Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 41 Number 6
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 Newsletter from Sebewa; Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI.  JUNE 2006, Volume 41, Number 6.  Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. Slowins:



KITTY YVONNE MERRYFIELD ARNESEN, 62, wife of Ronald, mother of Ronald (Deborah) ARNESEN, Roger (Denise) ARNESEN, Katrina (Derek) RAINEY, Annette (Thomas) MEITLER, Heather (Brad) RUSSMAN, and Betsy (Ted) PLATTE, sister of Sharon (John) ACKERSON, Diane (Richard) CAPPS, Keith (Michelle) MERRYFIELD, and Ken MERRYFIELD, daughter of Keith MERRYFIELD & Betty WOHLSCHEID MERRYFIELD ELDRIDGE.  W. W. MERRYFIELD was on the present-day Luke SANDBORN farm in 1891 and owned 520 acres on BIPPLEY Road in Sec. 14 & 23 Sebewa Township by 1906.  Ron’s Grandma Nellie GIBBS ARNESEN was a granddaughter of Robert & Mariam GIBBS, who came to Sebewa in 1858.  Kitty had farmed and gardened on the ARNESEN land on PETRIE Road in Sebewa Township during their 45 years of marriage.  She is buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.


1.  P. E. PERCY Collection - In 1880, Lima built this 36-inch gauge SHAY, C/N 6, for Milton J. BOND of BOND’S Mills, Michigan.  This was the first SHAY locomotive ever built by Lima.

2.  SHAY Family Collection – This rare photo pictures the second SHAY built by Lima, C/N 8 (1880), standing near an old-style railroad crossing sign.  This vertical boilered 36-inch gauge locomotive was built for Cobb & Mitchell, of Cadillac, Michigan.


   Ephraim SHAY was born July 17, 1839, in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio, son of James & Phoeba PROBASCO SHAY.  His family came to Michigan about 1855 and settled first at Muir, near his mother’s brother, Henry PROBASCO, who ran a cooper shop and later a meat market.  James SHAY died and was buried in Muir Cemetery in 1861.  Phoeba SHAY brought her family of five living children, out of an original eleven, to a forty-acre farm in Sebewa Township.  Her farm surrounded the future site of Sebewa Center School and was diagonally across the road from her brother Benjamin PROBASCO, Sr.’s cooper shop & farm, and just up the road from another brother, Ephraim PROBASCO.

   Her house stood on the green patch just west of the latter-day GIERMAN-HADEWAY-CARR barn.  Her mother, Mary PROBASCO, not to be confused with Phoeba’s sister Mary J. or Henry’s wife Mary C., came with her from Ohio & Muir, and is buried with her in East Sebewa Cemetery, but is memorialized in a stained-glassed window in Muir’s First Christian Church.

   Ephraim SHAY was the oldest son at age 22, when his father died and the family moved to Sebewa.  He may have been off to war before his dad died.  At any rate, we know he never attended Sebewa Center School, and in fact was teaching back in Ohio after finishing the 8th Grade.  He joined Missouri 8th Infantry Regiment with his Ohio buddies in late 1861, serving under General William Tecumseh Sherman at Chickasaw Springs & Vicksburg.  After the war, at age 26, he came back to Sebewa with his new bride, Jane HENDERSON, and bought 80 acres near his mother, later known as the Lancey MEYERS place.  By 1867 he had 40 acres in Sec. 16 and 80 acres in Sec. 21.  Besides farming, he worked in GUNN Bros. Sawmill and held the office of Sebewa Township Clerk in 1867 & 1868, at age 27-29, using his experience as Clerk of Quartermaster & Medical Dispensary in his Infantry Regiment.

   Soon he went out on his own with a sawmill and founded SHAYtown, now a ghost town, southeast of Sunfield.  By January 26, 1870, when his son Lette was born, he was at the Sunfield Township site and received a deed to eight (8) acres in SW ¼ Sec 25 on July 22, 1871.

   Ephraim is thought to have had a small stock of general merchandise and a post office in his farm home beside his steam-powered sawmill.  But SHAYtown U. S. Post Office, where 35 families got their mail, was not officially established until 1880 and photos of the store building say “Built in 1884”.  He had sold most of the eight acres with the sawmill to his brother-in-law, James M. HENDERSON, in 1875, and the last house lot was deeded to someone in 1886.  Ephraim had moved on to establish a general store and sawmill in Haring Township, just north of Cadillac in Wexford County, MI, and moved up to the position of Wexford County Treasurer.  On September 19, 1876, he ordered sawmill parts from Lima Machine Works in Ohio from the Haring address.

