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Ionia County Sebewa Recollector Items

Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 17 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 Sebewa Association;
Volume 17, June 1982, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of Grayden D. Slowins, Editor:

WOODBURY – MY HOME TOWN – 1925, By ViVerne Pierce

M-66, a paved cement road runs through Woodbury from the south to the north. It wasn’t always this way---just so many wagon tracks that had to be hand-shoveled out in the winter from snow banks, head high to a tall Indian---dragged and scraped and graded in the spring from ruts in the mud almost belly-deep to a team of horses, and dusty as the devil in the dry summer. Then it became #13, then #39 and eventually M-66. And every time the road bed was changed, Ma made Dad and I rearrange her rock garden on the bank alongside the road. No wonder I don’t like rock gardens even to this day.

The people in Woodbury in the 1920’s were very close to each other. I remember no family feuds or quarrels. If anybody had problems, no matter what, the whole town drew together and helped out. Perhaps the one thing that accounts for this was the fact that practically every one who lived there either worked in town or not more than five miles away at the most. The work was all hard, backbreaking, manual labor---no machines then. The closeness of the town was, perhaps, shown best when the “Great Depression of ‘29” hit the country. Everyone drew together, helped each other, shared with each other---nobody lost his home and none went hungry. It was with people such as these that I grew up among and gave me the fond memories I will share with you.

George and Bird Schelter made a living off their 10 or 12 acres at the edge of town. It was their well and pump that finally made me realize there was no Santa Claus. When I was six on Christmas Eve, my mother sent Dad over to Schelters for a pail of water. It was dark out and I went out on our front porch to yell at my dad and discovered all the Christmas presents on the porch. When Dad got back to the porch I said “There’s no Santa Claus, is there? You and Ma got us all these presents, didn’t you?”

He quietly said, “I guess you’re right, boy, but let’s not say anything to your sister about it. Let her believe as long as she will.”

Ricky Eckardt was an old maid, but a very nice one. She disturbed me only once and but for a short time, when she told my mother, “One spread to a slice of bread”. I was afraid Ma wasn’t going to put butter and jam together on my sandwiches anymore.

Jake and Lillie Miller operated a slaughterhouse, butchering cattle and hogs for people of that area. I didn’t know whether I liked Jake or not, after watching him shoot the animals in the head with his single barrel 25-20 rifle, but then, Lillie made up for him with the hot cracklings she passed around and especially when she let me use her old setting hen to hatch out a nest of duck eggs I had.

John and Emma Gerlinger and their son, Carl, were next. John moved an old schoolhouse onto his property and set up a wood-working shop. With that and his team of horses, he made a living for his family. Carl was my age and we were best of friends. The stories about Cobby and I would fill another book.

Ernest and Olive Grant (Itha McArthur’s parents) and their son, John, lived next to the P. M. tracks. How their house would shake every time the train went through. One would have thought the windows would fall out and dishes in the cupboard would break but somehow they didn’t. John was the reason for a firecracker exploding in my hand. I lit the big cracker, turned to throw it and there stood Johnnie Grant.

I didn’t dare let it go, so it exploded in my hand and I let him know it was all his fault. Grandma Grant lived up back of her son, Ernest, and I shall never forget the shock of seeing her sitting out on her little porch in a rocking chair and smoking a clay pipe. She was the only woman in Woodbury at that time who smoked, but I liked her because she had some good fruit trees and grape arbors that I was welcome to eat from.

My folks, Carl and Neva Pierce, lived on the corner of now M-66 and Maple Street and no boy could have been more fortunate in the location of his home. My Grandpa and Grandma Wells (W. R. Wells & Cassie) lived beside us and my Grandpa and Grandma Pierce (H. O. Pierce & Katie) lived across the road. How lucky could a boy be? And because this is not a family history, I will not go into any detail about them, except to say, “I loved them dearly”.

Cleophus and Dora DeCamp with their son, Forrest, lived next to Grandpa Pierce. He was a schoolteacher at Woodbury for many years and a very stern one. Consequently not too many children idolized him, but because he insisted that my mother let me read his Argosy magazine, maintaining that a boy could round out his education reading about the cowboys, soldiers and other adventurers I liked, I thought him a very nice man.

Across the street again, lived Gottlieb and Mary Morlok, (Dick Morlok’s Grandpa & Grandma). They were the parents of Carl Morlok, who, perhaps, brought more fame to Woodbury than any other one person. He was the father of the Morlok quadruplets, born in Lansing, Michigan. Bill Morlok, Dick’s father, was a man of few words and believed in going to the core of a problem to solve it. Like the time he was suffering from a very bad corn on his little toe. To cure it he placed his foot on a block of wood and with a sharp hatchet, proceeded to chop off the toe.

