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Ionia County Sebewa Recollector Items

Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 12 Number 2
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.

October 1976, Volume 12, Number 2; submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:


As we pass into the autumn season one day is designated as the atumnal equinox.  Old timers refer to it as the “sun crossing the line” and recall many “line storms” and shakeups in the weather. This year there was no storm and we shall have to be content to associate it with the harvest of the navy bean crop. The harvest is going well and the crop is generally good.

Equinox, our meteorologist explains, means equal nights, when the period of sunshine equals the period of darkness all over the world—both hemispheres—with the exception of the north and south poles themselves. At the north pole the sun seems to circle the pole at the horizon in a perpetual sunset. At the south pole the effect is the same in a perpetual sunrise. As the season progresses the north pole works toward its twenty-four hour night while the twenty four hour period of daylight comes to the south pole.


Don Benschoter tells us that after the death of Andrew Weippert in 1903 and before Harry Gibson operated the gristmill, John Benedict was the miller.

Neighbors helped him get the mill in shape for operation. Should you visit the place now you will find a growth of poison ivy without compare.

DEATHS IN THE PERIOD JUST PAST have been those of Maude Probasco, Stanley Ives, Door Layle and Cornelius Huizenga.


THE SHAY MARKERS: As noted in these pages previously there is a State Historical Marker at Harbor Springs devoted to Ephraim Shay and his activities there. A few years ago when I visited the Harbor Springs cemetery there was a large boulder with the Shay name inscribed to mark the Shay lot. There was also a government issue marker for Ephraim Shay that gave his Civil War rank. Recently the Slowins family visited the Cadillac park where there is a Shay Locomotive on display. They also went to Haring immediately north of Cadillac where Shay once was in the lumbering business and developed his ideas for the locomotive. Then they visited the Harbor Springs cemetery and took photos of the new stone markers on the Shay lot. The stones show that Ephraim died in 1916. His wife, Jane (Henderson) Shay, was born in 1841 and died in 1912. Their son, Lette Shay, was born in 1870 and died in 1934. His wife, Kathryn (Roe) Shay was born in 1872 and died in 1934. Their daughter, Kathryn (Shay) Morrill was born in 1894 and died in 1975. Her husband, Donald M. Morrill was born in 1894 and died in 1964.

Meet Dorothy (Gunn) Robb – THE ROSINA ITEMS for November 5, 1890 state “John Gunn, well known to a good many people hereabouts, started for Texas with his wagon and team. He had the misfortune when as far as Clifton City, Mo. of being delayed by the death of one of his horses”. Mrs. Robb sent an inquiry to the Ionia County Clerk about her family origin. She is the granddaughter of John Gunn and the great granddaughter of Samuel Gunn and Carolyn (McCoy) Gunn. Mrs. Rob lives in Falun, Kansas.

SOME BACK ISSUES of the RECOLLECTOR are available—eleven years, $11.00.


Hastings Tuesdays $6.00 Season Ticket

September 28, 1976 High Adventure in Central Africa Ronald Shanin
November 2 Canada’s Many Faces Robert Brouwer
January 11, 1977 The U. S. Virgin Islands Gary Peterson
February 1 Hawaiian Chucklelogue Stanley Midgley
March 29 Iceland (What’s in a Name?) Jay & Charlene Gierkey


Charlotte Saturdays $10.00 Season Ticket

October 16, 1976 San Francisco Then & Now John Strong
November 27 Viva Mexico Romain Wilhelmsen
February 19, 1977 Romantic Austria Bob Ditta
March 12 New England R. F. D. Jay Gierkey
April 23 Canada’s Many Faces Robert Brouwer
May 7 Inside Passage and Aleutian Islands Dennis Cooper


Ionia $8.00 Season Ticket

October 21, 1976 Hiking Thru Italy Rudy Thurau
November 11 Canada’s Many Faces Robert Brouwer
January 27, 1977 People of Spain Howard Pollard
Feburary 17 East Caribbean—Paradise Found Jerry and Christine Craigie
March 10 Trails of the Mountain West Dennis Cooper
April 26 New England—R. F. D. Jay Gierkey

EXTINCTION OF A VIRUS. For one whole month there has been no reported new case of smallpox in the world. The last reported case was in Ethiopia. This may mark the end of smallpox as a scourge on this planet.

