Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 47 Number 3
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 Twp., Ionia County, MI;
December 2011, Volume 47, Number 3.  Submitted with permission of Editor Grayden D. Slowins: 

Front page photos from Grayden D. Slowins’ “Our Restored Family Buggy” (story on page 2) 



GIERMAN, WILBUR EMORY, 91, born May 13, 1920, in Sebewa Township, died August 28, 2011, in Grand Rapids.   Wilbur married Marcella Heintzleman (sometimes Heintzelman), March 24, 1943.  They were married 67 years and she died September 27, 2010.  They were parents of Cheryll (late John) Warren, Janet (Todd) Holm, Eric (Lorri) Gierman, and the late George (Adrienne) Gierman; grandparents of Matt (Cariel) Warren, Michael Warrwen, Jackie (Todd) Holm, Kristen (James) Reed, Ryan Gierman, Clint (Angy) Rudd, Jarrod (Heika) Rudd, Jason Gierman, Josh Gierman; great-grandparents of Audrie Warren, Mitchell Holm, Madison Holm, Megan Holm, Jane Reed, Emily Allen, Cynthia Allen, Samantha Allen.
   Wilbur was the brother of Reba Thuma Moore and the son of Mae Oatley & George Gierman, son of Christina Klager & Charles A. Gierman, son of Sophia Benschneider & Frederick Gierman.  A lifelong dairy farmer on the land where he was born, Wilbur also worked a few years, after selling the cows, for Williams Brothers as a weigh-master on road construction.  He was active in Sebewa Center United Methodist Church, Farm Bureau, had been Clerk of Sebewa Township and Director of Sebewa Center School Board.  He was buried at East Sebewa Cemetery. 

ELDRIDGE, LaVERNE J., 90, born in Odessa Township, December 28, 1920, died at Laurels of Kent in Lowell, September 16, 2011.  LaVerne married Geraldine Nott, daughter of Rebecca Tussing & Alonzo Nott, December 22, 1941, they were married almost 52 years, and she died November 9, 1993.  They were the parents of Larry (Kathleen) Eldridge, Eddie (Teri and later Mary Ann) Eldridge, John (Susan) Eldridge, and Joan Eldridge; grandparents of nine; great-grandparents of 23; and great-great-grandparents of four.
   LaVerne was a brother of Madeline (Calvin) Beuhler, Margaret (Bruce) Gender, and the late Lawrence (Betty) Eldridge, Madonna (Carlisle) Hilley, and Marie (Gerald) Wickham, and son of Pearl B. McLeod & Eddie Eldridge, Sr., son of Sophie (Sophie) Slowinski & Rufus James (Jay) Eldridge, son of Mary Ann Goodenough & Edgar M. Eldridge; Pearl being the daughter of Phina Near & John McLeod; and Sophia the daughter of Louis (Ludwig) Slowinski.
   LaVerne was a lifelong farmer, including dairy and beef cattle, sheep, hogs and crop farming.  He was a 4-H leader for 10 years, Berlin Township Board Member and Supervisor for 27 years, Member of Union Bank Board, Chairman of Lake Odessa Co-Operative Elevator Board, helped establish Berlin-Orange Fire Department, was President of Ionia County Township Officers Association, and was Grand Marshall of the 2004 Lake Odessa Fair Parade.  He was buried at Odessa Lakeside Cemetery. 

CROSS, LEONARD D., 64, born September 6, 1947, died October 23, 2011, husband of Kathleen Kennedy Cross, father of Richard (Ashley) Cross, James Cross, and Clark (Kim) Cross, brother of Raymond Cross, Betty Cross (Don) Kenyon, and the late Louis Cross and Rosalie Cross Bartlett, son of Velma Sach Cross & Ralph Cross, son of Della Staples Cross & Leonard Cross, Sr., son of John H. Cross, son of Eli Cross, who settled on Henderson Road in Sebewa Township before 1875.  Della Staples Cross was a daughter of Loren Staples, who settled on Henderson Road in Sebewa Township before 1891.  Leonard attended Sebewa Center School, graduated from Lakewood High School in 1966 and worked at Lansing Fisher Body for 32 years until retiring, then at Caledonia Farmers Elevator in Lake Odessa for 11 years.

