Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 8 Number 3
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, December 1972, Volume 8, Number 3    


     We are cooperating with the Historical Society of Michigan in bringing you their brochure about the State Society.  It explains the purposes of the Society and the advantages of membership.  As members of The Sebewa Center Association you are eligible to the Joint-Annual $6 a year membership. 


     As a result of the October story of the Locomobile some other information of interests comes to light.  It was with N. J. Eddy, the Portland jeweler, that Malcom (Mac) Slater learned the trade of watch repair and jewelry business.  Mac bought some of the Eddy equipment when he first opened his store in Sunfield.  The old six-foot, wall-hung “Regulator” clock that was Mr. Eddy’s came to Sunfield.  Mac’s daughter, Mrs. Rose Steward, now has the clock and has recently had it restored to running condition.

     Mrs. Steward tells that once a week Mac would go to the depot to get the Western Union time signal, set his watch and then come back to check the Regulator.  This item from the PORTLAND OBSERVER of 1893 gives us a clue about the time service.  “In 1893 the Western Union Telegraph System had 350,000 miles of wire connected to 70,000 clocks in cities throughout the country.  Each day at three minutes before noon the wires were cleared of all messages and a time signal was given at noon that correctly set all the clocks on the system.” 


     It is with regret that we report the deaths of Ida (Mrs. John) Huizenga and Ben Smith.  Both were members of The Sebewa Center Association and both lived in Danby near the Sebewa-Danby line.  Another recent death was that of Clarence Oatley of Elk Rapids.  Miss Ella Jane Petoskey died at Harbor Springs in October. 


     It took until 1904 for the automobile to make the pages of the PORTLAND OBSERVER.  Here are three items:  June 15, 1904.  Two more automobile touring cars have been added the past week to the list already here.  There are now seven owned in Portland.  The two new ones are owned by O. N. Jenkins and E. D. Woodbury, the former having bought a Ford and the latter a Rambler.  The other owners are Robert Ramsey, F. H. Knox, W. W. Terriff, Thomas L. Frost while N. J. Eddy has a Locomobile or steam machine.  Portland probably has more of these machines than any other place of its size in Michigan. 

June 22, 1904.  Last Wednesday mail carrier Brown made his delivery with an automobile, Mr. Tarriff having accompanied him driving his machine while Mr. Brown did the delivery.  The route is 26 miles in length and the run was made in 1 hour and 56 minutes from  the time they left the Post Office until they were back again.

June 29, 1904.  Farmers around Portland are doing their trading in other towns if they can avoid going to Portland.  They say they will cut the town out at every opportunity for they are afraid to drive in that burg with their horses on account of the number of automobiles on the streets there all the time.  There are now 8 go-devils owned in the village. 


     From the Michigan Pioneer Collection, Volume 1, May 1864.

………Two Indians were indicted for the murder of two white citizens, one a surgeon of medicine United State Army.  The president of this society (Michigan Pioneer Society) and the Hon. James Duane Doty, now governor of Utah, both of whom had recently been admitted to the bar, were assigned by the court as their counsel.

     One of the prisoners was tried by the United States District Court and the other in the Supreme Court of the Territory; both courts being held by the same judges of which court the father of our president was long a distinguished and honorable member.

     I was much amused a few years since on the occasion of a visit from Gov. Doty at the recital by these two old friends, Doty and Witheral of the scene at the jail went they went in company with Colonel Lewis Befuait as interpreter to see their red clients and learn the facts.

     Witheral soon disposed of his case and they repaired to the cell of the murderer of Madison.  Doty asked the Indian how it happened that he shot the surgeon.  The honest savage replied “I saw him and I thought I would like to shoot him”.

     “But”, said Doty, “Was there not some accident?  Were you not shooting at something else?”

     After some time the prisoner seemed to comprehend what was required of him and replied “Yes, I was shooting at a little bird”.

     The young advocate took courage.  “Ah”, he said, “This is clearly a case of no malice aforethought.  Now, tell me, how far was this little bird from Madison’s head?”

