Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 48 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 Historical Newsletter from Sebewa; Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI; June 2013, Volume 48, Number 6.  Submitted with permission of Editor Grayden D. Slowins: 

Front page photo of Sebewa High School, 1912—1913 

COVER PHOTO—Students in Sebewa High Rural School—1912-1913 

Back row:  Harold Cornell, Russell Halladay, Kenneth Sayer, Margaret Vanderpool, Layton Cornell, Helen Southwell, Olive Reeder, Golda Southwell, Gladha Sayer, Zora Ward, Dorothy Kenyon, Fred Huizenga, Kenneth Dorin, Teacher—Elizabeth J. Cornell. 

Third row:  Ted Brown, Tom Huizenga, Jerry Stairs, Anis Benschoter, Vera Wolfert, Bernice Reed, Gladys Stairs, Nellie Reeder, Lawrence Friend.

Second Row:  Opal High, Alice Webster, Bertha Reed, Ruth Brown, Beatrice Friend, Dora Vanderpool, Lucille Howland, Mildred Evans, Lucille Friend, Ida Baker, Elizabeth Dorin, Vern Reed. 

Front Row:  Lloyd Reed, Leslie Wolfert, Cornelius Huizenga, Zene Ward, Wesley Dorin, Donald Ward, Herbert Evans, Ted Webster. 

COVER STORY:  Ira H. Webster was a farmer, perhaps a tenant farmer, in the East Sebewa (Sebewa Corners) neighborhood.  Living across from the East Cemetery, his children attended Sebewa-Danby Fractional District No. 1 (High) Rural School.  Ira was born in Canada, in October, 1861, although his parents’ birthplace was listed as the United States; Ohio for his mother.  His grandfather’s name was also Ira Webster, born in 1797, died in 1848 and is buried in Portland Cemetery.  In the 1900 U.S. Census of Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI, young Ira’s wife’s name was listed as Adeline M. Webster, along with two children:  (1)Frank A. Webster and (2) Blanche Webster.  In the 1910 Census his wife gave her name as Mary, and added two children:  (3) Etta Webster and (4) Ira H. Webster Jr, who was born in September, 1893.  Two children:  (5) Alice Webster and (6)Theodore (Ted) Webster, were in school at Sebewa Corners in 1912-1913; (see cover photo).  The 1920 census added (7) James Webster, as well as (10)Evelyn L. Webster, born in 1911, the youngest of ten.  (9) Dale was older, but died at Traverse City age 11.  Another was (8) for whom we do not have a name.

     By the 1930 census, Ira was age 69, widowed (1924), and the family lived in Portland Township; Frank and Etta were still living at home, in fact Etta stayed with Ira all her life.  Ira managed the Card Room south of the lobby in Hotel Divine during his retirement years.

     Evelyn L. Webster, born in 1911 to Ira and Mary Webster, married George Guilford, born April 18, 1906, son of Ida M. & James D. Guilford, died June, 1979, at Pewamo.  After living on Bridge St. across from the cemetery, then off South Kent St., their last home was on Divine Highway.  Their children were:  Robert T. Guilford and Duane Guilford.  Bob, born 1932, graduated from PHS class of 1950, MSU with a degree in Horticulture, married Peg, had daughter Lynn, sons Mark and Stephen.  He worked for Farm Bureau seeds department, fertilizer and chemicals, Rehab Industries – then in a partnership – rebuilding pallets, worked in hardware stores, owned his own 19 years in DeWitt.  Duane Guilford was in Military Service, lived in California, retired in Las Cruces, NM.  Three marriages, no children. 


     In October 2012, we had a news item from July 1912, about a Miss Eder, who taught in Portland the previous school year and came back to visit a few days in summer with her friend, Miss Hazel Estep.  Since Eder is the married name of our sister Donna, she researched this cousin to her husband Jim.  Margaret (Marguerite) Eder of the Chelsea area later married Dick Olmstead of Portland (Orange Township).  Their descendants, of Jackson, still own the Olmstead farm on Keefer Hwy, next to the Keefer-Olmstead Cemetery.  Dick Olmstead’s sister was May Jenkins, who was a librarian in Portland.  Here is the information from a brochure Superintendent Dumas sent to Donna, listing the courses and teachers in Portland Public Schools in 1913-1914:

     Teachers – High School: 

J. G. Gourlay, A.B. – Superintendent – Agriculture and Botany

N. C. Neilsen, A.B. –Principal – Mathematics and History

P. C. Sanford, A.B. –Assistant Principal – Science and Athletics

Ruby Nutting, A.B.—Languages

C. Luella Nissley, A. B.—English


     Teachers – Grammar School (Junior High or Middle School)

