Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 48 Number 2
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 (Township, Ionia County, Michigan) – October 2012 -Volume 48, Number 2: 

Cover photo:  STRANG gravestone at Grand Ledge Cemetery, MI. 

DEATH NOTICES:   Henry B. BELAND, Weldon E. BROWN, Charles Leonard SMITH 


A “STRANG” AMONGST US By Anne Fleetham Dow Merrill

The story you are about to read had its beginning well over 100 years ago.  Over the years countless books and articles have been written concerning the people who played a major part in this account.  There are great discrepancies among authors, which have required continual reading and searching for a consensus among the writers.  This report contains information where the majority of writers agree.

   This is a true story.  It begins in the State of New York, meanders its way through Michigan and other nearby states, then returns to Michigan.  Individuals and families who played an important part once lived in Eaton County and surrounding counties.

   In Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, on March 21, 1813, a baby boy was born to Clement Joseph Strang and Abigail Strang.  The parents named him Jesse James Strang.  He was a bright little fellow, highly motivated, and possessed an inquisitive mind.

   As he came of age, Jesse carefully considered the occupations he might pursue as a career, having confidence that he could succeed in whatever he chose to do.  When he was 21 years of age, he began the study of law and was admitted to the bar two years later.  He held himself in high esteem, always believing his way was not only the best, but the only way.  With his knowledge and well-spoken manner, he easily persuaded others to join him in whatever endeavor he was pursuing.

   In 1831, at the age of 18 years, he began keeping a journal, or diary.  Some parts he wrote in code or private cipher, to prevent others from knowing what he wrote.  He continued this practice until he married five years later.  During this time he reversed his first and middle names; others would now know him as James Jesse Strang.

   In 1836, James was courting Mary Abigail Perce.  She was born April 10, 1818, in Madison County, New York.  Her parents were H. W. Rider Perce (a Baptist Clergyman) and his wife, Mary E. Perce.  James wrote to Mary’s father and asked for her hand in marriage.  In one interesting paragraph, James wrote:  “Miss Perce is the result of a perfect conviction of her moral and intellectual worth, and I think I may say is of a kind and degree which may endure unimpaired as long as life lasts.”

   Mary’s father gave his consent.  In a return letter, he responded:  “I am certainly as well pleased to trust my daughter to you as any gentleman in the circle of my acquaintance.  I hope fervently you may neither have cause for sorrow and that you may not be disappointed.  You must not expect too much.”

   Mary’s father gave his consent.  In a return letter, he responded:  “I am certainly as well pleased to trust my daughter to you as any gentleman in the circle of my acquaintance.  I hope fervently you may neither have cause for sorrow and that you may not be disappointed.  You must not expect too much.”

   To Mary, her father wrote:  “I am now about to surrender my authority, but you must not forget that your part is still obedience.  You have been a dutiful daughter; do not let me hear that you are a stubborn wife.  Remember to make home a pleasant place for your husband.”

   James and Mary were married in the Baptist Church in Silver Creek, New York, on November 20, 1836.  She was 18 years old and he was 23.  James, at some point, joined this church.  Four children were born to James and Mary Strang:

   Mary Elizabeth Strang – born 1838-died 1843, State of New York.

   Myraette (Nettie) Strang – born 1844, in State of Wisconsin.

   Hattie Strang – born 1847, in State of Wisconsin.

  James and Mary moved to Chautauqua County, New York, where he worked as a lawyer, County Postmaster, and editor of the Randolph Herald.  He lost the postmaster position in 1843 and decided to move his family to Burlington, Wisconsin, where Mary’s brother, Benjamin C. Perce, and his brother-in-law, Moses Smith, had settled.  Both of these men were followers of Joseph Smith and the Mormon faith.  Before his marriage, it is quite probable that James knew little, if anything, about Joseph Smith.  However, Smith would soon influence the rest of Strang’s life.

   Throughout the nineteenth century, many new religions sprang up in the State of New York, the largest being “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”  Joseph Smith Jr., born 23 December, 1805, Vermont, organized this faith because of visions he had first seen at the age of 15.  In the spring of 1820, he told of a vision where he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Smith said an angel had guided him to dig up gold plates and he was able to read and translate them – 500 pages in 60 days.  The result was the first edition of the “Book of Mormon”, published in 1830.

