Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 8 Number 4
Transcribed by LaVonne I. Bennett

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

THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of the The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, February 1973, Volume 8, Number 4    


     In the year of 1873 the local correspondents for the PORTLAND OBSERVER had not yet appeared.  The news of the outlying districts filtered into town and to the ears of the editor as the farmers came to town and willingly talked to those who would listen.  These items were mixed with the other news of the town.  The first Sebewa items from a regular news correspondent appeared in 1876.

     January 14, 1873—The nervous portion of our community began to shake in its boots last Saturday afternoon at a rumor which was being circulated in references to someone who had come to the village from a southerly direction, and who, it was taken for granted, was therefore just the subject to expose all our good people to the smallpox.  In fact, the rumor was that a young lady had come to town who had been living at Mr. Halladay’s in Sebewa, and who had therefore, been exposed to the smallpox.

     We are informed by Dr. Albro of Danby, that there are now three cases of smallpox or varioloid in the Halladay neighborhood, a daughter of Henry Halladay having come down with the varioloid a few days since.  She was promptly removed to the house where the two other cases exist.

     January 21, 1873—The Pierces have just put in a new wood bender at their steam mill, three miles west of this village at a cost of $500.  They try it first on a contract of 4,000 fellies.

     March 4, 1873—With the disappearance of sleighing it is to be hoped one nuisance will be abolished.  We refer to the prevailing practice of whole loads of young people out pleasure riding Sunday evenings filing into a church about the middle of a service to get warm.

     March 11, 1873—Birth in Sebewa to the wife of J. C. Olry, a daughter.

Death—Geo. F. Northrup aged 40 years, 6 months and 13 days.

Births—in Sebewa March 21, 1873 to the wife of G. C. Ayers, a son.

              In Sebewa March 24,1873 to the wife of C. Gott, a son.

     June 10, 1873—GROVE MEETING—The spiritualists of Sebewa and vicinity will hold a grove meeting near Sebewa Corners on Saturday and Sunday, June 21 & 22, 1873.  Let all spiritualists and friends of liberal thought consider themselves cordially invited to attend.  Preparations will be made by the friends of Sebewa to entertain all strangers from abroad.  Basket picnic at the grove.  Come one, come all and let us have a feast of reason and a flow of soul.  Mrs. Ellen Reeder, Sec. P. G. Cook, Pres.

     June 17, 1873—We hear it stated that a pugilistic encounter occurred near Sebewa Corners one day last week, in which three women figured conspicuously, but have learned no particulars except that the affair resulted in the victory of one female against the other two.

     MARRIED—on the 12th inst. (June 1873) Jacob Lusher and Minnie Earthman, both of Sebewa.

     August 5, 1873—Geo. Grinol and Thomas White of Ionia “cut with a scythe” and bound fourteen acres of wheat on the farm of L. Benedict, in Sebewa, in two and a half days—twenty-five hours.

     September 2, 1873—We have just learned that the Carter Sawmill in West Sebewa was destroyed by fire sometime week before last.

     MARRIAGE—In the village of Portland, September 9, 1873, by the Rev. P. Spellman, Mr. Simeon Oatley of Sebewa, and Mrs. Mary Smith of Portland.

     BORN in Sebewa September 26, 1873, to the wife of Mr. Bowers Peabody, a son and daughter. 


     John Campbell was a Sebewa native, son of Edward Campbell, who lived on the west side of section 12 at the location which has long since been the home of his son-in-law, Nate Kenyon.  Besides local farming, John spent some time in Portland as the proprietor of a jewelry store.  In the list of car buyers, Elmer Creighton tells us that Chas. Barber was the contractor who built the Sunfield Road north of Sunfield in 1922.  The sale listed on October 2, 1923 to Mrs. Frank Walker was the result of her winning the car given away by the merchants at the Sunfield Farmers’ Picnic that year.

     The Pierce sawmill was located at the north end of Petrie Road.  Jacob Luscher was the father of Mrs. Edna Wenger.  Simeon Oatley was the grandfather of Mrs. Mae Gierman.  Dr. Albro moved to Portland from Sebewa Corners and had a street named after him in Portland. 


     After jumping to a wrong conclusion on the subject of blacktopping the Clarksville Road in our August issue, it is with a little reluctance that the subject is mentioned again.  However, information from the Ionia County Road Commission seems to be this.  Specifications for building a mile of blacktop road under Ionia County soil conditions call for an outlay of $80,000 per mile.  When a road is built the county supplies $70,000 and the township $10,000 of the cost.

