Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 5 Number 4
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, February 1970, Volume 5, Number 4


ALL OF THE NEWS OF SEBEWA OF THE YEAR 100 YEARS AGO FITS ON A HALF PAGE (As The Portland Observer saw and printed it. Local correspondents had not yet begun to furnish their weekly news items.) 

January 25, 1870—ACCIDENT ON THURSDAY OF LAST WEEK.  As a Mrs. Marion Gibbs, a widow woman living about 6 miles from Portland in Sebewa Township, was going to one of her neighbors when within a few rods of the house she slipped and fell on the frozen ice, breaking her shoulder and otherwise severely bruising and jarring her.  Assistance was speedily secured and she was conveyed into the house and Dr. Chester Smith of this village was called on to set the broken bone and at last accounts she was doing well as could be expected from the nature of the accident and from the fact that she is quite an old lady.  (The 1860 census would indicate Mrs. Gibbs was 47 years old in 1870). 

September 27, 1870—Married at the M. E. Parsonage of this village on the 20th inst. By Rev. D. Engle, James H. Pierce of Orange and Miss Nellie A. Merchant of Sebewa.    

December 27, 1870—A NEW MAIL ROUTE.  A mail route has been established between this place and Sebewa Corners for the for the benefit of the Sebewa Post Office.  Formerly they have received their mail by a weekly route from Ionia, which, on account of the freshets in the spring of the year and other causes, was very irregular and unsatisfactory.  By this new arrangement, mail is carried twice a week—Tuesdays and Saturdays,leaving the village of Portland at 1 P.M.  Our subscribers whose papers are sent to that office will receive them on Tuesday, the day of publication. 


     As Civil Rights, Science Education, Anti-Communism, Road Building, Space Flight and even Where With The Hair have-been the dominant issues of some of the years just past, we now seem to be ready to open the Year of Cleaning Up Our Environment.  While smog, the scourge of the cities, does not appear to be the problem of the 36 square miles of Sebewa, we do not remain immune to many of the problems of keeping our area as livable as when we found it.

     Before the national conscience is purged of the guilt of allowing progressive environmental deterioration, many practices will be investigated and some of the remedies for clearer air, purer water, safer food and wholesome recreation will reach right down to us.

     Among the things to be considered are the use of pesticides, fertilizers and the other miracle chemicals of modern agriculture and household care; how much and what kind of exhausts we make from internal combustion motors; sewage disposal; and trash disposal including many things that get out of date and are replaced.  Whether you consider yourself affluent or not, grandpa left a much smaller pile of junk than you are likely to run through in a lifetime.

     Lastly, the number of people who can live in a given space without destroying the best qualities of that space is limited.  With our ever increasing population in this country and the world, that kind of pollution also will have to be faced as well as the environmental quality we shall hear so much about in this this year of 1970. 


     The old Chief is no more.  He died peacefully at his wigwam, a few miles from Lansing, on the Looking Glass and was buried on Sunday, the 5th, at the Indian settlement called Shimnecon, which is in Ionia County on the Grand River near Portland and some twenty miles northwest of the Capital.

     Okemos has passed a most eventful life, the story of which, if truthfully told would excel imagination as much as truth is said to be stranger than fiction.

     Okemos was a very old man, but of what exact age, it is difficult to say—doubtless more than a hundred years.  The events of the border warfare on Lake Erie in 1792 were familiar to him, for he was a sort of aboriginal Dugal Dalgetty and fought both with and against St. Clair and Wayne.

     He had frightful scars to show for his prowness, for a man of undoubted bravery he certainly was, and in one particular, showing a circatrix extending from his shoulder downward and travsversely through the clavical and sternum, was the evidence of a sabre cut from one of Mad Anthony’s troopers.  He was a chief no less than 66 years.

     Okemos fought at Fort Meigs and there received wounds in the head, which if he had been a white man, would have made his obituary an old story 45 years ago.  But, being an Indian, they simply left holes in his skull into which we have placed three of our fingers.