Smallpox played an important role in weakening and subjecting the American Indians to the white newcomer from Europe. The Europeans had developed some immunity to the disease while the Indians had none. The epidemic swept on ahead of white settlement, decimating the Indian population and softening their will to resist invasion of their territory. Old documents hint that there was some deliberate spreading of the disease—germ warfare!

No history of Sebewa could be written without mention of smallpox. Scars of smallpox vaccination are still familiar to most of our people. Probably only a minority can recall seeing the pockmarked face of a survivor of the disease. Twice there were smallpox scares in the township in which residents of Sebewa were denied entry to neighboring villages lest they spread the virus. Vaccinations were given by the hundreds.

Medicine and immunology have come a long way to end a centuries old dread.

How long will it take to put to rest the fear of annihilation by atomic radiation?


Headlines three inches high announcing the bank robbery at Sunfield on the rainy afternoon of September 9 would have fitted the mood of the town that day when everybody knew about the robbery and no suspect had been apprehended. With the arrest of a free spender the following Sunday it became easier to make light talk of the affair.

Mrs. LaVern (Helen) Carr, who lives closer to Sebewa Center than any other family, was the most emotionally involved person in the hold-up as it was she who was ordered at the point of a gun while the five male bank employees were prone on the floor Here is Helen’s story.

The robber entered the bank fully masked. Main Street was so quiet that day that there was little chance that anybody would have seen him enter in that costume.

When he came in the door nobody paid much attention and he just stood still. First of all I thought it was a joke.

Our instructions from the bank were never to endanger our lives in case of a holdup but to comply and give over the money that was asked and at the same time to keep close notice to see if there were any identifyable characteristics of a bandit. In all my nine years at the Sunfield Bank and three years at the Bank of Lansing I had never been in a position to support there might be an impending robbery.

When the bandit fired his gun toward Conrad Bytwerk I thought “Here is the real thing”! There were no customers in the bank at the time The bandit had the gun and it was his move. He ordered the five men (three were from the Portland Bank auditing) to lie on the floor back of the tellers’ windows and they did so without complaint. Then he handed me the sack and ordered me to scoop up the money from each of the tellers’ windows Nothing was said about what might be in the vault. He told me to get my purse and come with him. I still had the sack of money and the keys to my car, which was parked in the rear of the building, were in my purse.

It occurred to me that I was headed to drive the getaway car. We walked east toward the alley and Welch’s store where he told me to go through the alley I thought that if he were going to shoot me it might better be on Main Street than in some place of his choice. When we got to the alley I threw down the sack and ran toward the hardware. In my hurry I fell down and then ran to the door.

Myrtle and Betty were working and to have me burst in on them in that excitement scared them half to death. Somebody ran quickly to lock both back and front doors of the store. When I had calmed a little I telephoned the bank to tell them I was not hurt. By that time they had telephoned the State Police. The policemen were there in a few minutes with their tracking dog. The rain diffused the scent enough to confuse the dog and he was of no help.

The bank closed for the rest of the day with the police outside telling the customers why they could not go in We were interviewed by the police the sheriff’s men and the F. B. I. men. All were courteous and nice about it.

Now that we have lost our rural robber-fee reputation, there are plans to install some equipment that might help frustrate another robbery, should there be one.



Back in the late 1920’s Sunfield and another bank robbery D G Weippert (Griff) was the cashier and managed to get along with little other help. John Fleetham gives us this firsthand account of the robbery in a taped interview.

Griff Weippert was the cashier. Griff always got down to the bank early in the morning. He was a great fellow to do that. When he was farming he was always on the job early He was down there at six o’clock If you wanted to go to the bank you could get in for business He had everything all set I don’t kick on that I was up, myself. I would always get up and go to the barbershop and tidy up the outfit there. I got over there that morning and was sweeping the sidewalk.