     Under present revenue systems the county will have no more than enough to finance one mile of construction for the entire county in a year.  There seems little prospect for any larger paving project for the next five years.

     Under the new Federal Revenue Sharing program, Sebewa Township will receive about $3,000 per year.  Current plans call for using some of that money for graveling township roads.  Later, some of that money may be applied to a fund for matching the count blacktop funds a few years hence.  To qualify for the Federal money, township officials must make public from time to time the purpose for which it is to be spent. 

DRAINAGE.  Rene Van Neste says there is a 6-foot fall from his muck land and the Clarksville Road but the present condition of the drainage ditch does not take advantage of it.  That water drains to the Grand River through Libhart Creek near Lyons.  The water from the southwest part of the township goes southwest to the Thornapple River drainage system while the southeast part of the township is drained through Sebewa Creek to the Grand. 


     A new 60’ x 60’ building beside Harold Hanna’s slaughter house on Sebewa’s south township line will soon add to the meat handling facilities there.  All the meat processing that has formerly been done at the Sunfield Main Street locker will now be transferred to the new building.

     The locker service and the retail store will be continued at the same location in Sunfield.  The locker and freezer section is due to have its insulation replaced with new materials soon.

     The new meat processing plant will have a 20’ x 30’ cooler powered by a 7 hp compressor and the 20’ x 30’freezer section will have a 10 hp compressor.

     In the remaining 40’ x 60’ space there is to be a cutting room that will be kept at 50 degrees F., a sausage kitchen and a smokehouse.  Fuel for the flavorful smoke of the smokehouse comes from hickory sawdust burned in an 1p gas burner.

     The plant should be in operation in early summer in time to accommodate the usual purchase of several animals at the Eaton County 4 H Fair at Charlotte.

     The new and larger accomodations will allow the expansion in wholesaling meats.  The slaughterhouse was built at the Sebewa location in 1965.  The story of the Hanna Locker Service up to that time is found in the December 1967 RECOLLECTOR. 


     The new electric line running north on Rene Van Neste’s sod farm on section 9 in Sebewa Henderson Road leads to a new dam site where Rene expects to pump water to the drainage side of the dam and lower the water table on his muck land enough benefit  his sod farming.  Once the water is pulled away from the surface, a 2 hp motor is expected to maintain the desired level.

     Just a little more than a couple of handshakes downstream (north) is Ken David’s new hillside home with access from the Clarksville Road.  These hilly rims of the much lands mark the Grand Ledge End Moraine as it passes through Sebewa from southeast to northwest.

     An end moraine is formed by a glacier when its advance is closely matched by the rate of melting.  Thus the boundary of the forward edge of a glacier that is stabilized by advance and melting becomes the dumping place of the boulders, clays and gravels that are carried by the ice.  The Grand Ledge moraine is named that because it also passes in the area of Grand Ledge.  There are other end moraines in Ionia County that mark other periods of a stationary forward edge such as those with the names of Charlotte, Portland and Lyons.  Each marks a stationary front of the mountain of ice that pushed southwestward from the direction of Saginaw Bay end known as the Saginaw lobe of the glacier.

     The Grand Ledge and moraine crosses the Sebewa-Orange boundary and follows in a general way the M 66 highway route north for many miles before it circles off to the northeast to pass through West Branch. 


     From the business records of J. A. Campbell & Son of Sunfield, Michigan we have the following list of new car sales of the Ford Model T era.  The names listed on this page are for cars that were sold for the B. B. Bowes Ford agency of Portland before the Sunfield dealership was established.

     All the cars listed had a charge of $10.00 included as costs of “driving through” from Detroit.  None were brought in by truck or rail.  Driving through was an adventure for many a local person who regarded the opportunity as a holiday.  Often the trip to Detroit for a new car included a factory tour.  By January 1929 the driving through charge was increased to $15.00.

     Many of the cars on this list were first cars for their buyers.  Pride of ownership was as great as is evidenced for any of today’s luxury cars.

     The names listed on the following two pages were purchasers from the Sunfield dealership.  As the late 1929 financial depression deepened, sales dwindled and the last entry in the book was the sale of a green 2-door to J. A. and Chas. E. Campbell September 25, 1939.

