Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 43 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;
JUNE 2008.  Volume 43, Number 6.  Sebewa Township, Ionia County, Michigan. 
Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. SLOWINS:



FORREST DEAN NASH, 82, widower of Betty TAYLOR NASH, husband of Elaine VanBUREN HAGER NASH, father of Phil, Duane, David, Paul, and infant Cora NASH, Kris BRIGHAM, Lee, Diane, Randy and Rick HAGER, brother of Greta PARSONS, Howard and Gordon NASH, and the late Vivian, Ray and Carl NASH, son of Edgar & Nettie GIERMAN NASH, daughter of Christina KLAGER & Charles GIERMAN, son of Sophia BENSCHNEIDER & Frederick GIERMAN.  Edgar NASH was the son of Norman T. NASH.
   Forrest was born in Orange Township September 5, 1925, died March 5, 2008, on the farm on KELSEY Hwy his family settled before 1875.  A lifelong farmer, he saw the change from draft horses, threshing machines and milking by hand, to tractors, combines and electric milking machines.  He was active in 4-H, FFA, Ionia Free Fair, LaValley United Methodist Church, Orange Township Justice of the Peace and Board of Review, FHA Advisory Board, ASCS Committee, and BALSOM Cemetery Association.  He was buried at BALCOM Cemetery. 

MILDRED PAULINE SINDLINGER RICE, 85, widow of Blanchard RICE, mother of Larry & Donald RICE, sister of the late Lucille WARREN and Margaret BROWN, daughter of Nora A. RITENBURGH & Frederick C. SINDLINGER, son of Elizabeth & Christian SINDLINGER, who settled on KIMMEL Road in Sebewa Township in August, 1855.
   Nora was the daughter of Minnie & Ira RITENBURG, whose family settled in Orange Township before 1875.
   Born January 26, 1923, in Sebewa Township, Mildred died March 5, 2008, in Delta Township, Eaton County, MI.  A graduate of Western Michigan University, she was an elementary school teacher, and is buried at Danby Cemetery.


Back row:  Otho LOWE, Edna SHOWERMAN, Eva SMITH, Flossie HENRY, Mabel MORGAN, TEACHER Agnes ERDMAN, Jane SMITH, Elsie BROWN, Ralph FELTON, Glenn McARTHUR, Morris VanBENSCHOTEN.

Middle row:  Ben SMITH, Walter HUBBARD, Walter BROWN, Reva WEIPPERT, Floyd ERDMAN, Iva AUSTIN, Edna ALLEN, Laura BORTON, Hattie McARTHUR, Bernice HALLADAY, Fred BROWN.

Front row:  Ward MERRIFIELD (standing), Rolland BORTON, Burt BROWN, Leon McARTHUR, Alberta MARSEY, Vernon ALLEN, Inez BROWN, Mary WEIPPERT, Fern CONKRITE, Vida MERRYFIELD, Don BENSCHOTER.


   Friday, February 29, 2008 - Leap Year!  37 degrees, clear and sunny.  High was 68 degrees.

   Wednesday, March 5, 52 degrees, cloudy, becoming clear blue sky with warm sun.  Biked my 5 miles, then another mile around the Tractor Supply building and lot.  Talked with Annette SCHWEITZER about the North Florida Antique Engine Show this Thursday-Friday-Saturday at the Bradford County Fairground here in Starke.

    Saturday, March 8, 57 degrees……Reflecting on the past, in 1970 we got a new Chevrolet pickup and Ionia-Home camper.  It had bunks that slid out from the cabover to sleep six.  The four kids slept up above and Ann & I were below.  When the last child, Kris, started college in 1980, we condensed the bunks and slept up above.

   In 1981 we got a new Chevrolet pickup, but the same campler.  In 1988 we got a Coachman pickup camper and in 1995 a new Chevrolet pickup and always used the cabover bunk.  In winter 1997-1998 we got this Coachman Motor Home and slept in the cabover bed.  Now in 2008, we are no longer comfortable in the cabover, and one or both are on the sofa-bed.