OUR RESTORED FAMILY BUGGY By Grayden Slowins:  Our Grandpa Dan Slowinski bought this double buggy in 1906, the year Dad (Donald) was born, making three kids in the family.  After Aunt Marguerite was born in September 1907 and Uncle Herb was born in September 1909, making five kids in the family, Grandpa Dan bought a 1910 Reo automobile.  The buggy or a sleigh was still used in the cold weather, because antifreeze was not yet perfected and they had to drain the water from the car engine and radiator every night.  So they usually just put the car up on blocks for the winter, thereby saving the tires from deterioration also.  When the buggy was no longer used, it was put up overhead in Grandpa’s new tool shed.  This shed was built in 1916-1917 to replace his father’s (Grandpa Chris’s) old shed, and included a modern car-garage wing that even had a well-drained concrete floor for washing the car indoors.

   In September 1951 Grandpa Dan passed away.  The buggy came in 1951-1952 to the Donald Slowins farm in Portland and was stored in his tool shed (called the tractor shed).  Grayden & Ann Slowins moved to their Sebewa Sheep Farm in 1957.  Sometime in the winter of 1957-1958, or after, they brought the buggy to their place and stored it on blocks in their old tool shed.  A woodchuck dug a hole in the dirt floor and piled the dirt on one wheel – causing the wood to rot.

   Grayden & Ann’s new tool shed was built in 1978-1979 and the buggy was stored safely overhead, just like at Grandpa’s shed.  In 2010, in preparation for selling the farm, the buggy was lowered to the floor and taken to the Chelsea home of Jim & Donna Slowins Elder (my sister), for restoration by a skilled Amish craftsman, Aaron Coblentz, Tree City Buggy Shop, 26803 V-Drive South, Homer, MI  49245.

   The top photo on our cover shows Jim Eder and his grandniece and grandnephew, Hope and Shane Schook, at the Coblentz family farm and buggy workshop.

   The bottom photo shows our oldest son, Joe Slowins, and his wife, Jody Slowins, “hitched up” in front of the new pole barn Jim and Donna built to use as a buggy shed.

UPDATE: THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR; VOL. 47, DEC. 2011, No. 3:  Marilyn Johnson McDowell, daughter of Robert Johnson and granddaughter of Val Johnson, former Chevrolet dealers in Portland, sends more information on the Dr. John Toan farm of 90 acres which her family purchased in 1942, including the lovely brick bungalow home overlooking the Grand River valley:  Derua E. Toan (1869-1920) was daughter of Harriet O’Neil (1841-1884) and William Toan Sr. (1831-1901), son of Robert Toan Sr. (1797-1879), an Irish immigrant.  Derua was married, Sept. 14, 1892, to Umbra John Maynard (1861-1917), son of Lovilla C. Gibbs (1836-1911) and John J. Maynard (1833-1876), but had no children.  After Umbra died, Derua Toan Maynard married John A. McClelland.  Derua and her brother, Robert O. Toan, Jr., died on the same day, January 10, 1920, and Dr. John W. Toan inherited that farm.


Donald Braendle, Albert C. Barley, Walter Bellinger, Harold Bourgois, Joseph Burkheiser, James Cassel, Lester Cassel, Earl Cloan Jr., Jay Clark, Gerald Crane, Carl Derby, Richard Derby, George Frye, Robert Gilberg, William Griffiths, John Hancock, Harold Hosley, Kenneth Jameson, Robert Johnson, Hilton Kiebler, Ross Kittle, John Kortes, Howard Kortes, Leo Lehman, John Mauren, Ray McPeek, Fred Meade, Joseph Meekhof, Vern Minkley, Harvey Neller, Parke Newcombe, Edward Peckins, Fred Rowe  Sr., Fred Rowe, Jr., Lewis Rowe, Laban Smith, Anthony Spitzley, Welland Sprague, Harold Storz, Harold Swarthout, Robert Torp-Smith, William Traynick, Peter Trierweiler, Claud Turk, Fred Vogt, Donald Ward, Fred Wiegman, Kenneth Wilt, Donald Wright 

Others joined over the years, including Donald Slowins, who served one year as Chapter President, as well as several years as Travelogue Chairman, until he & Mother moved to Clark Retirement Community in June 1976.  At the risk of an explosion of corrections, we venture a guess that Robert-Torp-Smith is the only one above still living.


August 13, 1942:  Two additional subordinate Boards of three members each have been asked recently by the Ionia County Rationing Board to help with its greatly increased duties.  On one Board is a Portland resident, Fred N. Rowe, Sr., President of Valley City Milling Company.  County Chairman Murell W. Jenks was notified of the appointment by Regional Headquarters of the Office of Price Administration (OPA) a few days ago. 

