Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 47 Number 1
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 ~ Historical Newsletter from Sebewa, Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI; Volume 47, Number 1, August 2011: 

Two color photos on front page by Becky Haskin; of two tractors sold in the April 23, 2011 auction off at the farm of Grayden D. Slowins, Editor (details page). 

SURNAMES:  Carnegie, Courtney, Stegenga, Stocum, Storey, Tasker, Yager


COURTNEY, SHIRLEY MAE BIANG COURTNEY, 68, mother of Danelle Carigon and Terri Carigon, sister of Elizabeth Majinska, Linda Shearer, Rene Kerns, Deborah White, Caroline Biang and Nanetter Biang, daughter of Shirley Mae Nichols and Melvin Biang, died February 20, 2011.  Shirley had been a teller at Ionia County National (First Bank) drive-thru in Ionia. [Note: This obit is incorrect.  Two women with similar names were confused.  This should be SHIRLEY MAE (JUSTMAN-BIANG) COURTNAY.   She was a retired Captain of the Michigan Department of Corrections. See issue 47-2 for the correction.]

TASKER, REBECCA (KAY) HANSBARGER YAGER, 71, wife of Cameron Yager, mother of Steven Yager, Richard Yager, and Vonda Mattson, sister of Harlow Hansbarger, daughter of Marguerite & Nelson (Dutch) Hansbarger, died June 4, 2011, widow of Malcom Tasker, sister of the late Lloyd F. Reed and Bernice Reed Howard, daughter of Earl F. Reed & Blanch Townsend Reed,  Earl Reed was the son of Clara Harwood & Thomas Hosea Reed, who settled in Sec. 7 Sebewa Township before 1891, on a portion of what is now the Donald & Marie Possehn farm and expanded to include what is now the Linda Wolverton farm.  Blanche Townsend was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Townsend, who settled before 1891 in Sec. 15 Sebewa Township, on what is known in recent times as the Hazel Richardson (Sp?) farm.  Henry Townsend was one of the sons of the Sherman (Sp?) Townsend family who settled in Ionia & Orange Townships before 1875.  Iris was a teacher for 38 years and is buried in Odessa Lakeside Cemetery.


   “Old MacDonald had a farm.”  Then he sold it, and the people came from everywhere on a raw morning in April.  Stanton’s Auction in Vermontville had put out the news through flyers, newspaper ads, the Internet (and the “Old Allis News”, a national publication from Bellevue, MI).  Cars and pickup trucks some with empty trailers, lined both sides of the rural highway in Ionia County for a half-mile in each direction.  When the sale began at 10 o’clock, the sun came out, and they kept coming until nearly 500 people had gathered.

   They wore Carhartt bibs, Michigan State caps, and hooded sweatshirts.  They brought their knee-high rubber boots because it had rained, hard, the night before; and they knew the farmyard would be muddy.  More rain was possible, according to the wet, crawling sky.  It was rumpled and gray like a soaked woolen blanket.  I know because I was there – boots, cap and all – on this Saturday morning, the day before Easter.

   After more than 50 years of farming, my neighbors, Grayden & Ann Slowins, were selling their tractors and implements, hand tools and “other items too numerous to mention”, standard language on the farm-auction bill.  A shepherd for 70 years of his long life, Slowins had down-sized the flock of 750 animals in the years leading to retirement.  Last year they sold their 160-acre farm with its brick house built in 1878.  They had lived there since 1957.  Today everything but the kitchen sink would go.  If you looked hard enough through the “jewelry wagons” and the machine shop, a sink might be there, too.

   So much stuff, accumulated over more than a half-century.  Three Allis Chalmers tractors (four counting the lawn & garden tractor), two old Chevrolet pickups, combines, a corn planter, a corn picker, steel fence posts, grease guns, buckets of bolts and nuts.  There was a canoe, a small sailboat and a fishing boat with a 1968 Michigan registration sticker.  The attached Johnson Sea Horse outboard moter was a collectible, as were several antique fishing poles, toy tractors, furniture, leather horse collars, hand tools and more.  There was even a mounted deer rack, “Taken on the farm of Grayden Slowins, 1978.”  All of it gone in less than four hours.