One incident I remember best, was when my Uncle Irol Wells and I were trying out our new bows and arrows that we had made---the bow from a thin piece of hickory with many pieces of store string wound together and waxed, and the arrows from dried cattail stalks. The target was Gottlieb Morlok’s Rhode Island Red Rooster. I know now that it wasn’t funny to see that rooster run around for two days with that arrow sticking out its rear end, but it seemed that way until our fathers caught up with us.

Pete Kussmaul’s family added the touch of sadness to Woodbury to balance out some of the joys. I often wondered why Ma wouldn’t let us kids burn the leaves that we had raked up in our yard in the fall. I found out that just about the time I was born the two Kussmaul children were playing in the leaves they were burning when the boy’s clothes caught fire. The parents grabbed him and rolled him in carpet to extinguish the flames, but he died from the extensive burns on his body. To this day I am apprehensive when I see children playing around burning leaves.

Reverend Lyons and his wife lived in the U. B. parsonage. He was an impressive looking man to me. He was quite tall, stood very straight, was always well-dressed and then had this immense head of pure white hair. He was the epitome of a preacher in my eyes and for many years I couldn’t understand how some men had become preachers when they didn’t look anything at all like our Rev. Lyons.

Abe Middaugh and family lived beside the church. He worked for George Smith at Smith Bros. Belte elevator for many years. Abe was a quiet sort of fellow, went about his work quietly and did it well. “He’s my right hand man”, Mr. Smith often said. But once in awhile Abe would get riled at some one or something and then the cuss words would roll out of him. I often wondered if living that close to the church took some of the sting out of them, because he lived to be quite an old man. Incidentally, Abe was Harlan Middaugh’s father.

Across the street from Middaughs was a vacant house owned by the Strimback family. Although nobody lived there when I was a child, I must tell the story my Grandpa Wells told me about a family that rented the house from Strimbacks. Apparently the family obtained a small pig and kept it in the basement of the house. This pig must have been the forerunner of a garbage disposal, because they fed it all their peelings, and table scraps from each meal. It came time to butcher the hog, but they couldn’t get the 350# live hog up the stairway, so they were forced to butcher it in the basement. Tale about building a boat in the basement!

George and Bessie Geisel and son, Kenneth, lived upstairs over the W. R. Wells store. Aunt Bessie, being a daughter of W. R. Wells, clerked in the store and George ran the grocery wagon through the countryside. George made many friends of the people on his routes. They looked forward to his coming for many reasons. He used to thread needles for several old ladies who were partially blind, carry messages for neighbors, and for the kids he always had “stick candy”. This is probably why Grandpa used to say that with women confiding in him, Uncle George usually knew when a lady was “expecting” before her husband did.

Mr. and Mrs. Gross lived across from the store. They were the parents of Rena Fender. Mr. Gross was a shoe cobbler. They were a very quiet family, speaking very broken English as I recall, and as kids, we sensed that they wanted to be left alone, so there is not much I remember about them.

Harlan and Olive Horn lived on the corner and her sister, Vera Gilson, lived with them and worked in the Horn’s store. Their house was about the nicest in town. Harlan hauled all the kids in Woodbury to school in Woodland when the Woodbury school was closed for eight years. Vera Gilson, next to my mother and grandmothers was probably the most influential woman I knew in my childhood years. She taught me to recognize and pronounce the wild bird names on the cards that used to come in Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. I had my collection for years. She also taught me how to play dominoes and checkers and impressed upon me how important good manners were for children. I remember that she always seemed to find time in the store to teach me something but with her it was more like play.

Jake and Roxie Schelter, down the street from Horn’s store were Ethel Hynes folks (Ardath Wilcox’s parents). I’ve often wondered how many yards of gravel he shoveled. He was a quiet, hard-working man. One time he had been working for my father and when it came payday, Dad asked “How much do I owe you, Jake?”

He responded quickly and quietly, “Six times eight is forty-eight---dollar and a half from last week, figure it up yourself, by God!” Roxie was a wonderful, warm lady. She always asked me in for a warm cookie and a cold glass of milk. Naturally I made it my business to know the time of the week she baked and always happened to be around then. Come to think of it, this happened at quite a few places in Woodbury.

George Smith, his wife, Louise and daughter, Hilda, lived on---what else---Smith St. He and his brother David started Smith Bros. & Velte Elevators. (Larry Smith’s uncle and father). The best way I can describe George Smith is with a comparison to a recent TV commercial. You have all seen the one where people stop and listen when the name E. F. Hutton is mentioned. Well sir, in Woodbury, when George Smith spoke, people listened, not out of awe, but with respect.

