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Ionia County Sebewa Recollector Items

Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 1 Number 5
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 CENTER ASSOCIATION; June 1966, Volume 1, Number 5.  Submitted with written permission of Current Editor Grayden D. Slowins: 


   This year both of these events will take place at the Sebewa Center Schoolhouse, June 11, the second Saturday in June 1966 with pot luck dinner at noon.  With favorable weather, the annual feed will be on picnic tables in the shade of the maples on the school lawn.  All Sebewa Center Association members and everybody who ever attended the school and their friends are cordially invited to participate.

   Because of a Church Wedding (Royal Shilton and Teri-Ann Brooks) scheduled for 2 P.M. of the same day, we shall try not to disturb the church facilities.  There will be short business meetings of both organizations and consideration will be given to merging the School Reunion with the Sebewa Center Association.

   The program for this year will depart from the usual routine.  At 2 P.M. everybody will be off to Shimnecon to visit the site of the former Indian village of this area.  Elmer Gierman will have charge of the events there.  Mrs. Pearl Reed will locate the site of the old log Mission as she was shown by her husband, the late Fred Reed, and as he was shown by his father.  Near the Mission were several log houses and not far away was the apple orchard and the cemetery.  Here the location of Chief Okemos’ grave is marked by an inscribed boulder.

   There will be a tree-planting near the grave site.  Some other events are being planned.  There is a good trail on this State Game Area of the Conservation Department and there is plenty of room for parking.  While sheer stockings many survive with careful attention, tourist garb would be more appropriate.  We do not anticipate this will be a genuine “Tum Tum” with “the women and children skulking in that woods” for safety. 


   Those coming from a distance who may have house trailers will find room, water and indoor toilet facilities on the school grounds.  Every effort will be made to make trailer visitors comfortable. 


   John York’s nearby light enabled us to complete the lawn-mowing last night without missing a tuft.  We add the name of Phillip Spitzley to the list of 23 others using the mercury vapor lamp.  Whether these lights indicate affluence of influenced we know not, nor do we know why 23 of the 24 lamps are not in the northwest quarter of the township.

  KEEPING AHEAD OF THE WEAR AND TEAR – Hopefully, by the eleventh of June the steel roof of the schoolhouse will be freshly painted and the belfry reroofed for another generation. 

   ANDREW HUNT – In the Chief Okemos article of this issue, the name of Andrew Hunt is given to “grandfather” of the story without reference to the name of the “old settler” story-teller.  Recently the Lansing State Journal carried an obituary of Andrew Hunt, 69, of Bath with the notation that he was survived by a son, Andrew, of Midland.  Three Andrew Hunts seemed too many for mere coincidence.  We asked Mildred (Sindlinger) Rice to see if all belonged to the family who were neighbors of Chief Okemos.  The hunch was good.  Mildred found Andrew of Midland to be the great grandson of the Andrew who came to the wilds of Michigan from New York.  The story had been told by Roy Hunt, who died in 1965.  Perhaps Andrew will be our guest at Shimnecon.

   GLENN, HAZEL, GLADYS, LEONA AND MARIAN are known to many of you as grandchildren of William Coe, to whom our old-letter of the month was addressed.  Ralph Coe salvaged the letter from the old Coe log house on Henderson Road in Sebewa section 8 before the building was razed.   

   A CENTURY AND MORE INSTITUTION PASSES - This year, for the first time, township officers will not be nominated by caucus - “corkus” rings in our ears.  Under the new Michigan Constitution, candidates for township office will file nominating petitions for a place on the primary election ballot.  If nobody seeks the office, the choice will be made on blank ballots by write-in votes. 