   Thursday, March 13, 42 degrees, clear and sunny, misty over the pond……paid rent and told Kim & Deb we won’t be coming south any more.  Besides getting into the loft bed and going up and down the entry steps, another thing that is difficult for Ann in the RV is reaching up into cupboards.  High was 77 degrees.  To Be Continued……

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEBEWA TOWNSHIP by Grayden SLOWINS - Part II – Our 51 years in Sebewa – 1957-2008:

   We now begin the story of events in Sebewa and changes in agriculture during the fifty-one years we have lived in Sebewa.  We bought the 1849 OLRY farm from Glen’s widow, Fern VanHOUTEN OLRY, on April 27, 1957.  The biggest thing we had to have done before we could move in was a new well.  It took until December 10th for Fred GOBER & Stewart KUSSMAUL to get that done so we could bring the livestock.  The township had a lot of small dairy herds, beef cow herds, hog farrowing & finishing setups, many flocks of 50-200 laying hens, and numerous small flocks of sheep.  Most families had mixed livestock and crop operations – what were called “general farming setups”.

   We came here with one cow & calf, 100 hens, a couple feeder pigs to eat the table scraps, and 44 head of sheep & lambs.  Soon everyone began to specialize for more efficient operations.  Sheep had always been our ancestral specialty and we went with that.

   By the 1980s we had surpassed 750 head, with 300 ewes, 10 rams, and over 450 lambs every spring!  Ours was the largest flock in Ionia County, although Phil & Betty SHETTERLY were a close second.  In later years, as both families began to cut back, we still stayed largest for a long time.

   We retired in 2002, after I had raised sheep for 70 years, age 3 weeks to 70 years.  Now there are almost no livestock in Sebewa Township; only one dairy farm, a few hogs and horses, and SHETTERLY’S reduced sheep flock.  Hens went from family flocks to egg factories with several thousand hens, to none at all.  HERBRUCKS in Berlin & Boston Townships produce something like 15% of all the eggs in Michigan, all in the McDonalds Restaurants east of the Mississippi, and all Meijer Stores.  Timber-framed barns are disappearing fast, fences are gone, and every field is into corn & soybeans, some wheat, or horse hay.

   The first winter we carried all the water for the sheep, cattle, hogs and hens from the house basement.  Come spring we had Bob COOK dig for a water line to the barn.  The last winter we had sheep- 2001-2002 –we again had to get water to the barn the hard way, because that galvanized pipe had rusted through in 44 years.  This time we dragged a hose in & out of the basement.

   In 1957 almost no corn was raised to sell, because it sold for less than $1.00 per bushel dry shelled corn.  It was animal feed after natural drying in the cribs.  Oats and barley were also raised for feed, plus wheat screenings were good for sheep & hens and everyone saved them.  In fact, wheat was the main cash crop in this area, plus some folks were raising small acreages of navy beans.

   I remember the first grain-dryer at SMITH Bros. Elevator.  My family had hauled the first bulk load of wheat to KNOX’S Portland Elevator and I helped shovel it over the side of the wagon into a hole in the dock, because there was no dump pit yet, let alone a wagon hoist.

   That first winter George & Cora PETRIE, George Jr., and Joyce PETRIE, and Dennis & Ida PETRIE came to welcome us and hold our new baby girl.  We asked who took care of Sebewa’s cemeteries.  Orrin & Lavancha AUSTIN had done it in 1957, Bill & Barb DARLING did it in 1958, Clyde & Bertha AVERY the next ten years, then we did it for 28 years!

   We tried raising the first soybeans in the area about 1965.  They were easy to combine, compared to navy beans that had to be pulled, but Sunfield & Lake Odessa elevators refused to take them, because they didn’t want to get them mixed in with edible beans.  We had just one buyer, Don THOMPSON at the south elevator in Woodland.  There were a lot of splits to screen out, because we hadn’t learned to set the combine cylinder just right.  We mixed those into the sheep & lamb feed.  Today everyone raises soybeans at $8.50-9.00/bu, rotated with corn at $4.00-5.00/bu for the ethanol plant at Woodbury.

   Beginning in 1958 we owned the most up-to-date haying system available, with a New Idea Cut-ditioner, and New Holland hay rake, square baler with thrower, high-sided thrower wagons, and elevator.  By 1978 all were replaced with new models, and last in the 1990s came a conveyer system to take the bales at the wagon, move them the full length of the barn peak, and shunt them into the selected mow.  Today very little hay is raised in Sebewa and is put up in big round bales.