   Smith became the undisputed leader of this fast-growing group of people, although many did not accept easily what to them was a “strange religion”.  The recruitment of new members was vital to the growth of the church, and during the year of 1830 many people in Oakland County, in the Territory of Michigan, were converted to this faith.  By the late 1830s, missionary work extended to Lenawee, Washtenaw, Lapeer, Wayne, Livingston, St. Joseph, Branch and Calhoun Counties.

   In 1831, the new converts followed their prophet, Joseph Smith, to Missouri, where they experienced persecution and violence, which resulted in a move to Nauvoo, Illinois.  This took place in year 1839.  Nauvoo proved to be no different than Missouri and the persecution continued.  On June 27, 1839, a mob broke into a jail in Carthage, Illinois, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were being held, and killed both of them.  The church’s authority was in the hands of the “Quorum of Twelve”, with Brigham Young as president.

   James Jesse Strang presented himself before the elders in 1844 and announced that he was the one to follow in Joseph Smith’s footsteps!  THIS STORY TO BE CONTINUED.

ATTENTION:  Full sets of back issues of SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, 284 issues in 3 binders, $60 including shipping.  We need to clear storage space.


July 3, 1952:  Many have made favorable comments on the recent alumni gathering in Portland.  One was from Mrs. Claud Ludwig of East Lansing, whose letter to the editor last winter was really the kickoff.  Another was from Dr. Lurette I. Powers of Muskegon, who termed the event a fine homecoming.  It was the 50th anniversary of the Class of ’02, of which Mrs. Ludwig was a member.  She tells us only two members, Mrs. Mary Olmstead and Miss Anna Fox, now live in Portland.  There were 15 girls in the class and diplomas were handed out by Capt. E. M. Allen (Civil War Vet and partner with Charles Maynard in Maynard-Allen Bank). 

HAROLD CURTIS, 56, of Lake Odessa, died June 29, 1952, was husband of Elgie Curtis, father of Mrs. Lorraine (Ford) Goodemoot, Miss Marian Curtis (soon Mrs. Warren (Bud) Klein) and Mrs. Keith Ayers, grandfather of seven, brother of Voight Curtis of Lake Odessa and Mrs. Allison Tolles of Woodland, son of William & Lettie Bretz Curtis.  He had been President of Tri-County Electric Cooperative for the past five years and a Board Member for the past ten years, as well as Tri-County’s representative on the Board of Wolverine Electric Cooperative at Big Rapids, and Secretary-Treasurer of that Board for three years.  He was also active and held offices in Farm Bureau and Grange.  Buried in Odessa Lakeside Cemetery. 

JAMES H. KINNEY, 24, born in Portland, December 30, 1927, died June 27, 1952, was a resident of Ionia, husband of June Kinney, father of James Jr. and Steven Kinney, brother of Mrs. Margery Bennett, of Lansing, and Georgia Kinney, of Portland, son of Basil & Hester Snow Kinney, of Portland.  Jim graduated from Portland High School, served in the U. S. Army in Japan and was employed as a milkman in Ionia.  He was killed in a crash with an oncoming truck, on the curve on US-16, two miles east of Portland, (site of many fatal crashes). 

July 3, 1932:  It wasn’t a Soldier’s Bonus that Charlie Sprout received from Washington a few days ago, but a gold plated medal, proclaiming him a member of the Order of the Purple Heart. 

Charles Cook has assumed his duties as Manager of the Farm Bureau Elevator at Woodland.  (The south elevator along the angle of the old Chicago, Kalamazoo and Saginaw tracks (C. K. & S) sometimes called  Cuss, Kick and Swear!)  His place at Portland Cooperative Elevator is being taken by George Diller, who has been employed there the past two years. 

Harley Rogers carried the mail out of Grand Ledge for 11 years, before coming to Portland, and since then has been a carrier on Route No. 1 out of this Post Office for 19 years.  He has covered approximately 280,000 miles.  (He started first on a Star Route into and out of Sebewa Corners (Cornell Post Office), driving a horse and buggy on the route; and where he also clerked in Friend’s general store.) 

July 3, 1932:  With arrival of summer, fewer people are being helped by Portland Township.  Where 62 were periodically or regularly on the rolls in winter, the list is now down to 10. 