     Like “Tamdund of the Many Days” in the LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Okemos was a man of much dignity of manner and though small of stature and of imposing presence, he realized something of the ideal Indian in his carriage and deportment, if not in his character.  Okemos was familiarly known to most of the Lansing people, young and old, and was wont to pay this place more or less visits every season.  Indeed, during the years 1847, ’48 and ’49 he, for the most part, kept his wigwam near the village which bears his name, six miles to the eastward, during which years he was in our streets almost daily.

     A few months since, we traveled with the old Chief from Holly Station to St. Johns, and when asked for his ticket, Okemos stuck a pass at the conductor, who asked him if he was an editor.  “No!” said Okemos, with great dignity, drawing his blanket slowly about him and straightening himself with a look of disgust, “Me big chief, plenty fight once!”, and soon the strength of having made a great fight on both sides, Okemos rode on an American railroad owned by John Bull—free.

     Of late years, the favorite weapons of the old chief have been a knife and fork, the use of which was one of his most natural accomplishments.  How one mortal hide could be made to hold all that he could swallow, when invited to dine, was amazing.  His rule was to stop when the fodder gave out.

     Okemos usually traveled with a gang of Nitchies at his heals, from five years old and upwards.  He called them his own and probably believed they were though they looked suspiciously unlike in features.  One of these, a man full grown, he called Dick Johnson, in honor of the slayer of Tecumseh, and another, against whom, doubtless he bore some spite, he condemned through life to bear the name of General Cass.

     Not being troubled with large earthly possessions, Okemos left no will, and it is doubtful if his very numerous heirs will take out letters of administration.  He owed only one debt and took his own time, but paid at last.

     Okemos has gone, doubtless, to the Happy Hunting Grounds whither will follow the good wishes of ths Lansing acquaintances.  May he hunt in peace.

(Okemos was the nephew of the great Chief Pontiac.) 

POTTAWATOMIE OKEMOS KINNE-BOO was the heading for this article concerning Okemos.  Kinne-boo was an Indian expression meaning departure by death.

     This report, written shortly after the death of Okemos, reflects some of the feelings of the time between the white settlers and the Indians they had displaced.  It might be labeled competitive contempt.

     In turn it reveals Okemos’ disdain of two of the country’s Indian wars heroes.  Okemos called two of his nitchies (the dictionary gives NITCHIES as a disparaging term for an Indian) by the names of General Cass and Dick Johnson.  The name of Cass would recall to his mind the humiliation the Indians suffered at the Treaty of Saginaw as described in these pages in the article by Ephriam S. Williams.

     Colonel Richard M. Johnson is generally credited as the soldier who killed Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812.  Harold D. Burpee in his book of selections from his Hastings Banner Articles titled FRESH OUT OF THE ATTIC quotes a diary that related an interesting confrontation in Washington after Johnson had become vice president under Martin Van Buren.

     Chief Noonday of the Allegan Ottawas had gone to Washington and was taken to the “great wigwam” by General Cass to see the “Great Father”, Van Buren.  Noonday looked at Johnson and said “Ken-Kin-a-poo Tecumseh!”  Noonday said that he had been on Tecumseh’s right when he fell.  Noonday claimed to have Tecumseh’s tomahawk and Saginaw had his hat.  Johnson insisted he had not known what Indian he had killed though many others had previously said that it was Johnson who had slain Tecumseh. 

     FRESH OUT OF THE ATTIC By Harold D. Burpee is an extensive collection of historical items of Barry County and its general area.  Mr. Burpee lives at Delton, Michigan.  The book is available for $3.75. 

UNCLE JOE By John Fleetham

     Joseph O. Fleetham, or Uncle Joe to me, was born in New York state in 1841.  His father, Richard Fleetham, who was born in England, moved the family to Sebewa prior to 1850.  Richard owned what is now known as the Bidwell home on Keifer Highway.  Uncle Joe had two brothers, Jack, my grandfather, and George.

     One day Uncle Joe walked away from home and was not seen by any of his family for 15 years.  Some thought he had been killed.  Then one day he came home; he had enlisted in Co. K, New York Infantry in the Civil War.  When his two hears of enlistment were up he was mustered out but he reenlisted in the 10th Michigan Cavalry.

