Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 7 Number 6
Transcribed by LaVonne I. Bennett

     LaVonne has received permission from Grayden Slowins to edit and submit Sebewa Recollector items of genealogical interest, from the beginning year of 1965 through current editions.

THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of the The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, June 1972, Volume 7, Number 6



     The false summer of late May of ’72 has left us peeking over acre-inches of grass, uncut until this issue of the Recollector is in the mail. 


     The second Saturday in June this year is June 10 and that is the date our constitution sets for the annual meeting of The Sebewa Center Association.

     There will be the usual pot luck dinner at noon followed by a business meeting and program.  The business at issue as called for by the constitution is the election of a president of the Association for a three-year-term.  A nominating committee named by the Executive Board will submit a nomination and other nomination for the office may be made from the floor.

     For some of our members who might not know the location of Sebewa Center—we are at the center of the Township of Sebewa, Ionia County at the intersection of Bippley and Shilton Roads.  Stated in other terms, Sebewa Center is 3 miles east of M66 on Bippley Road or 4 miles north of M-43 through Sunfield and one mile west on Bippley Road. 


The dues of $1.00 per person ($1 each for Mr. and Mrs.) for the members of the Sebewa Center Association come due in June of each year.  If you do not find it convenient to pay some other way, you may send check or money directly to our treasurer—Miss Mabel Rolston, R 3, Lake Odesssa, MI  48849 


       Mrs. Florence Huyck of Sunfield has supplied us with a snapshot of Welcome “Weck” Lumbert standing in fron of The Farmers Food Basket in Sunfield in 1943.  I have had 100 reprints made and for anyone interested enough to request one of them, the request will be honored with your next bulletin or sooner. 


     Some  repairs that did not quite fit have left some blanks in the top two lines of the last and next to last pages following.  The lines should read “The doctors examined the body carefully and were unable to find any possible evidence that the person came to his death by violence” and the other, “There probably never was a haunted house but some cause, either real or imaginary, was pointed out for it.  In looking around for a cause the minds….”  We’ll try to correct our troubles before another issue.  Did you know I always write the first page last? 


     (Under the heading of NOTES BY THE WAY this little story of travel from Lyons to Benzie appeared in the PORTLAND OBSERVER of 1873.  It is presented here for its flavor and not for its geography lesson as the geographical description was contested in a later issue.  The authors did not identify themselves.)

     We are not in the habit of publishing a diary of our travels, but thinking perhaps some of your readers will be interested to know what we think of the northwest, we will try to give an impartial description as far as we went.

     We took the cars, or rather the cars took us from Lyons Depot (the railroad through Portland was built three years previously) at 2 o’clock PM.  At four we found ourselves at Howard City, a nice little town at the terminus of the D. L. & M. R. R.  There we took the G.R. & I. R. R. and went as far as Clam Lake.  Got there at 10 PM.  It is a small town on a pretty little lake said to be three miles long and one and a half miles wide.

     The next morning at six found us on our way to Traverse City at which place we arrived at 10:30 AM.  This is the nicest located town of about two thousand inhabitants that we ever saw, situated on Grand Traverse Bay about six miles inland.  A splendid harbor, waters clear as a spring brook with an abundance of fish as we are all aware.

     This is the most natural located place for business we ever saw.  But on inquiry we found one great drawback as is the case in many western towns, Portland not excepted viz. some of the oldest settlers owning a great portion of the real estate are holding it at such high prices that it drives business from the place.  Being supplied with a splendid water power, it has every facility for manufacturing of all kinds.

     But to resume our narrative.  We started at noon on foot, being too lake for the Frankfort stage, for Benzie.  We thought it not much of a walk to go twenty miles but found our mistake when out four miles, it being uphill most of the way too.  We paid a farmer to take us to Inland Post Office, a distance of eleven miles, passing on our way several small lakes:  first Duck Lake; next Silver Lake; third Long Lake; fourth Platte Lake, being the head of Platte River; fifth Betsie Lake the head of Betsie river, all of which were beautiful and full of fish, ducks and occasionally could be seen wild geese.