   All this time he had been thinking about and tinkering with steam engines.  Sawmills had started with waterpower and advanced to steam.  But the steam engines were stationary or mounted on a wagon and pulled around by horses.  Ephraim wanted to make them movable, or motive, so they could pull things – log cars & ore cars – and in 1877 he built his first prototype of the SHAY Patent Locomotive.

   Ephraim did not have the only locomotive of his time and not the first locomotive, but his was different from any other and he was able to patent it.  Instead of transferring power from cylinders and crankshaft to the drive-wheels by means of eccentric & pitman, which had a jolting effect, he used helical (beveled) gears & sliding shafts (jackshafts) with his patented universal joints to transfer power directly from the two or three steam-powered, side-mounted cylinders & crankshaft to the drive-wheels.

   All wheels were drive-wheels, even under the tender.  This gave less speed, but terrific pulling power for a small engine, allowing them to take grades of 14%, more than double other models, and run on temporary trackage, sometimes even using wooden rails in the woods & mines.

   SHAYS produced a distinctive sound due to the rapid rhythm of the cylinders and it seemed as if they were going about 60 mph, whereas they were actually chuffing along at 12 mph.  One other advantage the SHAY had was the exposed cylinders and running gear, which made repairs relatively easy with everything accessible.  His first model had a small upright boiler with two vertical one-cylinder engines in the center, and a barrel of water on one end of the car and a box of firewood on the other end.  Later models had a horizontal boiler, offset to left of center, with the cylinders on the right.  He used 36-inch rail spacing instead of the standard 4 foot 8 ½ inch spacing, and thus could take sharp turns and the steep grades.

   After making several SHAY locomotives for use in the north woods, he leased the patents to Lima Locomotive Corporation of Lima, OH.  They built & sold thousands of them for use all over the world in the logging & mining industries.  They were used in Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Austria, Hungary, Australia & Japan, as well as in the states of California, North & South Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, etc.

   One last passed through Ionia in May, 1968, en route from its home in a park in Cadillac to make a movie in Chicago.  When the SHAY patents ran out in the early 1920s, the Willamette Iron & Steel Works of Portland, OR, constructed similar engines.  Ephraim became a millionaire from royalties on his locomotive - - back when a million dollars was a lot of money.

   He moved his sawmill twice more, first to Boyne City and then to Harbor Springs.  After logging ran out, he provided rides to tourists on his train and repaired Great Lakes Freighters in his machine shop next to the city waterworks he had built and later sold to the city.  All this was overseen from his cloverleaf, hexagonal-roomed, pressed-steel-plated house on a hill.

   He died April 19, 1916, age 76, in Harbor Springs, and is buried there with his wife, Jane, son Lette and his wife Katherine, granddaughter Kate and her husband Donald MORRILL.  With a bit of searching, the large fieldstone monument and the small headstones can be located on a hill in the center of the cemetery. 

   The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society has located traces of his Excursion Railroad bed in the surrounding area.  At his Haring Township farm the current owners, George ICE & Son, have re-created his prototype locomotive and the tracks to run it on, and are once again providing rides to children of all ages.  Here in Sebewa Township we buried Ephraim’s first cousin once removed, Benjamin PROBASCO the younger, in 1981 at age 96.  There are still cousins in the area, through Ben’s sister Fern PROBASCO McNEIL and her daughter Athol McNEIL SMITH BOWER DOAN.  We have permission to reprint Ephraim’s diary from Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library.            END


   Tuesday, January 1st, 1861 – I had no school, staid with Uncle RICE the evening of December 31st, 1860.  Jay HENDERSON, Dalmond and myself went on a hunt, did not find much game.  I carelessly fired my rifle leaving the ramrod in.  The consequence, I got pretty well kicked.  Stopped in Uncle RICE’S woods and fired at a mrak, made excellent shots.  Wilber HENDERSON had joined us in Uncle’s field opposite William Van HORN’S.

   Wednesday, 2nd – Taught school, as I did also on Thursday the 3rd

   Friday 4th – Taught school, a funeral in the church, I let some of my scholars go.  Had school on Saturday the 5th.

   Sunday 6th – Staid to Uncle RICE’S.  went to meeting.

   Monday 7th – Taught school as I did also the whole week.

   Sunday 13th – Staid to Uncle’s all day.  Taught school the following week.  Staid with Uncle on Sunday.  On Fryday 25th some of my scholars disobeyed a strict rule I had laid down concerning leaving school without leave to slide on the ice.  On Saturday I punished the ringleader, a young man, everely by twelve well put strokes with a whip.  Sunday staid with Uncle RICE.  Taught school until Fryday evening of the following week.  Saturday February 2nd had no school.  Went to Havana (Next little town east of Republic, OH. Where Sebewa’s Rush & George BALDWIN were raised and their parents are buried), bought some stationary & 1 pr. Of shoes.