We were used to hearing the bank alarm bell every once in a while. Somebody would step on the button or something would happen to set it off. People would just glance that way and that was all. I got downtown and was sweeping when the bell started to ring. Naturally I glanced up that way and there was Rosa Stinchcomb sweeping off the sidewalk at the drugstore across from the bank. She was motioning to me to come where she was. The first thing I thought of was that maybe there was a fire in there.

I started running up there. Had I known what the deal was, I would have run the other way because I’m not much of a brave fellow in such situations. I get up there and I said “What’s the trouble Rosa?”

She said “They’re robbing the bank and Griff is in there There are three of them they went right in that side door” They had come out but she didn’t tell me that She said “You can go right in that side door ” Orley Baughman later had a barbershop where you went in that entrance. You just stepped inside the door and there was a hall that went to the left and you opened the door—a swinging door to the bank lobby.

Well, I didn’t feel much like it. I look up and here came Kelly Porter, Buster’s father. He came walking across the street. He said “What’s the trouble, John?”

I said “Rosa tells me that they are robbing the bank and Griff is in there and she said to go right in this side door”. We started over that way. I wasn’t ahead of him and he was not ahead of me. We were going pretty carefully. We stepped inside the first door; that door was open. Everything looks spooky to you at a time like that. There was a glove here and a piece of rope and—Geez—all I was thinking about was I wished I could get out of there somewhere.

We stood there and Kelly said “Griff is in here?” I said “Yeah, Rosa said he is in here.”

I knew I had to go on and open that door. One thing came to my mind. I’d go up to that door and push it open and I’d throw my hands up above my head because I knew someone would be at the door and right at me. I’ll throw up my hands right in the air and he won’t shoot. I got all set and I threw the door open and threw my hands up and there was nobody there.

I took a step in and I was looking. I would have seen a cricket if it had moved. I was watching and didn’t see a thing. I looked over the swinging doors there and there lay Griff right on his side and he was taped with white adhesive tape, his hands behind him, taped right up tight. He was taped around his head through his moustache and his feet were banded above the ankles.

She said “You can go right in that side door ”

Kelly and I stepped over in there. Griff was just as calm as could be; he never was very excitable anyway. He was not as scared as I was. We got him loose. I can see him yet. He stretched up—he was a big tall fellow—he straightened up and said “Well Johnnie, I guess they’ve cleaned house”. I just asked him a few things about it and he just said they came in or rather they were already in there when he came and when he walked up to where they put the cash out they raised up and had a gun in his face.

He told them, he said “Now don’t get excited. I’ll get the money for you. Don’t get excited”. He said he went around to this vault or safe and the fellow had a gun right in his back. He said “I known he was scared because that thing was just a shaking. I told him “Calm down, calm down, I’ll get it for you”. Griff said that when they ordered him to lie down on the floor to be taped up his glasses hurt his head. He said to them, “Will you take my glasses off and lay them up there, they kind of hurt?”

They said “Yes”, they were nice fellows. They took them off and laid them up there.

They took the money, five or six thousand dollars and left in a Willys Knight car. They drove over a block and then went right north. I heard the car and Lawrence Scheel saw it. A couple of weeks after that, my brother, Bill, was going to Portland and going down that north road he saw the top of a car pretty well hidden in a gravel pit, I guess it was. He drove up and looked at it and there was the Willys Knight. They had run in there with that and thrown their money into a model T Ford with fish poles tied onto it and away they went. Nobody would stop a model T with fish poles, so they got away.

They probably would never have gotten caught but one of the fellows had a girlfriend. He promised her a fur coat and didn’t get it so she squealed on him.

Their names were Gerald Buysee, Kenneth Albro and Maynard Little. I talked with Kenneth Albro’s father after that. Through some other people I later met him and he was talking about the robbery. The boy was serving time then as were the others. I just made the remark “That’s too bad, Mr. Albro, about your boy being imprisoned”.

“No, no” he said, “It’s a good thing he got caught. He might have kept going and shot somebody and then he would never have gotten out. That is the best way, just as it is.”

After the robbery the other day I told Helen “By Golly, Helen, I didn’t have ahold of those robbers as they had hold of you so I know you must have probably been nervous and maybe you weren’t. If I had been in your shoes, I would have been.” There is something about that that scares me.

