Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 6 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 1971, Volume 6, Number 4



      To keep up to date we should have a knowing cartographer who could plot the season’s snowmobile trails on the numbered sections of the township map.  One such trail crosses the familiar square from south to north and how many intersections and branches there are from it are known only to the participants of the snowmobiling sport.  Sebewa seems to have its share of the 150,000 such machines that were registered with the Secretary of State in 1969-70.

     With the demise of the livestock industry in Sebewa the most of the crumbling line fences present but a slight deterrence to the free movement of the snow gliding set.  The concept of the right to the use of the land in that respect approaches the system of the Indians before us.  Their idea was a communal use in which occupancy at a particular time gave a person the right to the land he was using.  It will be interesting to see if there is any transfer or carry-over of such assumed rights to the all-terrain vehicle in the other seasons of the year.  It could lead to a shift in the liability for real estate taxes.

     Not much objection except to an occasional lead filled specimen was ever raised over the free occupancy of the various parcels of real estate by wildlife.  It appears that snowmobiling has already established a similar right of occupancy. 


     Because mapmakers make new maps from old maps as models, the little circle with SEBEWA attached has appeared on the State Highway maps for many years.  Thus with only a small cluster of houses bore backing the claim, Sebewa has had the appearance of a village on the map.

     Recently, as if to reinforce the claim, road signs proclaiming “Sebewa, reduce speed” have been erected on Keefer Highway at the Musgrove intersection. 


     Sometime recently, without creating a fuss, the Grand Rapids Press began taking seriously the non-discrimination law and labeled the employment section of the want ads “Help Wanted”.  If you want to see “Help Wanted, Female” and “Help Wanted Male” you will have to look elsewhere. 


     In a general mailing of a questionnaire by the Ionia County Planning Commission, you are being asked to voice your opinion on the future development of Ionia County.  Of course all of us have a cut-off date, but the kind of Sebewa you might come back to in 20, 40 or 60 years may be influenced by your answers to these questions. 


     December 16, 1862

     Washington, D. C.

Dear Father and Mother, Sisters and Brothers:

     I take his opportunity to write to you.  I am well and contented.  We left the Rapids the 9th.  Was four days on the road.  We are stopping at the Soldiers’ Retreat.  Probably we will go into camp tomorrow.  I hope so.  We came through the Alleghney Mountains.  I tell you it looked scary when the rocks were 200 feet over our heads; but we came through safe.  When we got to Pittsburgh they had supper for us and it didn’t come bad neither.  We changed cars at Toledo and then again at Pittsburgh and then at Baltimore.  There they had supper for us.  Then at ten o’clock we took the cars for Washington.  Got here at daylight.

     General Burnsides is fighting at Fredericksburg now.  He commenced last Thursday and they haven’t got done yet.  He has burned the city or most of it.  It is getting dark now so I will quit for the present.

     December 19.  News came in last night that we are whipped and our army is in full retreat from Fredericksburg.  It is reported that we have lost 20,000 men in our last battle.  We have not gone into camp yet.  I am all well today except a little wound I got this morning.  I was feeding my horse some turnips and he bit my thumb.  I guess I will soon recover.  I wrote a letter to you and sent it by Mr. Friend.  I haven’t got but 3 postage stamps left.  Them stamps that I took off them letters passed quickly.  I just took some dirt on it and they went on good as new ones.  We have not got any pay yet.  I asked the Captain last night when he was going to have our pay and he said in about ten days.  You may send me some stamps if you are a mind to.

     Edward H. Cook


Washington, D. C., December 29, 1862

     Dear Mother and Father:  I am well and tough and so is all the boys that come from Sebewa.  We have moved our camp up on a big sand hill where we expect to remain through the winter.  Everything is gay around us.  Lieut. Reahm took us down through the city the other day.  Christmas it was they was firing cannon all day and night.  Our horses jumped around some.  I haven’t got but one letter from you since I left home.  I should think it was time.  I would like to have you write me a little oftener if you can as well as not.  It is nice weather here now.  I can’t think of anything to write about; in fact, there hain’t one thing, so here it goes.