    Stantons ran two sales rings, one outdoors and one inside the machine shed.  To be heard, the auctioneers relied on small, head-mounted microphones.  A loud speaker blasted the words of one auctioneer throughout the farmyard.  “All right, now”, he said.  “Watta we got here?  A Coleman 5000 portable generator!  She’s all set up on this platform with wheels, ready to go to work.  Who’ll give five hundred?”  He studied the crowd with a practiced eye, looking for any sign.  “Three hundred?  Two hundred?”  A hand shot up.  “I got two hundred.  How bout two fifty?  Now three hundred.  Now three fifty.  Got three fifty?  Yes!  Now four hundred.  Gimme four hundred.  Four hundred….three seventy-five?  Got three-fifty, where’s three seventy-five?”

   Lower jaw jutted out, he showed his teeth and rattled off the words like a machine gun without moving his lips.  Two bidders had suddenly materialized from the throng.  Spectators watched them as though witnessing a Ping-Pong game.  The auctioneer paused a moment and said “This is just what you need for those power outages around here.”  Then his voice resumed the staccato attack:  “Three seventy-five, seventy five.  Yes!  Gimme four hundred.  Now four twenty-five, twenty-five….twenty-five.  Now four-fifty.  Four fifty?  Now four seventy-five, four seventy-five, seventy five.  Going once…going twice…..sold for four hundred and fifty dollars.  Buyer number 2219.  Hey, that’s me!  I was now the proud owner of portable power.  Earlier, I missed out on the enormous Hav-A-Hart trap that went for twenty-five bucks; later, I lucked out on a wooden stepladder for nine dollars.  Gotta love an auction.

   The three old tractors were next.  Like most of Slowins’ equipment, they were in great condition, complete with service records.  As the crowd thickened, Grayden and his son, Joe, climbed aboard two of the orange beasts to start engines and answer questions.  The big AC tractor Model 180 went for $4450.  The WD-45 narrow-front with front-end loader, sold for $2800.  The WD-45 wide-front sold for $2050, with the back-blade sold separately for $800, making a total $2850, almost the same as the other one.  If those tractors could talk, what stories would they tell?  What sacrifices did Grayden & Ann make to buy them?  How many furrows did they plow?  Did they turn over any arrowheads or spearheads?

   Farm auctions can be bittersweet.  “Bitter” if a farmer has to sell, such as the old veteran I recall from 30 years ago.  He went belly-up when corn fell to two dollars a bushel, and it had cost him three dollars to put it into the ground and harvest it.  That luckless fellow skipped the foreclosure auction; later they found him hanging from a beam in his own barn.  “Sweet” when things go according to plan.  Grayden, ever the purposeful planner, had arranged for this very day.  While farming and shepherding, he served a total of 43 years as the Sebewa Township Justice of the Peace, Clerk, and Trustee.  For 28 of those years, he was also the sexton for the township’s two cemeteries.  No one knows more local history than the man who still edits the SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR for family and friends from the Slowins’ new residence at a senior living complex in Grand Rapids.

   “It’s a relief to have the sale over” Grayden told me as he dug through a stack of owner manuals while we buyers waited.

   “Any regrets.”  I wondered.

   “None,” he said, handing me the Coleman Generator brochure.  “But I do miss my sheep!”

MORE ABOUT OUR AUCTION:  In the last issue we discussed prices on small items.  See Tom Huggler’s article for the tractor prices.  Here are prices on a few other of the larger items:  Allis Chalmers Model 66 combine - $725.  A-C 3-16” semi-mounted plow - $450.  A-C 10’ wheel-disc $800.  A-C 2-row mounted corn planter - $600.  A-C 13-hoe grain drill with fertilizer & legume seeder - $1000.  New Holland manure spreader - $1450.  A-C one-row corn picker - $500.  A-C 7’ mounted hay mower - $500.  Two New Holland gravity-flow grain wagons – one at $1350, one at $650.  A-C Model 712 Lawn & Garden Tractor with rotary mower & rotary tiller - $900.  Sixteen-foot Alumacraft boat & trailer - $400.  Seventeen-foot Aquarius aluminum canoe - $325.  1981 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup - $650.  1970 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup - $550.  Most surprising were two sets of WD—45 engine side-panels at $190 for each set, and two original WD-45 tractor seats at $85 each – not nearly as comfortable as the padded-back after-market models.