Mrs. Statsick, (Dorothy Smith’s mother) lived next to Smiths. The two things I remember best about her place were 1)she had the only smooth section of sidewalk in town on which to roller skate and 2)she had an enormous horse chestnut tree in her front yard and that was where I got all my ammunition for my slingshot. That was the only horse chestnut tree in town but the nuts wound up seeding the whole town.

Orley Middaugh lived on the corner of the highway and Kalamazoo Street along with his mother and brother, Adelburt. Orley ran the barbership and poolroom and Delbert was a wood cutter. As I remember, Delbert was always sharpening his axe, a double bitted one that shone like a new dime. When he chopped a block of wood, you never saw three or four axe marks to one slab of wood. I believe he could split a hair lengthwise with that axe. Orley had a beagle dog, (Old Susie) that was a very good rabbit dog. When hunting season rolled around it was our dog. He would let Dad take the dog home and when he wasn’t hunting with it, the dog had a special place in our kitchen and was given all the attention of visiting royalty.

Next to Middaughs lived Rev. Hettler and his family in the Evangelical parsonage. He was a good man and a good preacher, but he never seemed to be able to help Delbert Middaugh with his temper and profanity. The Hettlers had a son, Forest, who in the vernacular of those days “wasn’t quite right”, and after seeing him chase his sister-in-law with a butcher knife, our teasing of him let up somewhat.

Glen and DeEtte Rairigh and family lived down the street. Glen worked for years for Forrest DeCamp in the garage and also ran his own sawmill. But I remember him best for taking time out of his day to show me how to throw a baseball, how to use a ball bat and how to play the game in general. He is still alive and I always enjoy a chat with him when we happen to meet.

The Hildinger sisters, always referred to as the “Old Maids” lived next to Rairighs and they were always the brunt of our Halloween tricks. We would make tic-tacs from a thread spool, notched on the edges with rubber bands put through them and a wind-up stick. After winding one up and placing it on a window pane we’d let it go so it would make a terrible racket. Those two dear ladies never tried to retaliate and why we were so mean to them, I don’t know, but I’m sorry.

Leo and Ethel Hynes and children, Glendon, Cecil and Ardath were next. Leo also worked for George Smith and later for Harlan Horn before starting farming for himself. Ethel could never understand why her children had colds and runny noses most of the winter when they were bundled up with sweaters, coats, stocking caps, scarves, overshoes, mittens and anything else she could get on them, while I was running around bareheaded, shirt open, feet wet, wet mittens and never had a cold. She asked my Ma about this one day and my Ma simply said, “Ethel, maybe you ought to let those kids breathe a little.”

Then there was Mr. & Mrs. Winters, Ed Winters’ folks. I don’t recall anything in particular about them so it will suffice to say that they were just “nice people”.

Ted and Nina Pachulski lived across from Winters with their son Kenmore “Bud” Fender. I was eight or nine years old before I could understand why his last name was different from his parents. Divorce was unheard of in Woodbury at that time. Incidentally, I heard that Bud went down in a torpedoed submarine in World War II and his body was never recovered.

Clarence and Sarah Meyers lived on the north side at this time. They were another nice couple and at their place a young boy was always welcomed into the kitchen for cookies and milk. And you could play in their yard or run across it without feer of being “hollered at”. Come to think of it, there wasn’t any place in Woodbury like that.

Luther, “Mose” Brodbeck lived on the street across from the elevator with his wife and children. “Mose” was the station agent at the depot and that could be a whole story by itself. Their children were Marguerite and Luther Jr. but being younger than I, I don’t remember too much about them.

Now---George “Baldy” Kussmaul and Martha, his wife, I could write another whole book about him. Baldy worked at everything---section hand, woodcutter, thresher, ditch digger, farm hand, whatever there was to do, Baldy could do it. To me, he was my euchre partner, jew’sharp teacher and story teller. Just a person a young boy enjoyed being with because Baldy was young at heart also.

Just outside of town was Carl and Florence Eckardt. They delivered milk in town in the evening. Who remembers milk before it was pasteurized and when left on the porch a little too long on a cold evening would freeze and raise out of the bottle? That frozen cream was like ice cream to me. Ma accused me of leaving it out on the porch too long on purpose---she was right.

Dan Smith lived south of town. We could set our clocks when Dan came to get his mail at noon and for the men’s gabfest every night in Grandpa Wells’ store. He never missed coming to town twice a day as long as I knew him. He was also, to my knowledge, the most and best read Bible student in the area.

Across the road from Dan lived Mike Hildinger. Mike was a short roly-poly red-faced, laughing man, who liked his cider, but was always a most generous man when it came time to contributing to a worthy cause.