     Edward H. Cook


Washington, February 15, 1863

     Dear Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers:  I am yet alive and well.  Everything is gay.  I received a letter from you last week stating that Frank Ricer was dead.  Sorry to hear of her death.  I hope that money I sent you went through safe.  I wrote you a letter the 12th and put $20 in greenbacks in it.  It being in only bills I guess that it will be pretty apt to go through safe.  I hope so anyway.  If it don’t, I can’t help it.  Whenever I send any money I want you should answer it as soon as you can.  We are here in Washington yet but I can’t tell how long we will remain here no more than you can nor half as well, for when we leave here (Washington) we won’t know no more than two hours before as we are ready to start so you can see that I can’t tell anything about it as far as my part.  I am ready to start at anytime.  I saw (illegible) up here on the camp grounds last week.  I asked him when he was going home and he said he would not go home until he died.  He is in the War Department at present.  He said he would be up here on the camp grounds every few days.  I hope he will.  We have nice times drilling with our horses especially when we are firing off our guns.  The folks around here seem to think the war will close soon.  I hope it will.  I hain’t getting homesick I want you should understand.  It has been raining for today.  The roads are very muddy.  We had a horse race yesterday of the whole regiment.  The Colonel’s horse run on a bet and is going to run tomorrow in a bet of $100.  I guess he will lose it.  He is going to run with the same horse that he run with yesterday.  The privates run their horses also.

     Edward H. Cook


March 26, 1864  Dear Mother:  I have not received but one letter from home this month.  It can’t be possible that you write me a letter every week nor even twice a week.  If you did, I should get more letters than I do from home.  They don’t average one in three weeks.  I wrote you a letter a few days since.  On the night of the 20th, the snow fell eight inches deep and Co. E was out on picket and a nice time we had too.  It commenced raining yesterday about three o’clock in the afternoon and it rained until this morning.  It is expected that the Army of the Potomac will move soon provided the weather is favorable.  I hear by Josiah’s letter that Ursula was married to Walter Dann but I don’t credit it.  It don’t seem hardly possible but still it may be fact after all.  The boys here in the company make lots of fun about it and I hain’t much behind them.  They think that Ursula must be hard up and that is my humble opinion on the subject.  If this be the case, you needn’t mind about letting him see the letter.

     Edward H. Cook

You will find this letter some blotted.

Ursula did not marry Walter Dann.  Edward was born in 1843, the son of Pierce G. and Ursula Cook.  His sister, Ursula was three years younger than he.  Edward was born in New York state and Ursula in Michigan.  Others in the family were Marie (1849), Charles P. (1854), Harriet (1856) and Elizabeth (1863).  Edward was to be captured and die of starvation in Andersonville Prison. 


     The Edward W. Barber Account from Beginnings of Eaton County.  Volume 29, Michigan Pioneer Collection

     Indian trails were easily traceable at an early date.  The principal ones traversed the Count in practically the same directions as its two principal railroads, the Grand River Valley Division of the Michigan Central Railroad and the Chicago and Grand Trunk.  Also along the route of the proposed Marshall and Northeastern Line in the west part of our county.  Water makes and follows channels of least resistance.  So the untutored Indians made their trails along routes where they encountered fewest topographical obstacles.

     One distinctly marked trail from the southwest passed through Bellevue and Walton, crossing the Battle Creek just south of Charlotte on the present county fair grounds and continuing in a northeasterly direction toward Lansing.  What seems to have been a branch of this trail followed Butternut Creek east of Charlotte to the Hovey settlement in Benton, thence through Oneida near the residence of one of its well-known pioneers, Samuel Preston, and from there to Grand River.  Just east of Charlotte, this trail from the southwest to the northeast through what must have been HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS, was crossed by a large pony trail from the southeast passing to the northwest from Duck Lake in the huckleberry swamps of Brookfield.