   Some have asked whether I study old newspapers on microfilm to get this information, and I have done that occasionally.  Most of the time I find it much less tiring to search my supply in storage, beginning in 1946 and continuing until weekly newspapers were turned into Shopper’s Guides, about 1968 for the PORTLAND REVIEW and probably earlier for the IONIA COUNTY NEWS.  Since there were well over 1000 issues and we have moved twice in 54 years, plus several moves of the stack-room within those houses, they are hopelessly out of order. 

January 16, 1958:  State Senator Bert J. Storey, 77, died unexpectedly at his home at Cook’s Corners, west of Belding.  He had served as State Representative from Ionia County 1939-1950 and as Senator from Ionia, Gratiot, Mecosta and Montcalm Counties since 1054.  He had attended the opening session of the 1958 legislature at Lansing and returned home.  Death was attributed to a heart attack.  Surviving were his wife, Edith; son, Alvin of Charlotte, NC; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  Mr. Storey was born in Muir and was a Spanish-American War Veteran. 

January 1, 1904:  R. F. D. (Rural Free Delivery) service was started from Portland Post Office with six carriers serving a wide area around Portland.  There had been fourth class post offices at several points in the rural area and as the free delivery system got under motion, these fourth class offices were closed one by one.  Prior to the inauguration of the service there had been post offices at Maple (Maple Corners), Jeffrey (Basswood Corners near Danby Grange Hall), Collins, West Sebewa, Sebewa Corners (East Sebewa), and Orange.  They were served by various Star Routes (special contract routes).

   Of the six new carriers out of Portland, three served farmers in Portland and Danby Townships east of the Grand River.  The south end of the service was at Centerline bridge (and Pryor Road) in Danby.  The north end was at Portland Township’s north line (Maple Road).

   Three routes covered the territory west of the Grand River, but they did not go as far north and south.  One route went as far as Bellevue Road (South State Road M-66) and also delivered a pouch to West Sebewa.  The south end was parts of Bippley Road (in Sebewa) and the north line was on a zig-zag from Collins to Tremaine’s Corners.  The carriers drove horse-drawn rigs and left Portland Post Office at 8:30 AM, although the change was soon considered, because the mail could be ready an hour earlier.  July 4 and Thanksgiving were the only holidays – mail was delivered on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

   For many years six routes operated out of Portland.  One was later eliminated and the number remained at five for some years.  Automobiles came into fairly common use and carriers gave them a try for summer months.  With the coming of better roads and scheduled snow plowing, routes were shifted from one post office to another and remaining ones were lengthened, so that eventually Portland was served by three routes, as it is today.  Fred J. Mauren Sr. was Postmaster here when the rural free delivery was started.  He was first appointed by President Wm. McKinley and for a second term by Theodore Roosevelt. 

January 16, 1938:  Clarence Budington Kelland, born in Portland in a little house at the foot of Dilley hill and now proclaimed “The most highly paid literary figure in the United States, if not the world”, was sued in a New York court by a dress store wanting collection of $2,513.02, which the author’s wife allegedly owed.  Mr. Kelland said it was her debt, not his.  

January 16, 1918:  Arnella Sulpizio, who is now with a medical division at Camp Green, NC, writes his parents that he expects the outfit will be sent to France within the next week or so.

   Unable to get freight cars for the purpose due to the war, auto bodies are now being hauled by motor truck from the (Hayes) Auto Body Plant in Ionia to the Oldsmobile factory at Lansing. 

January 16, 1898:  News is out that H. (Humphrey) R. Wagar, of Ionia, intends to go ahead with the work of building a dam on the Grand River near the Murphy farm (off Murphy Road) in Lyons Township.  Power will be used for lighting the City of Ionia.

