Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 6 Number 5
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, April 1971, Volume 6, Number 5



     Through the winter months the subject of taxes has been a frequent conversation topic.  Last year Ionia County property was re-evaluated by a commercial firm to bring the assessment in line with the State Equalized Valuation, a figure that is presumed to be one half the true cash value of the property.  The most of the ??? property had its assessed valuation raised.  Under that assessment, here is how Sebewa Township fared:

     Valuation, Real Estate, $3,799,600.00; Personal $109,200.00; Total $3,908,800.00

     Taxes collected:  Schools—Lakewood $62,284.00, Portland $9,951.00, Travis, Knox and Intermediate $7,999.00


                     Township          3,908.00

                     County            20,912.00

                                          $105,054.00  Total Tax

How was it in 1920—50 years ago?

     Total valuation                                    $1,604,980.00

     Taxes:   School                   6,637.00

     Township Operating            1,400.00

     Township Highway              3,500.00

     Returned Roadwork             2,802.00

                                                                   $14,309.00 County:

     Soldiers’ Relief                    4,106.00

     Road Tax                              2,312.00

     Covert Road                         2,262.00

     Covert at Large                     1,678.00


      State Tax                                    7,175.00

      Total Tax                                   31,842.00

Or 100 years ago—1870?

      Total Valuation   $112,600.00

      State Tax                      233.18

      County Tax                   476.45

      Township Tax               250.00

      School Tax              1,667.00

      Total Tax          2,626.62 

A STORY OF THE REEDER FAMILY   Written by Mrs. Millie Hanna (about 1930)

     William Reeder was born March 21, 1815 in the state of New Jersey and died February 22, 1876 at his home in Sunfield.  He went from the state of New Jersey to New York, met and married Ellen Hyer.  Ellen Hyer was born May 7, 1817, and died at her home in Sunfield January 31, 1879.  To this union ten children were born, three of whom were born in the state of New York, town of LeRoy.

     Grandpa Reeder decided to come to Michigan and came down to Lake Erie in a Canal Boat.  They were all seasick and on that trip across Lake Erie and on that boat was a young man named Jacob Cunningham, who cared for them during the trip.  The family was very grateful to him.  They finished the rest of the journey by ox-team and finally located on what is was known as the George Alleman and Briggs Farm, owning 160 acres of land.  (This farm was in sections 31 and 32, Sebewa—80 acres on each side of Kimmel Road at Tupper Lake Road.)  There is still a little cemetery there belonging to the Reeder heirs.  (This is sometimes known as the Carpenter cemetery.  Both Carpenters and Reeders were buried there.  In 1905 the cemetery was discontinued.  The Carpenters were reburied in the Sebewa Baptist Cemetery and the Reeders in Sebewa East Cemetery.)  Grandpa Reeder sold the land in Sebewa and bought 160 acres of land, the present location of William Fleetham.  (Section 1, Sunfield township).

     Grandfather Reeder was a sort of a handy man, he could carpenter, blacksmith, make shoes and was a farmer.  By these means he was able to bring money in for the use of family.  Money in those days was very scarce, there being no market for anything they might raise.  In fact, they could not raise much for the forests were so dense and the roads were mere trails.  Grandma Reeder in her young days had taken sewing and dancing lessons and many was the quilting and dancing party held in their home.

     The deer were so tame that they would come up and eat out of the childrens’ hands.  The Indians would pass by their home going from Shimnecon to Saubee Lake.  Grandmother could talk with the Indians.  They bartered baskets, bead work and deer meat for foodstuffs.  One time in particular I remember of my mother telling about the year of the sick wheat.  The Indians came for some wheat and they thought that Grandmother didn’t want them to have it for she told them that it would make their squaws sick.  She finally let them have some.  In a short time they were back for her to come and doctor up their squaws.  When passing by, they would ride their ponies, and if they stopped at the house they would always leave their papooses at the gate.  They were afraid of Grandpa Reeder.  They called him Big White Chief, although sometimes they stayed and smoked the pipe of peace.  When they did they would roll up in their blankets and sleep with their heads to the fireplace.  Grandpa Reeder was a progressive man, being among the first who had a team of horses, one of the first to have a mowing machine, which had to have the horse on the run to make it cut hay.  Grandma had a copper boiler, a wringer, a cistern and one of the first washing machines put out and the first sewing machine.