While adjusting a hay car in the barn on his farm in Orange Township, Francis Lawless fell to the drive-floor, striking his right foot on a ladder and badly injuring the ankle. 

July 3, 1912:  Alonzo Barret, a Civil War veteran, died at his home in Culvertown, (the Lyons Road neighborhood within the Village of Portland.) 

July 17, 1932:  A daughter, Miriam June, was born to Mr. & Mrs. G. D. Knapp. 

One of the most surprising features of a trip through the new Salant & Salant shirt factory is noting the progress the women have made in familiarizing themselves with the work and the machines during the five weeks the plant has been in operation. 

Harold Cornell, of New York City, was in town Wednesday on his way to Crystal Lake.  He is a son of the late F. N. Cornell, once a prominent merchant in Sebewa Corners and then in Sunfield. 

Julia E. Spranger, 78, died at Sebewa Corners Tuesday (Cornell side of the road), and was buried in Danby Cemetery. 

July 17, 1912:  Both of Leon Aldrich’s arms were broken, when he fell from a load of hay, while working with Wilbur Daniels on the Mathews sisters’ farm in Orange Township. 

While driving to town with horse and buggy, Mrs. Lemon Barnes had occasion to raise the buggy top.  As she did so, a snake was seen dangling from one of the stays, poking his saucy head close to her face.  She stopped the horse and with the aid of the buggy whip, killed the snake. 

Miss Eder, who taught school in Portland last year, has been spending a few days with her friend, Miss Hazel Estep. 

July 24, 1952:  A typical example of the contrast between farming operations today and just a decade ago:  In that earlier day threshing was done by separator and engine, and many extra hands were needed.  A few days ago Morris Shattuck started combining wheat just after noon on the former Ernest LaSalle farm, where his son Don lives now.  Before nightfall the whole crop was finished – 20 acres – which yielded over 900 bushels; the grain had been taken to market and sold, and the owners had their check in hand, all in a half-day’s time.  (What would Morris think in 2012, when 160 acres or more could be cut in that period of time with one machine, and the yield per acre might be double the 45 bushels that it was in 1952?) 

July 24, 1912:  Help on the farms has been hard to get this summer and as high as $2.50 per DAY is being paid for work in the hay and wheat fields!  Chester M. Divine and wife drove in from Chicago with a new American Brand under-slung auto of 40 horsepower. 

July 24, 1952:  Floyd McCausey stops in to advertise ducks for sale, and explains that he lives too close to Looking Glass River.  Seems to us it would be ideal to have a river next door for one’s ducks.  But Floyd says there are many turtles in the river and now and then one grabs a duck by the foot, pulls it under and drowns it. 

George Dilley is on his way to town from his home on Riverside Drive carrying a scythe.  He is not trying to imitate Father Time, but has a growth of weeds (mostly nettles) on the river bank behind his barber shop and plans to attack them.  (How many 2012 barbers could do this with a scythe?) 

Mr. & Mrs. W. G. Sprague spent the weekend on a northern trip.  They took the shoreline route to Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay, and included Torch Lake, Charlevoix and Petoskey.  They observed their 30th wedding anniversary at the Bay View Inn.  Mrs. Bruce Young and three children of Portland, and Mrs. Lois Hunsberger and son of Lansing, also left Monday for Bay View, where they will spend some time at the McClelland cottage.  These last two women are sisters, daughters of Will J. McClelland. 

July 31, 1912:  Governor Chase S. Osborn, planning on building a new barn on one of his farms near the Soo, drove out to William Gibbs’ farm (in Orange Township) to look over his buildings, and plans to come again in search of more suggestions. 

Zachariah York, former resident of Sebewa Township, died suddenly of apoplexy at Hastings.  He had been seized while in a park and his body was not discovered until the next morning.  (The Zach York we knew was the son of Harry L., son of Stephen L., son of Josiah, son of the above Zachariah, so five generations, with this being the great-great-grandfather of the Zack who died in his nineties a couple years ago and had his ashes brought back to West Sebewa Cemetery.) 

August 14, 1952:  Ray Hamilton, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools 1945-1952, has accepted the position of Superintendent at Coleman, Midland County, MI.  The family expects to move this week. 