January 23, 1918:  Samuel F. Davids and wife (parents of Ruby, who married A. Fred Klotz in September 1902), for many years residents of Danby, are now settled in their new (red brick) home opposite the Charles H. Maynard home (banker/s mansion built in 1898 on Bridge St.) 

January 23, 1898:  Russell Fry is frescoing the ceilings in John A. Webber’s new house (banker’s mansion built in 1898 on Bridge St.) 

August 16, 1942:  Mr. & Mrs. Christian Guenther have sold the former home of Dr. John Toan on Maynard Road to Mr. & Mrs. Val Johnson of Chicago, IL. 

Aug. 16, 1902:  Tom Frost Jr. and Will Fishel have purchased a new grain separator & traction engine and are booking threshing jobs. 

August 23, 1962:  Frances Churchill Reynolds, 85, Portland librarian since 1927, retired as of September 1.  Mrs. Reynolds was honored in June as the oldest Portland High School graduate present at the alumni reunion, and she was one of the notables breaking ground at the site of the new Portland High School on Storz Avenue.  She was one of twin daughters born in Portland to Mr. & Mrs. James Churchill, whose home was on Academy Street south of the Charles H. Maynard home mentioned above.  Her grandparents were Mr. & Mrs. William R. Churchill, whose home was the present-day funeral home on Bridge Street at Maple Street.  They ran a general store across Maple Street in the building that previously stood where the Masonic Temple is today.  Tradition says there was a tunnel under Maple Street from the house to the store, possibly for the Underground Railroad.  The girls graduated in 1895 and Frances was Valedictorian.

   Frances and her twin sister, the late Mrs. Helen Schaffer, mother of Herbert (Unk) Schaffer, enrolled at Michigan State Normal College at Ypsilanti.  The two Churchill girls roomed with the late Dana Webster Smith (Mrs. Dan Smith, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. James Sykes.  Dana & Dan Smith were parents of Louise, Mrs. Fred England, Jr., plus sons James & Richard.)  Each girl paid $1.00 per week for their room.  Helen majored in Education and became a teacher.  Many of us remember her in retirement running a childcare service for shoppers, in the little building next to the bakery, later occupied by Keebler Insurance.

   Frances majored in music, and upon graduation in 1899, became a music teacher, giving lessons at her home in Portland.  She also played piano for many years at both the Methodist and Baptist Churches.  Mrs. Raynolds succeeded the late Edna Bandfield as librarian when the latter gave up the job in 1927.  The new position made it necessary for her to only give music lessons on a part-time basis.  During the 35 years she has been librarian, she has seen the number of books and borrowers increase greatly.  When she assumed her job at the public library in 1927, it contained about 3870 volumes, and there were 695 borrowers.  As of April 1, 1962, the library had 8,809 books and 1704 registered borrowers.  Other improvements initiated by the Library Board:  The north room was practically empty in 1927, now it is the children’s room.  A Michigan book alcove has been added.  In 1927 magazines were kept in the basement in crates, now they are neatly filed and kept for at least five years.  Mrs. Lucille (Thomas) Esch will succeed Mrs. Reynolds as librarian. 

September 13, 1902:  Mrs. Frances Reynolds gave a bridal shower Friday night in honor of Miss LaSalle, who will wed Peter Grieves. 

September 20, 1922:  Mrs. James Churchill and daughter, Frances Reynolds, arrived home from Ludington, where they had been spending the hay fever season. 

August 13, 1919:  Death of Andrew Carnegie at Lenox, MA, recalls the great philanthropist’s give of $10,000 for the library in Portland Township.  (We saw one like it in New Zealand and elsewhere.) 

August 13, 1939:  Gerrit Stegenga, a resident of this vicinity for many years, died Saturday at the home of his son, Conrad, north of Portland. 

Dogs got into a flock of chickens belonging to Peter Pohl at Eagle a few days ago and killed 40 of them. 