     In the meantime, passing through eight miles of woods, mostly pine and hemlock.  Arriving safe at the post office at five, we left our satchels and started on foot with our guns on our shoulders for our brother’s, a distance of five miles being careful to have our guns well loaded and the chambers of our revolvers well filled where we expected to meet more or less bears and wolves on our road.  But as luck would have it we didn’t see or hear of any.

     At seven we found ourselves in front of our brother’s house, wondering if anybody civilized could content themselves so far back in the woods among the hills and hemlocks and call it home.  But we didn’t stand long before we made a rush for the door where we smelled pork frying.  You may rest assured that our appetites were keen after our walk of ten miles including the crooks in the road.

     Ten minutes later we were seated at the table eating an old fashioned back roads Yankee supper, spending the balance of the evening in talking of friends and his home in the woods.

     Now for the banks, as they call them but we call them mountains, the like of which we had never seen before.  First a hill of from 20 to 40 feet high on what they call the tablelands thence sitting back from one fourth to one half a mile was the main bank where, if you get on top, you could look down on the tops of the pine and hemlock below.  After climbing to the top of some of these mountains we found a great proportion of the land very much unbroken.

     Our curiosity led us to explore some of the third range of mountains, one of which we will speak in particular was, we should judge, about 100 feet high, not over thirty feet across the top, very steep, it reminded us of a potato hole on a large scale.

     Timber is about one third pine and hemlock—balance maple and elms with scattering beech and bassroods.  No stone, all sand, pure white sand hills, tablelands and flats.  And in the bottom of the river the, by the way, this river affords plenty of fish viz. speckled trout, muskellunge, pike, sturgeon etc., large game in this locality was not very plenty.  We were told by the woodsmen that the deer were on the Betsie River at the salt  springs at this season of the year—a distance of about six miles south.

     It commenced snowing about two o’clock the first day we were out, making it impossible to get about in the woods, the ground hemlock being a dense mat all over the ground.  A bush about 2 ½ feet high resembling hemlock boughs being covered with snow would get a person wet to the waist.  Snowing and raining every day during the five days that we stayed, necessarily keeping us indoors most of the time but we were entertained with visitors who came a distance of from two to eight miles to see somebody, as they termed it, from the outside.

     Now the question is “Did God in His wisdom intend this part of Michigan for civilization or for wild beasts of the forest?”  We answer for the beast only.

December 1872. 


     Portland, August 6, 1914—Ten Sunfield automobiles, liberally placarded with advertising matter for Sunfield’s annual Farmer’s Picnic Homecoming, visited Portland Tuesday morning on their booster tour of the vicinity.  Occupants of the various machines were well stocked with noise making devices and Portland was, for the time being, converted into a scene of merrymaking.  The Sunfield Band accompanied the tourists and rendered a couple of selections on Kent Street during the stop here. 


     The Detroit garrison (French) under Col. Beletre surrendered to Major Rogers (British) November 29, 1760.

     The Northwest Territory was now entirely under the English rule.  New settlements began to be rapidly made, and the promise of a large trade was speedily manifested.  Now, had the British carried out their promises with the natives, none of those savage butcheries would have been perpetrated, and the country would have been spared their recital.  All the Indians, from the mouth of Grand River to that of the Huron and from the Upper Peninsula to the prairie villages of Illinois and Indiana, were aroused to a sense of the varied wrongs which the new invaders were determined to effect.  Early in the year, following the surrender of Fort Detroit, the Indians of the North, South, East and West aroused themselves to a realization of the dangers which threatened them, and entered upon a desultory warfare against the British troops.

     The renowned chief, Pontiac, was one of the leading spirits in this guerilla warfare.  The earliest authentic information regarding this noted Indian chief is learned from an account of an Indian trader named Alexander Henry, who, in the spring of 1761, penetrated his domain as far as Missillimacnac.  Pontiac was then a great friend of the French, but a bitter foe of the English, whom he considered as encroaching on his hunting grounds.  Henry was obligated to disguise himself as a Canadian to insure safety, but was discovered by Pontiac, who bitterly reproached  him and the English for their attempted subjugation of the West.  He declared that no treaty had been made with them, no presents sent them, and that he would resent any possession of the West by that nation.  He was at the time about 50 years of age, tall and dignified, and was civil and military ruler of the Ottowas, Pottawatomies, and Otchipses (or Chippewas, or Ojibwas).