Funeral services were held for Mrs. Bertha McLean, 76, born July 28, 1876, died August 9, 1952, widow of Elmer McLean, mother of Mildred Ries of Lansing, Ada Rogers of Caledonia, Charles McLean of California, Emmett McLean of Detroit, and Guy McLean of Sunfield, sister of Ben York of Danby, daughter of Charles York. 

August 14, 1932:  As fine a piece of corn as one is likely to find in this vicinity is on the William H. Pryer farm in Danby.  Mr. Pryer is 83 and considers himself too young to quite farming. 

August 14, 1932:  Charles Conkrite, who resides at Sebewa Corners on the Danby Township side, was 79 years old last week and a number of relatives gathered there to congratulate him. 

Jake Revels has completed the job of tearing down the old Decker house on Maple Street and has salvaged a considerable amount of good material.  Bernard W. Jackson has been operating the Portland Cooperative Company produce station the past week, while Lester Cassel, the manager, has been on vacation. 

A river boat has been constructed by Del Urie for a party of Portland folks.  It is 16 feet long and 1 ½ feet wide.  The owners are:  Dr. John W. Toan, William Toan, Dr. Roy Pryer, Carl O. Derby, Chester Blanchard and Peter Trierweiler. 

August 14, 1912:  Dr. John W. Toan has decided to locate at Muir.  He will move his family there as soon as possible. 

Hiram C. Briggs, who died last week, was an early settler of Eagle.  The community was first known as “Greece”, and it was Mr. Briggs’ aversion to the name that resulted in substitution of the name Eagle. 

The voters declared against selling the old west side school building, which has been vacant for the past year.  (Jacob Visser and sons finally tore it down in the late 1930s, after years of use for storage, plus a stint as a school again when the Brush Street School burned in 1918. 

August 14, 1952:  An open house was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Francis Lawless for their son & daughter-in-law, Mr. & Mrs. Wayne Lawless, who have been visiting here from their home in Tacoma, WA. 

Charles Carey returned from six weeks in University Hospital, Ann Arbor, where he underwent three operations.  His condition was improving at his home in Sebewa Township, just past Hummell’s sawmill.  (This would appear to be the Wallace Sears farm.  Careys are buried in East Sebewa Cemetery.) 

Mrs. Ware Story and daughter, Patricia, and Mrs. Nora Long, of Lowell, spent Thursday with Mrs. Claude VanAmburg and daughters.  Miss Carol Dee VanAmburg returned home with them for an extended visit. 

August 28, 1952:  Holly Carburetor Co announced to its employees that operations at Portland Manufacturing Co would be suspended in the very near future.  Reason given was to concentrate production in other plants for economic and competitive reasons.  Negotiations are under way to dispose of property to a new employer.  The plant has been in operation here about 15 years. 

Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Bettison and family are moving this week from their home on Elm Street to Walled Lake.  Mrs. Bettison will teach kindergarten at Birmingham this year and Mr. Bettison is a sales representative for the Bellows Company.

JOSEPH G. SLOWINS:  People have often asked what Joe did at the University of Michigan before his retirement in January 2007, so we will present it first in his own words and then in a report from his comtemporaries:  “While I was at U of M, I did facilities repairs and equipment repairs in seven buildings.  I didn’t actually supervise maintenance workers, though I did oversee the work that the tradesmen did for me (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons, etc.).

   Those buildings were:

IMSB – Intramural Sports Building (where my office was located) – a sports and pool facility.

Revelli Hall – band facility (named for band director William Revelli)

Boyer Building – administrative offices.

Elbel Field Building – sports related facility

Coliseum – Sports related facility – used to house the ice arena, before Yost Arena was built.

ICLE – Institute for Continuing Legal Education.

CSSB – Campus Safety and Security Building – a large complex with many departments in it and also houses the campus police.” 

The following is quoted from The Corner Health Center Report:

Joe Slowins knows a thing or two about fixing things.  Growing up in rural Ionia County west of Lansing, he thought one day he’d be an auto mechanic.  After completing his studies at Ferris State College (now University) he took his first job in Ann Arbor at an auto parts store, later moving to auto dealerships.  He managed a parts department for many years.