     He was in about 45 battles.  He was in the first Battle of Bull Run July 21st, 1861.  Also he was on Sherman’s March to the Sea.  He was wounded in the Battle of Strawbery Plains.  He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veteran’s organization) Post of Sunfield and a member of Ransom Post 354 of Ogdensburg, New York.  After the war he made his home with my father, also Joe Fleetham.  He died March 24, 1909 at Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids.

     I remember one story I heard Uncle Billie Edwins tell of Uncle Joe.  He was in the cavalry with Uncle Joe on Sherman’s March to the Sea.  When they came to a river with a wooden bridge across it, Billie said, the Union captain asked for a volunteer to take some important papers across in face of Rebel fire.  The Rebs had taken up every other plank of the bridge floor to make crossing difficult.  Joe volunteered.  He took a mule, got on its back and ran him across the makeshift bridge with rebel bullets flying.  Joe yelled like a Comanche Indian but never got touched by the flying lead.

     When he saw Uncle Billie again he said “They can’t win a war.  They are too damn poor shots.”  To me, Uncle Joe was the greatest man I ever knew.

     Once when I was walking along the road with Uncle Joe when Albert Sayer came along with his one cylinder Reo automobile and offered us a ride.  This was our first chance to ride in an auto.  The thrill of that little trip lingers with me.   


     Perhaps you, as I, have wondered what happened to the plain old Weather Bureau when the daily forecasts are so frequently credited to the ESSA Weather Bureau.  My impression was that some of the news media were sponsoring a private weather forecasting service that they called ESSA.  Not so.

     The U. S. Weather Bureau was organized in the Signal Corps in 1870.  In 1891 the service was transferred to the Department of Agriculture where it stayed until the Department of Commerce took it over in 1940.  The latest reorganization came in 1965 when the Environmental Science Service Administration was created to encompass the Weather Bureau, the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory.  Thus ESSA became the acronym for Environmental Science Service Laboratory.

     A fitting Centennial Celebration for the Weather Bureau would be a year without blizzards, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, early frosts and droughts.  We might be willing to settle for a little less than that. 



     On the 28th day of May 1833 in the forenoon the first company of pioneers came to a halt, pitched their tents and began living in and improvising the then new Ionia.  Sometime in the year 1832 Samuel Dexter visited Michigan.  Reaching Detroit, he secured the services of an Indian guide, came to Ionia, made his selection of land, all of section 19 in Town 7 North of Range 6 West, lying north of Grand River.

     From Ionia he went to Grand Rapids and then to White Pigeon where the United States Land Office was located, purchased his land and then returned home.  Pleased with his report of the western wilds, other men of families determined also to remove to the same section of the country.  The names of the adult members of this emigrant party were Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold, Darius Windsor, Joe Guild, Edward Guild with their families and four young men, Dr. William B. Lincoln, Zenas Windsor, Patrick M. Fox, 63 persons in all.

     This company left German Flats, Herkimer County, New York April 25 on a boat, Walk-In-Water of Utica.  This boat was propelled by horse power or rather towed by horses, the company having fire.  A small stable was in the bow of the boat for their accomodations.  The cabin was located in the stern with the kitchen, the midships being used for dining hall, sleeping place and storing goods.  They reached Buffalo May 7 where the boat was disposed of.

     A vessel called The Atlantic was chartered to take the great bulk of the goods to Grand Haven.  At Detroit this boat received a supply of flour and pork purchased of Oliver Newberry and then proceeded to its destination.  There was at that time at Grand Haven a small block house.

     The families with horses and wagons and a few of the most necessary household goods took passage on the steamer, Superior, reaching Detroit May 10.  On the twelfth, having everything in readiness, the caravan started, a covered wagon to each family.  They reached Pontiac May 14, Fullers in Oakland County on the 15th and Gage’s on the 16th.  They camped in the woods on the 17th, were at Saline on the 18th and 19th and camped out from the 20th to the 28th.

     A part of the way it was necessary to cut their own road.  During the last stage of their journey a child of Samuel Dexter was taken sick and died while the wagons were moving.  The company came to a halt near or at Muskrat Creek where the babe was buried.  The death and burial of this child was the one marked event of the whole journey.