     The Indians, from Lake Michigan to the borders of North Carolina, were united in this feeling, and at the time of the treaty of Paris, ratified Feb. 10, 1763, a general conspiracy was formed to fall suddenly upon the frontier British posts, and with one blow strike every man dead.  Pontiac was the marked leader in all this and was the commander of the Chippewas, Ottawas, Wyandots, Miamis, Shawanese, Delawares and the Mingoes, who had, for the time, laid aside their local quarrels to unite in this enterprise.

     From 1761 the great leader was present at the rapids of Grand River, where in the presence of over 3,000 Indians, he laid down his plans for the annihilation of the British troops and traders.  The reception of Pontiac was the most demonstrative action spoken of in the history of the aborigines.  This council was held in April and every band within the Peninsula was represented.  Everything told of war and blood, and as has been truly said “each savage countenance seemed carved in wood, and none could have detected the deep and fiery passions hidden beneath that immovable exterior”.  Pipes, with ornamented stems, where lighted, and passed from hand to hand.

     The noble chief opened his address by setting forth the arrogance, rapacity and injustice of the English, and contrasted their deeds with those of the French.  He declared that the British commandant at Detroit had treated him with neglect and contempt; that the soldiers of that garrison had abused the Indians, and if left alone, would soon come to drive his peaceful hearers from their homes around this beautiful OWASHTENONG  (Grand River).  He fully set forth the danger that would arise to his people should the English gain supremacy.  They had expelled the French, and would soon turn upon the Indians.  He then displayed a broad belt of wampum, stating that he had received it from their great father, the King of France, who would soon come to their assistance.

     The visit was repeated in 1762 and again in 1763.  Many of the Grand River warriors were already in the field, but the terrible Pontiac desired to leave the presence of all, and to this end made a tour of Flint, Saginaw, Huron and Grand River valleys, sending forward from each district warrior bands for the better prosecution of the war against the British.

     The blow came, as near as can now be ascertained, on May 7, 1763.  Nine British posts fell, and the Indians drank, “scooped up in the hollow of Joined hands”, the blood of many a Briton.  Pontiac’s immediate field of action was the garrison at Detroit.  Here, however, the plans were frustrated by an Indian woman disclosing the plot the evening previous to his arrival.  Everything was carried out, however, according to Pontiac’s plans until the moment of action, when Major Gladwyn, the commander of the post, stepping to one of the Indian chiefs, suddenly drew aside his blanket and disclosed the concealed musket.  Pontiac, though a brave man, turned pale and trembled.  He saw his plan was known, and that the garrison were prepared.  He endeavored to exculpate himself from any such intentions; but the guilt was evident, and he and his followers were dismissed with a severe reprimand, and waned never to again enter the walls of the post.

     Pontiac at once laid siege to the fort, and until the treaty of peace between the British and the Western Indians, concluded in August, 1764, continued to harass and besiege the fortress.  He organized a regular commissariat department, issued bills of credit written out on bark, which, to his credit, it may be stated, were punctually redeemed.  At the conclusion of the treaty, in which it seems he took no part, he went further south, living many years among the Illinois.  He had given up all hope of saving his country and race.  After a time he endeavored to unite the Illinois tribe and those about St. Louis in war with the whites.  His efforts were fruitless, and only ended in a quarrel between himself and some Kaskaskie Indians, one of whom soon afterward killed him.  His death was, however, avenged by the Northern Indians, who nearly exterminated the Illinois in the wars which followed.  Had it not been for the treachery of a few of his followers, his plan for the extermination of the whites, a masterly one, would undoubtedly have been carried out.

     By Professor M. A. Leeson, historian for the C. C. Chapman & Co. History of Kent County, Michigan, 1881. 