THE TOUR OF INDIA (continued)

The tourist in India with twelve or thirteen days to do his stint must zig and zag in a part of the country and pick up impressions, mostly of what he sees. To get a proper interpretation of what is seen, one would have to live with it for a much longer period.

Our tour was on the western side of India starting at New Delhi, then going by train north to Amritsar near the Pakistan border, flying back to New Delhi, taking a tour bus to Agra and then flying over to Jaipur. Then came a flight to Bombay before returning home. Just as Michigan may differ from Mississippi or Arizona, so different parts of India show a different culture and ways of doing things.

Street traffic in the cities is governed by traffic light signals not unlike our own. After getting used to driving on the left, it should be no great problem to drive in India. Most of the highway and street signs were in English, which is taught there as a second language as a medium between a dozen major languages and scores of minor ones. Newspapers, too, adopt the English format to reach the largest number of readers in the big cities. Unlike so many of our one-newspaper cities, the larger cities offered a choice of two, three or four daily newspapers. They carried advertising but were not bloated with it and kept their pages down to four, six or eight.

India is not free of billboards. Cigarettes and the favorite soft drinks were thus advertised as well as many other items of commerce. Reminding me some of our wartime slogans, some government-sponsored signboards urged the people to accept discipline, to work more and walk and talk less and to produce more for prosperity. There was a form of spirits prohibitation in force, yet there was an occasional wine shop and liquors of all kinds were to be had by foreigners in the major hotels. Motel as a word is a stranger to Indians. That type of accommodation and a super highway system is yet to be introduced there. The fact that we stayed in two different Holiday Inns might indicate that the motel concept will soon be coming.

We saw no campers, travel trailers nor motor homes. No doubt some do make their way there. Light skinned tourists in a dark skinned country become a local attraction as soon as one gets away from major tourist routes. Children gather in the foreground with parents in a wider circle to see what those foreigners will be interested in next. The next busload of white skinned tourists may look as if they were from a town or two away at home but when you hear their voices you know something is amiss. The first busload I saw at our hotel were tourists from Jugoslavia seeing India from quite a different viewpoint than our own.

A load of Russians were just ahead of us visiting the ancient Caves of Elephanta, seven miles off the coast of Bombay in the Arabian Sea. As we followed them on the walking tour of the island, I made the amazing discovery that not all men have two rear hip pockets. Where you might carry your billforld in your left hip pocket, the Russians had nary a slit in their trousers. Thus alerted, I found that some other Asians seemed to consider the left hip pockets unnecessary.

Our guide informed us that they were not much impressed by the Russians as tourists because the U. S. S. R. allowed them only Rs75 (about $8) for spending money on their two-week trip. Mother Russia saw to it that Ivan did not waste his rubles on knick-knacks when he traveled. Our Sikh bus driver flattered us by saying that he felt safe leaving his personal things loose on the bus when he was driving for Americans but when some other nationalities were his fares he kept everything locked up.

It was easy to recognize the Japanese. We frequently used the same dining rooms. One man, perhaps he missed his chopsticks, had fork in one hand, a spoon in the other and alternated their use in stuffing his face. And stuff we could. Food was often served buffet style with a great choice of meats, vegetables and desserts and a trip back for seconds when wanted. A group of California farmers joined us in the dining room at Agra. It was like potluck at home when meat was inexpensive and you didn’t even have to furnish food, service or fill your own coffee cup. No doubt some of the other nationalities had some comments about the loud Americans at the next table. Our waiters were trained to endure with patience some oddities of behavior of people from around the world.

In the hotel elevator at New Delhi I met a man who was from Owosso, Michigan. Some others of our party became acquainted with an engineer and his wife from Toronto. At Poona I talked with a man whose appearance made me think he might be an American. He was a Frenchman who spoke enough English for conversation.

He had some relatives in Canada and New Jersey. The proprietor of the fancy Blue Diamond Hotel in Poona was an Indian who had graduated from Cornell University in the late 1920’s. He was a major stockholder of an industrial corporation whose offices occupied the top floor of the Blue Diamond Hotel.