     Fordson Tractor sales will be listed at a later date.  This record and information is through the courtesy of Elmer Creighton.

     Abbreviations used to indicate models are:  T-Touring, R-Roadster, C-Coupe, 2Dr-2 door, S-Sedan and Tk-Truck.  Town abbreviations are:  Sunf-Sunfield, Ptln-Portland, LO-Lake Odessa, Vtvl-Vermontville, Mlkn-Mulliken, Wdby-Woodbury and others similarly.

     2-22-1921 Lyle York PtlnT, 5-11 Richard Bickle SunfT, 8-8 Dr. Miller SunfT, 8-18 Frank Cassel PtlnT, 8-19 Henry Whorley PtlnT, 10-3 John Jackson SunfT, 8-29 Ward Bishop SunfC, 9-30 Roy Trim SunfT, 10-7 Lawrence Knapp SunfT, 11-8 E. Vanantwerp SunfT, Chas. Campbell Sunf 2dr, 12-21 Arthur Prescott Sunf T, 1-29-22 George Bitterman SunfT, 2-6 Nathan Kenyon PtlnT, 2-6-22 Chas. Gragg SunfT, 2-6 Fay Gragg SunfT, JohnEsler SunfT, 4-1 W. F.Norte BlvuT, 4-5 Henry Davidson Sunf2Dr, 4-6 Will Petrie SunfT, Dr. Crawford SunfC, W. E. McClelland PtlnT, 5-23 Glen Olry LOT, S. H. Brown LOT, 6-19-1922 John Sayers SunfT, 6-23 Mrs. Joe Kimball SunfT, 6-28 Ernest J. York PtlnT, 7-15Ascher C. Sackett SunfT, 7-28 John M.Bradley SunfT, 8-3 Roy A. Bishop SunfT, Roy Keefer MlknR, 8-28, W.H. Bishop SunfT, 9-5 E. E. VanAntwerp SunfT, 9-15 Pete Alberda PtlnT, 10-5 John A. Esler Sunf2dr., 9-29 Stanley Thayer SearsC

10-6 Sid. O. Brown SunfC, 10-17 Theron McNeil PtlnTk, 10-19 George Gierman PtlnT, 10-26 L. G. Hutcherison SunfC, 11-14 Fred Stambaugh SunfTk, 12-25 Mr. & Mrs. J. A. Campbell Sun2Dr, 12-9 L. E. Knapp SunfSun2dr, 12-14 Harold D. Jones, DeltonT, 1-27-23 Henry Savage, BlvuT, 12-30-22 Will F. Norte, BlvuT, 12-28 Iril Shilton, PtlnTk, 1-16-23 Chas. Barber, Cressy S, 2-1 Allie Carr, SunfTk, 4-11 Will Shellhorn Wdby2Dr, 3-30 Geo. L. Geisel WdbyT, 4-26 Pete Fender WdbyT, 3-5 O. E. VanHouten SunfC, 4-17 O. W. Lowe SunfT, 4-20 H. B. Sackett SunfT, 4-13 W. J. Gerlinger SunfTk, 4-25 Amos Cure Sunf2dr, 5-1  Earl Stambaugh, SunfT, 5-2 L. D. Bass SunfT, 5-11 Jno. W. Esley WdbyC, 5-21 Arthur Statsick Wdby2Dr., 6-5 Bert BazaanPtlnT, 6-11 A. J. Auget, LOT, 6-18 Homer Wells, VtvlT, 7-3 Lloyd Bishop SunfT, 8-8 John Fleetham, SunfT, 8-4 A. W. Carr SunfR, 8-16 Herb Evans SunfTk, 8-16 Chas. W. Bidwell SunfTk, 8-16Archie Watkins SunfTk, 9-10 W. H. Rogers SunfT,  10-6 Guy Bosworth LansT, 9-24 Orlo Tickner SunfC, 9-26 Wayne Hoke SunfT

