Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 4 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, Bulletin of the The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, October 1968, Volume 4, Number 2:



     1968 should be remembered as one year we did not lack for moisture, grass, weeds, mosquitoes and sometimes a crop of toadstools.  Yet in spite of water standing too long in the fields, there were few crop failures and nothing to compare with the “year of the west harvest”.  1969 should be a good year for lawn mower sales as the mowers were put to double normal use to cope with the never ending crop of grass on the lawns.

     Somehow we’ve managed to keep the school yard clipped.  John York has improved the general appearance about the schoolhouse by removing most of the remainder of the trash and debris left by the tornado and the left-overs of rebuilding.  The front doors are yet to be hung but that is on the fall schedule. 


     Perhaps an extra ess for plural is not enough to indicate the numbers in the flocks of blackbirds that spent the latter part of the summer in Sebewa’s lowlands where there are inviting cattail perches and other swampy growths that attract blackbirds.  We might be a little proud of these new residents if we did not know of the problems they have created for farmers in other areas.

     Near the Ohio-Michigan border near Lake Erie the birds have been a pest for several years.  Swooping down on a crop in huge flocks, a crop can be severely damaged in a short time.  The birds are prone to peck the ends of milky ears of corn, leaving an entrance for bugs and insect pests that can soon make the ear nearly worthless.

     Shooting into the flock with bird shot, Howard and Allen Cross have found, only causes the birds to circle and come around for one more shot or food.  Let’s hope this summer’s flocks are not a shadow of things to come.  Perhaps it is a good thing blackbirds are not politicians.

     And while we are at it we may as well note that the pesky raccoons, after their dessert of sweet corn is over, frequently make a shambles of small areas of the outer part of cornfields.  Also the woodchuck and fox are seen in greater numbers than usual this year. 


     Bonita Oliver Nielsen, 4326 Calli Real, #184, Santa Barbara, California  93105.

Contributed by Audrey Demaray Kussmaul of Woodland.  Some Sebewa Center school pupils of World War I vintage will remember Bonita as the second child of Herbert and Bertha Demaray Oliver.  Audrey and Gladah recently paid a visit to the schoolhouse. 


     After the October 11 scheduled launch of the Apollo space craft, some of you may find the event more interesting to know that Michael Gierman, son of Mr. and Mrs.  Elmer Gierman, will be flying a carrier plane in the retrieval operations. 


     My parents were C. P. and Viola Cook.   They had five sons.  Dad kept us pretty busy.  When he could spare a boy he would let him go and work out.  I worked a while on the farm of Ed Demaray and when I was thirteen, Dad let me go and work for O.W. Daniels and his sons.

     They stacked all the grain then and I was the boy who handled the bundles on the stack.  If I tell the younger generation now about working from sun to sun, they might think it impossible but it happened to me.  When the sun was coming up, the teams of horses were coming into the field.  I stayed with one of the Daniels boys, Till, who my brother-in-law.  I got a dollar a day and I was pretty proud to earn the dollar in working from sun to sun and thought nothing of it being more than a day’s work.

     After all the grain was stacked, all the Daniels boys had a hoe and we went to the fields to hoe corn.  They took a jug of water and their files.  They did not go fast but they moved all the time.  I never knew them to sit down on the convenient rail fences surrounding the corn fields.  They would take a drink from the jug of water and my brother-in-law would sharpen my hoe and his and we would start back across the field.  I had no trouble as a boy of 13 keeping up with them.

     We were entertained by Till and Andrus arguing all the time.  Jay and Vetty never said a word.  We just listened to the other two argue.  There were fewer varieties of weeds then and the ground was not so foul with weed seed as now.  Nevertheless O. W. Daniels wanted his cornfield clean.  While I was at Daniels’, O. W. had a bunch of fat cattle to market at Ionia.  We got them out into the road—Till and Jay and myself.  I was the dog.  I made a good one.  For about the first three miles the cattle bothered.  After that they went straight down the road.   We went down the old hill at Ionia, got the cattle into the yard, got into the double buggy, ate a sandwich and came home.  That was a day’s work.