Reah E. Pew—English

Jessie D. Steele—Arithmetic

Laura E. Crane, B. S.—Geography and History

Alma L. Vought—Music and Drawing


     Teachers—Primary School

Rose McNerney—Fourth and Fifth

Effa Lockwood—Third

Carrie Martin—First and Second


     Teachers—West Side School

Margaret Eder—Third and Fourth

Roberta Hemmingway—First and Second


Course of Study – First Year—High School

First Semester—Required—Algebra, English

Elective:  Botany, Latin, Ancient History, Agriculture, Bookkeeping, Conversational German

Second Semester—Required—Algebra, English

Elective:  Botany, Latin, Ancient History, Agriculture, Business Arithmetic, Conversational German


Course of Study—Second Year

First Semester—Required—English

Second Semester—Required—English

Elective:  Physiography, Conversational German, Latin, Modern History, Agriculture, Bookkeeping, Botany, Algebra

Second Semester—Required—English, Physiography, Latin, Modern History, Agriculture, Business Arithmetic, Botany


Course of Study—Third Year

First Semester—Required

Elective:  English History, Chemistry, German, Latin, English, Bookkeeping

Second Semester—Required—Plain Geometry

Elective:  English History, Chemistry, German, Latin, English, Business Arithmetic


Course of Study—Fourth Year

First Semester—Required—English

Elective—German, Latin, Solid Geometry, American History, Physics, Agriculture, Bookkeeping

Second Semester—Required—English

Elective—German, Latin, Reviews, Civics, Physics, Agriculture, Business Arithmetic


     Sixteen credits are required for graduation, of which eight are optional.  Each student must carry four studies.  Five can be carried only by those who averaged 90 percent the preceding year.  In each subject one credit is given for one year’s work.


Board of Education                Term Expires

Dr. C. C. Dellenbaugh                   1915

J. H. Briggs                                   1915

B. W. Burhans                              1914

G. A. Buck                                   1914

Dr. S. A. Horning                         1916 


September 17, 1953:

     Milton  Smith announces this week the opening of his new Radio & Television business headquarters, in the former Wilhelm building at 118 Kent Street, recently vacated by Basil Kinney.  (Western Auto Store; before Basil Kinney, the REVIEW & OBSERVER was published there.  Before that, Margery Wilhelm Bywater’s father ran a harness shop there.)  Mr. Smith has done considerable remodeling of the interior and the grand opening is set for Friday and Saturday September 18 and 19, 1953.  (Although not mentioned in this notice, musical instrument sales and repair have long been a part of the business, and Milton is still on the job almost 60 years later!)

     Freeman Shotwell (grandfather of the Benedict twins) of R.F.D. 3, stops in to renew his R. & O. subscription and remarks that he has taken the REVIEW steadily since the first issue was printed by Frank E. Doremus, in June, 1885.

     Mr. and Mrs. Henry Leik have moved from their home on South Kent Street to their farm on US 16 west of town.  They have rented the home recently vacated to Mr. and Mrs. Fry of Detroit.  Mr. Fry is employed at Thompson Products.  (If our memory is correct, Mr. Fry, who was an executive at TRW, soon purchased and moved his family into the home of Will McClelland, who had passed away back in January, 1953).

     (Editor of the REVIEW, Fred J. Mauren, reflects on the beautiful field, high bluff, and panoramic view of Grand River and Butternut Island, to be seen just south of the Oak Street Elementary School, which was just built in 1953.  He remembers fishing, swimming, and “rummaging” there as a boy.  But he has one thing wrong, and probably he never knew the true facts.  That 14-acre triangular tract of land was never part of the S. H. Pilkington farm and orchard, on whicdh most of that school complex is built.  Court House records show that at the time of Fred Mauren’s childhood, it was owned by the Estate of Phoebe Marie Friend & Ruth P. Baldwin, a Civil War Veteran and great-grandparents to Ann Lakin Slowins.  Former Sebewa Township residents, their retirement home was the large blue-gray house at the top left up James Street hill, (an early Portland Schoolhouse.)  Later years, around the time I-96 Freeway came through, the farmland and some small buildings were owned by Gertude Fishell & Fern Conkrite.)

     September 17, 1933:  Fred N. Rowe, Sr., president of Valley City Milling Company, has purchased the (ivory brick Victorian Italianate) house on Lincoln Street, north of Bridge Street, belonging to the Bandfield estate.  (This is the home built for and long occupied by Capt. E. M. Allen, Civil War veteran and co-founder of Maynard-Allen State Bank.  His partner, Charles Maynard, had built the red brick mansion east of the Baptist Church and across from the Congregational Church.  John A. Webber, owner of the other bank, built his mansion on James Street about the same time—in the 1880s.)