     Henry H. Reeder was born May 31, 1827 and passed away at the home of Mrs. Della Parker October 11, 1912.  Henry Reeder was married to Caroline Sanders.  To this union seven children were born, three of whom survive; Mrs. Della Parker, Mrs. Emma Oliver and Mrs. Lily Newsom.  How Uncle Henry loved to talk of old times!  He played the violin and his favorite piece was “Money Must”, and “Turkey in the Straw”.  He played for dances but later on became a devoted Christian and lived a Christian life.

   This little instance I will relate of Uncle Henry to show what hardships the older people had to pass through.  Grandpa Reeder went to mill with an ox-team.  They had to take along an axe to chop away any fallen trees.  He was gone longer than usual.  They had no corn meal and only flour enough to make a crust, which Grandma made.  Then as there was nothing for filling except unripe elderberries, she sent the youngsters to gather them.  They all ate of it and it made Uncle Henry very sick so he could never eat elderberry pie after that.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Caroline came to visit my people and Mother passed the pie to Aunt Caroline and then went into the buttery.  Aunt Caroline passed it to Uncle Henry and he said “I don’t want any of that”.  Aunt Caroline said “Yes you do Uncle Henry, that is huckleberry pie”.  “I have been fooled enough on that.  I don’t want any of it”.  Mother overhearing the conversation came out and said “Yes Henry, that is huckleberry pie”.  “All right I’ll have a piece then” he said.

     John S. Reeder, born July 10, 1838, passes away at his home in Sebewa January 22, 1891.  He was married first to Mary Frazer and to this union one child was born, Ella Reeder Barton.  Later he was married to Harriet Rhine and to this union three children were born; Mary and John survive.

     There was a circus coming to Portland and Grandpa Reeder promised all the older children they might go to the circus if the older boys would hoe so many rows of corn.  Uncle Henry and Uncle John, being the older boys, had to hoe the corn.  All went well until George Trim came across the field and urged them to go fishing.  Of course Uncle Henry would not go; but Uncle John went.  Uncle Henry was afraid they wouldn’t get to go to the circus, so he hoed corn all the faster that he might finish his own rows and Uncle John’s too so they could go.  That night Grandpa Reeder gave each one a quarter, which would admit them to the circus.  He gave Uncle Henry and Uncle John the privilege of driving the ox-team down and back as they were the oldest.  My mother said that they had a wonderful time.  What would the boys and girls of today think of such a treat?

     Mary E. Reeder was born April 3, 1841 and passed away at her home in Sunfield December 19, 1905.  She married John Fleetham and to this union six children were born, three of whom survive:  Henry, Edgar and Joseph.  Later she married Dr. George W. Lusk and of their two children Sarah Nickles survives.  Aunt Mary always went by the name of Aunt Lib.  We all loved to eat with Aunt Lib, for we thought her a wonderful cook.

     I will relate an instance told me by Mrs. Rumfield, my nearest neighbor.  She said Grandpa Reeder and Aunt Lib talked with some of the older children and walked to her home to quilt a quilt.  She didn’t have the quilt on the frame, so they all turned in and helped put it on.  Then she sent her girls into the kitchen to get the dinner.  They made a boiled dinner and a johnny cake.  That was a treat to Grandma Reeder as their babbage didn’t do well that year.  She said you would have to know a week ahead and then tire yourself all out getting delicacies ready and when your company came, you wouldn’t have a good time at all.  They quilted the quilt and then Mrs. Rumfield went a mile piece with them home, which was customary in those days.

     William Oscar Reeder was born February 16, 1844 and passed away at his home in Sinfield September 24, 1869.  Oscar Reeder was married to Hannah Bidwell.  To this union two children were born and Orin Reeder survives.

