RECOLLECTOR Newsletter from Sebewa;
SURNAMES: WALTER, KIMBLE, WITBECK, FREEMONT, LOWREY, SHELLENBARGER, TISCHER, LOWREY, SCHEIDT, SAUERS, BESKO, SPAULDING, HIGH, BABCOCK, GIERMAN, JOHNSON, WELCH, BALDIE, NORMINGTON, ADGATE, RUSSMAN, VANBENSCHOTEN, LINEBAUGH, SNYDER, ROGERS, O’MARA, GIBBS, LEHMAN, ARNOLDS, PEAKE, PRYER
FRONT PAGE PHOTO OF SEBEWA HIGH SCHOOL – K-8 1951-1952 WITH STUDENTS:
Back row: Sally McQUEEN, Don BUTLER, Paul THUMA, Gladah LUMBERT, Sharon SANDBORN, Ronal EVANS, Agnes THUMA, John SANDBORN, Charles ALLEN, Mrs. Grace GRAFT.
Middle row: Bill SANDBORN, Floyd BUTLER, Jim LUMBERT, Dick HOLLENBACK, Lloyd BUTLER, Jean Ann BLACK, Bill BARRETT, Larry CURTIS, Howard KENYON.
Front row: Richard STEMLER, Roberta HOLLENBACK, Cynthia SANDBORN, Janice KENYON, Luke SANDBORN, Jean LUMBERT, Ramona DARLING, Joyce ALLEN, Bob SANBORN, Don KENYON, Kip LUMBERT, Daryl HOLLENBACK.
LEON A. WALTER, 87, husband of
Doris KIMBLE WALTER, widower of Mary WITBECK WALTER, father of David WALTER and
Linda GIBBONS, grandfather of Chris WALTER, Jeff WALTER, Amy HAZEL and Rebecca
MAZUREK, great-grandfather of Traver WALTER and eight others, plus two
great-great-grandchildren, brother of Lois and son of Hattie DAUSMAN & Homer A.
WALTER, son of D. FREEMONT WALTER, son of George WALTER, who settled there in
Boston Township on the north shore of Morrison Lake in 1864. Born January 7,
1920, died September 1, 2007.
PHYLLIS ARLENE LOWREY
SHELLENBARGER, 89, widow of Claud, mother of Gary SHELLENBARGER, Linda TRAVIS,
Diane DUFLO, and the late Greg SHELLENBARGER, daughter of Ollie TISCHER and
Charles LOWREY, was born, raised and farmed all her life on the 1856 LOWREY
homestead on Jordan Lake Road at I-96 in Berlin Township.
DONNA B. SCHEIDT SAUERS BESKO, 89,
wife of Henry BESKO, widow of Paul SAUERS, mother of Monte and Dennis SAUERS,
Toby HASKINS, Sonya LATZ, and Dirk BESKO, daughter of Bernice SPAULDING &
Bernard SCHEIDT, whose family opened SCHEIDT’S General Store in Lake Odessa soon
after its founding in 1887.
HISTORY OF THE COUNTY FARM by Grayden SLOWINS:
Charlie BABCOCK asked me to speak at the Township Officers Association chapter meeting, after seeing Bill DAVIS’ article in the Weekender about Robert Wilfred GIERMAN and THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR. R. W. GIERMAN – Wilfred to those of us from Sebewa – Bob to the outside world – started THE RECOLLECTOR in September 1965, after the Sebewa Center School closed, and after several previous small attempts at newsletters. I researched and wrote numerous articles for it over the years. In December 1990, with his health failing, he turned the operation over to me and he contributed a few more articles. So 25 years plus 18 years, equals almost 43 years so far.
Of interest tonight is the history of the Ionia County Poor Farm. First a few words from a past article I wrote entitled “Welfare in an Agrarian Society”. Because in the beginning most problems are local and are handled locally, and so it was in the townships. I have the Sebewa Clerk’s Minute Books dating back to the beginning in 1845, and from these I reconstructed the story of Alice JOHNSON. A once proud pioneer family that owned most of Section 17 Sebewa, the resident family had dwindled to one widow or maiden lady on 80 acres in the 1930s & 1940s. She had no tenant farmer, so the Township Supervisor, a man named William ROSEVERE, more or less managed her farm.
