We were, I thought, the right flank unit. Lt. Folkerstsma, our
platoon leader, was on the trail somewhere to my left. I am not sure on which
side of the trail.
As we moved ahead the vines and underbrush were so thick the going was probably
slower for us than those on our left. We got up nearly to a cleared spot when
all of the firing started. There was a tree just ahead slightly to the right of
me and the Japanese machine gun was hitting it and spraying me with sap and
splinters. I could not see where the machine gun was but I thought it must be
close ahead a little to my left. A soldier knows little of what is happening
except what he can see and hear. That was not much under the conditions there at
There was a foot path a little to my left and fifteen or twenty feet ahead a
Japanese squad came down the path. There was a fallen tree that had to be
stepped over and as the first Japanese stepped over and shot him. The next one
did not look down and I shot him. He dropped on the far side of the fallen tree.
With only five shots in my clip, I wondered if I could get another clip in fast
enough. The rest of the Japanese squad must have gotten in where the machine gun
was. The machine gun was on my left and I guessed less than twenty feet ahead.
One of our soldiers to my left and somewhat ahead crawled back after the firing
let up. The side of his face was covered with blood and he was bleeding badly
from a flesh wound in his left temple just above his ear. He was very
frightened. I told him the wound was not serious. I put a compress on the wound
with the contents of his first aid packet to stop the flow of blood then cut his
pack strap with my jackknife. The bullet had lodged in his shoulder and was
visible. I removed the bullet and started him crawling back in the direction of
the Bn Cp along the foot path. In getting the pack cut off I broke the blade on
my jackknife. I still have the jackknife and blade and somewhere the bullet. The
soldier’s last name, I think, was MINOR.
When the firing stopped the Japanese kept racking back the bolt on their machine
gun either because of jam or possibly hoping we would fire and give away our
location. I had no cover but there were ferns about a foot or so high that gave
some concealment. In the prone position the machine gun bullets must have gone a
little above me. I found a bullet had hit my bayonet and bent the ring so it
would not fit on my 1903 Springfield.
Lake in the afternoon I could hear someone chopping ahead. I finally determined
the sound was directly in line with a leaf on a bush not far ahead. It was
quiet. There was no firing. I sighted carefully on the leaf and squeezed off a
shot. The chopping suddenly stopped. After a while the chopping started again
but this time at some distance.
That night I could see the moon up through the trees and wondered if mother and
Gertie were looking at the same moon. I could see well enough to look at their
pictures in my billfold. After that time I felt rather resigned with the feeling
we were not going to get out of this and I was ready to go.
After dark I found out that Lt. Folkerstsma had been killed. A new 2nd Lt. was
sent up to replace him. Later during the night Major Boerum sent word to the Lt.
for us to pull back which we did early in the morning. Contacting all of the
squad was not easy but we had been together so long we knew each ones whispered
words. After the pull back the new 2nd Lt. remembered he left his matches up
ahead and wanted me to go up and see if I could find them for him. I said “Here
you can have mine, matches are not that important.”
In the morning the new Lt. went toward the rear and did not return. I assume he
was relieved of command. By that time I thought there were no Sargents left and
I was the only Corporal left.
Later, Major Boerum sent word for me to come to the Bn Cp. He told me to take
command of the platoon and reorganize it and appoint a platoon Sargent. I was a
Corporal at the time and all the other NCOs apparently had been casualties. I
appointed PFC Barber as platoon Sargent.
Major Boerum told me not to send out any patrol without orders from him
personally as all patrols so far had gained no useful information, just resulted
To start reorganization of the platoon, I made a list of those we still had and
found there were several soldiers that had been attached to the platoon from
some other unit. They had been placed on our right. One of these attached
soldiers had been shot in the jaw earlier when mistaken for the enemy. With
attached soldiers we had about 30 still available in the platoon with every
squad leader now being a private first class.
The next day a messenger said Major Boerum wanted to see me at the C.P. I
thought ‘Oh! Oh! He wants me to take out a patrol’. When I got to the C.P. Major
Boerum had a smile on his face, some change from the worried expression of a day
before. He told me he got a call on the field phone that I was to be promoted to
2nd Lt. and was to return to base HQ to await orders. He said the message came
from the War Department by radio then by field phone to him. He said I could
stay as an officer with the company. I said I thought I had better follow the
War Department order, but I would stay overnight with the unit so he could get
someone to replace me.
The next morning I went back to the Bn CP and there got the home addresses of
several to let their folks know they were all right. None of us had been able to
write letters or receive any for about a month. I got the address of Marjorie
PITTS from Lt. Richardson, the address of Major Boerum’s wife and from Don
“Pony” MOORE his home address also the home address of several others.
I left the extra ammunition I had at the BnCP but kept a clip or two and my 1903
Springfield for the walk back. The forward Regimental Headquarters was not so
far back on the trail. I must have looked pretty dirty and probably smelly. They
told me to go to the river and wash before they would talk to me. This I was
glad to do and put the wet clothes back on and the clothes dried in the hot sun
as I wore them.
At forward Regimental Headquarters they gave me a typed copy of the message they
received and told me to walk following the trail back past Soputa to where there
was now a landing strip, I think Popondetta. I could get on a plane there and go
back to Regimental Rear Headquarters at Camp Maple Base near Port Morsby.
I started walking on the trail and soon found some Australians with tea and
biscuits just off the trail. With a little to eat I started walking again and
shortly met a group of young Australian National Guards. They looked as if they
were about done in from the heat. They asked if I had seen any of their
“blokes”. I told them they are just around the next bend making tea. They took
off then. The thought of tea and biscuits gave them renewed energy.