   The Allis-Chalmers WD-45 tractor we bought new in 1957 and the 1954 model we bought used from Alton GUNNS were the largest and most powerful tractors made by Allis-Chalmers at that time.  Alton’s good 1954 Allis-Chalmers Model-66 pull-type combine replaced our older Model-40.  Today those tractors and combines are dwarfed in both ability and price.

   In June 1961 my career in public office began, when I was asked to run for the Sebewa Center School Board as Treasurer.  Wilbur GIERMAN was Director and Wesley MEYERS was Moderator.  Naida J. COOK was the teacher in 1961-1962 & 1962-1963.  Ariel A. MORRIS was the teacher in 1963-1964 & 1964-1965.  We were the last to hold those positions, as the school closed in April 1965 and merged with Sunfield, Lake Odessa, Clarksville and Woodland to form Lakewood.

   We were forced to close because enrollment had dropped to eight and the State cut off our State Aid, on the grounds we were not economical or efficient.  A couple years later Clara STOEL was filling a 66-passenger bus by going around less than three square miles, about half the old district.  I also served as Treasurer of Sebewa Center United Methodist Church about the same years, maybe 1964-1969.

   On April 3, 1963, I was elected Justice-of-the-Peace in Sebewa Township.  Our main tasks were settling line-fence disputes and stray dogs killing chickens, sheep, and calves.  Plus we could perform marriages if asked, hold traffic court, and arrainments for Circuit Court if we wished.  All this and more was taken over by the newly created County District Court Judge January 1, 1969.

   C. Ronald VanBUREN was the first person elected to that office in Ionia County.  The Justice experience occurred a long time ago, and I can only remember a few incidents.  One was a line-fence dispute on the land now owned by Ed & Bonnie LEAK on the north side of MUSGROVE Hwy at State Road.  The owner refused to build his half of the common fence with Max VanHOUTEN.  Back then the law required each landowner to build the right-hand half as viewed from their side of the fence.  So Roy PUMFREY, the other Sebewa Justice, and I viewed the situation and ordered him to built the fence.

   When he did not comply, we were able to order Max to build the fence and the Assessor put the cost on the man’s tax bill.  Today the law has been changed and the landowner who has livestock must build all the fence.  Similarly the laws on dogs have been changed.  Back then the Dog Warden could instruct the owner of livestock to shoot stray dogs on sight.  The Justices would then order the dog owner to pay the damages to livestock after viewing.  If the owner could not be found or prove, the county dog license fund had been created to pay them, as well as the Dog Warden’s per diem & mileage and the Justices’.  No way could the dog owner get away with protesting the death of his dog.  In most cases, they kept really quiet, out of shame, guilt and hoping not to pay.  Today the dog laws protect the dogs, wolves, bears, etc., not the domestic livestock which are raised to feed and clothe our nation.

   So on January 4, 1969, I took the oath of office as Sebewa Township Clerk, with Ann as Deputy Clerk, and was immediately appointed Sexton of the Cemeteries.  I lasted in the Sexton’s job for 28 years, until arthritis forced retirement at age 65, 4 more years as Clerk – making 32, followed by 5 ˝ as trustee, which added to the 5 ˝ as Justice, made 43 consecutive years in township government.

   This opened the door to service in the Michigan Townships Association, first as a member just one week after I became Clerk and before having recorded even one meeting.  Twenty years later in January 1989, I was elected District Director on the MTA Board and served in all offices, culminating with the Presidency in 2001.  Mandatory retirement January 2006, followed by retirement from Sebewa Board in May, made 43 years.

   Many incidents in the cemeteries come to mind.  Most often they had to do with winter burials or keeping weeds down around the stones.  Weedkillers tend to destroy perennial cemetery flowers such as Myrtle (Periwinkle), Violets, Daffodils, Tulips, Iris, Peonies, etc., as well as the undesirables.  By the way, I consider the beautiful yellow dandelions to be the Biblical lilies-of-the-field and not undesirable.  Some people complained we didn’t use enough weedkiller.