     On May 27 the company reached Grand River near Lyons, forded the river and traveled across the prairie to Generoville where they again forded and then camped for the night.  On the morning of the 28th they started again, following an Indian trail on the north side of the river, across Prairie Creek very near where the dam is now and came to their final halt before noon, having been on the road from Detroit from the 12th to the 28th.

     On arrival at their destination, the company bought from the Indians several bark wigwams or shanties together with the crops they had planted.  The corn was already out of the ground.  The wigwams bought by Mr. Dexter were near the present mill site.  One piece of corn was west of Dexter Street and on both sides of Main Street.  Those bought by Mr. Yeomans and Mr. Arnold with the corn field were on the grounds now used by the Agricultural Society.  The two families of Guild and Windsor did not remain long in Ionia but removed to Grand Rapids where some of their descendants still live.

     On arriving at Ionia Mr.Yeomans wrote the following verses:

     We’ll praise Thy name, O God of grace For all Thy mercies shown.  We’ve been preserved to reach this place and find a pleasant home.

     In journeying far from distant lands We’ve been Thy constant care.  Have been supported by Thy Hand To shun each evil snare.

     Through dangers great and toil sever Thou, Lord, hast led our way.  Thou art our helper evermore To guide us day by day.

     Help us, O Lord, to raise our song Of gratitude to Thee.  Great God, to Thee, all praise belongs From land to land, from sea to sea.    

     The wigwams mentioned were summer wigwams, some ten or twelve feet square with frames made of small poles and covered with elm or ash bark.  There was no room for fires inside, so cooking had to be done in the open air.  Wigwams for winter were circular with fires inside.

     After a day or two it was found necessary to send for the goods at Haven.  In doing this a batteau was procured from Louis Genereaux.  Our Mohawk boatman, believing they could get along without assistance from the natives, took their departure.  The first day brought them to the Rapids and, although advised not to attempt the passage, they went safely over.  During the night they floated almost to the Haven.

     Their return was much harder work as their boat carried thirty or forty barrels.  At last the effects were all safely landed at Ionia.  To secure the goods and provisions, a rude shelter was constructed.  The only land so far taken up was by Mr. Dexter.  The others must first make their selections and then go to the Land Office and secure the same.  It was going into fall before their houses were ready for occupancy.  The lumber for finishing was brought from near the Rapids and the shingles on the Yeomans house were made from siding cut to a suitable length.

     The Indians from the first were friendly, offering fish and game in exchange for bread, flour or meat.  In order to replenish their provisions the settlers went to Gull Prairie, carted their supplies to Middleville, thence by boat down the Thornapple and up Grand River.

     When any of the men were out late at night, guns and horns were brought into use to direct any stragglers who might lose their way.  In writing this sketch there may be some mistakes, no doubt there are.  I received many of my impressions from the early comers for I was a frequent visitor at the house of Erastus Yeomans and on intimate terms with his sons.  In conclusion I will say ‘tis passing strange how things have changed since this old hat was new. 

AFTERMATH--Concluding THE TREATY OF SAGINAW by Hon. Ephriam S. Williams (Flint)

     An amusing incident occurred at the close of the treaty, although hardly rising to the dignity of history, it is so illustrative of the state of things upon the treaty ground that it may be worth preserving even if a little below the gravity of historical record.  The execution of the treaty was consummated about the middle of the afternoon of the last day.  The silver that was to be paid to the Indians upon its completion was counted out upon the table in front of the Commissioner for distribution.  The Saginaw Chiefs and Headmen, being largely indebted to Mr. Louis Campau for goods furnished by him, had put themselves under a promise to him that he should receive at least $1,500 of the amount in satisfaction of his just claim.

     The Commissioner had informed the Indians that all the money was theirs and if it was their will that Mr. Campau’s debt should be first paid to him, to signify that it should be done.  Three other traders were present with goods for sale and they were by no means pleased to see this proportion of the money thus appropriated.  Smith was one of the three traders.  He urged the turbulent and besotted Kish Ko Ko and his brother to object.  They addressed the Commissioner:  “We are your children.  We want our money in our hands”.  In accordance with this wish, the Commissioner directed the money to be paid to them and Mr. Campau received none of his pay from that fund.  To use Mr. Campau’s language, “I jumped from the platform and struck Smith two heavy blows in the face.  He was smart as steel and I was not slow but Louis Beaufait, Horner and Barney Campau got between us and stopped the fight so I lost my money and they cheated me out of a good fight besides”.