   THE SEBEWA CENTER ASSOCIATION—WHAT IS IT?  This bulletin is being sent to the mailing list we have maintained for the School Reunion group.  If this is your first time to see the Recollector, you may appreciate some explanation.  In August of 1965, the Association was formed to purchase and maintain the Sebewa Center School buildings and grounds.  $296.88 in donations to the building purchase fund has been received, leaving $203.12 to be raised and paid on that account.  Annual dues of $1 per person or $2.50 per family are the membership fees.  Some of the dues money is spent for the building maintenance and some is used in publishing this bulletin as a service to the members.  There are four bulletins previous to this one and all are available to any one paying the membership fee and becoming charter members before the annual meeting on June 11.  Plans are made to continue the RECOLLECTOR for another year and all 1966-67 dues become due for members as of June 11.  For this small fee we cannot afford a mail campaign nor a general solicitation.

   Our membership now stands at 203 adult members and the children of several families.  Please mail or pay the  1966-67 dues to our treasurer, Mrs. Lucille Meyers, R 1, Sunfield, Michigan.  Do your neighbor and our Association a favor by sending the dues in a group from your locality.  The constitution and by-laws as adopted are printed in a previous issue.  The Association is chartered as a Michigan non-profit corporation.

   A THANK YOU – Material for use in the RECOLLECTOR is welcomed and we are grateful to Richard W. Thrams and Loid M. Stinchcomb for their contributions to this issue.

   June 11, 1966 at noon at the Sebewa Center Schoolhouse is the time and place to remember for this year’s meeting.  See you there then. 

AN ARTICLE FROM THE BULLETIN OF THE ABORIGINAL RESEARCH CLUB, DARREL J. RICHARDS Editor.  Published 1959.  Reprinted by permission of DarrelJ. Richards.

   CHIEF OKEMOS.  (as related to Guynne Cushman by an old settler in Jackson County).

   There is little on record concerning young Chief Johnny Okemos and what follows regarding him was told me when a child by my grandfather from my own experiences with him.

   My grandparents, Andrew and Mary Hunt, came to Michigan and took up a farm on Dexter Trail in the western part of Ingham Township, Ingham County on May 5, 1846.  At the rear of the farm, near a large spring, there were a group of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians encamped, headed by Chief John Okemos, known as the Old Chief.  It was a large tribe and they had lived there for many years and grown their Indian corn in the small clearing they had found or made.

   There were many braves, squaws, and papooses in the tribe including young Johnny Okemos.  The Old Chief was said to have been in many wars and battles of all kinds against the whites as well as with other Indian tribes.  It was said he had fought in the border warfare on Lake Erie in 1792 as was evidenced by the many scars on his head, face, and body.  A scar from a saber wound that had severed his shoulder blade, extended the entire length of his back.  He was an ally of Tecumseh and a nephew of the Great Pontiac.  He was also known as the Little Chief, since he was small in stature, not more than five feet five inches, and weighed about one hundred thirty-five pounds.  Many years before my grandfather knew him, he had signed a peace treaty with the whites and was peaceful and friendly to most people.  It was said of him that he was honest and inoffensive and was generally sober and moved about with much dignity.  Chief John Okemos was believed to have been born in Shiawasee County at a camp on the Looking Glass River near Knaggs Station.  The Chief was called both Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawattomie.  Okemos did not gain his chieftainship by hereditary descent, but for his ability to fight, his bravery and his endurance.  A few years before he died he surrendered his leadership to his son, Chief Johnny Okemos, but never forgot that he was once Chief of a powerful tribe of Chippewa and a nephew of Pontiac.

   He usually dressed in a sort of blanket cloth with a belt, a shawl wound around his head in turban fashion, leggings and moccasins.  He also wore red paint on his face.  He carried a steel pipe hatchet, a tomahawk, and a large English hunting knife, with a bone handle, stuck in his belt.  His later years were spent at his wigwam near Okemos.

   He was a frequent visitor on the streets of Lansing where he begged for food, tobacco and articles that he needed.  He died a few miles from Lansing at a camp on the Looking Glass River near DeWitt on December 5, 1858.  The residents of the camp placed his body in a wooden coffin, which was rude in the extreme and with the body was placed a pipe, tobacco, hunting knife, bird wings and provisions.  It was then transferred by sled over the snow to an Indian settlement called Shimnecon on the Grand River near Portland, where it was buried on December 7, 1858.