     September 17, 1913:  A ten-pound son was born last week (Sept 12) to Mr. and Mrs. Claude Lakin.  (One of ten children born to the Lakins, this was Claude, Jr.  He was adopted out, after his mother died of influenza in 1918, soon after giving birth to her tenth child, George.  The new family named him John Claude Zemke, which was a bit confusing, since he already had a birth brother named John (Jack) Lakin).

     September 24, 1933:  Thieves entered the building just east of the Arctic Creamery (Hengesbach Tractor Sales building at Divine Hwy. & Looking Glass Rd.), once known as the Toan home, late last week and stole a set of carpenter tools valued at $20 by Edward Keusch (Sr.), the owner.  Thieves also broke into Ward’s Garage on Maple Street, robbing the cash register of between $8 and $9.

     Charles Ralston, of Sebewa Township, Secretary/Manager of the Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Company (located in Ionia), was involved in an auto accident at the highway intersection near LeValley Church and spent Saturday night in Ionia Hospital.

     Rev. Ray V. Birdsall, for two years pastor of Portland Methodist Church, will be pastor of Potter Park and Bethel Methodist Churches in Lansing.  Rev. W. E. Doty, who has been pastor of Haven Church at Jackson, will come here.  (Rev. R. V. Birdsall was Administrator of Clark Retirement Community 1942-1944, as was Rev. Park H. Newcombe 1964-1978, another former pastor of Portland Methodist Church.)

     September 24, 1953:  Leo Lehman, longtime owner of a local men’s clothing store, was seen walking down Kent Street with a yardstick.  The end of a showcase in his store had been broken out and he proposed to repair it.  Such work was not new to this Portland merchant, for years ago he worked in the hardware store for Duncan Kennedy, and later was a partner for several years in the same store, then known as Smith Hardware Company.  (The hardware store and the clothing store were in opposite halves of the Opera House Block, but that particular hardware store was now gone.)

     Walter Hunt, 37, Sebewa Township Treasurer, was a candidate for nomination and election on the Republican ticket for Ionia County Register of Deeds in the 1954 Election.  He was well known and highly respected, having overcome a series of severe handicaps.  The year after his graduation from Lake Odessa High School in 1933, he lost his right hand in a corn shredder.  Next he worked for several years as a mechanic and later bookkeeper for International Harvester farm implement dealers in Lake Odessa and Portland, and he continued to farm.  When confined to bed by Multiple Sclerosis, paralyzed from the chest down for two years, he built a magazine subscription business by mail and phone, and took a mail course in Diesel Mechanics.  Having become able to use a wheelchair, he established a saw filing and reconditioning shop at his farm.  He also took a home study course in Bookkeeping and Public Accounting.   He had a wife, Irene, and children Dallas and Sharon, both in Lake Odessa High School.

     September 24, 1953:  Mrs. Eva May Shuart, 82, passed away September 17, at the home of Mrs. E. G. York, Lake Odessa.  A former resident of Portland, she had spent two years at Lake Worth, Florida, before coming to the York (Convalescent) Home.  Her husband, D. D. Shuart, died in 1931.  He was well known locally as “Dee” Stuart, and they lived at Shuart’s Corners, on the farm (later) owned by Mr. & Mrs. Owen Gilbert.  Later Mr. Shuart had a garage business in Grand Ledge.  (This is how the corners of Cutler Rd. & Grand River Ave. became Shuart’s Corners.  In fact Dee’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Norton P. Shuart, lived there before them.)

     October 1, 1953:  Percy Jones Hospital at Battle Creek has been visited by many from this area during the years it has been an army hospital, which dates back to 1942.  Some service men and women from this area have been treated there.  Last Wednesday the discharge of a double amputee officially closed the record books of that institution.  There have been 300 military and civilian employees there, and since 1942 more than 80,000 soldiers, veterans of World War II and the Korean Conflict, have been treated there.  Hospital staff will be transferred shortly, and Percy Jones and all its equipment will go into mothballs for possible future use.  Fort Custer, also near Battle Creek, and through which  have passed many hundreds of Portland area men, in course of induction and discharge since its beginning in 1917, is likewise being abandoned.  Many barracks buildings are to be sold, and others taken down.