     “But”continued Mr. Campau,“I had my satisfaction that night.  Five barrels of whiskey were opened by the United States Quartermaster for the Indians.  I ordered ten of mine to be opened and two men stand with dippers at the open barrels.  The Indians drank to fearful excess.  At ten o’clock the General sent Major Robert Forsythe to me to say “The Indians are getting dangerous.  General Cass says to stop the liquor”.  I sent word back to him “General, you commenced it”.  A guard was detailed to surround my door.  Soon after some Indians from the bay were coming to my store and the guard tried to keep them out with bayonets.  In the scuffle, one of the Indians was stabbed in the thigh.  The warwhoop was given and in fifteen minutes the building containing my store and the General’s headquarters were surrounded by excited Indians with tomahawks in their hands.  They came from all points.  General Cass came to the door of his lodgings, looking very grotesque with a red bandana handkerchief tied around his head exclaiming “Louis, Louis, stop the liquor, Louis”.  I said to him “General, you commenced it.  You let Smith plunder me and rob me but I will stand between you and all harm”.  And I said “Yes, General, but you commenced it”.  Mr. Campau said in closing “I lost my money, I lost my liquor but I got good satisfaction.

     Mr. Campau left his trading post at Saginaw City for a permanent removal in June 1826.  His brother, Antoine, succeeded him.  The building has but recently been removed and will be readily called to mind.  It stood upon the west side of Water Street opposite Wright & Co.’s mill as a residence until a few years ago of a genial old Frenchman, Jeane Baptiste Desnoyers, who made the dilapidated tenement with its rickety stairs and loose flooring seem cheerful with his cordial welcome.  (It was in front of this old mansion on the green where the Ne War Go Tru Geda and Black Beaver burial took place.)

     It may be mentioned here that for one year, 1819, Mr. Campau also occupied a trading post on the site of what is now East Saginaw near where the old mission house was afterward erected.  But finding the Indians were discontented, he soon abandoned it.  Their announcement of dissatisfaction was sudden and unmistakably pointed.  “We gave you the other side for trading.  Go there.”

     In the fall of 1826 Mr. Campau became the proprietor of two fractional quarter sections of land by government entry covering a large part of what is now the flourishing city of Grand Rapids.  He has been implicitly the father of the flourishing inland town, selling his fine landed estate with the greatest liberality, endorsing freely for enterprise newcomers to that place, associating himself with every worthy enterprise.  The sequence we readily anticipated, namely embarrassment and straightened means, the classical but inconvenient result of over generousness.  He was finally left with an humble but cheerful cottage with a limited garden plat upon the secluded outskirts of his once lordly possession.  In connection with these facts, how pleasant to read a paragraph which recently appeared in the Detroit Free Press:  “A NEW THING NICELY DONE.”  Under this head a Grand Rapids paper gives an account of a Christmas present to Louis Campau, Esq.  The presentation was made by a number of leading citizens and consisted of a purse containing $1,040”.

     In the same autumn of the treaty, 1819, Smith, whose influence with the Indians was so marked on that occasion, built a trading house rough and of limited dimensions, near where the Baptist Church now stands in the City of Flint.  He lived there during the trading season, making occasional visits to his family in Detroit.  In 1825 he died from neglect as much as from disease at his trading post after a lingering in pitiable sickness.  A good hearted Frenchman by the name of Baptiste Cochioe, who was with him upon the trading ground and on the Saginaw, performed for the brave and unfortunate man the last sad rites of humanity.  An Indian lad, who had lived with Mr. Smith for several years and who attended him in his sickness, was the only household mourner.  He was the same Indian whose name was associated in later years as co-partner with Messers Dewey of Flint in several actions of ejectment brought to recover from the occupants of section 2 on which the first ward of the City of Flint is situated.  The proof, however, showed that his real name was An Ne Me Kins and that he was not the genuine Me Tah Wah Ne No for whom a section of land was intended and reserved in the article third of the treaty.