Mrs. John Moriarty, 66, who had been ill for the past several months, passed away at her home on Quarterline Street early Monday morning.  Her maiden name was Rosannah Manning and she was born (1876) on the homestead northeast of Portland (north side of Looking-Glass Avenue) opposite the farm now occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Manning.  Her parents were Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Manning, Sr.  She was married to Mr. Moriarty 45 years ago this fall (1897) and the couple resided on their farm near the Howell School (northeast corner Barnes & Spaulding Rds) until 1905, when they came to the village for a brief period.  They returned to their farm until 1921, when they returned to their village  home on Quarterline Street, where they have since made their home.  Mrs. Moriarty is survived by her husband and two sons, Daniel and William, both of Portland, and two brothers, Edward Manning and James Manning, also of Portland. 

October 5, 1904:  U. J. (Umbra John) Maynard has received a shipment of 900 lambs from Wyoming and is to feed them out this winter.  It will take a couple weeks before they recover from the effects of their long journey. 

A division of the property owned by the Simmons heirs has been made, and Mrs. Susan Knox and Mrs. E. W. Blanchard will erect modern store buildings on the southwest corner of Bridge and Kent Streets. 

A marriage license has been issued for Ernest Barnard and Lizzie Perrett, both of Orange. 

October 5, 1924:  With the scene lit up by electric lights and gas flares, giant machines applying themselves noisily to their tasks; efforts of men hurrying to reach the goal on the stretch of the new pavement between Eagle and Brokaw’s Corners were spectacular. 

Goff & Sons, building contractors, expect to begin putting the roof on Portland’s new Masonic Temple later this week. 

With the end of his thumb sticking down from the top of his safe as he swung the heavy door shut, Will C. Stone suffered a very painful injury as he was preparing to close his store for the day.  The end of the thumb was so badly torn that it was at first feared amputation would be necessary, but Dr. John D. Bradfield, who attended the injured man, said the next day he believed he could save the thumb.  (Will C. Stone ran a grocery store in the corner Knox Building mentioned above and later occupied by Frank’s 5 cent to $1 Store.  The Blanchard half of the building was first occupied by W. E. Ludwig as a Dry Goods Store.) 

October 5, 1934:  In the basement of the store now occupied by Roy Dawdy, Men’s Wear, in the Mechanic’s Block, is a queer looking device, which has been there for years, gradually deteriorating with age, until at the present time one would scarcely know just what the machine accomplished in its days of usefulness.  (This is the south half of the Senior Center.  Is the device still there in 2011?) 

October 19, 1944:  Sid Osman’s portable hamburger stand caused a bit of a flurry along Kent Street late on a busy Saturday afternoon.  Sid had set up for a busy evening in the stairway to the Oddfellow Lodge Hall, when his little stove flared up, catching the grease on fire.  Sid got the burning griddle out onto the sidewalk, and then discovered a carton by his stove had also caught fire.  That too was put outside and the whole incident was over in a jiffy. 

October 19, 1924:  Two barns and a shed on property belonging to Mrs. M. J. Dehn, Ted Wilson and Dr. Robert W. Alton were destroyed by fire when two young boys went to the shed to get some kerosene.  One held a lighted candle while the other held the container.  The flame from the candle ignited the oil and there was an explosion.  The children were not hurt, but damage to the buildings rat to approximately $2300.00. 

Continued fair weather and working long hours, using gas torches to light the road at night, should enable the men to reach the Portland end of the pavement by Saturday of this week.  On the Eagle end of the job only a few rods of road bed remain to be paves to connect with the Lansing pavement at Morris’ Corners (M-100).  Then will follow the fitting of the shoulders. 

October 19, 1904:  E. W. Blanchard has purchased the Dickson store building, adjoining on the south the lots where the new brick store block is to be built.  (We have no clue as to what the Dickson store sold.  The Dickson heirs sold their farm home and 40 acres on the west edge of town in 1899, to A. A. (Albert Abram) Way of Portland Manufacturing Company.  Emma C. Dickson was now Mrs. Watson Merchant and they also owned the 40 acres behind on Ionia Road.  Erma L. Dickson was still a minor and her interest was subject to the approval of Evrah A. Dickson, her guardian.  We have the old deeds, because Ab Way sold the farm to Donald & Crystal Slowins in 1937.) 

Dr. and Mrs. John W. Toan’s 20-month-old daughter Derua fell down stairs at their home in Grand Rapids and broke her arm.  (This child was apparently a namesake of Derua E. Toan Maynard McClelland, who first married Umbra John Maynard, but had no children and left their farm to the Dr. John Toan family.) 

December 13, 1945:  Several more property transfers in the postwar rush:  Mr. & Mrs. Francis Hengesbach have purchased of Mr. & Mrs. Dean Webert their home on East Bridge Street, which the Weberts vacated when they moved to the former Ralph Summers property also on Bridge Street between the cemetery and Mulliken Road. 