     Annual Financial Report of Ionia County for Year 1952:  This report shows the total revenue for the government of Ionia County was $960,281.70.  Expenditures totaled $836,638.38, an increase of about $150,000 on each side of the ledger.  Property taxes for county government use were $312,397.77; State shared revenue including $375,269.59 for roads, and $18,873.50 for welfare and medical aid.  Fees, licenses and permits were $27,263.75; court costs and fines came to $1,275; refunds and reimbursements brought $8,658.88; miscellaneous income amounted to $208,378.62.

     The total listed for expenditures included $525,271.60 for roads; administration and operating $144,379.43; welfare and medical $136,603.82; maintenance and construction of drains $30,198.08; capital outlay $74,137.20!  County officers’ salaries were listed as:  Clerk $3,146; Treasurer $3,146; Register of Deeds $3,146; Drain Commissioner $1,669.80; Prosecuting Attorney $2,613.60; Sheriff $3,850.

     Lightning struck a large tree near the cottage belonging to the Webster Linebaugh family, of Orange Township, at Long Lake north of Ionia.  When they went there on the weekend they were greeted by this surprise.  Ripping a four-inch strip along a branch, it jumped to the building.  The bolt apparently grounded itself in the steel springs of a wooden bed, destroying the bedding, mattress and bed itself.  No other damage by fire, although some by smoke, but the nearly airtight building smothered the fire before complete destruction.

     October 1, 1933:  What is believed to have been the worst massacre of sheep by dogs, in the history of Ionia County took place on the Frank Lowrey farm, near Collins.  Out of a flock of 50, 45 were found dead, three had to be killed, and two are missing.

     Of special interest to the farmers was the horse-pulling contest at the Eagle Fair.  Fred Haueter’s team pulled 2400 pounds and got first premium.  Harold Haddix’s team pulled the same weight, but did not move it as far.

      November 5, 1953:  We’ve been tipped off that we were in complete error in stating there was no DeSoto automobile in 1913, in last week’s column.   So we checked again with our list of early-day makes and found we were surely wrong.  The car of that year was apparently short lived, as it is listed for 1913 only.  It probably appeared the following year under another name.  Names and manufacturers changed fast in those early days of auto manufacture.  For instance, one of this part of Michigan’s prides was the Dolson, made in Charlotte.  It fell by the wayside early in the grueling race for survival in the auto field.  So our apologies to the Chicago Tribune for insisting they were wrong…and our thanks to Hilton J. (H.J.) Kiebler of Derby-Kiebler Agency for the tip-off.  The DeSoto car of the present (1953-54) is the product of an entirely different organization.

     November 12, 1953:  Hilton J. Kiebler, whose pre-1920 Dodge care has often been seen on Portland Streets, has sold the antique vehicle and purchased a lesser-known make which really IS a “horse-less carriage”.  It is a Kiblinger, believed to have been made in 1907.  It’s really just a buggy with engine added, and steers with a “tiller” instead of a wheel.  And it runs too!  Mr. Kiebler is seeking a new set of hard rubber tires for the contraption, which was made in Auburn, Indiana.  He is a member of a Lansing old-auto enthusiasts club and kindly lends us three of Floyd Clymer’s volumes on early-day makes, with which we spend an interesting evening.  Therein we find many we never heard of, and more that we had forgotten.  Prominent in one volume was a Maxwell-Chrysler and originally published in December 1924, and one of the last of the Chrysler ads referring to the one-time famous Maxwell car.

     November 19, 1933:  Edwin L. (E. L.) Goodwin is tearing down one of the buildings on the old Jake Franks farm, behind the depot, (clearly shown in the cover photo of our August 2010 issue, Volume 46, Number 1, with the farm buildings to the right of the railroad bridge).  He will use part of the materials in repairing other buildings on the place.  (We believe that a portion of this land was also where Ed Goodwin had his horse-racing track.)

     November 19, 1913:  Clarence Sayer, of Sebewa Township, has purchased Oscar Derby’s garage business and will move to Portland in a few days.  (This business operated in the red brick building on Kent Street, built by Jack Sykes, Ben’s dad, long occupied by Burgers’ Garage after Clarence, and then for many years by the J. & J. Store.  Clarence had an auto dealership, we think Buick, but returned to the farm as WWI approached.  Ben was attending Ferris Institute (FSU)). 