     November 18, 1873; The Cleanliness of the Hollanders; PORTLAND OBSERVER

     Holland has long been noted as the cleanest country in the world.  Marks of cleanliness are to be seen everywhere.  In the country the cattle are carded and washed.  The forests are annually cleared out of underbrush and of decaying branches while whitewash is applied to farm barns and fences.  In the cities the streets are swept and the sidewalks are scrubbed.  Travelers complain that cleanliness is so rigidly enforced as to be burdensome.

     Before entering a house, one is expected to resort to a method of purification.  In the country the people take off their shoes before entering a house.

     When the Prince of Orange went to govern England he is reported to have taken with him twenty varieties of brooms unknown to Great Britain besides a vast number of scrubbing brushes.

     The greatest display of implements for house cleaning ever witnessed, even in Holland, was in Flushing before the visit of the King to inspect the building of some new docks.  The town authorities offered a reward to the best cleaned and most tastefully trimmed house.  No sooner was the reward made known than everybody went to work with brushes, brooms and cloth.  Doorsteps were polished, door knockers were burnished, panels were waxed, house walls were neatly painted, roofs were cleaned of moss and the joints in the brickwork were filled with white mortar.

     The day before His Majesty arrived was devoted to arranging flower pots on windowsills and festooning the houses with flowers and evergreens.  Never was a city seen to so good an advantage, even in Holland.

     Cleanliness had paid the Dutch in various ways.  Their cheese and butter command the highest price on account of the scrupulous care in making them.  Notwithstanding the unfavorable location of the country, none have been so nearly free from great epidemics.  Amsterdam and Rotterdam have rarely been visited by either typhus or cholera, while the average mortality is less than any neighboring country.                                   The End. 


     In the April issue of THE RECOLLECTOR in the article on The Portland Christian Reformed Church the name of one of the ministers was inadvertently omitted.

     The corrected list is as follows:

Rev. Wm. Alkema                  1925-28

Rev. Lambert Van Haitsma 1929-43

Rev. Dick Oostenink              1943-45

Rev. Bernard T. Haan           1946-1949

Rev. Andrew DeVries            1950-55

Rev. Richard Vande Kieft    1955-59

Rev. William Vande Kieft    1959-62

Rev. Harmon Kuizema         1962 


     Written for the children of Sunfield, Heritage Day, Michigan Week, May 1972—by Mrs. Richard Berg

     People have long thought that Sunfield didn’t begin until the late 1880’s when the railroad was built; but in 1878 the Editor of the PORTLAND OBSERVER wrote “Sunfield is booming!  Two new stores are going up and there is a sawmill, cheese factory, livery, blacksmith furniture store and many others”.  The railroad did not cause Sunfield to begin, but it did keep it alive.  So it seems that Sunfield is now about 94 years old.

     The sawmills cleared the land and sawed logs into boards for buildings.  The small logs, they laid close together to make roads in wet places.  These were called corduroy roads and at the GAR Hall you will see a place of one that was dug on Jackson street last summer, about three feet beneath the present street.

     Another early business was brick-making.  The clay from the pit on what is now Dale Steward’s farm made bricks of a soft yellow color.  Two of the houses made from Sunfield brick are at the corner of First and Washington Sts.  This brick yard was very busy.  In one week it shipped 100,000 bricks to the new town of Lake Odessa.

     Did you know that some of Sunfield is in Greenfield Village?  The old building next to the railroad tracks used to be a flour mill.  In 1929 when Henry Ford was collecting things for his museum, he came to Sunfield and bought the old machinery from that mill as well as the hitching posts and rails that had been on Main Street.  Ask to see them next time you go to Greenfield Village!

     The first school was made of logs and stood on the south side of M-43 as you go toward Lake Odessa, just about where our Village limits sign is.  It was called the Burns School because it was near a Mr. Burns’ house.  It was built in 1845 and was used until 1856 when Mr. John Dow gave ¼ acre of land which is now the northeast corner of First St. and M-43 and a new frame schoolhouse was built.  This was also used for meetings, elections and entertainments until the present school was built in 1893.   The old school was moved up on First St. and was the Methodist Church.  Later it was made into a home and is now the Shiltons’ house.