      The Duck Lake trail passed through the geographical center of Charlotte, near the courthouse and as late as 1854 presented a well-defined and beaten pathway to the northwest, striking the Thornapple Valley in the town of Chester.  That trail is substantially followed by the Grand River Valley Railroad to Grand Rapids.  Indeed, that part of it was known as the Grand Rapids Trail by the early settlers.  E. A. Foote, across whose land west and northwest of Charlotte this pony trail passed, wrote about it in 1876 as follows:  “It was smoothly and deeply worn, deepest in the center and rounding up the sides, running straight as an arrow off into the dim shadowy visita of the forest trees, rendering it a cool and pleasant walk.”  After reaching the Thornapple, where it was navigable by canoes, the trail was not so well defined.

     Along the line of this trail the Indians made their maple sugar.  Evidently a favorite location for this work by the squaws in the spring was on the highlands between the Scipio and Thornapple in Vermontville where the woods were comparatively dry and the maples very large.  They had tapped the trees for many years before the white settlers came as the black spots in the trunks where cuttings had been made to get the sap were entirely grown over and the annual concentric rings showed that sugar making had been carried on for more than half a century.

     This Indian sugar bush south of the Thornapple in the spring of 1841 gave an insight as to their methods.  Their sap troughs were made of basswood bark, freshly taken from the trees and gathered up at the ends.  The cuttings in the trees were made with hatchets and spiles for conducting the sap were split or riven from small basswood trees.  It was crude and wasteful but answered their purpose.  Sometimes they would boil game in the sap, giving sweetness to the meat if not flavor to the sugar.  White folks would put a piece of salt pork in the kettles of sap to prevent its boiling over.

     Indian ponies were small so that their whereabouts while wondering in the woods in quest of something to eat might be known.  They were small hardy animals, capable of living on browse as the small twigs of trees and underbrush were called.

     When there was no other nourishment to be had and when driven to it by hunger, they would eat the moss that grew on fallen and decayed timber or on the north side of forest trees.

     One way for white man when lost in the woods on cloudy days to discover the points of the compass was to examine the moss on the trees, as it always grew most profusely on the north side where the shade and moisture were the greatest.

   The beautiful prairie on which the seat of justice was fixed in 1833 where the city of Charlotte is located included nearly a section of land intersperced with scattering clumps of oak trees, was a favorite planting ground for the Indians.  The soil was fertile and easily worked.  None of the weeds of civilization were present.  Evidences of aboriginal cultivation were present in the rows of corn hills that could be traced for considerable distances where the grain had been planted and tended.  The oak openings in the southwest part of the county also furnished opportunities for growing corn and pumpkins and the swamps for gathering huckleberries.

     Along the trail that ran from the southwest to the northeastern part of the county in the present town of Walton were two villages.  One on section 18 near the brook named Kedron by the Olivet pioneers and a larger village with a burial place for the dead on section 28.  There was also an Indian burying ground just west of the village of Bellevue and a few sunken graves were found on the highest land north of the Thornapple in Vermontville.

     The northeastern trail connecting Battle Creek and Grand Rapids and passing through the Charlotte prairie must have been a much frequented thoroughfare.

     These Indians were members of the Pottawatami tribe.  The year 1840 witnessed their forcible removal by the United States to lands set apart for them in Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.  Much excitement prevailed that summer among the whites from fear that the Indians might resent their expatriation and massacre isolated settlers.  There was talk of building a defensive blockhouse at Vermontville, but it turned out that the Indians were more sad than revengeful over the change.  Government agents and soldiers under the direction and command of General Brady scoured the woods to collect them for removal.

     The Indians soon learned that the troops were after them.  A meeting was held just west of Bellevue settlement.  An account written by E. A. Foote, based on information given by David Lucas of Bellevue, who had personal knowledge of the matter as he was a great friend of the Indians, says that he saw them in council just west of Bellevue, mounted on the backs of their ponies, huddled together as closely as they could stand, with the heads of their ponies all towards a common center.  They were in deep anxious consultation around their wisest heads.  Soon they scattered like a flock of blackbirds.  One company fled north, far into the forest.  They had with them a sick squaw, which impeded their travel.  They were overtaken and sought refuge in a dense swamp, which was surrounded by the Cavalry, and after two or three day’s siege, they were brought out from their hiding place and taken to Marshall, the place of rendezvous for those collected in this part of the state.  From thence they were taken to their place of banishment beyond the Mississippi River.