   Sunday 3rd – Went down to Sherman to Father’s, returned in the afternoon.  Taught school the following week.  Staid with Uncle RICE over Sunday.  Taught school the next week and staid to Uncle’s over Sunday.  Continued to teach untill Wednesday 27th when I closed my school, being the last day of three months teaching, the time for which I hired.

   On Thursday 28th I collected $24 of my money.  Friday March 1st I packed clothes and went down to Sherman to Father’s.  Saturday 2nd I collected an order on David WEAVER Treasurer of $12.00.  Went to Bellevue.  Bought a pair of boots then returned home and went to Templer’s Lodge in Norwich.  Staid with Uncle RICE Sunday 3rd March.  Staid to Uncle’s until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when Dalmond took me and my trunk down to Father’s.  It rained quite hard, cold and uncomfortable.

   Momday, March 4th – left Father’s at 8 o’clock in morning.  Theodore took me to Bellevue, left Bellevue 10:40, arrived Toledo 12:30, left Toledo at 3:12 PM, arrived in Detroit 6:20.  Went in the city to --- Hotel and put up for the night.  Took a stroll through town during the evening.  Wrote a letter to Priscilla (his sister0.  Took walk before breakfast.  After breakfast took another.  Got on a ferry boat and went over into Canada, examined some huge ferry boats.  Strolled through Windsor, returned to Detroit.  Watched a company of workmen driving tiles.  At 10:12 took cars for Muir, on the way broken engine.  Had to take a freight train to get through, with arrival at Muir 4:40 P.M.  Enquired for H. PROBASCO, found him in his shop.

   I went in and spoke to him, enquired about his business, also priced his work and conversed on other topics.  He thought queer of my being so familiar and finally suspected who I was.  He seemed pleased to see me.

   Wednesday 6th – Brought my trunk up to Uncle Henry’s.  Went with Aunt to church (Muir First Christian Church has his grandmother, Mary PROBASCO’S name in stained glass).  Saw three elders ordained, had an excellent sermon.  Afternoon took a look through town, was at the R. R. station where the eastern train came in. when I saw Wesley & Helen FELTON get off.  I was much surprised to see them, as when I left they were single and Wesley was teaching school.  I supposed they would be married, but did not expect it so soon and never supposed we would meet in Mich. if they did.

   Thursday 7th – Jacob and myself went to Sebewa.  We crossed the Maple River at the R. R. bridge.  Wesley & Helen passed us on the road.  They wanted to get in and ride with them as they were going just below Sebewa, but I would not ride unless I paid part of their carriage hire and that was $6.00 which I thought was outrageous.  When we got to the saw mill at the junction of the Sebewa Center road with the road from Lyons, we heard of Aunt Delores’ death which occurred on Sunday morning 3rd of March.

   On coming to Uncle Eph’s I saw him with Uncle Ben at the barn, went up and passed the usual salutations, stopped with Uncle Eph for supper, then went up to Uncle Ben’s and staid all night.  In the morning Uncle showed me his barn stock and after which he proposed to take a hunt.  But rain settling in, we went (Jacob & myself) in Uncle’s copper shed and shot at a mark.  Frank SMITH shot a few times, I came out best.  In afternoon we went out for a while as it had ceased raining.  We shot an owl and tracked some turkeys, too cold to hunt.

   Saturday 9th – went to Uncle Eph’s in morning.  He showed me his stock.  We went over to Mr. SHOWERMAN’S (his brother-in-law).  In afternoon started towards Uncle Ben’s to go on a hunt when Ben overtook me and said that a flock of turkeys were in a field opposite them.  Uncle had a shot but missed.  I fired at what looked like a hen, but did not get it.  We then went over and viewed a farm which Father had an idea of buying, then went to Uncle Eph’s and shot at a mark.

   Sunday, 10th – No meeting near, staid with Uncle Ben until noon then went down to Uncle Eph’s, weather cold.  March sun shining occasionally.  Monday 11th – went to Muir with Uncle Eph, Mother and Aunt Jane.  A cool clear day.  Went down and partly made arrangements to buy a sugar evaporator of Cook’s patent.  Tuesday morning 12th – finished the bargain then went to Sebewa and made arrangements for making maple sugar.  Went in Uncle Ben’s copper shop and commenced a cask to use for a feeder to the evaporator.  Wednesday 13th – Uncle Eph went with me by way of Portland to get the evaporator.  Met the agent at the Hotel, he said the evaporator had not come.  He sent to Ionia by telegraph for one he had there.  Thursday 14th – evaporator came in morning, one of $60.00 price warranted to boil without burning from one to two and one half barrels of sap per hour.  Paid $13.00 cash and telegraph and freight expenses from Ionia.