     The savage, holding up one finger with a digit of the other hand measuring the distance of an inch said “So far”.

     The defense was not considered by the jury as sufficient and both the Indians were solemnly sentenced to death by hanging, which sentence was executed in front of the old jail near the present site of Dr. Duffield’s church.

     This was the first public execution by hanging which took place in our Territorial history. 


     It has been suggested that the topics of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR should be indexed.  Now there is a job that would take the boredom out of winter for any volunteers who have the time to do the work. 


     From Chapman Bros. History of Kent County, 1880.

     Louis Campau, previous to 1834, had improved a piece of land extending from the present site of the Rathbun house on the corner of Monroe and Ottawa Streets to the Eagle Hotel and from thence to the river bank.  This was a vegetable and flower garden with shrubbery and trees scattered through it and a few fruits.  The most attractive thing about it was the flowers and it was a place of resort for the whites and Indians.  The latter used to land from their canoes and go up a well-trodden path to Mr. Campau’s house.  An old canoe answered for a propagating bed in which start things before they were planted in the garden.

     About the year 1835 Mr. Abel Page moved to Grand Rapids and located on the bank of the river near the foot of Huron Street.  Mr. Page and John Almy, his nearest neighbor, started gardens on the banks of the river and planted in them such things as they had brought from the east and could get through the mails from friends in the form of seeds and slips.

     They also made some selections from the woods.  It was in Mr. Page’s river garden that the first tomatoes were raised in the Grand River valley.  They were a great curiosity and known as ornamental plants and called “love apples”.  There was but one person in the county that would eat them and that was a school teacher.  This was a matter of astonishment to the people, and at first, dire consequences were expected as a result.

     For a good many of the first things planted in the gardens of the settlers, they were indebted to the kindness of Uncle Louis Campau, who grew nothing to sell but gave many things away.

     In 1838, Mr. Page moved up on Bridge Street hill and planted another garden with a sort of nursery attachment, the whole occupying perhaps three acres.  This was the year of the great flood in the river which occurred in February.  It was in this second garden that Mr. Page grew morus multicolus and raised silk worms, dealing in the cocoons.  It was about this time that the Rone potato had such a great run.  Mr. Page raised specimens that would weigh two pounds and sold then for seed at the rate of $16 to twenty dollars per bushel.

     The fruit grown in his garden was grown largely from plants found in the woods.  Mr. Page and his sons gathered gooseberries, currants, raspberries and blackberries as well as plums from the valley of the Grand River and by careful selection, succeeded in very fine smooth gooseberries of large size.  Black caps were grown that rivaled the cultivated sorts in size and quality.  White blackberries were found and propagated and plums were found, large and delicious, that ripened as early as August.  All these, added to the slips of cultivated fruits and ornamental shrubs, made the nucleus of the future nursery.

     The first apple seeds planted were from fruit gathered from the old French trees about Detroit and shipped to Grand Haven around the lakes and from thence up the river in Mackinaw boats.  The apples were eaten with the understanding that the seeds were to be saved.  No guest was treated to any of the fruits without this promise being put in.  A quart of seeds thus obtained were sown at the same time a bushel of peach nuts were planted, producing trees that were sold readily without a budding, at good prices.

     Mr. Page grew the white cranberry here and his garden was a resort for people who wished a feast of fruit.  He raised about the first melons in the county.

     In 1850 the first mammoth pie plant root was brought into the country by the father of John D. Coulton in a pot swung under his wagon.  From this, Mr. Page secured a slip for one dollar and the next year sold $5 worth of plants from it and two years thereafter sold Judge Withey enough pieplant for Independence Day dinner for $2.

     A few trees of the best sorts were imported from Hodges Nursery at Buffalo by Page while he was starting his nursery.  Most of these were sold again but a few were retained and planted out in the nursery as they came into bearing.  The first fruit thus grown was very precious and preserved with the greatest of care.  The first trees sold were seedlings and customers asked no questions.  They were glad to get anything of fruit tree kind but as soon as the first grafted tree bore, more anxiety was shown in getting good varieties.  The root grafts, some of them sold at three years of age, were distributed through Kent, Ionia and Ottawa counties.