Finally a Jeep came by loaded with wounded headed in the same direction I was. I
kept on walking and soon I heard a noise off in the brush like someone walking
slowly. My first thought was it was a Japanese patrol. I had my 1903 bolt action
Springfield with an extra clip or two of ammunition and I got off the trail as
quietly as possible and layed flat, knowing alone I was no match for a Japanese
patrol. After what seemed like the longest time, a wild boar came out of the
brush. This was a relief. I laid there for a while to let the wild boar get out
of sight.I then started walking on and a Jeep with some wounded came going my
way. The driver told me to hop on as they had some room.
A plane landed in the afternoon with mail and supplies. I got on it to fly back
to Regimental Rear.
I arrived at Camp Maple Base in time for supper in the officers’ mess. This was
just a tent fly but it seemed good to set down at a table and eat off a plate
with a knife and fork. It was my first real meal in a long time.
Someone got me some clothes and shoes. Mine were in bad shape. Lt. Col.
Hendricks gave me the oath of office and a 2nd Lt. bar. Another officer gave me
the crossed rifle infantry insignia. I was commissioned in the Signal Corps
however. This was on November 30, 1942. At this time I just weighed 117 pounds.
I had weighed 152 pounds May 30, 1942 in Australia. I think everyone who had
been in Co. C must have lost quite a little weight.
With my enlisted discharge I received the final pay of $28.86 on December 1.
That was the cash received after the allotment sent to my mother and the
deduction of $6.70 for government life insurance.
The sketchy orders I had were by radio and gave instructions to wait for orders
coming by courier from the War Department to Base Headquarters in Brisbane.
There was no immediate transportation to Australia. I had some time to get my
barracks bag with my camera in it. There was also extra film and exposed film
taken since we left Australia in September. Some undeveloped film had pictures
taken on the Liberty Ship going to New Guinea. After Sept. 18th and some film
had pictures taken in October in New Guinea.
It had been nearly a month since I had been able to write letters. I wanted to
let my mother and girlfiend know that I was all right and I heard there was a
commercial radio telegraph office in Port Moresby. On Dec. 2nd the radio
operator there sent the messages which could not say much due to censorship. The
messages to mother and Gertie said that I was well and had been promoted and
expected to leave soon. Seasons greetings and love.
That day I wrote letters to mother and Gertie telling them I was well, had been
promoted to 2nd Lt. and expected to return to the states soon.
The time waiting for transportation was spent in writing letters and resting up.
A letter I wrote to Gertie said that on Dec. 6th Regimental Rear Headquarters
had their delayed Thanksgiving Dinner.
The menu was grape juice, tomato juice, fresh whipped potatoes, candied sweet
yams, rich brown gravy, Virginia baked ham with raisin sauce, warm buttered
peas, pickles, olives, candy, mince pie, pumpkin pie, cheddar cheese, bread,
butter, coffee. I presume this must have been on a printed menu. However, I have
not located it.
On December 10 there was a flight to Brisbane taking General Waldron who had
been wounded. There was room for me on this. While in Brisbane orders arrived
that I was to return to the states for duty at Fort Monmouth by the first
available water transportation. While in Brisbane waiting I had been able to
secure my other barracks bag from which they had removed everything except some
letters and pictures. All clothing had been removed except for a very few items.
A boat was to leave from Townsville and vouchers to pay for a hotel there and
meals. The commercial airliner was a DC-2 which only seated 14 passengers. There
were only six or so on it, military, Red Cross, etc. We landed at Rockhampton to
refuel. The airfield there had no buildings except a small metal shed for fuel
storage. They had a card table setup and we had lunch of cheese sandwiches and
When we landed in Townsville there was military transportation that got me to
the downtown hotel where I could stay and eat using the government vouchers to
cover the cost.
I was able, while there, to buy some souvenirs and film but I was rather short
of cash as my final enlisted pay in New Guinea was $28.86. I spent part of that
in Brisbane. What was left would have to last until I got paid in the United
On December 18, 1942, eight days after getting back to Australia I boarded the
Dutch freighter, Paelau Laut, at Townsville. At the time I was coming down with
the malaria fever and could hardly make it up the gang plank. The freighter was
loaded with brown sugar and had an Indonesian crew with Dutch ship’s officers. I
was very sick by Dec. 24th – 26th and just remembered being in the bunk and with
the ship’s movement I would roll and hit the boards on each side of the bunk.
The transportation surgeon, 1st Lt. Cecil A. JOHNSON, Medical Corps on the USAT
“Poelau Laut” in his letter of 26 Dec. 1942 to the Medical Officer in charge of
my permanent station stated I had been treated for recurrent malaria fever from
19 Dec. 1942 to 26 Dec. 1942 and he recommended a continued course of Atabrine
at my permanent station.
There were not many returning officers on the boat, as I recall less than a
dozen. One of the returning officers was a Signal Corps officer nicknamed
“Sparks” who had worked for McKay Radio at one time. We would sit on deck and
could hear faintly the beep-beep, code come in on the ship’s wireless. “Sparks”
would give us a running report on the world news. He said the code signals were
to him like another language. He told how he got his job with McKay Radio during
the depression of the 1930s. He said he had walked in their outer offices in New
York City and sat there with a number of other applicants who were also looking
for a job. He heard the code faintly with the music on the speaker in the
office. The code said for the next applicant to come in. He got up and walked to
the inner office where he was hired. He was alert and heard the faint code
message over the music. None of the other applicants had heard the message.
The crossing of the Pacific was peaceful and enjoyable after recovering from the
malaria attack. The few of us who were passengers ate in the dining area with
the Captain and the ships officers. The meals were excellent. We were all glad
to see San Francisco Harbor when we arrived on January 13, 1943.
(To be continued)