     After that I came home and my Dad had work for me—he always had work for us.  When it came time to cut corn, we shocked corn and we husked corn until the snow got deep in the fields.  Then we could go to school.  I had about three or four months’ school after I was 13.  I well remember one of my teachers.  I shall never forget her.  She was Nellie Meyers.  She always opened the day at the Johnson School with song and prayer.  It always stood by me and made an impression on me. 

     Once in the spring of the year when Beach Estep, Earl Lapo, Grover Cook and I were on our way home from school and the stage coach from Ionia to Woodbury was going in our direction.  The coach made the run in this vicinity to deliver mail at Rozina post office at Musgrove and Goddard Roads.  The coach made connections between the Woodbury rail line and the one at Ionia to carry passengers and it also carried our mail.  Mr. Meadow was the driver.  He noticed we were hurrying to catch on to the back of the coach and he quickly whipped up his horses.  One made a jump and broke its hip.  We felt pretty scared—we thought we were to blame.  He never said a word to us but went back to Bush’s place who lived where Viverne Cook now lives, got a horse, got Mr. Bush to shoot the injured horse and he continued on his trip.  Next morning he came back, leading Mr. Bush’s horse behind the coach.  We still did not get bawled out for it though we felt to blame. 

SOME EARLY HISTORY OF PORTLAND  (By an old settler otherwise unidentified as published in the PORTLAND OBSERVER in 1921)

     In 1865 there were only three houses on Looking Glass Avenue between the residence of N. B. Rice and the Village.  The Almeron Newman house now known as the Toan house and two small houses on the other side of the sawmill race running from the present dam to the Grand River along the Lyons Road, right where the house and barn of John Hoffman now stands.  One was a small house that James Newman Jr. lived in at that time and the other stood where the Ramsey-Alton factory now stands.  It was owned by Arnold Dinsmore, who was a carpenter and cabinet maker and he had a barn and workshop that then stood on the bank of the mill race.  Between the small house and the Looking Glass river stood the woolen mills, which was later known as the Bandfield factory.  The farmers took wool from their sheep and brought it to the woolen mills where it was washed, picked, carded and then make into small rolls about the size of your finger.  It was then taken home and our mothers had to spin the same and make our stockings, mittens etc.  Afterwards there was more machinery put in and the wool was woven into cloth and shipped all over the country.

     The house that now stands east of the town house and known as the William Frost house was used as a hog pen and workshop.  I have seen more hogs—large ones—dressed from 300# to 400# hung up in that hog pen than I have ever seen in the present meat market.

     At that time there were no railroads in Portland and everything had to be drawn either from or to Lansing or Muir.  I have many times when a little boy gone with my father with a load of flour to Muir and he would bring back a load of groceries for Frank Newman, who was running a grocery store where the Western Oil Station now stands.

     Speaking about the old mill race, many of the old boys will well remember the old swimming hole about where the road now runs down to the ball park in under a big sycamore tree that was not cut until about ten or twelve years ago.  At that time the banks on both sides of the mill race were piled high with saw logs, which took from three to four months to saw at the old sawmill, which stood down the race about 500 feet from the old swimming hole.  There was a little house standing under the bank near the sawmill but I cannot recall who lived in the house at that time.  There was another house that stood on the west bank of the race near the mill where Squire Gates lived.

     Well I do remember the first train that came around the bend east of the Portland Elevator.  There was an engine loaded with three cars loaded with rails in front.  The grading had been done and the ties laid and the workmen would shove off a couple of rails, fasten them down, then move along the length of them and do the same thing until finally the track was laid to the water tank, which was standing at the west end of the third bridge on the Looking Glass river across the millpond.  The water had to be pumped with a hand pump, which had a lever about 8 feet long and it was some job to keep the tank full as it had to all be done by hand.  The first man that had charge of the old tank was Dent Rall and he was always getting us boys on the lever with him.  After he came John Van Horn and he stuck to the job many years.  There was no black smoke coming from the engines in those days as wood was the only fuel used for firing and well do I remember seeing Moses Scribner afterwards the noted curbstone broker of Detroit, who owned a part of the present Buck farm across from where William Kline now lives, coming into town every morning with a big load of 3-foot wood for the railroad.  The first name given the railroad was the Lansing and Ionia.  It was completed to the county seat in 1869 and the first passenger train was run from Lansing to Ionia in December of that year.