   It is estimated that Chief Okemos was close to 100 years old when he died.  The tribe spent much of their time on the Shiawassee River until about 1838 when small pox nearly wiped them out, then they scattered to several smaller camps.  The Chief sat for a picture in 1857, the only known picture ever made of him.  It is reported that the Indians were still growing corn in the vicinity of Okemos about 1839, where they remained until 1845-46 when many tribes were transported to land beyond the Mississippi River by United States Authorities.  Many years ago the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument over the Old Chief.

   A bit of family history seems in order at this point to explain how the Hunt family came to establish itself on this particular farm.  In 1844 my grandmother, whose maiden name was Mary Gilmore, had married Hiram Smith in Springwater, New York.  Shortly after their marriage, Mr. Smith came to the wilderness of Michigan and took up 87 acres of wild land from the government.  During the summer he cleared 5 acres of land and built a log cabin.  He returned to New York in the fall and a short time later, died.  In the summer of 1845 my grandfather made a trip to Michigan to see if he wanted to settle here on my grandmother’s farm, meantime clearing a few more acres of land and acquiring an additional 80 acres from the government.  The trip was made by boat from Buffalo to Detroit, then completed by walking the nearly hundred miles to the farm property, and walked another hundred miles back to Detroit on the return trip to New York.  There were no railroads in this section at that time.  In early April of 1846, Andrew Hunt and Mary Gilmore Smith were married, and within a few days started for Michigan.  My grandfather had a team of horses and a wagon.  They loaded the few pieces of furniture, a few dishes, pots and pans, some bedding and clothing, several bushels of potatoes, wheat and corn, drove from Springwater to Buffalo, where they loaded their belongings into the boat bound for Detroit.

  Arriving at midday, they started across country following what few roads there were, but mostly followed Indian trails where in places grandfather had to chop down small trees and brush to get his wagon through, and fording the streams, they either camped at night or stayed with those who had settled before.  They encountered many Indians enroute, but all proved to be friendly.  It took seven days to make the trip from Detroit to the farm.  They arrived on May 5, 1846.  Corn was already knee high in the gardens and patches among the stumps.  Being too late to plant corn, a few cleared acres were planted to potatoes and garden vegetables and wheat in the fall.  Few farm implements were needed or could be used among the stumps.  To prepare the land for planting, a large branch of a tree was dragged about to level the ground and cover the seed.  Grandfather discovered that horses were not suitable for clearing and breaking the land, so the team was exchanged for a yoke of oxen.  One of the first callers at the cabin a few days after their arrival was the Old Chief John Okemos.  He expressed his desire to be friends and also assured the family that there was no need to fear others of the tribe.  Grandmother gave him something to eat and in a day or two the Indian returned with a large piece of venison.  Through all the years there was no trouble with the Indians and although they were always begging, they would never steal.  If grandmother could spare what they asked for, usually salt pork or beans, potatoes, wheat flour or something from the garden, she always gave it to them, and in return they would bring baskets, wild berries, venison, wild turkey, passenger pigeons, fish, moccasins and such.

   One story my grandfather told verifies historical description of the Old Chief’s dress.  Once when they had an abundance of watermelons in the garden, grandfather told the Chief he could have what he wanted.  The old Indian moved his belt down nearly to his knees and filled his coat with so many melons that he was unable to walk.  Another time he came to the cabin and wanted something to eat.  Dinner was nearly ready and grandmother told him that if he would wait a short time he could have warm pumpkin pie, his answer “Me wait”.  There seemed to be no limit to his capacity for food.  After filling his plate with meat, potatoes and vegetables, he turned the pumpkin pie bottom side up on top of it all and chopped it all up together before he ate it.

The young Chief Johnny Okemos was just my grandfather’s age, he having been born on July 4, 1819, and grandfather’s birthday was the day following, July 5, 1819.  They became great friends and the Chief came to the cabin very often.  They also hunted and fished together, and on Sundays the Chief and some of the braves would join in the sports of the neighborhood young men.