It was at Poona that I first noticed the banyan trees. These trees grow long dangling limbs that reach the ground, root to form another tree and thus crawl around like giant inchworms, or so I had read. People live in Poona, too, and I soon found that people like their banyan trees under control to look like other trees. They trim the dangling branches about eight feet above the ground and there is no secondary rooting. Another tree whose popularity was indicated by its name was the People tree. Still another was similar in appearance to our cottonwood. A few evergreens were used as ornamentals in the cities.

Anyone with a Michigan background cannot help noticing the farming country without patches of woodlots here and there. In my three-or four hundred miles of surface travel in India I looked in vain for a woods. There were trees scattered everywhere on the horizon but no woods except some riverbank growth. There are forested areas in India but mainly in the foothills of the mountains.

Just as there were no woodlots there was also nothing to compare with the weed growth we often see on vacant lots and untended roadsides. It seemed that anything that grew was made use of in some way. The cellulose of weeds and grass was put through the digestive tract of a grazing animal and then salvaged as buffalo chips for cooking fires. The soft manure was shaped into uniform patties to dry in the sunshine. When thoroughly dry the chips were neatly piled to make little huts, some igloo style, and then plastered over with fresh dung to waterproof the hoard against the monsoon. Dry fuel was needed for the rainy season.

From our railroad car windows we had a sort of cross section view of India’s bread basket, the state of Punjab. Wheat was headed out and seemed to be the major crop in every direction. In some fields there was a scattering of mustard blossoming in the wheat. In others the mustard followed about every seventh drill row as if it surely was purposely planted. Inquiries to urban Indians on the train brought no explanation. It appeared to me that some of India’s plentiful labor supply would harvest that mustard before the wheat harvest. The seed of mustard makes an edible oil.

There were scattered small fields of sugarcane and blackened areas where the leaves had been burned before the harvest of cane. At one Sikh temple I visited, the resident attendants were carrying on some farming. They had a three or four horsepower electric motor to power a cane juicer. Adjoining it and enveloped in a cloud of steam was an evaporator concentrating the sugar in the juice. The end product was patties of brown sugar that looked similar to our large brown molasses cookies.

Much of this farmland has to be irrigated to produce a crop. Rain come in abundance in the summer monsoon. This is followed by a growing season and then hot, dry weather. Most of the part of India I saw was so flat that gravity irrigation was a suitable method. Some areas are supplied from tube (drilled) wells with electric motors to do the pumping. The ancient method of pumping and still in use is the Persian Wheel in which oxen are hitched to a sweep geared to a wheel over an open well. A chain of buckets is suspended from the wheel to the depths of the well to bring up water to the irrigation trench as the wheel turns. Some three centuries back a giant well of this type was powered by elephants to supply one of India’s walled cities with water. Failure of the water supply dictated the abandonment of the city that is now one of many architectural tourist attractions.

Twice we crossed dried riverbeds. The monsoon rains starting in June would again fill their banks. Later I heard that this year’s monsoon flooded 16,000 villages in that area. Small streams from the irrigation ditches were occasionally being used for laundry and baths. In some places there are dams and holding ponds to conserve the water for the dry season.

The railway stations in the village and cities become a buzz of activity when a passenger train stops. Soft drink and food stands, newspaper and book stalls with paperback titles we have seen at home, spring into life. I suspected that as soon as our train departed, everything went lowkey.

From our car windows the rural panorama opened. Housing, such as some of it was, was limited to the villages. Crossing guards were posted on the main highways. At one place some kind of excavation was going on and nearly a hundred camel carts were hauling from the site. At another place was a concentration of water buffaloes. The water buffalo is a favorite animal in India because of its rich milk and its durability as a beast of burden. One Indian farmer told us that a team of buffaloes could be worked only 175 days a year and that the cost of its accomplishments was greater than the same amount of work with the small 4-wheel tractors that are coming into use. The buffalo is a wallowing animal. That seemed to account for the many sharp edged depressions along highways and field edges. Perhaps that is too much like interpreting the surface of Mars from radio photos.