   Eventually, Joe went to work for the University of Michigan, where his focus shifted from making automobiles run smoothly to making buildings and equipment function properly.  He was employed by the UM Health Systems HVAC&R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) Department, then was responsible for facilities maintenance and repair on south campus, finally retiring while working in the Recreational Sports Department, where he repaired and maintained exercise equipment.  “Each job was a new adventure, with a common theme of repairing things while providing service to people,” he says.  (Joe had held a chauffeur’s license – now called a commercial driver’s license – since Lakewood High School Auto Shop class, where he was Service Manager.  So he occasionally chauffeured the U of M President, to and from the airport, etc.  He also drove the campus handicapper bus on occasion, and that was how he met his wife, Jody, an MSW Counselor who works for the University.)

   When it came time to retire in 2007, Joe set about finding a volunteer position with a nonprofit organization that would make use of his expertise at fixing things and his desire to stay busy.  “I’ve always been a firm believer that when you retire, you need to know what you’re going to do, because if you don’t, you are going to sit around and rot”, declares Joe.

   He considered several non-profits before choosing two, The Corner Health Center and Habitat for Humanity.  Four years later he was still volunteering for both groups.  Each week Joe spends several hours at the Health Center working on maintenance projects.  “They will find things like repairing light fixtures, furniture, patient equipment and minor plumbing and electrical work”, he says.  “Pretty much anything that I can fix, that’s what I do, unless it requires a licensed repair person.  I enjoy using my skills in a way that benefits a cause I care about.  My volunteer work at the Health Center helps to save on their expenses and direct more funds toward patient care.  It’s a win-win situation.”  “He’s worth his weight in gold” says the Director.

   For Habitat for Humanity, Joe currently teaches prospective homeowners how to maintain their houses and also serves as a Family Support Partner who works with families approved for home ownership to help them navigate the complex process.  “It’s lengthy but valuable.  By the time a Habitat family closes on their house, they know a lot more about home ownership than the average person who buys their first house with no idea what they’re getting into”, he says.  “People who have always been renters think the way to fix things is to call the landlord.  When you become a homeowner, you are the landlord, whether you have the skills or not.”


Portland Manufacturing Company was the name given by Holly Carburetor to their Portland plant, not a successor occupant.  Danby Manufacturing/Portland Products bought the village building in 1954, not 1950.  Walt Sprague asks if anyone has information on the Witte Machine Shop, which stood next east of Sam Burman’s service station and house on James Street.  We remember Bill Witte in the 1940s as a tall, thin, stoop-shouldered, very friendly, elderly, retired gentleman.  He had at least two pleasantly curved, red-haired daughters, and the family home was next up the hill from the machine shop.  There may also have been a cast-iron foundry including in the machine shop.


HENRY B. BELAND, 93, born November 29, 1918, in Loda, IL, died August 8, 2012, at Green Acres Independent Living in Ionia, MI, widowed husband of Beulah Kime Beland (married May 1943), father of Dallas Beland and Sandra Bennett, grandfather of five, great-grandfather of eight, brother of Rosa (late Edgar) Fleetham, two deceased sisters and a deceased brother, son of Henry A. & Rosa Cogswell Beland.  The family moved to a farm in the Sunfield area when he was five years old and he graduated from Sunfield High School, where he played all sports, was on the debating team and graduated Salutatorian of his class.  He attended Davenport University in Grand Rapids, married Beulah in 1943, farmed all his life until retirement.  He had a fine heard of Holstein cattle, was a member of Farm Bureau, Grange, Lions Club, Board of Directors of Union Bank, Odessa Township Board, President of Lake Odessa Cooperative Elevator Association and member of Central United Methodist Church.  Buried in Odessa Lakeside Cemetery. 

CHARLES LEONARD SMITH, 80, born June 11, 1932, in Danby Township, died July 23, 2012, at his home in Danby Township, widowed husband of JoAnn Darby Smith, father of Sandra Dunavin, Douglas (Denise) Smith, and Ron Smith, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, brother of Mary (late Lloyd) Kleinfelt, Margaret (late Harold) Troyer, Alice (late Marlin) Berens, and Richard Ben (Arlene) Smith, son of Clara Louise Jessup & Alzeo Ben (or Leonard?) Smith, Sr., & Elizabeth H. Collingham, daughter of Lucy Boyington & Jacob Collingham.  Charles was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, retiring from General Moters, and a farmer all his life, especially enjoying retirement years.  He is buried in Danby Cemetery.

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

Last update May 27, 2013