     When people moved into town from the country they brought their livestock with them and it was common to see pigs, cows and chickens wandering down the streets.  Most people had a barn which housed not only the animals, but a bright, shiny buggy and a horse or two for pulling it.  It was 1907 when the first automobile came to Sunfield and in 1908 there were six of them.

     The printing office of the SUNFIELD SUN was where the Fixit Shop is now and on the opposite corner was a big 2-story wood building owned by a Dr. VanAndee.  He was also a druggist, the postmaster and sold drugs and groceries.

     The people worked very hard, but they liked fun too.  Such things as singing school spelling bees, dances and the ever-popular baseball, which they played in a pasture that is now a part of our park.  The Sunfield Cornet Band was popular far and near and played for fairs, picnics and parades and gave weekly concerts in the band stand that stood where the Fargo Station is.

     In 1899 the village incorporated so it could govern itself and Joel Bera, grandfather of Jack and Larry Mapes was the first Village President.  The Village Hall was built in 1904 and the first electricity in Sunfield was made in the rear of the building in 1920.  The Sunfield Historical Society hopes you will enjoy seeing their display at the GAR Hall today and that you will want to learn more about the people who worked so hard to make a place for you and me to live. 


     Portland Observer April 26, 1876—On Friday last, word was sent us by the mail carrier between Sunfield and Portland that the neighborhood of the haunted house, situated in the southeast corner of Sebewa, had been thrown into a state of excitement by the discovery of a dead body secreted in a hollow log a few rods from the said haunted house.

     Soon the news of the startling discovery began to spread and people from that vicinity who visited this village on that and the following day found plenty of business answering questions propounded by persons anxious to find out all about it.  This might have been easy enough had not each person told a different story to the one preceding him or added so much thereto that one was forced to believe that there was no bottom to the thing.

     Desiring to give the readers of the OBSERVER as authentic an account of the matter as possible, we procured the use of a horse and buggy and visited the neighborhood.  Driving directly to the house of Esquire Hines, the justice of the peace who impaneled the jury for the inquest held on the remains, we were disappointed at finding he had left home a few minutes before our arrival and would not return home until evening.

     A neighbor across the way who lives almost in sight of the house, however, invited us in and after giving us what information he was in possession of in regard to the mysterious affair, directed us to the house of Mr. Henry Figg, foreman of the jury and an old resident of the neighborhood.  We found Mr. Figg ready and willing to give us the desired information and beginning with the story of the haunted house.

      He said that Mr. Norris, who lives on the place, purchased it some four or five years ago of Mr. William Turner and shortly afterward moved into the log house vacated by Mr. Turner, where he lived two or three years during which time he put a new roof on his house.  Shortly after putting on the new roof, Mr. Norris commenced the erection of a new house some distance from the old one and as soon as completed, moved into it.  This somewhat surprised his neighbors but it afterwards came out that the old house was haunted and Mr. Norris gave that as his reason for leaving it saying that he had lived there as long as he could stand it.

      His account of the performances of the spook created quite an excitement and during last winter as our Sunfield correspondent informed our readers at the time, the house was visited by hundreds of persons who in companies of from four to thirty-seven stayed there nights and watched for the spook.  Mr. Figg said he had never investigated the spook business, himself, but his brother-in-law, who lives with him, had stayed in the house six nights on three of which he heard strange noises.

     On one of these nights he said that the company was startled by heavy footsteps in one corner overhead, which proceeded across the floor to the opposite corner where there was a common ladder reaching to the lower floor.  As the invisible spook came down the ladder, the creaking of the rounds was so natural that a dog, belonging to one of the company, that was quietly snoozing at the foot of the ladder, arose to his feet and moved out of the way as if to avoid being stepped on and afterwards went back and laid down in the same place.  So much for the haunted house said Mr. Figg.