     After the removal of the Indians the woods seemed lonely.  Captain James W. Hickok, the first settler in Walton once said “They had not been gone six months before we wished them all back.  They helped us hunt and keep track of our cattle.  If we lost an animal and described it to an Indian, he was sure to bring information where it could be found.  When we had visitors, the Indians would furnish us with turkey or venison.”  A silver dollar was the regular price for a deer, large or small.

     The passing of the Indians, only a few escaping the search for them by the government agents and soldiers and these few remaining for several years, lonesomely and taciturnly following the old trails and adhering to the old habits until the forests, game and themselves disappeared altogether, marked the dividing line between the old and the new era.  The government had extinguished the Indian titles to the land in Eaton County by the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 negotiated by General Lewis Cass as Commissioner for the United States.  The north and west boundary lines of the county were surveyed by Lucius Lyon and the south line by John Mullet in 1826 and the section lines in the several townships were run the same year. 

THE 1909 ONE-CYLINDER REO----By Thomas Downing

     I am going to tell you a little story about my first car that I got along back in 1916.  It was originally bought by Harry York.  It was a 1909 Reo.  It had a one-cylinder motor and the motor shaft was crosswise of the frame.  You had to crank it on the side.  Someone had put on a top and a windshield.  It was a right hand drive.

     One of the owners who had the care before I got it was Clarence Sayer, who had taken it on a trade from Harry York when Harry bought the larger Everett.  Harry Heintzelman bought it from Mr. Sayer and later Mr. Heintzelman sold it to a man who peddled meat and fresh fish.  It got over in this neighborhood when my brother-in-law, Tom Gibbs, bought it from the fish peddler.  I bought it from Tom.

     I had the car about two years.  I had to buy a new drive chain.  It had the same size of tires all around.  It was cheap to operate because it had a 10 horse motor and you couldn’t get only about 25 miles to the gallon of fuel.  Also it would do only 25 miles per hour at the most.

     I asked Mr. Gibbs one day what he’d take for that car—he wasn’t using it any.  He told me he would take $25.00 for it so that is what it cost me.  I had to buy another tire and a few little things for it that didn’t amount to much and I got it so that it worked all right.

     I had a sister who lived up at Barryton, about 80 miles from here.  I wanted to go up there so I took the car and we started out one morning and we got pretty well up there when it got dark on us.  The drive chain came off and I had to crawl down under the machine there and get the chain unwound from around the shaft.  We got it straightened out after a while and went on and we got to our destination about nine o’clock that night.  It did the same thing on the way home.  It took all day long to get home with the work we done on it along the road.  But we made it. 


     At the time the Erie Canal was built it crossed New York from one end to the other and cut across several rivers that ran into Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.  Where it crossed the Genessee River the people decided it was a good place to found a town.  A group of businessmen from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania came to this place and brought a sawmill, other equipment and men of different trades and they founded the town of Rochester.  My mother’s uncle, Jake Dietrich, had a sawmill, planning mill and a kiln for drying lumber.  They have to have these machines of all kinds when they found a city in order to build the houses and other buildings.     

     After they had founded the city they called Rochester they felt that they needed a lake port.  It costs much more to ship by canal or any other way than by water on the lakes.  The cheapest way in the world anywhere is by water.  There was a group of businessmen in England who came to America and bought the land around the mouths of various rivers, having a shrewd idea that these places sooner or later would become towns.  They bought about 100 acres at the mouth of the Genessee River. 

     When the men of Rochester wanted to build the lake port they bought 100 acres of land from the Englishmen, who insisted on just one thing—that when the town was named, it should be named after the queen of George III, CHARLOTTE of Meckenburg Strelitz, Germany.  The name was pronounced with the accent on the last syllable as it was used by the continental Europeans at that time.