August 20, 1959:  John G. Stocum, 89, died at Wayne County General Hospital; funeral was conducted at Neller’s by Rev. Herbert Kinsey, with burial in Portland Cemetery.  A former Lyons resident, the deceased was survived by a sister, Mrs. Clara Warford of Lansing.  (We wonder if he was a brother or other relation to the late Bill Stocum, who grew up in Orange Township and long barbered in Portland.) 

August 23, 1942:  Valley City Milling Company is now providing its watchmen with side-arms as a precautionary measure against enemy sabotage and also due to increased vandalism. 

Mr. and Mrs. Roy McCrumb have moved from an apartment over f. A. Wheeler’s jewelry store and are now in charge of the gas station at Frost’s Corners formerly operated by Mr. & Mrs. Clayton Riley. 

August 23, 1922:  The old National Hotel, more recently known as the location of the Wolverine Soap Company, is being torn down this week by a Lansing wrecking firm.  (This building stood on the east edge of Powers Park, about in the middle of the block on Water Street, and appears in photos of floods there.) 

August 23, 1902:  John Van Horn has been hired as janitor of the old Brush Street School for a salary of $250.  (That’s per year, not per week, and figures out to $5.00 per week.) 

September 20, 1922:  John Webber, Charlotte Webber and Evelyn Buck will begin their year’s studies at Oberlin College, OH.  Florence Emery and Basil Lowry will go to U. of M.  Thelma Mack, Margaret England and Edith Shotwell will attend Kalamazoo College.  Jean Horning, Marguerite Klotz, Lorna Samaine and Russell Hale will go to M. A. C. (Michigan Agricultural College – now M. S. U.)  Charles Stone and  Webster Linebaugh will leave for Albion.  Miss Lena Dawdy has begun her year’s work as a teacher at Scottville.  Miss Thelma Keister of Ionia (Ionia County News family) will teach the High District School in Sebewa this year. 

September 20, 1902:  Reverend G. Stone, new pastor of Portland United Brethren Church is a veteran of the Civil War. 

September 27, 1922:  William G. Miner, Civil War Veteran, passed away September 17 at age 80. 

September 27, 1942:  F. A. Wheeler, who has been in the jewelry business in Portland since February, 1922, will leave this weekend to take up duties in the U. S. Navy, in which he served in World War I.


   People have asked me to write about the history of the Ionia County Republican Party.  I can only write about the period when Ann & I were involved.  It all began in 1964.  In April 1963, I had been elected Justice of the Peace for Sebewa Township and in 1964 we both were Precinct Delegates to the Ionia County Republican Convention.  That soon got me on the Ionia County Republican Standing Committee.  Our first meeting was held in the basement of the First Security Bank, now called Independent Bank.  Our guest speaker that night was D. Hale Brake from Stanton, retired Attorney, State Senator, State Treasurer, Constitutional Convention Delegate and former candidate for Governor in one of G. Mennen Williams’ reelections.  He also was one of my mother’s favorite cousins and one of my role models in life.

   The committee met monthly, and a meeting or two later Gerald R. Ford, our Fifth District Congressman, was our speaker.  Ionia County had just been put back into his district during redistricting, so he was a member of our committee by virtue of his office, and we began to organize the new Fifth District for a Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign.  Jerry sat across the table from us in the courtroom and said “People ask how I decided to vote for Goldwater.  I tell them I agree with Goldwater 80% of the time and I disagree with Lyndon Johnson 90% of the time; I agree with both of them 10% of the time and neither of them 20% of the time; as the choice was easy!”  “People also ask how I feel about the John Birch Society supporting me.  I tell them I never disagree with anyone so much that I don’t want them to vote for me.”

   Ann & I got the Voter Registration List from Bertha Avery, Deputy Sebewa Township Clerk, and began to contact everyone who hadn’t voted in at least four years; because a new State Election Law required them to be contacted and then canceled for inactivity.  All the person had to do was go to the local Clerk and reregister before the deadline.  But many people didn’t know this and didn’t respond to newspaper notices nor to postcards from the Clerk.  So we contacted them personally to get registered and then vote.  The most memorable case was an elderly recluse named Orla Culver who lived down east of us.  He walked six miles each way in an early Fall snowstorm to the Clerk’s house on Goddard Road, to be sure he was registered and could vote for Barry Goldwater.