     While grading the side track to the mill, I was standing on the old red bridge, which was 200 feet long, built of wood and cased  up on both sides about 4 ½ feet high with the sidewalk the same, when David King, who was drawing dirt from the bank where the city tool house now stands, came along driving a nice span of coal black horses.  The team was headed toward the east when all of a sudden the horse next to the north bank went sliding down into the river and there was quite a lively time around there for a few minutes getting it out.  On another occasion while George Lloyd was working in the pit, the bank gave way and he was buried under about six feet of earth.  There was some lively work done then and when he was dug out, it was thought he was dead; but when falling he hell across his shovel in such a manner that it held the earth away from his face and gave him a small breathing space.  He was finally brought back to life and carried home badly bruised but he lived many years after that.

     The first depot was just east of the elevator and was later moved back across the street and is now known as the Ira Southard house.  The first ticket agent was George Thomas.  One building that had to be removed when the railroad went across the Grand River was the old tannery that stood at the west end of the present bridge.

      There was a big fight on when R. B. Smith and Harvey Bartow wanted to move the depot from the old site to the present site on the west side but Mr. Smith and Mr. Bartow stood in with James F. Foy, the manager at that time, and they finally won out.  Well do I remember the first trip I took on the railroad to Lansing.  It was September 1873 when the cornerstone was laid for the capitol building.  Plumed knights from all over the state were there and it was the largest crowd that had ever met in Lansing before that date.

      The building of the railroad was the means of bringing of several good men to this town to live.  Dennis O’Connor helped lay the rails from Lansing to Greenville and then moved to Portland and then had charge of the section for many years.  It is only 24 miles from Portland to Lansing but did you ever stop to think that you had to pass through four counties to get there?  Portland in Ionia County, Eagle in Clinton County, Grand Ledge in Eaton County and Lansing in Ingham County.

     In the 1870’s there was another hotel back of the Hotel Divine on Maple Street—a long wooded two story building that was run by Ephriam Probasco and his son, Ben.  There was a grocery store between the two hotels on James Street that was run by a man by the name of Hile Smith.  The old building on the corner of James and Maple streets, known as the Hamlin House, was a general store during the war (Civil) and was run by a man by the name of D. L. Case, who later moved to Virginia and owned a big plantation on the James River below Richmond.  He was a brother-in-law of the late Josiah Monroe of Eagle Township. 


     Once a correspondent from Sebewa Center tried to attach the name “Gunnville” to this community by entitling his items THE GUNNVILLE GRIST.  From the scrapbook of the late Miss Ella Gunn we present some obituaries that give an indication why the name seemed appropriate.


Samuel Gunn was born in New Jersey Feb. 21, 1828 and died at his home in Sebewa April 11, 1905.  At the age of twelve he moved with his parents to Pennsylvania and lived there until he was twenty years old.  Here he married Caroline McCoy and then came to Sebewa with two brothers and settled in homes not a mile apart.  As years passed by the timber succumbed to the ax and developed farms were the result.

     At one time Mr. Gunn owned 200 acres but on account of his generous nature he continually gave homes to his children until only 40 acres remained to him at his death.

     He was kind, sympathetic and generous to a fault and all who spoke of him, spoke well.  He often gave to benevolent enterprises as well as to his children.

     Mr. Gunn was the father of seven children, the five living as follows:  Theodore, in Antrim County, Dennis in Indian Territory, John in Oklahoma, Mrs. Isaac Cunningham near Hastings and Joshua, who lives on the home farm and has taken care of the aged father.

     The deceased was in fairly good health for one of his age until the house was burned in February.  Being overcome with heat at that time he has never fully recovered and Saturday was taken to bed where he passed away Tuesday morning.

     The funeral was held from the Sebewa Center Church today, the Rev. Hayward of Sunfield officiating.  Interment was made at Collingham (East Sebewa) cemetery.