He got neighbors to plant and harvest her crops, and she kept a cow, some chickens, and a few sheep. Her main cash crop was about ten acres more or less of wheat. All through the year the township paid her doctor bills, coal bills, and let her run a tab at PATTERSONS’ General Store. Then came wheat threshing day and William ROSEVERE tended bagger on Daniel CREIGHTON’S Port Huron Separator powered by an International Titan 15-30 Tractor. The first 20 bushels or so were put in those 2 bushel/120# Bemis Seamless bags and saved to be cleaned for seed.
You may remember that we planted 7 pecks per acre back then. The next 4 – 6 bushels were saved to trade for flour – one 60# bushel for one 25# bag of flour at Valley City Milling Company. The remainder of the crop found its way to market and the screenings from all of the crop were brought to her granary to feed the chickens and sheep. She fed the threshers a hearty dinner of chicken, biscuits & gravy, garden vegetables & apple pie, the Township General Fund was repaid as far as possible and the year’s process started over again.
And her story ends with a mystery: Alice JOHNSON was dead and buried by the time Ann & I took over the Clerk/Sexton job in the late 1960s. But just before Memorial Day for many years, a big black Lincoln Continental would pull in and a well-dressed man would set out flowers on her grave. When I approached, he would get in the car and leave. Was he a nephew, or a cousin, or perhaps an orphan boy she had taken in and helped long ago?
But for those who didn’t have the land behind them that Alice JOHNSON had, or who needed daily assisted living, we had the County Farm, Poor Farm, Poor House, or at the last it was called the Ionia County Infirmary. The first one was on the farm now owned by Ronald Township Supervisor Patrick WITTENBACH, after John B. & Amos WELCH, after Mrs. NORMINGTON (aunt to Stanley POWELL), after David BALDIE, later of BALDIE Street in Ionia, who first separated out the quarter acre cemetery description on the deed.
David BALDIE bought it from first settler Joshua SHEPARD, who died and was buried there on his own farm in 1837. When Wilfred and I first went to investigate, we got permission and went across the farm of Stanley & Eleanor, Ron & Margie, and now Doug & Amanda POWELL. We had understood it was on the corner of their land and we could drive right to it.
But it was just over the fence, and when we stepped over that pattered fence, we knew at once we were in a cemetery, even though there were no markers. After many years working in and restoring cemeteries, we could spot the little rows of depressions where someone had been buried in a pine box without a vault.
The 1875 Ionia County Plat Book shows: County Farm, G. WOLVERTON, Keeper. I believe he was a son of Israel WOLVERTON, who homesteaded on what we think of as the Tag FERRIS farm on KELSEY Hwy. Then it took considerable research and legal footwork to verify the county’s ownership, determine the date of founding (1856), date of building (1871 for $7000), date it burned (1907), and names, ages, and burial dates for inhabitants.
Wilfred’s brother, Maurice GIERMAN, and Wilfred’s lady friend, Marge SMITH were county commissioners and a lot of help pushing it through the legal underbrush. Then we began to clear the actual underbrush and prepare to set a common marker, since the location of the individual graves was never recorded.
In the rather skimpy records we found some people who went there as an infant or orphan child and worked there, on the farm or in the house, all their lives – they never got to go anyplace or do anything else! Other people fell into financial hardship or poor health, and because they had no family who cared about them, and no money to pay their way to Heartlands or Green Acres, even if such places had existed, they ended up at the Poor Farm.
This place burned in 1907, miraculously without loss of life, and the County started over in north Berlin Township on Riverside Drive. Most of us know more about the 1907 County Farm & Infirmary. This was originally the Alonzo SESSIONS homestead (hence SESSIONS Creek & Lake) and later the MORRISONS and ADGATES farmed it. John ADGATE, Loren’s dad, was born there, and I believe John MORRISON, although I don’t know if the MORRISONS ever owned it, but I think they were all related.
Wilfred was able to talk to the last couple who had been the Superintendents, Mr. & Mrs. Harvey GIBSON, and see the Poor House Record Books, which are now at the State Archives (Lansing, MI). There are 44 people listed as “Buried in the farm” in Ronald, and 55 in Berlin. Bronze plaques now list them on the big stone. The cornerstone was laid November 21, 1907. The cost was $37,000 and the contractor was a man named WRIGHT, whose father had helped build the original 1845 stone farmhouse.