   Contests were wrestling, jumping, running foot races, hand stands, weight lifting and games of other nature.  Grandfather was considered exceptionally good at wrestling and lifting.  He excelled in the side hold and back hold.  According to his stories, he could throw anyone who came along, although the Indian was nearly as good and made a good wrestling partner.  They were also excellent marksmen.  In later years, grandfather’s brother, Artemus Hunt from Springwater, N.Y., who was studying medicine at the University, visited the family for a few months.  He also joined in the sports and considered himself an outstanding marksman with a rifle.  A contest was staged and a large group of white men and Indians participated.  The mark was made by hewing the bark from a tree, the target being about 10 inches across with a 2-inch circle on the center.  They stepped back about 50 paces and Chief Okemos shot first, putting the bullet in the very center of the circle, then Uncle Art shot, putting his directly on top of the Indian’s.  Grandfather’s bullet was at the inside edge of the circle, some others were close and some did not even hit the tree, but as a rule the Indians were the better shots.

   The Indians lived in wigwams built by standing poles in such a manner that the diameter at the bottom would be 8-12 feet, the tops of the poles tied together and the whole thing covered with skins, mostly of deer hide.  The floor also was covered with skins, of bear and other furred animals.  They kept warm or partly so, by having a fire of logs in front of the wigwams, which were sometimes close together in a circle.  The door on my grandfather’s cabin was never locked and the Indians were welcome to come in anytime they wished.  Grandmother might look up from her knitting or spinning at any time and see an Indian standing there.  It wasn’t unusual for her to get up in the middle of the night to care for the children and find 20 or more Indians rolled up in their blankets, sleeping on the floor in front of the big stone fireplace.  At times there were so many she had to step over them to get across the room.  This occurred very often on a cold stormy night.  They would come in so quietly and leave before the family awakened in the morning, that no one might guess they had been there but for the odor left behind.  The squaws and papooses never came to sleep but remained in the wigwams, no matter how cold it was.  They always came during the day, and if they were hungry, grandmother fed them.  In later years, grandfather went back to New York on business, and although he was gone for several weeks, grandmother stayed in the cabin alone with two or three small children and was unafraid.  There were several camps across the country from Portland to Dexter, and groups moved back and forth at different seasons of the year, probably for gathering food and material for their baskets and implements they made to trade with the whites.

   Dexter Trail was one of the main routes traveled.  I asked my grandfather why they had such a crooked route, and he said it was done to keep on high ground out of the mud.  As the years went by and the country became more settled, the bands became smaller, many having died of disease brought in by the white man.  Others moved to new camping sites, and in the late 60’s the bands centered around Portland, making the trip across the country less often, but always Chief Johnny Okemos stopped for a visit and kept track of the white papooses as they came along and grew up. 

   One time he brought a basket to my cousin, Carla, who was born in 1875 and who was four years old at the time.  The basket was very small and made of narrow strips of black ash wood with a red band around the middle.  Carla was scared and hid under the bed and would not come out from under until the Old Chief left.  Another time he stopped for a visit when I was two years old, and I had the honor of sitting on Chief Johnny Okemos’ knee.  He was fond of my dad, he being the youngest of the family, and was interested in his squaw and his papoose.

   About this time the trips across the country were abandoned.  The Old Chief was getting along in years and the younger members of the tribe were becoming more civilized, some of the young braves even working a little, although the squaws still did most of the work—all of it in the earlier years.