DIED IN SEBEWA, APRIL 1st, 1885, Mrs. Amelia Gunn, wife of Theodore Gunn, aged 52 years, 10 months and 9 days.  The funeral services were held at the M. E. Church in Sebewa, Rev. Mr. Spencer officiating.  She leaves a large circle of friends to mourn her loss.

MRS. MARSELLA GUNN, wife of John Gunn, died in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, a few days ago.  She was formerly Miss Helmer and moved West with her husband from Sebewa in September 1890, traveling with team and wagon.  She leaves a husband and three children and was in her 32nd year.


     Jacob Gunn, a son of Theo. Gunn of Sebewa, died at Traverse City last week and the remains were brought to the home of his father Friday for burial.  Funeral services were held at the Center church at 1 P.M.

     He was born in Lenawee County in 1856 and came to Sebewa when eight years old where he resided with his parents until eight years ago.  At that time he went to the asylum at Kalamazoo for treatment for epilepsy and was subsequently transferred to Traverse City, the disease ending in his death.

     Rev. A. K. Stewart conducted the funeral services, which were largely attended.  David Gun and Gravener Oatley of Sherman were in attendance.


     August 26, 1901.  One of the foremost residents of Sebewa township passed away last Tuesday morning, when Joshua Gunn breathed his last.  He had been unconscious for 24 hours prior to his death but had long realized that he was hopelessly ill.  Some time ago a cancer developed on his face and he got little relief from operations, which were performed for its removal.  His funeral services were held in the Center church, near his late home on Wednesday afternoon conducted by Rev. T. J. Spencer, assisted by the local pastor.   Burial was made in the Baptist cemetery.

     Joshua S. Gunn was born in Sussex county, N.J. in 1833 and at the age of fice years he moved with his parents to Pennsylvania.  Just after the war closed, his brother, Theodore, moved to Sebewa township and bought 100 acres of land.  His brothers, Joshua and Samuel followed him the same year, purchasing 160 acres jointly in the same vicinity.  The farm later passed into Joshua’s hands, Samuel buying one mile west.  The Gunns, by hard work, have acquired a great deal of land in the center of the township, Joshua’s farm consisting, until quite recently of 280 acres.  Not long ago he deeded 80 acres to each of his children after his malady developed.  He also disposed of another parcel, leaving only an 80 at the time of his death.  Soon after his removal to Sebewa he married Rachel Rider, who died about five years ago.  Two children, Fred Gunn of Sebewa and Mrs. P. E. Barclay of Portland survive him.

     Mr. Gunn has served as township treasurer of Sebewa and since the new church was established at the Center he has been an active worker there, having been one of the trustees of the church since it was completed.  He was universally respected.


     Sebewa Center was shocked Wednesday, by the sudden death of Theo. Gunn, who settled there in 1865 and was one of the successful farmers of the township.  Funeral services were held at the M. E. Church, Sebewa Center, Friday afternoon and burial was made in the Sebewa Township cemetery.

     Theodore Gunn was born in Sussex County, N.J. March 28, 1832 and while very young he went with his parents to Pennsylvania, his next move was to Bellvue, Ohio, where he was married.  He next took up his residence in Addison, Mich., coming to Sebewa from there in 1865.  He was followed soon after by his brothers, Joshua and Samuel, who took adjacent farms and built up that section of Sebewa, which was then mostly woods, to one of the best farming communities in the town.  His brother Joshua died last year.  Mr. Gunn’s first wife died about 15 years ago leaving the following children:  David, Isaac, George and Emory Gunn, Mrs. Jacob Sayer, Mrs. H. Whorley, Miss Ella Gunn, all of Sebewa, Mrs. Gravener Oatley of Sherman, Mich.  Twelve years ago last April Mr. Gunn married Mrs. Agnes Mauren, of Portland, who survives him.

     Deceased was a member of the Center church and was one of those active in its establishment and maintenance.  He was known as a thorough business man and farmer and at 70 was actively engaged in the management of his large farming interests.

     Funeral services were conducted by Rev. I. T. Weldon, pastor of the Center church, and Rev. T. J. Spencer, for a quarter century intimately acquainted with Mr. Gunn.  He spoke of his positive character and his fidelity to the church in his later years.  A long procession followed the remains to their last resting place beside his other relatives. 