     Of Uncle Oscar we haven’t much to say as he passed in young manhood.  I remember my mother relating this incident.  A new barn had been built across the road from the present home of William Fleetham and a dance was in order.  Uncle Oscar wanted a partner so he went to Sebewa and got Nellie Carpenter.  As soon as she found it was a barn dance she made him take her home.  So you see the girls then were as notional as are the girls of today.

     Benjamin D. Reeder was born February 24, 1848 and passed away at his home in Charlotte January 10, 1915.  He was first married to Alinda Dunham.  Both children born to them have passed away.  He was later married to Florence Frayer.  Their children were Claud and Maud.  Uncle Ben was a farmer, could carpenter some, was always whistling about his work and dearly loved to talk politics.

     Cordelia E. Reeder was born January 29, 1852 and died at the home of Mrs. Millie Hanna March 12, 1917.  She was married to James Cure.  Her children were Millie and Hiram.  After having the measles, Mother’s eyesight was very poor.  She had granulated eyelids, was near-sighted and had to leave school.  They told Dad that she should go to Grand Rapids to see a specialist.  Grand Rapids was then a small town with no street cars or city conveniences.  They all got together and made Ma a brown suiting dress.  They got up at two o’clock in the morning and Uncle Ben Reeder took them to Vermontville to take the train.  After arriving at Grand Rapids they went to a restaurant, had dinner and went to the eye specialist to have her eyes examined.  They told her in two weeks they could cure her.  Then Grandma told them that she had no money but that her husband had a position of building a barn (that barn was built for Elliot Wyman’s father and still stands).  They told her that they would take the case and she went back to the restaurant, stating the same to them, and they said she might stay.  As Grandma had no money to leave for postage, she asked them to let her know if anything happened.  Then at the end of two weeks she came for Mother and had the money.  They told her she was prompt in meeting her obligations.

     Phebe A. Reeder was born March 26, 1855 and passed away at her home in Sunfield April 30, 1879.  She was married to John Dunham.  Mrs. Litchfield told me that Aunt Phebe could cut the most peculiar shapes out of paper and frequently cut shelf paper for the neighbors as they were unable to buy shelf paper in those days.

     James LeRoy Reeder was born November 4, 1857 and passed away at home in Sebewa February 1?, 1876.  As he was less than two years old we haven’t much to say of him except that a letter written by Grandma’s sister said “Kiss little James for me”.

     Jane L. Reeder was born October 1, 1846 and passed away at home in Sebewa.  She was married to David Dilley.  Of their three children Mary Dilley Nickle survives.  Aunt Jane was always sickly.  Grandma Reeder gave a quilting at her home and they thought they ought to take Aunt Jane home.  Grandpa Reeder had a team of colts and he drove them up in the driveway to wait.  Edgar Fleetham, then a small boy, got into the wagon just as Ella Reeder Barton ran out with a sheepskin over her head.  This frightened the horses and they ran.  Uncle Sam, thinking he could catch them, grabbed them by the head.  They threw him down and took his hat off.  This caused quite a bit of excitement.  We ran to the window and looked in that direction to see how Edgar came out.  He came out all right as he is here to testify to that.                      The end.

     A cross reference to the Reeder family may be found in the 1850 census of Sebewa published in the March 1966 Recollector.  Our thanks to John Fleetham for furnishing this Reeder family report. 


     (Sheldon R. Curtiss was a young soldier from Saranac.  After the war he became the father of Evelyn Curtiss Lowrey, who was married to the late Harvy Lowrey, former Ionia County School Commissioner and well known to rural school pupils during his term of office.  Mrs. Lowrey died in early 1971 at the age of 93.  She was the youngest of the seven Curtiss children.)

     My first vote was for Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  In 1862 Lincoln called for volunteers and I enlisted.  We young soldiers sang in those days, “We are Coming Father Abraham, 100,000 strong”, that our flag might be protected and our Country not be “Divided against itself.”