   One day in the spring of 1895, when I was nine years old and my sister seven, as we were dismissed for the afternoon from the Etchell School, at Dexter Trail and Meridian Road, a very old wrinkled faced man came slowly trudging his way down the road in our direction.   He was carrying a large basket on his shoulder and a heavy stick for a cane.  As road tramps were not uncommon at that time and most children were afraid of them, we began to wonder how we were going to get home.  We waited until he was some distance down the road, then we climbed the fence and ran through the fields until we were ahead of him, and then ran most of the mile home.  We described him to father, telling how black and wrinkled his face was, and he guessed right away that it was Chief Johnny Okemos, and as he came to the gate in front of our house, dad went to meet him.  He asked for Andrew Hunt and when he was told that this was the right place, he waved his hand to the east and asked “Where swamp?”  The trees had been cut and the bog land cleaned up since his last visit, Dad sent us to the house to call grandfather and as he came out to meet the Chief it was rather pathetic to see the two old friends meet.  Grandfather was very deaf and the Chief was nearly blind.  They took hold of one another in greeting and then grandfather took the Chief’s arm and led him to the house.  They were not able to visit much on account of grandfather’s deafness so the family acted as interpreters as best we could.  Grandfather seldom smoked but always when Chief Okemos visited him he smoked a pipe with the Chief,  Mother had supper ready in a short time and the Chief started spreading his blankets on the porch, remarking “Me tired, me sleep”.  Grandfather said “Chief, sleep here”.  Chief Okemos smiled again, rolled himself in his own blankets and slept until morning.  After he had had a hearty breakfast of pancakes with sirup and butter, sausage, fried eggs, applesauce, fried cakes with coffee, he began preparing for the trip back to his camp at Portland.  He and grandfather took hold of one another’s arms, both had tears in their eyes, and as the Chief departed he said “Me see you in the Happy Hunting Ground”.  Grandfather stood at the road gate and watched as he walked slowly up the road.

   The next day at school we had big stories to tell the other children of our experiences of the night before.  One girl said “well, we wouldn’t want a dirty old Indian sleeping in our house”.  My sister replies “Well, we consider it was an honor to have Chief Johnny Okemos sleep in our house and besides, Mother washed all the bedding on the lounge this morning”.

   We heard later that the Chief had stopped at several places to see people that he once knew but most of them had died or moved away.  My sister and I have always considered it a privilege to have had this experience with Chief of the Ottawas, Johnny Okemos. 

SEBEWA’S PEACE CORPSMAN:  Richard W. Thrams, son of the late Clifton and Mrs. Martha Thrams, is Sebewa’s only member of the Peace Corps.  We have asked him to tell of his experiences for the Recollector.  Richard is a 1959 graduate of Sunfield High School and has severed his stint of military service in the Air Force.  He covers his enlistment and training in the Peace Corps and his trip to Indiain this installment.

   As with more than half of the Peace Corps members in India, Richard’s work is in agriculture.  He is working with a project sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Government of India.

   In that country of nearly half a billion people and a high percentage of them working on and living from the land, each individual farmer is limited to 35 acres or less of land.  Most of the farms are much less than the limit.  The project at Allahabad where Richard is assigned at the Agricultural Institute is aimed at finding a tractor-powered setup that will enable the Indian farmer to materially increase his food production.

   The project supplies selected farmers with small tractors in the 2 ½ to 16 horse power range together with suitable implements.  The Corpsmen instruct the farmers in the proper use of the machines and oversee the use he makes of them.  From the records kept by the farmers and the Corpsmen, it is hoped that years of “cut and try” attempts at making India self sufficient in food may be saved.  Good results of the tests may hasten the end of centuries old bullock power.

   Tractor models being used are made in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and U. S. A.

PEACE CORPS – PART I – By Richard W. Thrams:

   I got my paper in April 1965.  Then came the big decision – should I, or should I not?  I must have thought about it at least until I was through reading all the paper.  The answer was “Why not?”  I filled out the papers and sent them to Washington.  By the time the arrangements were made, it was time to start training at Davis, California on June 20, 1965.

   The project started out with 131 Peace Corps trainees.  We had only 96 when the last day of training rolled around.  I was very grateful that I make it through the final selection.  Most of the people who dropped out did so because they, themselves, thought it was the wrong type of work for them.  Some of the others just did not like it and several others were asked to leave because they obviously did not fit in this project.