The new building had a 720 foot by six-inch sewer running to SESSIONS Creek! It closed in 1967, after a 30-year decline in use, for lack of customers. Adult Foster Care Homes, as well as places like Ionia Manor – now called Heartlands Health Center – took over. Even before the Board of Supervisors became the Board of Commissioners on January 1, 1969, there started to be talk about giving the 400 acres to the State of Michigan for a park. I doubt if anyone now living knows for sure who first had the idea, but Rus GREGORY pushed to have it developed and not just be more State Game Area, like over around Portland and some along the Flat River near Belding.
PORTLAND REVIEW &
OBSERVER, Thursday, March 30, 1950: Horse-drawn vehicles have come into play,
because roads are so bad many farmers can not get out by car or truck. Some
rural schools have been closed due to muddy roads and buses to town schools have
been sticking to main highways only. Rural travel has been a hard job unless by
tractor or horse power.
NOTICE: Danby Township Annual Meeting, Monday, April 3, 1:00 PM, Burr DUFFEY, Clerk.
NOTICE: Sebewa Township Annual Meeting, Monday, April 3, 1:00 PM. Wilbur
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Sebewa Township Electors heard a motion by John LICH, Sr., to raise one mill for gravel on Sebewa’s roads. The gravel was contracted immediately out of current funds, and that fall’s elections approved the beginning of collection of millage for roads in Sebewa, Portland and elsewhere. For the 57 years since, with a couple lapses that were quickly seen as needing rectifying, this millage has continued. Currently it is two mills, plus two mills long ago voted for Fire and Emergency Service, and less than one mill for general operating of cemeteries, elections, etc. dut to the so-called HEADLEE rollback.)
IONIA SENTINEL-STANDARD, June 17, 1940: DOGS IN SHEEP, TWO ARE KILLED. Three dogs, two of them large collies, were shot and killed after they were reported in a flock of sheep belonging to Emory TOWNSEND. Deputy Sheriff Ben NEVE said he shot and killed two of the dogs and wounded the third, a large red hound which escaped. Sheriff Leslie MURPHY warned dog owners they must keep their dogs tied and they cannot be released to run free at night, which many have apparently been doing.
IONIA SENTINEL-STANDARD, June 17, 1900: A Mr. CALVERT of Detroit was in the city today in the interest of an electric railroad from Ionia to Grand Rapids, which he says Detroit capitalists will build. All he asks from the city is a franchise to use the streets. (This was the Inter-Urban, which did reach places like Ada, Cascade, Lowell, Elmdale, Alto, Freeport, Whitneyville, Alaska, Caledonia, Middleville, Wayland, Jenison, Coopersville, Sparta and Rockford, but never came out as far as Ionia. It crossed the Grand River on what is now the pedestrian bridge from DeVOS Convention Center to Gerald R. FORD Museum. Lake of ridership in the jobless late 1920s and early 1930s, plus more convenient carpools and buses, killed it.
PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER, February 28, 1939, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph RUSSMAN and family will move from the Helen WOODBURY farm north of Portland near Christian Bend, to the former C. J. (Jack) HILL farm south of Portland in Danby. (HILLS kept the peach & apple orchard at this time. These moves all took place on March 1, traditional annual moving day for farmers.) Forest STIFFLER will move from the HILL place to the farm of his father, Warren STIFFLER, also in Danby.
PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER,
February 28, 1939: Pewamo Hardware Co. Our bargains include: Used Equipment –
Allis Chalmers 1938 WE tractor, John Deere Model B cultivator, two International
10-20 tractors, five Fordson tractors, one Hart PARR 18-36 tractor, one black
mare 6 years old, nearly new double harness, other new and used harness, one-row
cultivator, five 2-bottom 12-inch plows.
PORTLAND REVIEW, May 7, 1912: George SNYDER, Jr., local meat dealer (formerly of Sebewa) says they are not doing much business these days because of the high price of beef. Cattle are bringing 5 cents to 6 cents a pound, live weight, which makes them cost the dealer nearly 11 cents a pound dressed out.
PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER, May 7,
1942: Lorenzo WEBBER came to Portland 72 years ago on May 10, 1870, at age 10
months. For many years he was engaged in the banking business started by his
father, John A. WEBBER and grandfather, Lorenzo WEBBER, Sr. Now he operates a
real estate and insurance business (with Allen HUGHES in the back of the former
PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER, May 7,
1942, continued: Today autos are many and teams are few; even most of the
hitching posts are gone. Bike riders are taking a chance if they ride in the
streets downtown. Pedestrians are given less chance if bikes are operated on
the sidewalks, and the way that would seem to give both groups an even break is
for the youngsters to wheel their bikes through downtown.