     For about two months Company M. 6th Michigan Cavalry were stationed at Grand Rapids for training.  The horses were trained, as well as the men, to make right and left swings, jumping fences and ditches, bugle calls and guard duty.  The 5th, 6th and 7th Cavalry were stationed here and were known as Custer’s famous Michigan Cavalry Brigade.

     After this we were ordered to Washington.  Our horses were carred by freight and we had good passenger cars.  The car in which my Company was riding was derailed near Baltimore.  I pulled the rope in time to stop the train and no damage was done, but we were delayed for about two hours.  It was thought the switch was left open by the enemy.  We were two days in reaching Washington, tired and hungry.  There were so many of us that when eating breakfast, we were obliged to stand with our sides to the table as there was not enough room to face it.

     Our new encampment was soon equipped with tents, cooks (I was a cook) and rations which consisted of black coffee with brown sugar, hard-tack and beans.  We were stationed here most of the winter.

     We were put on detached duty along the Potomac Canal and River to guard against “Mosby’s Guerillas” who did their desperate work in the night, turning their prisoners over to the Rebel Army and destroying Government property.

     We had many battles such as Harpers Ferry, Rockvill Coal Harbor, Battle of the Wilderness and others.  During the time of the Gettysburg Battle, we were holding the crossing at Harpers Ferry.  The roar of the guns continued for several days.  The Rebels were entrenched behind us.  We got them out by backing a long freight train with iron clad cars and artillery in the rear of the train.  We fired for an hour or two and held the enemy back.

     About this time we were sent about 20 miles up the Potomoc to Falling Waters.  Here we found Lee’s Army had built a pontoon bridge across the River.  This was made of boats anchored side by side with stringer planks laid from one to the other.  Whole armies could cross this bridge.  Our men were hiding in shrubbery along the River when the Rebel Army came skulking along.  Our men came from the bushes with their revolvers leveled upon them, giving orders to dismount and lay down their arms and give themselves up.  This they did and were taken prisoners.  Our Company destroyed the pontoon bridge, dumped their wagons of supplies into the Potomac and took the prisoners back to Harpers Ferry where they were sent to Washington.  The capturing of these men and this bridge was a great victory for the Union men.  Later there was a hard battle at Falling Waters for the Rebel Army were not able to cross the Pontoon Bridge as they had anticipated and came to defeat.

     Since the backbone of the Confederacy had been broken at Gettysburg we had been having victories here and there and little thought as we were marching these prisoners to headquarters that the tables would be turned and ours would be a like fate—NO—not a like fate, but a far worse fate, for nothing could compare with the terrible outrages of the Rebel Prison at Andersonville.

     We had a hard fight and some of our train was cut off near Chancellorsville.  We were captured while trying to make our escape to Blue Ridge.  The Rebs used us very mean.  They took everything we had, our boats, our “cup money”, robbed us of everything.

     We marched at daylight for New Canton.   Citizens with shotguns followed us.  My feet were very sore as I was not used to marching on foot, being a Cavalryman.  Next day we were stowed into old boats and started for Richmond like so many hogs.  We traveled all night.  We had nothing but raw meal and onions to eat.  We arrived in Richmond at eleven in the night.

     Next morning we were formed in line and counted and marched to the old Libby Prison.  We drew small pieces of Indian bread, a piece of maggoty bacon and a few beans.  The Union men were confined in the lower part of the Prison where it was so damp and unhealthy that mold actually accumulated on prisoner’s beards.  Many noble men closed their eyes forever to the scenes and sufferings that surrounded them.  From this prison a tunnel was dug underneath the ground through which about sixty men escaped and some succeeded in reaching the Union lines.

     From this prison we were loaded into box cars, closely crowded but with little to eat or drink.  Our suffering was great and the filthiness of the cars was beyond description.  There were no physical facilities provided.  Late on June 29th we arrived at our destination—Andersonville Prison.

     The prison was made by setting logs in the ground side by side, running up some fourteen feet.  Before entering the prison we were taken to the quarters of the commanding officer, where, for the first time we saw that heartless wretch called Wirttz.  We were glad to get away from his profanity.