   Fryday 15th – worked very hard to get ready to make sugar.  Took the evaporator to the woods, finished my feeder cask, chopped some wood, carried in some buckets, made a number of spiles.  Saturday 16th drove the hooks of about 100 buckets.  Tapped about 65 trees.  Afternoon set up my evaporator and set it in motion, met my expectations.  Made about 12 lbs sugar of excellent quality rivaling loaf sugar in color.  Sunday 17th – staid with Uncle Eph – went nowhere all day, Uncle Ben came in afternoon.  Monday 18th – tapped about 80 trees after driving the hooks on about 20 buckets.  Tuesday 19th – cut down a large basswood and commenced making a sap trough, did not get it finished.  Wednesday 20th – went up to Uncle Ben’s shop and made a barrel to hold maple syrup – snowed nearly all day.

   Thursday 21st – nearly finished my storage trough.  Cut some wood ready and drew it to the arch.  Put a new sight on my gun and put it in order for shooting.  Fryday 22nd – chopped some wood and boiled down 18 buckets of sap.  Saturday 23rd – helped Henry in morning – he drew some boards for a roof to my sugar works – put up the cover – boiled 30 buckets of sap.  Sunday 24th – staid to Uncle Eph’s all day.          TO BE CONTINUED


   Tuesday, March 14, 67 degrees, sunny.  Biked with Ann alone to new Tractor Supply Store, then with Wally, to make 5 miles total.  After lunch we walked to Beall’s outlet store and got back just before hard rain.  High of 84 degrees was cooled by the rain.

   Sunday, March 19…..visited at campfire with a good group of people from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Ontario.

   Sunday, April 2, 65 degrees & overcast, becoming partly sunny.  After church in the community room, we walked to Cedar River Seafood Restaurant for the last time and brought back a box of extra seafood.  Humidity has increased greatly from the winter, and with 87 degrees it is too uncomfortable outdoors.  We plan for next year to go back north before March 31-April 1 traffic-jam and Daylight Savings time-change.

   Monday, 65 degrees & sunny.  Packed outside compartments and came in under the air-conditioner to type this.  Final walk midmorning and biked around before stowing bikes for trip home.  The pond has been copper sulfated and is being aerated daily.  Ducks are swimming and large turtles are sunning on the shore.  Paid electric bill and checked for mail………

  Tuesday, April 4, 65 degrees………got away by 7:00.  Saw ground being tilled & made ready for planting at the Florida/Georgia state line………further west corn was up about 4 inches, lots of pecan trees, more corn just up, and some was just being planted.  New legumes 3 inches high were being sprayed & cultivated, maybe edible beans, but we think peanuts, because there are several peanut processing plants nearby and dozens of clean, freshly painted red wagons for hauling them.  Also green John Deere slat-sided, side-tipping, hopper wagons for cotton.

   Wednesday…………in Florida the Azaleas were plentiful, in Georgia there are Dogwood, Wisteria & Daffodils in Kentucky.  A livestock auction barn advertises “Used Cow Sale”!  In Alabama we see Black Angus & Red Angus below Birmingham, above Birmingham there are white Charolais.  Some land is being worked in Alabama, but in Tennessee the rains have left ground too wet and some lowland fields are flooded.  We saw a house being moved on Highway US-231.  It was too wide for the concrete guardrail on a bridge.  Traffic was backed up while they jacked up the house and put blocks on the truck bed.  Fortunately it was in the southbound lanes and we were northbound………Thursday……we saw 12-15 Suffolk ewes, un-shorn & un-lambed, lying on the green hillsides after the rain.

   Thursday, April 6, 42 degrees & heavily overcast, rain predicted.  Up at 4:45, we left camp at 6:12.  Sprinkles north of Louisville brought a big rainbow before the sun came over the horizon.  Both soon disappeared, just as we turned in at Seymour Outlet Mall at milepost 50…………and Ft. Wayne, we saw 12-15 Suffolk ewes, un-shorn & un-lambed, lying on a green hillside after the rain………arrived home at 6:00 pm.  Sunny & 50 degrees.  Total trip 2325 miles.



Last update November 10, 2013