     A few Indians gathered in mournful groups about the grave as the remains of the unfortunate man were committed to the earth.  Ne-ome was there, his trusty and reliable friend, mute with grief.  With that feeling of gratitude which belongs to the Indian character, which takes rank as a cardinal virtue in their untutored minds, the Indians proved true and faithful throughout his sickness to the last.  The brave warm hearted generous Indian trader, Jacob Smith, earliest white pioneer upon the Saginaw and the Flint, lingered and died in a sad condition and but for the good Cochios and his Indian assistants, would have gone to his grave uncoffined.

     Within a few days after his decease, his son-in-law C. W. Payne came from Detroit to the trading house, which has so recently been the scene of such long and unrelieved suffering, gathered up most carefully and carried away the few poor remnants of the earthly stores left by the noble heated Indian trader.

     See Go See Wah Qua, the daughter of Neome, in recounting this history, expresses herself with sententious brevity peculiar to the Indians, which is worth recording.  It points to a moral if it does not adorn the tale.  “When Wah Be Sine (Smith) sick, nobody come.  His sicker and sicker, nobody come.  Wah Be Sins die.  Little tinker come and take all his blankets, all him cattle, all him things.”

     Neome soon followed his friend, Wah Be Sins, to the spirit land.  He died in 1827 at his tribal home a few miles above Saginaw city, faithfully attended through a long and severe sickness by his children and relatives.  Enthroned in patricharcal simplicity in the hearts of his people, beloved and mourned. 

MEMORIAL PLANNED TO STATE INDIANS By Robert Longstaff (From a newspaper source sometime in 1969)

     A permanent memorial to the woodlands Indians is being planned as part of the observance of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Saginaw.

     Governor William G. Milliken said Monday that a major part of the observance will be the memorial, which is expected to be an area of unspoiled forest with a headquarters and visitor-center complex.

     The treaty, signed September 24, 1819, ceded about 6 million acres of land diagonally across Michigan and generally in the Saginaw and Grand River Valleys.

     Milliken called the treaty “a truly historical event and of considerable significance to all Michigan citizens.”  Creation of the memorial, he added, “is a goal worthy of intensive efforts”.

     The governor will head a committee to plan for the 150th  anniversary.  Serving with him will be Dr. Walter Adams, acting president of Michigan State University; Dr. Robert W. Flemming, president of the University of Michigan; Dr. William B. Boyd, president of Central Michigan University; Frank Angelo, president of the Michigan Press Association; Dr. H. D. Done, president of the Dow Chemical Co.; Harry R. Hall, president of the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, and U. S. Senators Phillip A. Hart and Robert P. Griffin.

     The Michigan Inter-Tribal Council, an organization of the four Indian reservations in Michigan, proposed the idea of a permanent memorial to the culture of the woodlands Indians.  According to Ben Quigno, a member of the Council, the project is in early planning stages. 


     From Jim Hough’s column in the State Journal comes this recent bit of Sebewa.

     Another old timer with quite a past is Charles Cook, 84, Lake Odessa. Mr. Cook has watched an interesting thing take place across the road from his Sebewa Township home.

     Mr. Cook has seen five generations of the Leak family live across the road from him.  Zeno Leak, third generation, now owns the farm.  Zeno’s father, Edwin, and grandfather, David, farmed there and also ran a store there.  The farm is now operated by James Leak, son of Zeno.

     Mr. Cook is especially delighted with the fifth generation, Debbie, three month-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Leak. 

HERE NOW FROM THE TOWNSHIP RECORD is one of the official acts of Edwin Leak:


     On November 19th, 1897 Edwin Leak, Deputy Constable in the Township of Sebewa stuck up three notices in the Township of Sebewa for the sale of a stray horse taken up by Jacob Warner of the sale of said horse to be held on the 30th day of November and on said date, I, Edwin Leak, sold said horse to Jacob Warner for $30.  Said Jacob Warner’s bill being $33 for keeping said estray horse.  Edwin Leak, Deputy Constable Sebewa Township; Frank Showerman, Clerk.

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


Last update March 29, 2013