Thomas Dutcher has purchases the Mrs. John Clark home on the southeast corner at the turn on Beers Street (Riverside Drive), and will move there from his home on Maynard Road, which he will sell. 

Mrs. Lavina Whitman has sold her home on East Bridge Street to Guy Harwood of Orange Township.  Mr. Harwood, father of Cliff Harwood at the stockyards, is a well-known farmer and expects to retire soon. 

December 13, 1945:  Another property buyer is Dalton Miller, who has been residing in Sebewa Township in the Kenyon neighborhood.  He has bought of Mrs. Melva Selleck, the former William F. Selleck property on Looking-Glass Avenue and is employed at Corey Produce.  The Selleck property has been in the family for several generations.  Selleck & Derby ran a sawmill and cider mill near the Grand River behind modern-day Barley-Earhart Corporation.  Alfred P. Derby & Augustus Selleck, father of William F. Selleck, owned most of the lots along the north side of Looking Glass Avenue.  The home owned by Mr. & Mrs. Percy Earl stands on a lot that was once part of Mrs. Earl’s great-grandfather’s (Augustus Selleck’s) plat, and a lot adjoining, owned by Miss Felma Selleck, sister of Mrs. Earl, is also a part of the plat.  William F. Selleck lived in the home which has just been sold until his death.  It is a large home and was remodeled into several apartments after his death.  (Soon after this deal took place, the Dalton Miller family sold the Selleck house and bought the 37 acre farm, frame house and barn on Divine Highway at the north village limits, just south of the brick house and red barn and 38 acres owned by Mr. & Mrs. Peter Robertson, Malcolm’s parents.) 

In October 1945, five of the churches of the village of Portland, namely Methodist, Free Methodist, Nazarene, Congregational, and Catholic participated in a community church census.  The statistics are for the most part in terms of family units, and when more than one family lives in the same house or a family does not all attend the same church, then they are counted as separate units.  Tally is: 

Methodist – 357, Baptist – 92, Christian Ref – 10, Lutheran – 4, Catholic - 291, Nazarene – 21, Episcopal – 6, Christian Sc – 4, Congregational – 156, Free Methodist – 10, Presbyterian – 5, Church of Christ – 3 

There were 52 families which did not give any church preference, plus another 59 where no-one was home.  (We doubt as high a percentage would reply today, nor as high a percentage who would even have a preference.) 

December 13, 1905:  Jacob Luscher of Sebewa Center has sold his farm to Fred McNeil.   (This farm was at the second set of buildings west of the Sebewa Center School, now the location of the new Sebewa Town Hall.) 

Leon Moyer living south of Sebewa Corners has been quite ill lately.  (Soon thereafter the Leon Moyer family moved to Grand River Avenue in Eagle Township.) 

November 13, 1947:  Mr. & Mrs. John Lawless Jr recently purchased a farm of 64 acres from Mr. & Mrs. Leonard Rademacher.  The place was known years ago as the L. K. Showerman farm, then M. Sandborn owned it.  Later it was owned by Ernest LaSalle.  Mr. & Mrs. Lawless live on the Knox farm, southwest of the farm they have bought, and do not expect to move for some time.  Mr. & Mrs. Rademacher and daughter will soon move to a farm near St. Johns.  Mr. & Mrs. Merlin Hoppes, who occupy an apartment upstairs will also move. 

January 22, 1948:  Portland’s Oldest Industry Destroyed by Fire.  The greatest industrial property loss in the history of Portland occurred shortly before 6:00 Friday morning, when the milling plant of Valley City Milling Company burned to the ground.  Loss included the entire four-story frame building and brick power plant at the west end, along with all machinery, many sacks of flour and storage bins of wheat.  Officials of the firm said no accurate figures can be given as to loss until insurance adjusters have finished their work. 

The fire started in the dust collecting system on the fourth floor, as near as can be determined by firemen.  Within a few minutes after discovery, the entire fourth floor was blazing.  It gained headway fast and firemen had no chance to win battle against flames.  Firemen from Ionia, Grand Ledge and Lansing came to aid Portland.  There were several pumpers, but not a sufficient supply of water from which to pump.  The one water-main passing the plant was being pumped by equipment in the street and also furnishing water for the sprinkler system within the plant.  Portland has two rivers, and in springtime they contain too much water.  Friday morning they did not have enough.  Pumpers tried sucking up water from the streams.  Ice was frozen thick, and beneath was shallow water.  In no time the hose was sucking up mud. 