     Mr. Reuben H. Smith in 1840 was returning from a trip outside the county by way of the Grand River crossing at Lyons and as he came to the ferry he found a man standing disconsolately with a bundle of seedling apple trees beside him.  While arranging to go across with the ferryman, he inquired of the stranger what was the matter, where he was going, etc.  Ascertaining that the man was entirely out of money and was on his way to Ionia, hoping there to dispose of his trees for a little cash, Mr. Smith had compassion on the man and paid his fee, taking him over the ferry.  The man expressed great obligation and as they walked on toward Ionia together, they talked apple trees, prices, etc. and finally struck up a trade.  The result of which was that Mr. Smith took the bundle of seedlings into Bowne.

     These trees were mostly planted by Asa and Loren B. Tyler.  Charles M. Foster and Wm. A. Beech were then little boys and each was given a nice straight seedling for his own.  Foster’s tree bore first and in 1863 it was reported as bearing above ten bushels of fine fruit.

     For other horticultural history of the area see the RECOLLECTOR issues of December 1967 and June of 1970. 

AFTERMATH OF THE ELECTION—Well, yes, the election of 1892 as reported in the Lake Odessa Wave of that year:  Saturday evening following up and down Main Street to witness the payment of novel election bets we saw John Bartlett wheeling Ray Welch in a sulkey.  Don Dixon rode a mule backwards and hurrahed for Cleveland.  James Reusch had to bring out the band and wheeled Henry Kreiger.  Those were all lost on Harrison.  E. R. Bailey carried a flambeau and hurrahed for Rich because he bet on Morse and on Monday Bert Allen attracted much attention in working in the street cleaning gang.  He bet on Harrison. 


Third Installment     By George Dallas Sidman

     The state was paying a bounty for the destruction of wolves at that time and the Indians were so persistent in hunting them, principally, for the bounty,that the animals seldom came into the settlements except in search of food.  It was because of the wolves hunting their game so close in winter that the deer were more abundant at that time of year, being driven at times to mingle and herd with the settlers’ cattle for protection.

     On two separate occasions a panther came near our cabin at night and made him presence known by screeches that terribly frightened my mother and us children.   Finally he was killed by a hunter and we were never troubled by those beasts again.

     We had been in Michigan nearly a year, and not long after my famous turkey-bear hunt, as previously narrated, before I was permitted to visit Corunna, to which village my father often went after provisions, generally walking both ways and carrying his purchases pick-a-pack.

     We had no team of our own but Mr. Baker owned an ox team that was made to do part duty for our farm in the exchange of work on the part of my father.  The occasion of first visit to the village was for the purpose of being fitted with a pair of new boots and Mr. Baker, who was going to mill with a grist of wheat to be ground and a couple of logs to be sawed into lumber, took Irene and myself as passengers and, seated high up from the ground on top of the logs, we made that delightful journey together, the happiest of happy children out for a lark.

     I shall never forget that day.  My father purchased for me a pair of high boots, the first I had ever owned, and the red leather fronts with a silver eagle decorated on each added immensely to their beauty and usefulness.  Clothed in my new boots that squeaked at every step, a necessary adjunct to such valuable possessions, I marched down the street pointing out to my companion the many “city sights”, evidently to the envy of several of the village youths who maliciously followed us and made slighting remarks about the “squaw-boy”, much to my disgust and chagrin.