     My mother’s uncle Jake had a sawmill and planning mill there and he sent for my grandfather to come and build a port after they had gotten the land.  He came and moved to the town of Greece on Lake Ontario—there was no other housing anywhere around for about 14 miles.  They built the warehouses along the mouth of the river and founded what they called Port CharLOTTE.  Port Charlotte or Charlotte has long since been included in the city of Rochester and is not shown on a New York State map since been included in the city of Rochester and is not shown on a New York State map.

     Among the people who settled the port was a family of Bostwicks, a father and two sons.  Edward Bostwick was the founder of Charlotte in Michigan.  There was a family by the name of Holden who lived at Port Charlotte and liked it there well enough to name their daughter Charlotte.  She afterwards married Edward Bostwick.  He came here to Eaton County and founded the town and named it after his wife.  Bostwick later left his impression on Kent County by having Bostwick Avenue and Bostwick Lake named after him.

     Charlotte Holden and my mother went to school together in Charlotte, New York and my mother got her early education in the school at Charlotte, New York.  When I was sent here to organize Granges, she told me about living in Charlotte, New York and all of the details of its building.  The Holdens lived across the street from my grandfather after he moved to Charlotte, New York.

     I have found out that Claude Burton’s mother-in-law used to live in Ontario across Lake Ontario from Rochester.  She said that they frequently crossed the lake to what they called Port Charlotte. 


     The land on which Charlotte is built was bought of the government by George W. Barnes a surveyor who obtained knowledge of the beautiful prairie near the center of Eaton County on which Charlotte was located and bought the land of the government.  He sold it to Edmund B. Bostwick of New York City.  Horatio I. Lawrence acted as the purchasing agent.  In a letter to Mr. Lawrence dated New York, December 29, 1835, Mr. Bostwick wrote:  “Your favor communicating the terms on which you purchased the balance of the Eaton County Seat property is before me.  I am much pleased with the purchase and will soon write you a long letter submitting a plan for the town.  You speak of calling the place after me but as I have just become a married man, I would prefer calling it Charlotte or Charlotteville after my wife.  I will make a deed for one quarter of the property as soon as my deed arrives and hand it to your father and next spring we will try and bring the place into notice.”

 Barber’s quotation from THE EATON COUNTY BUGLE, May 7, 1845:

     Since our last paper there have been 13 settlers arrived in the Prairie City.  We are happy to announce that the prospects of our village were never better.  We hear of a small legion that are following in the wake of those that are already here, and to a better place on man ever came.  We are bold to challenge the world to present a more beautiful location than that on which the village of Charlotte stands.  Nature has been lavish of her beauties to extravagance.

     The plot consists of a beautiful prairie containing about 500 acres and surrounded on all sides by heavily timbered land.  It presents rather a curious appearance to the eye of a stranger and takes him by surprise upon emerging from heavy forests into a beautiful open plain, unmarred by brush or stumps or swamps.  This lovely opening, resting in the bosom of a dense forest like an oasis in a desert, we have no doubt was once an Indian cornfield.  It bears many evidences of it upon its surface.

     At this season of the year our prairie presents beauties that no imagination every dreamed of.  Reader, you who have never been here, picture to yourself a beautiful prairie, level as the sleeping surface of the lake and surrounded on all sides by waving forests, forming a complete circle within, a lovely carpet of grass, begemmed with flowers of a hundred varieties and ten thousand hues rolling back and forth to the summer breeze.  Here in the midst of all these beauties is the village of Charlotte, the county seat of Eaton. 

SUNFIELD TOWNSHIP—Edward W. Barber Account from Beginnings of Eaton County, Its Earliest Settlement and Settlers; Michigan Pioneer Collection Volume 29:

     This northwest corner town of Eaton County presents a diversified surface, the greater portion of it being quite level and all of it originally was covered with a very heavy growth of hardwood timber.  Near the west line is one of the few small lakes of the county named “Sawba” after an Indian Chief, who was well known to the early settlers for his ardent love of firewater and rapid acquirement and free use of vulgar English phrases on all occasions.