     I shall never forget the gloominess of that afternoon when we were put inside the stockade (prison).  I was surprised and horror stricken.  Hope was gone and death seemed stamped on everything.  The air was full of deathly odors rising from the filthy ground and the water was putrid from the wash of the prison.  A long row of our boys who had died during the day lay on the right as we passed through the gate.  The number would be added to, until morning, when the “Dead Wagon” would take them to the place of burial.

     The stockade prison enclosed about twenty acres, which in a short time was enlarged to thirty acres.  Guards could be seen on top of the stockade at intervals of about five rods all around the prison.  There was a line staked out some twenty feet from the stockade that was called the “Dead Line”, beyond which, it was sure death to go.

     That first night four of us laid down in the rain under our one blanket, weary, hungry and sad but in a short time were awakened by robbers that infested the prison.  One of these fellows stood over me with a large club, another held a razor over the throat of the one next to me, while another looked over a roll containing writing material, needles, thread, etc.  I held my gold pen under my tongue and the holder was in the seam of my pants.  I got comfort in writing home and averaged writing three to five letters a month.  I received no letters and how I longed for them.  I learned six months later that none of my letters were sent home.

     Days and weeks passed by and October found us hungry, cold waiting and hoping for release.  To walk about from point to point was not a pleasant mode of pastime.  One needed a stout heart to walk down by the old prison gate in the morning and look at the long row of our dead comrades awaiting the “Dead Wagon”.

     We had but little reading matter and a newspaper hardly ever found its way inside the prison.  We tried to sing but our hearts were too heavy for that.  I had a Bible which was not taken from me in all the searching through which we passed.  This was often called for and read carefully by the boys.

     Rations were withheld three days from the whole prison because a few had been caught planning to escape, and this at a time when we were almost reduced to absolute starvation.

     Wells were dug to a great depth in an effort to get pure water but not much could be obtained in that way.  The suffering for it was great until the “Providence Spring” broke out.  This spring was so named because it was looked upon by many as a direct gift from God.  I have drunk from many a fountain of living water but I never found one so sweet and so pure.  How eagerly we crowded up to get a draught from that pure fountain, and how we hastened with a cup of it to a helpless comrade racked with pain and burning with fever!  How thankfully the sufferers received it!  I have no doubt that many of us live today that would not have survived without it.

     Finally a detachment of a thousand men were sent into the stockades in Milan, Georgia.  This was a much better place to be than the one we left at Andersonville.

     We met a Michigan man here.  He was in the Rebel service because he had property in Richmond, Virginia.  He was in sympathy with the North but dared not be seen talking with a Union soldier.  Through his efforts we were relieved from prison to work for him in a rebel eating house and bakery.  (Curtiss was a cook in the army).  During my first day out, General Winder of the Rebel army came for me and asked, with oaths, what I was doing.  He told me the tent I was putting up belonged to him and he didn’t want anything to happen to it.  Shortly after this he was taken sick and I was requested to prepare and carry to him some food.  I told him I had prepared it the best I could with what I had to do with.  It was not as good as my mother would do but I hoped it would taste good to him.  At this time he had gotten beyond swearing.

     This heartless Gen. Winder was one of the men who helped to plan Andersonville Prison.  He made his boast that they “would kill more men there than in battle”.  He had cursed at me as I was putting up his tent and making my bunk, but while he was sick at Mahlon, I had fed him and later I learned while we were at Savannah he was taken sick again and died under the tent I had staked and on the bunk I had made.  “If thy enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink”.

     Our Michigan friend had received orders to leave Mahlon.  Sherman was on his famous ride from Atlanta to the Sea and was very near Mahlon, so we were getting away, we didn’t know where.  We loaded all supplies on the train and went with him.  This time we located near Savannah.  In the middle of the night our Michigan friend came to our tent and told me he thought he could work us through to our lines as a nurse for the sick soldiers who were leaving.  We decided to go.  We went to where the sick were and answered to our description papers.  There were many sick leaving.  We marched through the streets of Savannah to a large Rebel flat-boat and were carried down the Savannah River to our lines.  We saw in the distance on one of our Union gun boats, our Flag, the grand old Stars and Stripes.  It was the first time I had seen our flag since before I was taken prisoner, over six months previous.  I shall never forget how blessed it looked to us.  It seemed like being brought back to God’s Country.