I have left to the last Ed and Martha Winters, the main reason being that Martha was like a second mother to me. Before her children, William and Helena were born, she would walk into Woodbury, take me as a baby into her arms and walk home and then bring me back at night. This continued long after I could walk with her. She showered me with so much love and affection, it was no wonder my day was complete when she walked into my daughter’s home two years ago to honor me with her presence at the celebration of my wife’s and my 40th wedding anniversary. She will always be Marsie to me.

Woodbury today has changed for me. Old buildings have been torn down while few have been built. Old majestic trees have been cut down with few replanted and saddest of all, practically everybody mentioned in this article has passed on leaving nothing but memories---but they are memories I’ll never forget.

My sincerest thanks to Robert Gierman for all the time he has spent reproducing the articles on Woodbury and the CK&S Railroad and using them in The Sebewa Recollecotor for all to enjoy. His efforts to compile and perpetuate these statistics and memories are deeply appreciated. VGP End


John Grieves was a seventeen year old boy, who lived in Steuben County, New York state, when the President of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln, called for volunteers to join up in the Civil War in 1860. His parents were not in favor of his joining the service when he was so young. John climbed out of his upstairs bedroom window one night, ran out and enlisted in the Thirty-Fifth New York Infantry, Co. F., then drilling at Corning, N.Y., and then to Washington, D.C. where they camped on Meridian Heights and took part in the first battle of Bull Run, covered the retreat from that battle and camped at Arlington, near the present site of the National Cemetery.

Mr. Grieves (our grandfather) served in the battles of Fredericksburg, Yorktown and the Seven Days battle, then went with his company overland to Cedar Mountain and fought in the battles of the Rappanhannock, White Sulphur Springs and the second battle of Bull Run. Then they proceeded to South Mountain and Antietam, where they crossed the Potomac to Warrentown. He was present when McClellan was relieved of his command, which was given to Burnside.

In the battle of Fredericksburg, Mr. Grieves fought in “Franklin’s Grand Division”, which crossed the Potomac on pontoon bridges to Chancellorsville. He was mustered out of service June 11, 1863 and reenlisted in December 1863 in Co. L, Fourth Heavy Artillery at Cohocton, N.Y. He then fought in the second battle of Chancellorsville in 1864 and in the battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse and Cold Harbor. At City Point they were given mortar batteries and stationed before Petersburg during the winter of 1864. In the spring of 1865 Co. L was ordered to follow up the Second Corps Artillery Brigade where he was present at the surrender of Lee at Appomatix, April 9, 1865 and then the war was over. He was mustered out of service at Hart’s Island, N.Y. September of 1865, having served through the entire war without once being wounded or captured by the enemy.

He came to Michigan shortly after the war and obtained work in the lumber woods. He became acquainted with and hired by Horace Goodwin, who was a lumberman in the woods. Goodwin, with his wife and eight children lived in the area of Bear Lake, Michigan. John met and became acquainted with the hired girl of the Goodwin family. Her name was Marion Ruth Thompson from Alto, Bowne Township, Kent County. She was assisting her older sister (Mrs. Goodwin), Adelia, with the housework and care of her family. Their friendship grew and they were married in April 1870.

He was a stone mason by trade, following in the footsteps of his father in that business. The family later moved from Kent County and settled near Maple Corners near Portland. While living there he carried on his trade. One of the walls he built is along the street on Dilley Hill at the west end of Bridge Street in Portland.

He later bought land north of Morrison Lake and built a large frame house for his family on Townline Road south of Saranac where they lived and their family grew to adulthood. John and Marion lived on this farm some forty years before his death in 1925.

During his lifetime he was active in the Hiel P. Clark G.A.R. Post in Saranac and his wife was a member of the W. R. C. there also. He attended Co. battalion meetings very faithfully and he always planned each year to attend the Ionia Free Fair and usually visited his brother, William and family, who lived on their homestead farm north of Ionia in Ronald Township. He spent some time in Ionia at the home of one of his son’s and attended the Fair with him.

He last attended the Fair at the age of 81 years and returned home with the statement, “This is the best fair I’ve ever attended.”

He seemed always to have on hand little packages of spruce gum and horehound candy and the grand children thought he was great. They also remember the red-hot cinnamon drops from the big black bureau drawer in the kitchen that grandmother kept for them.

Mrs. Ruth A. (Harry) York of the Sebewa Center area was the eldest of their five children. They had 19 grandchildren, 15 lived to adulthood, ten were boys and seven served in the military service of their country.

Ruth taught country school prior to her marriage to Harry York. She was always active in community affairs prior to her death in 1947.



Last update November 16, 2013