   The training ended September 10, 1965.  Then we had a frantic few days to say our good byes, do the last minute shopping, pack the 100 pounds we were allowed to take besides the 44 pounds we could take on the plane with us.

   Somehow all these things got done.  I left Davis on the 11th and was in New York on the 20th.  My plane was due in New York at 1:56 P.M.  That left us four minutes , making every second count, to reach the Pan Am plane for embarkation.  While we were busy checking luggage, the word came—no plane.  But someone was trying to find us a hotel for the night.  By this time we were all tired out.  Finally we were told there was a hotel that would take all of us.  Tired or not, we had to wait nearly three hours to get our luggage back and leave the airport for the hotel.

   A Washington staff member and at a meeting he told us that another staffer would be there next day with money.   He arrived at two P.M. and we were all very happy, for most of us by this time were penniless.  I was one of these for at Detroit I had to buy a first class plane ticket into New York.  I had landed there with less than a dollar in my pocket--not bad for the start of a world trip.  We spent three and a half days in New York and then started a trip that none of us will ever forget.

   We left New York for San Francisco where we were to have a four-hour stop and most of the training staff were planning to meet us at the airport.  The four-hour layover was in New York (changing an engine fuel line) and not San Francisco.  We were the first ones off the plane and got a change to say “Hi” to the training staff and march right off to the other plane that was waiting for us.

   We were soon airborne for Honolulu, Hawaii where we were to meet the plane that would take us to Guam.  But at Hawaii we got the break of a lifetime—the other plane was delayed.  Thus we got to spend twelve hours at the Waikikian Hotel on Waikiki Beach.  It was eleven P.M. when we landed.  But who can sleep on his first arrival in Honolulu?  Some did and some did not.

   I got a few hours sleep but was up at daybreak, and out to see what was to be seen.  We had breakfast, rented a jeep and the three of us, camera in hand, struck out.  We traveled the nearby hills, then to Pearl Harbor, back to eat and then off to Diamond Head and back to the hotel along the shore.  Diamond Head is in nearly all of the movies made in Hawaii.  We took the jeep back and got to the hotel in time to get the bus to the airport.  Next stop was Wake Island for fuel and then we took off for Guam.


“Guam, where the American day begins”.  We first stayed at the naval air station.  Soon we went to many different villages to live with the families.  This was good but it turned out to be expensive for those who stayed in a motel and went out to farms and people’s homes every day.  We asked to move.  My roommate from Davis and I teamed up to help build a chicken house for a farmer.  This was good work and we had a couple of meals a day for working.  Next the farmer’s older brother wanted some help so we said “Sure”.  He was just moving some wood and picking up around the house and buildings.  He then asked us over to stay and we thought this was great; but in short order we found his reason for the invitation.  He was planning on building a typhoon shelter and wanted us to dig the hole.  Well—digging coral is like trying to dig through solid concrete.  For a little over a week we worked with pick and shovel.  We had good food but we surely worked for it.

   Word came that we were going to the Philippines.  We thought that was great and it was.  Before we left Guam we stayed at the naval base and had western food and the last of American beer until we came home.  We were there 30 days. 


   So long Guam, Hello Philippines!  We landed at Manila.  Here, truly, we had a vacation for two weeks.

   First, off to the home of the Peace Corps Director for tea.  We met most of the staff we might see while in the Philippines.  Then we boarded buses for the agricultural college at Los Banos.  I spent my whole stay there while some of the volunteers went to a camp to the north for a week.

   Los Banos is a two-hour ride from Manila.  Once in Asia, most travel is given in hours—by bus or train, whichever is faster.  Streets are not very wide.  The narrow two-way streets we are used to at home would have at least four lanes of traffic on them in Asia.  One of the main traffic laws is that when passing, it is the duty of the person coming toward you to stop and you proceed to put someone off the road to make room.  I have seen times when our type of two-lane street, there would be four or five lanes of traffic going one way.