     William Strong Pryer, 90, widower of Lucille Hauser Pryer, father of W. Larry (Tricia) Pryer, brother of the late Margreta (Wait) Pryer Rummel, son of the late Lucille Strong and Roy Webster Pryer, son of Margaret E. Woodin and William H. Pryer, son of Cornelia Ann Phillips and Thomas Pryer, son of Mary Inglis and Merselus Pryer, son of Maria Van Riper and Casparus Pryer II, son of Sarah Andressen and Casparus Pryer I, son of Johanna Steinmets and Andreas Pryer, son of Margaret and Thomas Pryer, son of Thomas Pryer I.  Bill’s grandchildren are Kelly (Todd) Rogers and James (Jennifer) Pryer; great-grandchildren are Matt, Mike, and Andrea Pryer.  Bill played football, basketball, and in marching band at Portland High School, then joined R.O.T.C. while studying Agriculture at Michigan State University.  Then he served in the U.S. Army Cavalry in the Pacific Theater during WWII.  After the war he taught a Veterans’ Young Farmer Class at Portland High School, while completing his Master’s Degree at MSU.  He began working for MSU Agriculture Extension, with his last 24 years in Ionia County, before retiring to full-time farming.  He had increased the original 80-acre Thomas Pryer farm to 440 acres, and when Larry joined him, they milked a nice herd of dairy cows and of course lambed a nice flock of sheep.  Born January 15, 1923, in Detroit, graduated from Portland High School Class of 1940, married July 8, 1944, Bill died in Danby Township, April 19, 2013.  Long active on Portland District Library Board and in

 Portland First Congregational Church, Bill was buried in Danby Township Cemetery following a beautiful memorial celebration conducted by Rev. Dr. Marilyn V. Danielson. 


Janet Catherine Pohl Fedewa, 81, widor of Marvin S. Fedewa, mother of fourteen children all of whom survive:  Gary (Janet) Fedewa, Dan (Linda) Fedewa, Tony (Deb) Fedewa, Ann (Harold) Bouma, Marlene (Clint) Thomas, Jane (Dan) Schafer, Judy (John) Piasecki, Laura (Dan) Price, Marie (Bob) Schafer, Mark (Paula) Fedewa, Stan (Nancy) Fedewa, Dale (Mary) Fedewa, Connie (Bill) Vallier, and Carol (Dan) Gunderman; 52 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren; sister of Agnes (Alfred) Schneider, Mary (Joseph) Simon, and the late Linus (Irene Thelen) Pohl, Anna (Alfred) Thelen, Florence (Gregory) Thelen, and step-sister Marian (Burton) Brown; daughter of Josephine Knoop and Wilhelm N. Pohl, son of Michael Pohl & Anna Spitzley, daughter of Suzane Simom & Michel Spitzley, son of Anna Marie Kloeckner & Johann Jacob Spitzley, first immigrants, son of Anna Marie Giles & Johann Jacob Spitzley, of Alft, Prussia.  Born March 15, 1932, in Danby Township, graduated from Portland High School Class of 1950, married September 26, 1951,  Janet died April 10, 2013.  She enjoyed family, gardening, their cottage at Morrison Lake, and traveling to visit her children and grandchildren.  She was a lifelong member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church where she enjoyed volunteering in many ways.  Mass of Christian Burial celebrated by Rev. Larry King, Rev. Donald Weber, buried in Portland Cemetery. 

IONIA COUNTY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY is seeking information on Vietnam War Veterans for their next book.  A person shall have served in Vietnam or any of the countries that were involved in that war, or in the waters surrounding.   This includes those who served on U. S. soil and were never oversees.  Anyone who was in the service of our country anytime between November 1, 1955 and April 30, 1975 is invited to be a part of this book.  To be eligible, the veteran must have been a resident of Ionia County, MI, at some time during their life.  We are seeking information on all qualified veterans, living or dead.  We ask that one original service photo be included.  The photo will be scanned and returned if a stamped, self-addresses envelope is provided.  There is no cost to submit this biography.  If we do not have room to include a submission form in this newsletter, you may contact Bonnie Jackson at (616) 642-6704 or write to:  Ionia County Genealogy Society, Vietnam War Book Project, Post Office Box 516, Lake Odessa, MI  48849-0516. 

BACK ISSUES:  We offer full sets of the 288 back issues of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, 48 years in all, in 3 binders, for $60 including packing and shipping.  We have only 3 full sets left!  Get yours now! 

CURRENT ISSUES:  It is our aim to publish 6 issues per year as long as we are physically and mentally able.  Cost is $6.00 per year for paper, ink and postage, due by July 1st each year. 

SCHNABEL FAMILY HISTORY:  Genealogy, history and lots of early photos of the Schnabel, Slowinski, Steinberg, Banhagel, Biehler, Lehman, Kubish, O’Mara, Eldridge, Farrell, Majinska, Sarlouis families, $35, including packing and shipping.  BRAKE FAMILY HISTORY is coming soon.

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

Last update May 27, 2013