     We reached our lines where the gun boat was guarding between the North and South.  We soon passed this line and came to one of our Government transports.  We were transferred to this in the early evening and it took all night to unload.  Some of the men were too weak to walk the plank.  Early in the morning we were ordered out on deck to remove all our clothing, together with the “Gray Backs” which might be crawling here and there.  All this was thrown into the Atlantic.  The sailors threw out long ropes with buckets to get water for their bathing.  It surely seemed good to have some care for our welfare once again and to be treated like real men.

     We were four days on the Atlantic toward Annapolis, Maryland, where our parole was located.  While on the boat I had a letter ready to send home and the Captain mailed it when we landed.  This was the first letter that had reached my home for over six months although I had written many.

     As our transport was being anchored, we were notified by one of our soldiers that we were to have a furlough of thirty days.  As soon as we received our papers, we were on our way home, reaching Ionia, Michigan at daybreak one morning.  No one knew we were coming, so we started on foot to our home about nine miles away.  We went by the way of the aged parents of the Michigan man who had befriended us, whom we had left in Savannah.  They had not heard from their son for three years and to them it was almost like hearing from the dead.

     We were soon united with my wife, Abby, and our little girl, Rosa, whom we had left behind with the new baby, Lillian Abby, whom I had never seen.  She was over a year old now.                                             The end. 


     Sheldon R. Curtiss lived to be 84 years old but never had the pleasure of visiting the Providence Spring as it is now, a National Shrine; nor the National Cemetery where out of the 52,345 comrades who were confined in the Andersonville Prison, 13,900 are buried.  Through the help of the Government, Mr. Curtiss was able to locate the marker of his brother-in-law, George Barnard, who starved to death there and also the number of his grave.

     The pavilion over Providence Spring was erected by the W. R. C.  Inscribed on it is:  “The prisoners cry of thirst rang up to Heaven, God heard and with His thunder cleft the earth and poured His sweetest waters gushing here”.

     Andersonville Prison Park-National Cemetery is located at Andersonville, Georgia, approximately 120 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia.

     For a detailed account of life at Andersonville Prison read the historical novel, Andersonville, by MacKinley Kantor.

     Our thanks to Mrs. Ariel Morris for relaying the Sheldon Curtiss story to the RECOLLECTOR.     


     (From The Michigan Pioneer Collection); Read at Ionia May 27, 1893 on the 60th anniversary of their arrival.

     Some recollections of my father, Samuel Dexter and the pioneers that settled in Ionia.  Of their journey and arrival in Ionia.

     My father visited Michigan in the fall of 1832 and through letters which he published others were induced to come to Michigan.  He and Mr. Erastus Yeomans bought a canal boat, a scow, and fitted it up to move the families and as many of our household goods as possible to Buffalo.

     We started from Frankfort Village, Herkimer County, N.Y. April 22, 1833 with three families; Mr. Yeomans’, Oliver Arnold’s and Samuel Dexter’s, using their own horses to draw the boat.  The boat’s name was Walk-in-the-Water but someone wrote on the side of the boat with chalk “Michigan Caravan”.  I think at Utica, Mr. Joe Guild and his brother, Edward, and families embarked with us.  We traveled by day and at night had to go ashore to sleep at hotels.  At Syracuse Mr. Darius Windsor and family cast their lot with the rest.  The boat was a motley sight.  The deck was piled with wagons, taken to pieces and bound on and every conceivable thing that could be taken to use in such a country where there was nothing to be bought.

     From Buffalo to Detroit we came by steamer SUPERIOR.  Of our trip on the lake I remember little besides the seasickness.  At Detroit we procured oxen and cows and as much cooked provisions as possible and started our journey through the wilderness.  There were 63 people all told in the party.