     Others on that early committee were Jean Strachan & her father-in-law Lee Strachan, Rita Jandernoa Schroeder, Mulder Perry, Alyce Durack Mulder, Dorothy Brown Beach, Sarah Jane Hanson, Nancy Nichols, Kathleen Maloney, Phyllis Brown Loviolette, Gardner Compton, Edwin Nash, Floyd Evans, Gary Newton, Albert Barley and later his son Larry Barley, Barbara Trirweiler, Margaret Beattie, Nancy Cline, Nancy Patera and others.  After the 1968 November Election I became Sebewa Township Clerk, serving for 32 years.  Adding the 5 ½ years as Justice and finally 5 ½ as Trustee, I was an elected official in Sebewa Township for 43 years and delegate to many Ionia County and State of Michigan G. O. P. Conventions.

   I eventually became Chairman of the Ionia County Republican Committee.  At State Conventions I shared the microphone with Joanne Emmons, Big Rapids Township Treasurer, Chairperson of Mecosta County GOP and later our State Senator; and Paul Henry, who was a Professor of History and Political Science at Calvin and Hope Colleges.  He was Kent County GOP Chairman at the time I was the same in Ionia County.  In 1976 he called, said he had an outstanding student at Hope who needed a summer internship, and asked if I could help her out.  Terrie Lynn Land became Intern in my Ionia County Republican Office, not my Sebewa Township Clerk’s Office.  Our grassroots campaign got Jerry Ford’s Fifth District seat back from Democrat Richard Office Richard Vanderveen, who had beat out Republican Robert Vanderlaan in the Special Election to fill Jerry’s seat when he became Vice President and then President of the United States of America.  This time our candidate, Harold (Hal) Sawyer, lost in many precincts in the City of Grand Rapids, and some city precincts in Ionia County, but our one-on-one style campaign got out the rural vote and he was elected.

   In that 1976 vote for Jerry Ford we had 400 registered voters in Sebewa Township.  We contacted the final few after the 6:00-7:00 PM rush and asked if they needed a ride or an emergency absentee ballot.  I took ballots to a few in their sickbeds.  The only ones who did not vote when their former Congressman, neighbor and friend was running for President were either in a hospital outside the county or dead.  One man, Voight Figg, gave his “death rattle”, and died at home while marking his ballot.  Another man, Roy Wortley, sat on the edge of his bed and shook with chills while marking his ballot.  One woman, Bernadine Hoffman, always voted by absentee ballot, because she was a missionary in a most remote part of Africa.  Supposedly her ballot had to travel by commercial airplane, bush-pilot, Jeep, pack-animal, and jungle-runner to get in, and back out the same way.  It arrived back in Lake Odessa Post Office the morning after the election!  All but 10 got to the precinct or voted absentee – a 97 1/2% turnout!  Evie David, Chairperson of Election Inspectors, and I headed for the Courthouse with the election returns from our paper ballot precinct long after midnight.  After watching the returns at the Courthouse for a while, on the way home at almost 3:00 AM we heard on her car radio that Jerry Ford, “Our President”, had lost to that peanut farmer from Georgia.

   I could have been a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Detroit in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was nominated and later elected President by beating incumbent Jimmy Carter, who had denied Jerry Ford a full term of his own.  But I had enough as Chairman by that time and retired when my term was up.  I negotiated to get Nancy Cline in place as the first female Chairperson of the Ionia County Republican Committee.  Paul Henry later went to Congress in Gerald Ford’s old seat, welcomed us when we visited the Capitol, and died young with a brain tumor.  Terri Lynn Land became Kent County Chairperson, County Clerk, Michigan Secretary of State, and future candidate for higher office.  Evelyn David became Sebewa Township Supervisor/Assessor.  Nancy Patera became a United Methodist Minister.  Brian Calley, a recent Chairman of Ionia County Republicans, is now Lieutenant Governor of Michigan.

FROM:  Grayden D. Slowins, Editor


               702 Clark Crossing, SE

               Grand Rapids, MI   49506-3300


Last update January 17, 2013