     It was the second winter of our sojourn on the homestead that an event happened which nearly cost me my life and had much to do with my father abandoning our home to the exactions of the rascally lawyer who had the agency of speculators’ land in that vicinity.  My father had cut his foot while chopping wood and the wound was so severe that he could not put on a boot, much less step on the foot.  It was while he was thus laid up that my mother came down with an attack of pneumonia which made it necessary to have a physician, the nearest of which resided at Corunna.  I had never been to Corunna alone, however there was nothing to do but send me on the errand and it was hardly daylight one morning when I was bundled up and started out.  It was two miles from our cabin to the nearest wagon road and thence to Corunna it was about five miles, I think.  At the junction of our woods path with the road was the log house and farm of a neighbor whose name I have forgotten.  I took that gun with me intending to leave it at the neighbor’s until my return from the village, but just as I reached the house I found the neighbor getting ready to go to Corunna in his sleigh, who, when he learned my errand there, offered to take the message for me and thus save my journey, which I gladly accepted because of a brilliant scheme that had entered my mind.

     Irene Baker had often told me of the pleasure she had in “still-hunting”, deer—something I had never attempted as yet because my father’s prohibition, but when I found that I did not have to go all the way to Corunna on my errand it occurred to me that this was an excellent opportunity to prove my valor as a still-hunter, not doubting in the least my ability to kill a deer if I came up to one, or of finding my way back home when the sport was ended.

     There was perhaps two feet of snow on the ground at the time but a thaw a few days before, followed by a hard freeze, had made a thick crust on top of the snow, which readily bore my weight.  An inch of light snow on top of the crust, fallen the night before, made it an ideal occasion to track game.  I wore a pair of thick woolen socks drawn over my boots which not only made it possible to travel without making any noise, but gave distinguishing “footmarks” by which I could return to the starting point when I desired.

     Every condition seemed favorable for a good day’s hunt and I gave no thought to what might happen if I got lost and had to remain in the woods all night, a contingency that few hardy men would care to face in the rigors of a Michigan mid-winter.

     I had traveled several miles and finally came to the tracks of three deer that, from the evidences presented, must have passed within a few minutes.  Hastily dropping a couple more buckshot down the barrel of my gun to make chances of success more certain when I came in sight of the animals, I started on the trail.

     I had not gone very far before I saw the deer in the top of a fallen tree, browsing on the green branches.  I crept as close as it seemed safe and having a good side view of one of the does, I brought my gun to rest along the side of a sapling and pulled the trigger.  The next instant, and simultaneous with the explosion, I took a backward “header” and curled up in a heap with a broken or badly injured shoulder, the result of the “kick” of the doubly charged gun.  It was some time before I recovered sufficiently to realize what had happened to me, and, thinking no more of my deer, but with a terrible pain in my shoulder and mind confused, I started for home, as I supposed.  I never knew how it occurred I did not take my tracks as I had intended and the result was that I wandered around trying to locate some landmark from which to find my way home.  Night came and found me in the woods, crying with pain and fear, and as completely lost as if cast upon a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Fortunately for me the weather was not very cold else I must have frozen to death in the woods that longest night I had ever endured.  I recall that I had reloaded my gun for protection from wild animals and while I saw numerous deer during the day I had no wish to shoot them.

     I roamed wildly in the night knowing the necessity to keep moving.  Once I was nearly paralyzed with fright when a hoot owl screeched directly over my head, and several times the sight of fox-fire, clinging to stumps and logs made me think of being pursued by panthers and the wolves.  It was nearly noon of the following day that I came to the cabin of a squatter more than ten miles from my home.  I was so ill and worn out with fatigue that I had to be carried home on a stretcher borne by two friendly Fisher Indians who recognized me at sight.  That was the end of my hunting days in Michigan for many years.

     The next still-hunt in which I took part occurred in Mashonaland, Central Africa, in the year 1878, when and where three of us stalked two lions that were menacing the cattle in the outfit of a prospecting expedition to which I belonged.

     The following spring (1854) my parents moved to Owosso, my father having succumbed to the persecutions of the lawyers and speculators to drive us from the homestead.  What occurred to me during the five years next after the fall of 1854, are matters of no interest to this story, but I returned to Owosso in 1859, and it is my present intention to tell, at some future date, what the Owosso boys did in the way of making history, not only in those days of which I have written, but in the period of that great conflict—the Civil War---where so many brave Michigan boys laid down their lives that the Republic might live.