Railroad ties were of steel. Friend and railroad retiree, Guy Taylor, tells me that rigid ties of steel and concrete have been tried on railroads here and found impractical for use in frozen ground. Too firm a roadbed made damaging wear on the running gear of the cars. India uses steel for utility poles—electric and telephone. Maybe they have no tree that matches our southern pine treated poles. A few things are universal but India proves that there can be many variations.


As I read through the copies of the RECOLLECTOR I decided I should give you the attendance at the Travis School for its last year (1971-72). Much of the school’s earlier history is here and since it was the last rural school in Sebewa Township it seemed appropriate. So, since I taught the school the last year and a half, replacing Mrs. Mosser when she left for heart surgery, here are my memories and the attendance list.

There were several times that Rev. Juizema of the Portland Christian Reformed Church let me hold classes in the adjacent church basement while our furnace was being repaired. But the tables turned. The Travis schoolhouse is now the church annex.

There was a time, shortly before our Christmas program when a beam collapsed under the building and created a valley in the middle of the room. During the Christmas program a note was passed to me telling me Santa Claus had to go home for his suit. Also all the props collapsed on Chris Peake as he played Santa in the play. But it all came out well.

I also remember how hard we worked on afternoon to get ready for the Rural Teachers’ Club the next day. The oldest girls and I even mopped the floor only to come the next morning to find the building had been broken into and robbed! Even our clock was taken off the wall! We were robbed a second time several months later.

I hope those “kids” remember the trips we took while I was there. Several of the older children got to go to Camp Kett near Cadillac for different weekends. We also went to the National Guard Armory near Grand Ledge. I remember how the kids jumped when the guide raised the whole wall of the building. I am sure several mothers also remember our trip to Greenfield Village. Do you know there were only two stoplights and the stop sign at Keefer Highway between here and there?

I’ll always remember the wonderful closeness of the Travis District people and their great charity to me when my mother died six weeks after I started teaching there; and also their response when my husband was hospitalized from April 14th through the end of the year. Parents helped in keeping records and making reports.

I also recall our visit to the State Legislature and Representative Stanley Powell introducing us to the House and Senate. Two of the Senators commented on the politeness of our group.

The Travis School youngsters had fun corresponding with pen pals in the Marianas Islands in the Pacific Ocean, thanks to a young man, Jim Moses, who subbed at Travis before I came there. Try explaining snow to kids who live near the equator!

We had some notable changes in enrollment that last year. Phyllis Ward moved to Woodland, so we lost Jeff, grade 8; Doug, grade 7 and Keith, grade 4. The school board allowed me to bring my two children with me to school so that added two to the rolls. Shortly after school started, the Mulfords moved in and Sue joined us. In October, Portland Schools informed the Kinsmans that their house was in the Travis District so Doug and Jolene joined us. In November the York house was rented to Tom LaCount, Jay, Jon and Dan Schmidt joined us. They were in grades 8, 6, 4 and 2 respectively and were with us until February. In March Arthur Creighton, Jr. rented that house and Paula, Tom and Brenda Bailey joined our school until the end.

Our final enrollment was as follows:

8th Grade: Sue Mulford, Dennis Normington, Chris Peake, LeAnn Putnam, Karen Smith, Kendall Smith.

7th Grade: Cameron Peake, Sally Scutt, Shirley Scutt.

6th Grade: Cree Peake, Kathy Putnam.

5th Grade: David Bower, George Cassel, Doug Kinsman, Jeff Normington.

4th Grade: Tommy Normington.

2nd Grade: Paula Bailey, Tracy Elliott, Ann Guy, Jolene Kinsman, Jeff Smith.

1st Grade: Jean Cassel, Robert Elliott, David Putnam, Kevin Steward.

Kindergarten: Brenda Bailey, Tom Bailey, Aubrey Cabinaw, Brian Kenyon.

Our last school board was composed of Ken Guy, Norma Jean Norminton and Larry Steward. We had some good ball games, some great snowball fights and a couple of unique snowmen. We had a closeness that will never exist in town schools no matter how hard they try and even though I now teach fifth grade at Portland’s Westwood school and may get one or more of Travis’ last beginners this fall, it is not the same. My dearest memories are of Travis and other country schools I taught.



Last update October 14, 2014