   Lacking equipment and manpower, most rural cemeteries have a policy of not burying in winter, usually about December 1 to May 1, so as not to play favorites on good & bad days, icy wind, snow, frozen ground, or soggy thawed ground.  In rare cases where we made an exception, there were almost always bad effects.

   In one case in the west cemetery, we dug the grave and over night a foot of heavy wet snow fell, including in the grave.  Instead of shoveling it out, the vault man set the vault on top of the snow.  The next July 4th the grave, which was all sodded and smooth, suddenly dropped a foot.

   While for the east cemetery a woman called in mid-March, while we were shearing sheep, and said “Dad is uncovered!”  “Oh”, I said, “Are his feet showing?”  “Well, no, but Mother is worried!”

   The chunks of frozen clay had simply settled unevenly.  In another case the frozen earth came out in big chunks and violated the graves next to it on both sides.

   So the Board must hang tough and say “If you want to be buried in this township, it must be between May 1 and December 1.  Most funeral homes are happy to store them, they just need to know when arrangements are made.  Ann & I will be content to be stored.

   Over the years duties of township officials have changed greatly.  We started in 1969 with single-entry bookkeeping, where each transaction in or out resulted in a cash balance at the end of the line.  The Clerk & Treasurer kept identical books, except for tax collections and dispersals.  We used a manual typewriter and a machine that added & subtracted but did not multiply or divide. 

   We were soon required to go to double-entry bookkeeping, which the retiring Clerk & Deputy had dreaded.  Calculators came and went.  Also various generations of copiers, FAX machines, computers, scanners, and printers.  We first used voting machines in the August Primary Election of 1986 at the schoolhouse.

   When we started on the Board, Supervisor/Assessor Charles McNEIL was assessing and spreading taxes on the Sebewa tax roll, as well as for a couple adjoining townships, using just that adding/subtracting machine.  He had an ingenious way of multiplying decimal millages using that simple adding machine.  All amounts were rounded up to the next whole dollar for convenience in calculation, and resulted in “Excess of Roll”, which is no longer allowed.  He had done it that way for 25 years when he died in office in 1977.

   Through my gentle but forceful persuasion, the remaining Board Members were convinced to appoint Evelyn Mae LICH DAVID to complete his term, one of the first woman Supervisor/Assessors in the State of Michigan.  She was well-accepted, even by the old farmers, because she always got things right, especially in assessing.  She served almost twelve years before advancement to the position of Membership Information Director at Michigan Townships Association in August 1988.

   She will soon be eligible for retirement with over 20 years service with that organization.  All the people who were on the Sebewa Township Board when I came on in 1969 are now deceased except Oren DANIELS, who became 98 years old October 2007.

   A list of township officers begins with the first Annual Meeting March 19, 1845, held at the home of Jacob SHOWERMAN, with Elkanah DRAKE acting as Clerk.  Benjamin D. WELD was elected Supervisor, Anson W. HALBERT – Clerk, Jacob SHOWERMAN – Treasurer, Edward SANDBORN and George W. DICKINSON – Justices of the Peace and members of the Board.  John MAXIM, Rufus GODDARD, and Eleazer BROWN were elected Commissioners of Highways, and John WADDELL was Director of the Poor.

   Besides Charles McNEIL as Supervisor and Clyde AVERY as retiring Clerk, others on the Board in 1969 were:  Hazel FENDER – Treasurer beginning in 1966, Oren DANIELS & John DICKINSON – Trustees.  John was first to retire, replaced by Phil SHETTERLY in October, 1969.  Oren DANIELS was next, replaced by LaVern CARR in November 1971.  Evelyn DAVID replaced Charles McNEIL in July 1977.  LaVern CARR replaced Hazel FENDER RICHARDSON in June 1982, and Joan GUY replaced him as Trustee in July.  Ken DAVID replaced Evelyn as Supervisor in November 1988, and James STANK replaced Joan GUY.  Jim replaced Ken in September 1990, and Brian PINKSTON replaced Jim as trustee.  Joan replaced Phil in November 1992.  Brian replaced Grayden as Clerk in November 2000 and Grayden replaced him as Trustee.  In April 2004 Carol LEAK replaced Brian as Clerk.  Ken DAVID replaced Joan GUY as Trustee in November 2004, and Joan replaced Grayden in May 2006.  END


Last update November 10, 2013