While the fire was raging, and traffic was halted on US 16, Bridge Street was used as a detour.  Shortly after noon the main route was again in use.  Use of the street running north from US 16 in front of the mill was deemed dangerous because of the weakened supports under the west end of the overhead connecting tramway, and traffic was routed east of the plant, north to the bank of the Looking Glass River and back west to the south approach to the Looking Glass bridge. 

The mill was Portland’s oldest industrial plant.  Newman & Rice, Portland’s founding family, lost a mill on this same site by fire in 1893, and immediately rebuilt on the property.  Reorganized as Portland Flouring Mills, they operated for many years.  In 1924 the Valley City Milling Company, whose mill in Grand Rapids had burned, purchased the Portland mill and it became the new home of already famous Lily White and other flours.  The Hamlin building, which stood where Sam Burman’s Standard Oil Station was later built, and reputed to be an early schoolhouse, was moved across to the east side of the mill and used for storage and offices.  Later it was replaced by a larger building for offices and storage space.  Interior of the mill had been continually updated with latest equipment.  An addition was built on the south side, over the railroad siding, and an overhead transfer system ran from the mill over the street to the storage above the offices.  Three large concrete grain silos were added at the east end of the main mill to increase capacity beyond the long-used internal bins.  Flour-making capacity had doubled.  A large line of feeds was manufactured and sold under the Rowena brand name in a new four-story plant recently built east of the office building and undamaged by fire.  Officers are:  Fred N. Rowe, Sr. – Chairman, President & CEO; Joseph A. Porter – VP & purchasing; Martin Vermaire – Secretary & director of flour sales; William J. Tranick – Treasurer & Credit Mgr; Fred N. Rowe, Jr. – director of feed sales & advertising. 

JANUARY 21, 1938:  Survivors of an age when people rode to church in vehicles propelled by horse power instead of the gasoline engine, the church sheds at Sebewa Center Methodist Church have outlived their usefulness and are to go on the auction block next Friday at the premises. 

While some big city factories have been shut down, the Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Company branch at Portland has been giving extra work to those employed in the finishing room. 

JANUARY 22, 1908:  Oscar Derby, formerly of the hardware firm of Kennedy & Derby, has purchased William Ryan’s bakery.  Arthur Bailey will remain with him as baker. 

Elmer Bell has gone to Grand Rapids to assist in looking after Portland’s Varity-Caswell lines of furniture at the show. 

The banking business long conducted under the firm name of John A. Webber & Son has become the Webber State Savings Bank.  Mrs. Mary E. Webber is president.  (Lorenzo Webber Sr was the oldest brother of Arzo, George W., Samuel W., Oscar, and Andrew J. Webber, who were involved in the banking business in Ionia and Lyons.  Lorenzo Sr was about retirement age when the brothers came to Ionia County, so his bank was first organized in 1870 as Lorenzo Webber & Son, then after Lorenzo Sr died in 1884, it became John A Webber & Son until 1891, when Lorenzo Webber Jr joined the firm and it became John A. Webber & Son. 

JUNE 30, 1929:  It has been necessary to revise the Sunday program at Electric Park, owing to the fact that Sunday dancing is not permitted in Ionia County. 

JUNE 30, 1909:  Ted Wilson last week shipped 950 head of sheep & lambs to McBain, where he has rented 750 acres of land for the summer.  (We have to wonder about the fences around 750 acres of land, to keep the sheep in and the stray dogs, wolves and coyotes out.) 

JUNE 30, 1949:  Records of the Wabanah Engine and Hose Company of the Village of Portland, Michigan.  First entry was June 12, 1876.   First big fire listed was destruction of Exchange Hotel located on the west side of Grand River.  It burned in the night, December 31, 1878.  Another bad fire occurred in January, 1879, when the stores of Jason D. Woodbury, W. W. Bogue and the A. Knox residence were destroyed.  (These store buildings were located where Harry High’s Bakery and John Knox house.  A. McClelland & Son later replaced them in brick buildings.  The A. Knox house was just south of McClelland’s, where Jackson’s Buick, Dakes Grocery and B. & W. Auto Parts had a turn and it’s now part of parking lot.)  In January, 1880, several industries along the old mill race on the west side of the Grand River were destroyed in a single blaze.  Griffin & Campbell Sash and Blind factory was one.  Others included a school seat factory and Hunter Ax Co.  In those days wooden water mains had been laid from Newman & Rice Mill to the business section of town.  A steam pump provided pressure.  The flour mill itself was destroyed February 9, 1893.  Then John A. Webber & Son Bank and W. P. Culver Hardware next door, all fires in Jan. & Feb.

From:  Grayden D. Slowins, Editor; THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, 702 Clark Crossing, SE, Grand Rapids, MI  49506-3300.


Last update January 17, 2013