10-5 Chas. Campbell SunfS, 10-20-23 O. S. Merritt SunfC, 10-26 D. J. Brovont LOTk, 11-3 Adrian Wire Fence Co. C, 11-9 Will Earl PtlnTk, Martin Styger VtvlT, 12-31 Orlo Tickner Sunf2Dr, Ben Probasco Sunf2Dr, 1-12-24 Will Norte BlvT, 1-5 Frank Bair VtvlT, 5-6 Shirley Fast VtvlTk, 5-3 T. E. Stinchcomb SunfT, 2-12 Ben Probasco SunfT, R. E. Linhart SunfT, 4-7 Marion Cogswell Sunf2Dr, 2-1 Mich Wire Fence Co AdrianC, 4-23 Forrest Stiffler PtlnT, 4-11 J. H. Trowbridge, SunfT, 4-19 Solah Sheets PtlnC, 4-19 Homer Wells VtvlT, Chas. M. Ralston LO 2Dr, 4-17 Chas. Brown Sunf S, 4-28 Irving Evans Sunf2Dr, 5-2 Carl Fors Sunf2Dr, 7-16 Harold Hotchkiss SunfT, 6-14 Harley Ives SunfTk, 5-8 J. M. Bradley SunfS, 5-8 J. M. Bradley SunfS, 5-17 Glenn Rarigh, WdbyC, 6-13 Julius Janssens VtvlT, 6-10 Chas. W. Bidwell, SunfT, 6-10 W. J. Davis Jr. SunfT, 7-7 Edith Leigh SunfC, Chas. Lundquist Sunf2Dr, 7-15 H. W. Anderson SunfR, 7-17 A. W. Carr Sunf2Dr., 7-23 Henry Whorley PtlnS, 7-24 Samuel McRoberts LO T, 8-16 Max McWhorter, SunfT, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Goff Ptln2Dr, 9-12 Hugh Showerman SunfT, 11-15 Moses Frantz SunfT, 8-28 Iril Shilton PtlnS, 10-2 Vern Snyder SunfTk, 9-11 J. A. Esler SunfR, 9-8 Fay M. Gragg SunfC, 9-17 Chas. Gragg, SunfT,10-2 Mrs. Frank Walker SunfT,10-14 Ross Tran PtlnT, 10-9 Ernest L. Smith SunfC, 10-24 Homer O. Pierce WdbyTk, 11-8 John Fleetham SunfC, 11-6 Garet Smith SunfT, 11-15 John Drake Sunf, 11-6-24 Hiram J. Cure SunfS, 11-13 Clifford Bosworth VtvlTk, 11-18 O. J. Aves GRR, 11-18 O. J. Aves GR R, 3-4,11-18 Charlie L. Brooks Sunf 2Dr, 11-21 Royal H. Frantz SunfC,  12-2 Guy Rogers WlndT, 12-12 W.J. Davis Jr. BlvuT, 5-7-25 Melvin Fender GL T; 4-24 John Alleman Sunf 2Dr; 5-5 Dean & Harris LansC;3-2 Will F. Norte BlvuT; 1-28 Ernest Hough Sunf Tk, 2-12 T. E. Stinchcomb SunfT; 2-3 Lake O. Canning Co. LO C; 5-5 Dean & Harris Lans C; 2-27 W. J. Davis Sr. Sunf2r; 2-27 W. J. Davis Sr. Sunf 2Dr; 3-14 Abe Middaugh WdbyR; 4-11 C. J. Wagner GR 2Dr; 4-27 Chas. Campbell Sunf S; 5-2 Fred Stamaugh Sunf S; 5-14 Snyder & Bates WdbyTk; 5-19 B. B. Bowes Ptln S; 5-23 Carl Brodbeck LO 2Dr; 7-6 Mr. & Mrs. J. A. Campbell Sunf 2Dr;6-24 Claud Miller, Sunf T; 7-25 