THE WRESTLING MATCH    As told on tape by the late Peter Britten

     When I was a boy attending school at Sebewa Center I got it into my head that I was a wrestler.  The people commenced to find it out.  Perry Arnold met me on the corner and Frank Murphy was with him.  They were going north to do some wood cutting or something like that.  They had a saw and an axe.

     Perry says to me, Pete, they tell me you’ve took a notion to wrestle.  Yes, I says, I do.  I like to wrestle.  Well, he says, If you take a notion to wrestle, I’ll show you a few trips.  Well I set down my dinner pail and he laid down his saw and I reached up and took aholt.  I mean reached up, I had to.  He was a big man.  I weighed about 135 or 140 pounds.

Well, I said, Look out, Perry, now.

He says I’ll show you this trip.

I says Look out now that I don’t get you.

Why he says you don’t think you can throw me do you?

Well, I says, I can try.

Well, all right, he says.

     I give a little trip on one side of his foot and on the other and he made a spasm and he had them leather boots on he always wore and he fell right backwards and he forgot to let go of me.  He lifted me right up and sent me right over his head.  I went just like a frog.

     I looked back and there his face was covered in the fresh snow that had just fallen the night before.  He got up and switched the snow out of his hat.  Frank Murphy hollered—you could have heard him half a mile.  Perry never done nothing, he picked up his saw and he went on down north and that was the end of that wrestle. 


     Carriages without horses shall go

And accidents fill the world with woe; Around the world thoughts shall fly In the twinkling of an eye.  Waters shall more wonders do, Now strange, yet shall be true.  The world upside down shall be And gold be found at foot of tree.  Through hills man shall ride, And no horse or ass be at his side.  In the air men shall be seen In white, in black, in green.  Iron in water shall float As easy as a wooden boat.  Gold shall be found ‘mid stone In a land that’s now unknown.  Fire and water shall wonders do.  England shall at last admit the Jew.  And this world to an end and shall come In eighteen hundred and eighty-one.

(Mother Shipton was an English prophetess, who published this bit of prophecy along with some others in 1641). 


     OBSERVER Editor Observes.  August 6, 1879.  We made quite an extensive though harried trip through Sebewa township last week.  We found on the older settled streets in that township that of farms, as a rule, are very handsome, being almost as level as a prairie, with beautiful fields, free from stumps but with shocks of golden grain standing almost as thick as the stumps originally stood and with every other evidence of an unusually productive soil.  As might be expected, where this is the case, the farmers of Sebewa are getting in good shape and improvements in the way of buildings and machinery are the order of the day.  We were agreeably surprised to see almost on every hand, immense grain barns, most of them built in modern style and well painted; and as to commodious and elegant residences, Sebewa need not take a back seat.  The township is dotted all over with them and we saw several in course of construction.  We passed over some of the newer portion of Sebewa where there is much hard work to be done in clearing, draining, etc. but the beginnings are being made and in a few years the face of nature in these places will be entirely changed.  What are now swamp and lowlands will be the garden spots of the township.  Having never traveled very much over the township, we were unable to locate many of the farmers whom we are undoubtedly well acquainted with, but at some future time, when they are not so busy, we hope to be able to make them a personal call. 


     Some ladies went huckleberrying one day last week and borrowed a horse and buggy for the purpose.  But as we promised not to tell, we will say nothing about the horse wandering off and getting mixed up in the harness, or of the heroic efforts of the ladies to propel the buggy home by main strength. 


     Miss Nettie McConnel enters today upon her duties as teacher in the thing called a schoolhouse on the town line.  This said thing or schoolhouse is a disgrace to the district, being, as it is, completely and effectually demoralized, not a whole light of glass and scarcely a sash being left in the building.  It stands upon the main traveled road, a subject of laughter and derision to every passer –by. 

FIRE LOSS   August 27, 1879

      Mr. Albert Figg had the misfortune of having a stack of wheat containing about 130 bushels entirely destroyed by fire last Tuesday.  The fire was caused by Charlie Bennett’s Pitts thresher engine.  Charlie generously declared that he would stand half the loss and no one blamed him for his carelessness. 