     Most of the land was bought of the government by speculators in 1836 and being held out of the market, its settlement was retarded for many years.  Not until the Grand Rapids branch of the Detroit and Northern Railroad was built a few years ago (1886) was there any cluster of houses to resemble a village in the township.  It was truly rural in every respect.

     The first white family within the limits of the town was that of Samuel S. Hoyt.  They came in the summer or fall of 1836.  Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt’s daughter, Elisabeth, was the first white child.  At first their nearest neighbors were in Vermontville, six miles distant.  There they attended church quite regularly, Mr. Hoyt driving through the woods by blazed trees with an ox team and a lumber wagon.  He was an energetic worker, made a large opening in the forest for sunlight and civilization in a short time, but tiring of the isolation and the wilderness, he sold out at the earliest opportunity and returned to Saratoga County, New York, whence he came.

     The first white male children born in the town were John Nead and John Wells, sons respectively of John Nead and William A. Wells.  Peter Kinne came soon after Mr. Hoyt and located near the center of the town.  Late in the autumn of 1836 his wife died.  This was the first death in the town.  Mr. Kinne lived alone in the woods for about two years.  In 1838 he, too, passed away.  This was the only instance of the death of both husband and wife within two years of any of the pioneers of the sixteen townships.

     The third settler was Abram Chatfield, carpenter and farmer who came from Montgomery County, New York.  Leaving there with his family in 1835, tarrying for a time in Ohio, coming to Washtenaw County, Michigan in August 1836 and moving to Sunfield in February of 1837 where he settled upon 40 acres of land.  Mr. Chatfield was a plain spoken man and there was no suspicion of reverence in his mental attainments.

      Avery Poole and Daniel Barnum Sr. with the latter’s sons, Daniel, Willis, Henry and Lewis were early settlers in the east half of the town.  Mr. Poole was a son-in-law of the elder Barnum.  All were thrifty and prosperous.  Willis Barnum became a wealthy farmer.  Edward O. Smith, a prominent citizen, came west with Samuel S. Hoyt in 1836 and bought land at the same time on the south line of the town but did not move his family until May 1838.

     Joseph Cupp came to Michigan in the spring of 1837, spent the summer at Plymouth, Wayne County and in the fall came with members of the Hager family, most of whom settled in the northwest corner of Vermontville, to Eaton County.  Samuel Hager and Joseph Cupp settled in Sunfield.  Mr. Hager went to Missouri but Mr. Cupp, whose wife was a Hager remained on the farm he improved until his death.  These pioneers were from Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  The only other inhabitants were Indians.

     Mrs. Cupp had not forgotten the stories of Indian outrages in her native state, the horrors of Wyoming were fresh in mind and she was much afraid of the redmen.  To her the word Indian was a synonym for all that was horrible.  Sawba’s band was noted for their love of whiskey.  On one occasion when liquor had been procured and all were drunk, Daniel Hager visited the camp.  Sawba was ill tempered when drunk and was in a mood to have a fight and whipped the white man, not recognizing who he was.  He choked and twisted Hager in a fury of savage delight.  Finally Sewba’s squaw told him who the white man was, when the drunken chief released him considerably the worse for the treatment he had received.

     Joseph Cupp was nicknamed Cupp Haga by Sawba.  He was a devoted Christian and the cunning Indian knew it.  One day, when wanting a favor, Sewba came to the house looking solemn as an owl, rolling his eyes and groaning as if in pain and said “Me feel plenty bad.  Me praying much”.  After frightening the wife of some pioneer by a sudden “hoop” at the door of the cabin and a demand for food—which was never refused—he would relate his exploit with great glee saying “White squaw plenty “fraid”.

     The town was divorced from Vermontville (township) and given its name and separate organization by the legislature on February 14, 1842.  At the first election held that year, thirteen votes were cast.  In 1844 the total number of resident taxpayers was 22 of whom four were Barnums and three answered to the name of Wells.  After its organization there was much doubt as to whether the name given to the township was Somefield or Sunfield.  It was reported that the Legislature was in doubt as to the name desired and called it Somefield but this was a mistake.

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


Last update May 27, 2013