W. H. Rogers, SunfT; 9-28 Henry Hussman Vtvl 2Dr;8-24; 8-24 R. N. Creighton PtlnC;9-9 Ed. J. Ives, Sunf T; 11-3 Nicoles Frantz VtvlTk; 9-22 Vtvl Tk; Will Brovont Sunf Tk; 10-9 John Jackson Jr. Sunf T; 10-9 Frank W. Steel Sunf T; 10-22 Earl VanBuren Vtvl C; 10-22 Donald Park Sunf R; 11-12 Jessie Guy Sunf 2Dr; 5-10-26 Bera & Mapes Sunf Tk; 11-19-25 Karl F. Eckardt LO 2Dr; 11-19 Thomas Huizenga Ptln R; 12-5 Alton J. Gunn PtlnC; 12-11 Carrie McNeil LO 2 Dr; 12-16 Marion Cogswell, Sunf S; 12-15 Ernest L. Smith Sunf 2 Dr; 12-19 Glenn Olry LO 2 Dr; 12-21 Will Mosser Ptln T; 1-8-26 Marcus Galer Ptln C; 1-9 J. A. Campbell & Son Sunf Pickup; 3-26 W. F. Norte  Vtvl 2Dr; 1-13 Will Nagle Vtvl 2Dr, 2-6 A. W. Anderson  Sunf R; 2-23-26 Lewis Stoel LO T; 2-13 Bert Pumfrey Sunf S; 3-4 George Geisel Wdby 2Dr; 3-12 Leon Filloon Vtvl C; 5-29 Forrest Estep Vtvl T; 3-12 Charles Cook LO 2Dr; 3-17 Chas. H. Ralston LO 2 Dr;4-2 Will Meyers LO T; 5-27 Dean & Harris  Lans R; 4-17 Emerson J. Bates LO 2Dr; 4-17 Keith Hunter Vtvl C; 4-28 Orla Middaugh Wdby C; 4-27 Bert Fast Chlt 2Dr; 5-12 O. J. Aves GR 2Dr.;5-13 Roy Sears Sunf Tk; 5-17 Chas. W. Bidwell Sunf Tk; 5-17 Chas. E. Campbell Sunf Tk; 5-27 John Alleman Sunf 2 Dr.; 6-8 Dr. R. G. Finnie Sunf C; 6-26 Harold Bishop Sunf Tk; 6-26 Neil Ingall LO C; 7-10 Archie Meyers Sunf C; 7-10 Allen Cross Ptln R; 7-23 George Kussmaul Wdby C; 7-21 E. A. Buck Ptln 2Dr; 7-22 Portland Elev. Co. Ptln Tk; 8-6 Oat Linhart Sunf S; 8-5 Theron McNeil Ptln S; 8-14 Standard Oil Co GR Tk; 8-28 Ross Tran Ptln Tk; 8-28 Owen Stryker Sunf R; 8-28 Viverne Cook LO 2 Dr; 9-17 John Drake Sunf 2Dr; 9-18 Martin Styger Vtvl C; 10-2 Charles Campbell Sunf 2Dr; 9-24 J. W. Welch Sunf 2Dr; 10-27 Hilda Sumin Wdln 2Dr; 10-6 Cyrus Shaffer Sunf 2Dr; 10-27 Chas. N. Jackson Sunf T; 4-4-27 John Jackson Sunf C; 10-30-26 Frank M. Merritt Sunf 2Dr; 11-13, Fred Sprague Sunf 2 Dr; 2-24-27 G. A. & L. G. Beacock Sunfield R; 11-22-26 W. J. Davis Sr.  Sunf 2Dr; 12-14 Ben Schneider LO 2Dr; 2-16-27 Cyrus Shaffer Sunf Tk; 12-17-26 Roland Dodge Vtvl 2Dr; 1-7-26 Don Bosworth Vtvl 2Dr; 1-15 Bert Thorp Ptln 2 Dr;5-11 Rob Gierman Ptln 2Dr; 5-5 H. W. Smith Sunf 2Dr; 1-31 Chet Gray LO 2Dr; 5-13 T. E. Stinchcomb Sunf 2Dr. 