     The first day out from Detroit we could make but seven miles because the roads were so heavy.  At Pontiac we stayed one night.  This was at that time a very small place and had a rather hard name, so much so that if anyone wanted to send a person to a bad place, he would say “You go to Pontiac”.

     About 20 miles west of Pontiac we stopped one night with a Mr. Gage and his young wife and baby.  I think they had no neighbors nearer than Pontiac and he complained that neighbors were getting too near.  Their hogs bothered him.

     From this time we had to camp out nights.  At Shiawassee there was one French family also two brothers by the name of Williams who were Indian traders.  One of them my father hired to pilot us to Ionia.  From Shiawassee there had never been a wagon through and much of the way we had to cut the road as we went along.  At Shiawasee there were three children sick with canker rash or scarlet fever.  A son of Edward Guild, myself and my younger brother, Riley Dexter.  We stayed over one day during a heavy rainstorm.  The Guild boy and myself soon got better but little brother got worse when we were in the heavy timberland about 30 miles east of Ionia.  The dear little boy died about four o’clock in the afternoon.  Mr. Guild had a small trunk which he let us use for a coffin and he was laid in the grave by the light of the campfires, which were burning.  My father made a feeling prayer before the coffin was placed in the grave.  They piled the grave high with logs to protect it from wolves.  They also carved his name, age and date of death on a large tree before leaving the place.

     There was a French trader living in Muir who had a squaw for a wife.  His name was Generaux.  There was also a white man living at Lyons by the name of Belcher.  Those were all the inhabitants on the river except Indians until you reached Grand Rapids and I think there were but two white families there.

     I must tell you that most of the teams that brought us from Detroit were ox teams.  We had much trouble in crossing marshes and fording streams.  Many women walked and sometimes when we got stuck in the marshes the men had to carry them ashore.  At night, where we camped, the men would build great fires by a log and the women would cook the meals.  They had to make biscuits in tin bakers up in front of the fire.  I think those were times that tried women’s souls.

     When we arrived at Ionia there was a large company of Indians living there.  They had planted corn, melons and squashes and did not like to leave, but through the aid of our interpreter, Father was able to pay them for their improvements and they left peaceably.  There were five wigwams built of bark.  Four of them were down by the river.  They were very small, not more than ten feet square.  Each had two bunks on one side, one above the other.  The other wigwam was a few rods south, east of where the Novelty Mill now stands in the midst of the cornfields.  This one was 12 by 14 feet square with a doorway at each end at which we hung up blankets for doors.  My father’s family occupied this one.

     On two sides of this wigwam was a low platform wide enough to lay a bed.  On this we made up four beds and had a little space between the foot of the beds to tuck in the little ones.  In the center the earth was hollowed where the Indians had had fire.  The roof in the center had an opening for the smoke to escape.  It also served to let in the rain and one morning after a heavy rain when the creek had overflowed and run down the path into the wigwams, Mother’s shoes were floating on the pool in this fireplace.

     Our goods were mostly sent around the lakes to be left at Grand Haven together with provisions and as there was no transportation except by pole boat, it was a long tedious task to get the goods up from Grand Haven.  For a table the men drove stakes in the ground and put sticks across them.  Then they laid the sideboards of our wagon boxes for a top.  So you see we had the first extension table in Ionia.

     Joe Guild and family went directly to Grand Rapids to live but the rest of us lived in the wigwams until they could build big houses to live in.  The first corn raised was pounded in a large mortar the Indians had dug out in a large hollow stump.  The same fall my father brought from Detroit a large coffee mill with two handles with which two men could grind corn.  All the settlers had their corn ground in this coffee mill that winter.  The next year my father bought a small run of stone and put it in his sawmill to run by water and with this the first wheat raised in Ionia County was ground.  It was unbolted flour.  Later my father built a grist mill which has been remodeled and is now known as the Novelty Mills.

     Mr. Windsor had a little daughter sick with consumption who did not long survive after arrival.  Eugene Windsor was born that first fall and was the first white child born in Ionia County.

     I want to pay this tribute to the Indians.  They were very kind and peaceable and seldom gave us any trouble—never any serious trouble.

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


Last update May 27, 2013