IONIA COUNTY NEWS, March 27, 1924: G. W. ARNOLD’S Son, located on the south side of the river in Ionia, was displaying the simplicity trade mark we are all familiar with today, but it was for his engine cylinder grinding service. Ionia Water Power Electric Company was advertising to provide electric service in Ionia and vicinity.
All the threshing machines were
operated by horse power, and there was a continual hum, varying according to the
speed the horses traveled, which could be heard a long distance away?
PORTLAND REVIEW, February 4, 1936: A letter from MERRITT S. ALLEN of Lake City, Mich., as follows: “As to the date of the coldest New Years Day, I was on earth and took a sleigh ride on that day. Many are the times I have heard my mother tell about that ride. She said she took me in her arms and sat in the straw in the bottom of the sleigh box and my father covered us with quilts. Then he ran the horses a distance of one mile (south) to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Jacob HIGH, near the HIGH rural school in Sebewa for the holiday dinner. Now if I remember rightly, since I was there, I was born on the 25th of September that year 1864.
PORTLAND REVIEW, February 25,
1936: As we mentioned last time, Dr. & Mrs. Roy PRYER of Danby were headed for
Florida. But due to the subzero weather and deep snow, they were delayed,
because the two-mile stretch from their house to FROST Corners could not be
negotiated by automobile. They had planned on leaving Wednesday morning, but
even with men working all day, they could not do it. It was not until Thursday
afternoon that they reached US-16, using a team to pull the car on the last lap.
PORTLAND REVIEW, February 1916,
William O. BARTON was elected Treasurer of the village. Ira DARLING died and
was buried in North Eagle Cemetery. Carl BYWATER 7 Leo RYERSON
(brothers-in-law) opened a drug store in the POWER’S building which was recently
damaged by fire.
PORTLAND REVIEW, August 25, 1936:
Photo shown was taken from the summit of Alton HILL (near ALTON Park), now
reduced to a long, gradual grad, with the dangerous curve eliminated, and ending
at the new concrete US-16 (Grand River Ave.) bridge. Another photo was taken
from the east at the foot of GRANT Street looking west past Valley City Mill to
Divine Hotel, with the banks cut back for more gentle curve there, too.
PORTLAND REVIEW, August 25, 1936,
continued: The US-16 bridge cost $70,400 and the almost one mile of concrete
approaches cost $61,000. The State paid 50% and the Feds paid 50%. A queen
contest was held in conjunction with the festival. Marian BARTON (BROWN) was
the winner. Some of the other contestants were: Lorette SCHNEIDER, Mary
JARVIS, Betty BAUER, Edys INGRAHAM, Margretta PRYER and Reika VISSER (RAGLIN).
PORTLAND REVIEW, February 1916:
Heirs of the Oscar N. JENKINS estate and Jack SYKES have agreed upon the price
of $1500 for the lots on the (center) east side of Kent Street owned by the
estate. Mr. SYKES is to build a large two-story brick store building thereon
and has tentatively arranged to lease it to TOMY & DAWDY, clothiers.
PORTLAND REVIEW, February 1896: John A. WEBBER has been having the third story of his new house lathed and plastered, indicating that the young people will have a nice place in which to dance when the job is completed.
REMEMBER WHEN: About 1848 the Bridge Street Bridge, the only one across the Grand River in Portland in those days, went out, and traffic was maintained by a ferry boat large enough to carry one team & wagon, and operated by means of a rope stretched across the river, with three men supplying the motive power? The bridge that replaced that one was supported by three piers, constructed like a barn frame and called “bents”. A tree carried by the next run of ice tore out one of these piers, letting the west section down into the water and it floated away.
WHEN the Indians from Shimnecon trekked north each year and small boys watched along the route?
WHEN a good many Portland families kept a cow and it was the duty of small boys to drive them to and from pasture in summer, a mile or so out of town?
WHEN Sylvanus GOFF bought cattle and drove them to Detroit, going all the way on foot, himself? He said that as a youth he had suffered a sore on his leg and the doctors wished to amputate, but he refused, and that leg carried him to Detroit many times. (Joseph Priestly POWELL, grandfather of Stanley and great-great-grandfather of Doug POWELL & Julie POWELL CALLEY, could walk to Detroit in the daylight hours of two days, a distance of 125 miles from his Ronald Township home. Of course a herd of cattle would slow a man down a bit.)
Last update November 10, 2013