     (Reprinted from TIMBERLAND TIMES by Eugene Davenport, copyright 1950 by The University of Illinois Press.   Reprinted by permission.)

     My father had paid one hundred and fifty dollars down on eighty acres of land with imrpovements; that is, with twenty acres cleared and a log house on the cleared land.  The balance, four hundred and fifty dollars, was a huge debt in those days, especially for a young man whose only assets were a wife, a small boy, and an amazing ability to endure hard work, an asset liable at any time to be canceled by an attack of malaria locally known as “fever ‘n’ ager.”

     To be sure he had his trade of carpenter and joiner.  But the country was new and this trade in the timberlands was a bit ahead of its time.  Making a living was an uphill job.  Only wheat, wool and maple sugar could be sold for cash.  Everything else went in trade, for groceries or other supplies.

     Maple sugar was the most profitable source of ready cash, though strangely enough but few settlers had availed themselves of its benefits beyond making enough for their own use.  As my father thought over the problem of getting cash to pay off his debts, he began to figure on the possibilities of maple sugar as a source of revenue.  The three hundred trees he was able to tap on the eighty he owned had shown what might be done on a larger scale of operation.

     Just to the north of his own sugar bush lay a wild eighty well covered with fine maples that had never been tapped except as squatters had from time to time made free with the trees.  My father would not make sugar on another’s land, but he dearly wanted that additional eighty of good maples.  With them, he figured he could tap no fewer than fourteen hundred trees and in a good year produce six thousand pounds of sugar.

     But this was tax-title land with an equity now amounting to four dollars an acre.  A debt of three hundred and twenty dollars was a financial mountain in those times and a positively dangerous sum to add to the remaining unpaid portion of the original obligation—as well as that which remained to be paid on his first eighty.  Besides, a tax title would not give him peaceable possession; the owner might turn up at any time, pay off the back taxes, and take possession or else demand additional payment.  At best there was risk in the whole deal.

     My father tried to interest Albert and Lige, two brothers who were his neighbors on the east, proposing to go halves.  But they said “dasent risk it”.  He tried Pennyman, another near neighbor, who was known to have brought twelve hundred dollars in gold into the settlement.  But all he got for his pains was a lecture on recklessness.

     My father was haunted by the cash crop these maple trees represented.  They stood in rows and clusters before his imagination by day and haunted his dreams by night until he broke out one day to my mother, “Esther, let’s buy it alone”.  She assented and the land was bought.  Practically nothing was paid down and preparation began at once for meeting the obligation.

     The plan was to make eleven hundred buckets, to tap every maple tree on the new eighty the coming spring, and to keep on tapping every spring until the land should pay for itself.  To get stave bolts for the additional buckets needed for fourteen hundred trees, old Kate and Jane, two ancient pelters that had replaced Buck and Bright, the oxen, were hitched to the long sled to bring back a load of the finest splitting pine from the pineries some forty miles to the north.  And all that winter the sound of mallet and frow, or riving and driving filled one end of our log house till eleven hundred new buckets were finished, with enough spiles to tap all the trees on the new eighty as well as the old.

     It is not enough to say that my father, being a carpenter and joiner, turned his skill with tools to the trade of cooper and succeeded in making all those wooden pails in a single winter.  Tin buckets cost fifty cents apiece and to add $550 to the debt already incurred was unthinkable dangerous.  Plainly the buckets had to be homemade.  But even the trips to the pineries after stave bolts were not without complications.

     It was a three-day trip to the lumber camp—one day to get there, one day to load up, and one day to get back, for even if it was only forty miles, the speed of the pelters was three miles an hour.  Hauling stave bolts for 1,100 buckets called for quite a number of these trips.

     My father spent the night with the lumberjacks at the camp, and on the second of these trips the spokesman for the camp came to him in confidence, “No offense, Mister” he said, “but the boys is puzzled.  They have took notice that you don’t swear and they kinda think maybe you’re a preacher.  Being uncertain on the point they’ve kept pretty quiet and haven’t even played cards since you been here.  Now if you’re a preacher, it’s all right.  But if not, the boys would kinda like to know it”.

     Could anything be finer though than this voluntary recognition in a lumber camp of the sacredness of the ministry?  The boys had thought that my father was of the cloth because he never indulged in profanity or in questionable remarks.  Imagine the relief when the news went out that the visitor did not represent the cloth!

     With all the materials finally at hand the job of making the wooden pails loomed large.  There was no place to work but in one end of the great log living room, and there my father set up his bench.

     The most straight-grained and free-splitting white pine was quartered for stave bolts, each the length of a finished stave.  The larger bolts were split into heading by a straight frow, the smaller into staves, each from two to three inches in width and about a half-inch in thickness.

     It is easy to say that while the staves were held firmly in the jaws of the shaving horse, the workman, with a few long and true sweeps of the straight shave for the heads or of the curved shave for the staves, rapidly reduced the split pieces to a smooth surface and an even thickness.  But whoever has tried to work with the shaving horse, or that a draw shave which looks true and reliable in the hands of a master can manage, in the hands of a novice, to dig here and there so that the first shingle or stave by the greenhorn looks as if the dogs had chewed it.