     One of our youngbloods went a hunting last week and got so excited watching a flock of wild ducks that he poured about a pound of powder down the muzzle of his shotgun and hastily capping it, pulled the trigger.  “There came a burst of thunder sound—the boy—oh, where was he?”  He was found about ten feet from the spot wildly clutching a shattered gun stock with one hand and vigorously rubbing his shoulder with the other. 


     West Sebewa Chips October 1, 1879.  Sydney Smith leads this part of Sebewa by having finished sowing 125 acres of wheat last week. 



November 9, 1968       ATLANTIC COAST      James Forshee

November 30, 1968    JAPANESE SUMMER     Phil Walker

February 1, 1969         YUCATAN TRAILS            Romain Wilhelmsen

February 22, 1969      YANKEE SAILS THROUGH EUROPE     Capt. Erwin Johnson

March 22, 1969            WINGS TO THE BAHAMAS      James Metcalf

April 19, 1969               EXPLORING POLAND      Stan and Irene Taulauskas



October 27, 1968       HAWAII                                   Ralph Franklin

November 24, 1968  CANADIAN FAR WEST       Dennis Cooper

January 12, 1969       ENGLAND                               Jonathon Hager

February 9, 1969       KANTUTA                                Eudard and Nina Ingres

March 9, 1969            AMERICAN ROCKIES          James Forshee

April 13, 1969             NORWEGIAN PANORAMAS     Joe Adair



October 30, 1968       EGYPT                                       Ralph Franklin

December 4, 1968     HAWAIIAN PROFILES         Juliam Gromer

January 15, 1969       CALIFORNIA                           LeRoy Crooks

February 12, 1969     WINGS TO BAHAMAS          Don Cooper

March 19, 1969          NORWEGIAN PANORAMAS     Joe Adair



October 19, 1968       RETURN TO SOUTH PACIFIC     Thayer Soule

November 23, 1968  ETERNAL ROME                      Robin Williams

January 26, 1969      GREEN GULANAS                    Art Erickson

February 22, 1969    KANTUTA                                   Eduard and Nina Ingres

March 29, 1969         WELCOME TO MICHIGAN   Robert Brouwer

May 3, 1969               THE CANADIAN FAR WEST Dennis Cooper 

      All presentations will be in the respective High School auditoriums.  Dennius Cooper kept his Lakewood audience in a fit of laughter during most of his show last year.  Don, brother of Dennis is also noted for his humor.

     The organizations sponsoring the travelogs welcome and deserve your support.  One short airline ticket would cost more than all these shows. 


     From the memories of old timers comes the story of Praying Charlie.  Charlie Conklin heard and read of the Biblical stories of praying in the wilderness.  The idea impressed him and he set about to follow the example.  Going about the country he would stop at any field or forest as his wilderness and proceed to put his belief into practice.

     Edna Sayer tells of her father, Charles Gierman, in the late 1890’s, hearing a commotion in his woods a quarter mile or more away.  His curiosity prompted him to follow the sound and there in the woods he found Praying Charlie on his knees and in his best voice praying to the heavens while sprinkling water about from a 2-quart sirup pail he always carried.  Mr. Gierman invited the old man to breakfast and he accepted.

     Praying Charlie had scarce any home but wandered about the countryside carrying his little pail.  Obliging householders frequently placed handouts of food in the pail.  With the generosity of the community and the wild fruits of woods and fields, Charlie kept a portly figure.  In the coldest weather he had some shelter in a shack on the bank of Grand River.

     With such a deviation from normal life, Praying Charlie was sometimes the butt of jokes and the object of scorn from some of the people.  The local smarties often badgered and teased him.

     Some such incident led to Praying Charlie being committed to the County Farm where he died after a short stay.  But the memory of Charlie’s loud prayers to the accompaniment of sprinkling from his little pail at some off-beat location lingers among the stories that are told and retold.

Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association
Robert W. Gierman, Editor
R 1
Portland, Michigan 48875  U. S. A.


Last update March 14, 2013