     There probably was never a haunted house but some cause either real or imaginary was pointed out for it.  In looking around for a cause the minds of the old settlers went back some eight or nine years when a young man by the name of Clark was said to have come to that neighborhood from Ohio and stopped at this house for several days and who suddenly came up missing.  It was also stated that Old Turner, who was then living there was known to have been in possession of Clark’s gun, dog and satchel after Clark disappeared and that Turner accounted for his disappearance by stating that he had gone north in search of land.  Clark, it is said, has never been heard of since although his relatives in Ohio have made diligent search for him.  The information on this point, however differs greatly as told by different persons and Mr. Figg said what he told was only hearsay.  However, the story has furnished the foundation for a cause for the house being haunted.  People had even gone so far as to search for the body of Clark by digging about the premises and removing a portion of the stable floor.  Although this was done, we are informed, upon the story of a spiritualist medium who said that a murder had been committed and the body was buried near the house.  The search proved fruitless and the excitement was subsiding somewhat until the discovery of the body above mentioned last Thursday afternoon under the following circumstances.

     Mr. Alexander Field, who recently purchased the land on the opposite side of the road from the Norris place was preparing to clear off an old slashing opposite the haunted house and in crossing the slashing he came to a large hollow basswood log which had fallen across another log and had been broken in two and split some distance from the butt so there was a large crack in the log.  Thinking that the log was dry and would burn up, Mr. Field struck a match and was about to set fire to dry leaves in the opening when he discovered in the hollow of the log something resembling a human skull.

     In turning it over with a stick he found it to be one.  In looking further into the log, saw other human bones.  Considerably frightened, he went to the house and sent his little girl for Justice Hines.  Mr. Hines went, in company with Mr. Field to the log and after seeing the remains immediately took the necessary steps to legally investigate the matter.

     The news spread like wildfire and soon fifty or more of the neighbors were on the spot.  It, having become nearly dark by this time, it was decided not to remove the body from the log till morning and a guard was placed over it.  On Friday morning Justice Hines summoned a jury consisting of the following persons:  Henry Figg, L. M. Peck, Zal Peck, Leslie Peck, Daniel Hyde, M. Trim and A. Figg.  Drs. Palmeter of Vermontville and Albro of Sebewa were also summoned.

      Upon removing the remains from the log, they were found to consist of the skull and jaw bones and one shoulder blade, the bones of one arm and eleven ribs.  This was all that was found of the upper portion of the body.  The flesh was all gone from these bones, a portion of the hair was still on the scalp and the dried brains were in the skull.

     Of the lower part of the body there was a portion of the backbone and legs down to the ankle joints.  The skin and flesh down to the knees were still on the bones and were shrunken and dried almost as hard as a board.  On the outside of this portion of the body were found remnants of thin cloth resembling calico, indicating it had been wrapped up at some time.  The cavities in the bones were filled with sand and clay showing it had been at some time buried in the ground.  The flesh upon the hips and legs was flattened out as if the body had been on a board when soft and dried in that position.

     The doctors examined the body carefully and were unable to find any possible evidence that the person came to his death by violence.  The body had evidently laid in the log but a few days and to have been placed there by someone very recently.  Several witnesses were sworn but the jury failed to get hold of any evidence that threw light on the affair and their finding was simply that the body of an unknown person who met his death by some unknown cause.

     The remains were buried on Friday.  The matter created great excitement in that vicinity and the spot was visited on Friday by over two hundred persons.  All kinds of stories are afloat as to how the body came there.  Some contend that the Spiritualists are at the bottom of it.  They obtained the body and placed it in the log so that their sayso that something was about to happen might be sustained.

     One informant, Mr. Figg, is not a believer in this theory and gives many good reasons why it could not be so.  Others believe that the person, whoever it was, met with foul play and the perpetrator of the dead, fearing that the body would be discovered, took it from where it was secreted and put it into the log, thinking it would be burned up when the slashing was cleared.

     We have been given an account of the affair as it was related to us by Mr. Figg, who, from his long residence in the neighborhood and his position as foreman of the jury, doubtless has as full a knowledge of it as anyone.  Everything aside from finding the body in the log in the condition above described is, in a great measure, conjecture and we shall have to await future developments for a solution of the mystery.

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


Last update May 13, 2013