     After shaving, the first job was to cut out the head to serve as the bottom of the bucket.  The head-cutter was another ingenious homemade tool consisting essentially of two standards connected by an adjustable horizontal bar to fit different widths of heading.  One standard, held in the left hand, was fitted at the bottom with a short sharp spud to be set at the center of the head and to hold the tool to its work.  The other standard was fitted with a small piece of flat steel in which, two or three saw teeth were filed.  Fixing the spud at the supposed center, adjusting the moveable end to the size of the piece and verifying the guess by a trial sweep or two, pressure was put on the right hand and a few vigorous rasps were enough to cut a groove as deep as the length of the saw teeth.

     The stave was finished by running the edge over a jointer plane held bottom up in the vise, taking care to finish one end slightly wider than the other in order to insure a flare sufficient to hold the hoops.

     With the heads ready, the staves shaved and jointed, and a supply of dowel pins split out of ironwood, everything was ready for setting up, that is, putting the staves on the head.  Laying the first stave back down upon the bench and holding the head at the proper spot, two fine lines were made by a knife point, one along the upper side of the head, the other along the lower.  These lines indicated the two sides of a shallow groove that must now be cut in the stave to receive the edge of the head.  A special tool for this purpose consisted of a common knife blade firmly fastened in a strong stick about twenty inches long.  With the upper end of this tool held firmly against the shoulder to steady it, a few strokes of the knife point were enough to deepen the cuts in the soft pine to the standard depth of perhaps an eighth of an inch.  The wood between the cuts was then taken out by a sharp hook when the groove was ready to receive the edge of the head.  Dipping it into water, the stave was hastily driven on, when in a few seconds it swelled tight.

     Stave after stave was fitted in the same way, one dowel pin about three-quarters of an inch long being inserted between each stave and the next, but near the top to hold everything in place till the hoops were on.  As may be surmised, the worst job was fitting that last stave.

     Incredible as it now seems, my father that winter set up three buckets an hour from four in the morning till ten or later at night, day after day, showing throughout a degree of skill, swiftness, and endurance almost unaccountable when we remember the number and variety of motions involved.

     Hoops were made from black ash timber taken from the swamps, split into sections one by three inches, and roughly finished by the draw shave.  These sections were carefully checked, that is, slightly split at the end by mallet and draw shave, always with the grain, spacing the splits to suit the desired thickness of the hoop.  Once these splits were well started they could be carried forward the entire length of the stick four feet or more by thrusting the split end into the vise or between two posts and throwing the weight of the body against it first in one direction then in the opposite.  With each rack or bend of the stick the check extended farther along its length till at last the timber would fall apart in a bundle of thin wooden bands that needed only the slightest shaving for a finish.

     A lock was then cut in one end—a kind of hook, half way across the hoop, with a square shoulder.  Starting this hook at a given point on the bucket where the first or upper hoop should be, the proper length was quickly found by wrapping it carefully about the pail till the starting point was reached.  A second lock was now cut at this point; both locks were thinned on the inside to minimize the bunch resulting from their crossing, when the ends were brought together; and the locks were crossed and the hoop driven on.  Two hoops to the bucket were considered enough, provided the lower one was a good fit without driving too high; otherwise a third was added to the bottom.  Anybody could put on that first hoop, but it took a master to fit the last one tightly without too much driving.  The bucket was then finished by cutting the stave ends of even length, smoothing with a draw shave, and boring a hole near the top that it might be hung upon a nail just below the spike.

     Among my earliest recollections are the sounds of riving and shaving, of driving and trimming.  And many is the night I went to sleep to the music of the hammer only to awaken in the morning to the same sound, as if it had gone on all night without interruption.  Soon it was over and never again did the home get turned into a shop.  But that one winter must have been a nightmare to my good mother.

     The 1,100 buckets were done by March.  And the season that spring was good.  The trees were fresh, and the methods had been so carefully worked out that losses were reduced.  Every single bucket held and no spile leaked; a tribute to the workmanship of my father.

     The season was good, did I say?  It was the greatest sugar year in the history of the early settlers.  My father’s sugar bushes alone yielded six thousand pounds of sweetness.  This was the first time anyone in the settlement had deliberately set out to make money from maple sugar.  Heretofore this product had been regarded as a kind of native luxury like spicebush tea.  But my father had seen in it a means of getting ahead, of getting out of debt.  And he was right.  When the buckets were all put away for the next year and the sugar finally sold, he had acquired a deed for his land, paid his hired help, saved five hundred pounds of sugar for his own use, and was left with fifty dollars in his pocket.  The new eighty paid for itself the very first year.  End. 

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

Last update July 09, 2013