     In passing, let me say just here, that while I was earning glory as a soldier in the Civil War, my mother wrote me that Irene Baker had died, the news of which caused me to mourn for many days for one who I had as a sister and loved as such, even though she was but a poor “Fisher Indian Maiden”.

      Shortly after the close of the war I returned to the scenes of those pioneer days to locate the site of my cabin home, if possible.  The country had settled so rapidly, however, and so many changes had been wrought in the topography of the country thereabout that I was unable to find the spot where our cabin had stood.  I did however find where the Indian village had been because one of the settlers took me to the place.  Alas!  The Indians had all disappeared.  The playmates of my pioneer boyhood days had died or been scattered by the rude hand of civilization, and as I turned with a sigh from the place where the wigwams had once stood I seemed to hear the whispers of those primitive people in the rustle of the waving corn growing on the site of their ancient encampments.

     Here we conclude the portion of the George Dallas Sidman story to be used in The Sebewa Recollector.  Mr. Sidman did carry on the story with an account of life in the early days of Corunna.  Our thanks to Ivan Conger, editor of SHIAWASSEE GAZETTE, bulletin of the Shiawassee County Historical Society, for the use of the Sidman story in the COLLECTOR. 


     On November 14 Alistair Cooke presented the first of 13 one-hour programs he entitles “America”.  It is a biweekly series so that the next one in December should appear December 12, at 10 P.M.

     Many should remember Cooke from his early TV Omnibus series of Sunday afternoon programs.  That should be enough to spark interest in these programs of historical America. 


     From THE HISTORY OF WOODLAND 1837-1937    By B. S. Holly

     When the first white men, the French missionaries came to Michigan they found three tribes of Indians closely related.  They were the Chippewas in the north; Potawatomis in the valley of Kalamazoo; and the Ottawas in the Muskegon and Grand River valleys.  They called themselves the three brothers.

     1937 marks the 150th anniversary of the organization of the old Northwest Territory and also the 100th anniversary of the admission of Michigan into the Union, January 26, 1837.  At that time there many Indians of the Ottawa tribe roaming the forests in this vicinity, being attracted by the many lakes.

     The south side of Jordan Lake (named for John A. Jordan) was a favorite camping ground of the tribe.  Wild game and fish being plentiful as also were the deer that came in flocks to the lake.  The deer would plunge into the lake to rid themselves of the deer flies and the Indians would go in after them and cut their throats, thus securing plenty of venison to eat.  As there were no sanitary laws at that time to protect the health of the settlers, the Indians would dress the deer, leaving the undesirable parts on the ground to decay and contaminate the surrounding atmosphere—a practice that was not only dangerous to themselves but very offensive to the settlers.

     So—eight of the pioneers resolved to go over to the Indian camp and tell the Indians that this practice must be stopped and the refuse must be buried.  On arriving at the camp, they saw an Indian repairing a bark canoe.  John Potts was carrying a hatchet and Jordan dared him to throw the hatchet as near the Indian as he could without hitting him to see if they might scare him.

     Potts, glad of an occasion to show his hatred of the red man, at once threw the hatchet, just missing the Indian but damaging the canoe.  At this challenge, the Indians rose up, grasped their weapons to take vengeance on the white men who soon realized they had, indeed, stirred up a hornet’s nest.  They organized for defense but began retreating and fortunately the Indians did not carry out their threats.

     The Hatchet Incident resulted in widening the rift between the whites and the Indians.  Fearing  an assault by the Indians, a council of citizens from Sunfield, Odessa, Carleton and Woodland was called.  This council decided that the Indians must vacate at once these premises.  About twenty-five armed men from the four units with Moses Durkee of Carleton as leader, formed and marched to Jordan Lake where the Indians were at and told that their presence would no longer be tolerated.  The Indians were ordered to vacate and at first the red men emphatically refused.  Finally when Mr. Durkee and his men gave them to understand that they must go or blood would be shed, the Indians very reluctantly went away, much to the relief of the settlers.

     After some months a few of the Indians came back but were not molested as they took better care of their camps.  So, we have in our own community, a fair sample of what his befallen “Poor Lo” in this civilized U.S.A. 

THE FOREST PRIMEVAL     By Eugene Davenport  (Copyright 1950 by The University of Illinois Press.  Reprinted by permission.)

     Editor’s Note:  Eugene Davenport was the son of a pioneer family in Woodland Township and lived on Davenport Road just south and east of the town of Woodland.  He was one of the few farm boys who managed to get an education at Michigan Agricultural College at East Lansing in those times.  At the close of a distinguished career in other agricultural colleges he wrote his recollections of pioneer life at the request of his family.  His book is called TIMBERLAND TIMES.  This excerpt and two others to follow in later issues are from that book.

     One day a bear, grubbing for roots in the lowland, heard a new sound.  Puzzled, he stopped to listen and then lumbered off into the swamp to lose himself.  It was the settler’s ax he had heard, and from that day the wildlife of the Grand River Valley of southern Michigan was a fugitive before the white man’s dog and rifle.

      “I wish I could realize what this country looked like when it was entirely covered with timber”, said a good friend of mine a year or two ago.  I had known his grandfather when he was clearing the second farm to the west of ours.  But so rapidly does the settler change the face of nature in adapting it to his purposes that my friend could not, in his imagination, wipe out cities and villages, concrete highways and double-track railroads, telephone poles and power lines, houses and barns, fences and fields.

      Indeed there is little left to assist the imagination.  The shaggy, low-topped, specimen trees of park and private grounds, however beautiful, are not even first though portions of the original forest, are mostly “second growth” now and are but caricatures of the originals.

     And so we must resort to language, feeble as it is; and we must invite the most vivid imagination of the reader if he is to visualize anything like a restoration of the forest primeval.

     As a start, take the open country as it lies today, a gently rolling landscape.  Let it be carpeted now with a wealth of fallen leaves into which the foot sinks ankle-deep.  Wherever the eye can see, and miles upon miles beyond, this coat of brown is spread over valley, slope, and ridge.  Soft and rich is the brown, silvered here and there if a beam of sunlight struggles through the leafy overhead.

     Out of this mosaic rise the tall, gray trunks of the hardwood timber, fifty, sixty feet and often more to the lowest limb; eighteen inches, two feet, even three or four feet through—we never said “in diameter”.  Maple and beech groves dominate—Basswood, ash and tulip trees measuring three or four feet across the stump are scattered here and there, with an occasional considerable smaller tree of cherry.

     These fill the picture for the highlands, while oak, elm, and black walnut struggle for mastery of the lowlands.  A solitary sycamore stands with mottled trunk, huge and probably hollow—used by a settler as a smokehouse, leach, or storage for maple sap.

     Of undergrowth there was little, and a wagon could be driven almost anywhere except as some fallen tree might force a slight detour.  Barring an occasional windfall where some tornado had laid whole acres low and a new growth was coming on, the forest seemed to have stood for ages, a matured crop, unchanged and unchangeable.  But there was a change, silent and relentless.  In the dense shade, seedlings of a new growth were there—though they remained small until an overtopping old giant fall to earth and yielded the young trees space and sunlight.

     In springtime, bloom covered the hillside.  There was solomon’s-seal, dragon’s tooth, and lily; violet, hepatica, spring beauty and Dutchman’s-breeches.  A feeble folk they were, but they imitated in ways that were small and beautiful the struggle for room waged by their towering neighbors.  The dogwood was cut, treetops were turning green.  The basswood and the tulip trees were in bloom, and the bees knew it.   ………….

     I have never seen a forest in warmth, in friendly beauty, in variety of moods, and in promise to mankind, that would compare to the hardwood growth of the timberlands.

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


Last update June 13, 2013