   The buses are made mostly of wood with the one side all open.  At Los Banos I was at the International Rice Research Institute.  They are working on some of the same work that we were doing and planning to do at Allahabad, India, in the Tractor Evaluation Project.  We had a chance to plow with water buffalo in a rice paddy.  That is one operation I will not try to explain.

   A group of us played a game of basketball and lost by four points.  We had a soccer game and lost there, too, by 5 to 3.  On the last Sunday there was a baseball game and things looked bad for us at first.  At the end of three innings we were behind many runs but it ended—a defeat also—but 21 to 17.  The game was played almost entirely in the rain.  Some of our better ball players were on a kick that day and we were playing their college team.  Here, also we had some learning experience working with rice and seeing how to care for it.

   While in the Philippines we had a visit of a staff member from Delhi who told us where the most of us were to be assigned and what our duties would be.  I spent more time at the Rice Institute learning about small tractors and what they have done there.   They are also working with large tractors in rice paddy.

   Leaving the Philippines we stopped for an hour in Bangkok, Thailand—only long enough to say we had been there and to buy something.  The next stop was India.

   First I should say why we spent so much time crossing the Pacific.  We were due to come to India the 24th of September but at that time India was at war with Pakistan.  The war (or conflict as some like to call it) was over the state of Kashmir.  The two countries were at war in 1947 on the same issue.  We were not allowed to enter India until the cease fire agreement was made.

  I thank all U. S. Taxpayers for the trip, however, I too, pay taxes on my $900 per year allowance.

OLD LETTER DEPARTMENT From Lois (Coe) Walter to William Coe (Sec. 8 Sebewa).  Easthaven, Vermont, October 13, 1885:

Dear Brother and Sister:  I will try to write a few lines to let you know how lonely and sad I am to write the sad news.  I must tell you that Harlow died September the 2 at three o’clock in the morning and was buried Friday the 4, the saddest day of my life.  You cannot tell how lonely I feel; I thought I never could write to you but I will try.

   O Brother William, I hope you nor any of your family will have to suffer as he did.  He had the dropsy.  He could not lie down nor sleep any longer than he could hold his breath, then he would have to get up and travel the house as fast as he could to breathe.  When he sat down, we had to sit by him so as to be ready to rub him as fast as we could and help him up and lead him around.  I cannot tell one half he suffered.  He gave up the last week of April and for one month he did not lie in bed more than half the time.  He would get up then, and travel the rest of the night and did not attempt to lie in bed.  For three months of the time he walked the house day and night and would lean up against the door casings and get in every position he could think of to get a minute’s rest.  He did not average to sleep 2 hours in 24.

   His legs were bloated just as full as the hide could hold, then they commenced to leak water until the bloat went down some.  Then he had a gangrene sore on one foot that nearly covered the top of his foot.  It ate down to the cords and veins—it was terribly painful and for two months he did not step a step.  He kept up good courage and would tell what he was going to do when he got well.  You know he never looked on the darkest side.  He was out of his head some for 3 weeks before he died and terribly bad Friday before he died Wednesday morning.

   You must think we got pretty tired and worn out.  I was able to help take care of him as long as he needed my care and that seems a great blessing to us both.  They did not let me sit up much nights for I was not able.  We took care of him a great share of the time ourselves as Mertie, that is Sheldon’s girl, was here for a long time with us.  Father did not want her go away and she is a very good and pretty girl besides the only grandchild.  She helped us a lot and would sit up nights, too, or do anything she could to help any of us and is only 14 years old.

   My health is better since I have gotten rested.  I was all worn out.  You cannot tell how lonesome I be.  I thought that I never could write to you but through the blessing of God, I have.  O Brother William, how I wish I could see you all once more but I never shall unless you come out here.  Do write and let me know how you get along.  Do write us soon as you get this.

   Love to you all and God bless you all from your sister, Lois Walter.


   From a Septemberr 19, 1922 Sebewa Center correspondent to THE PORTLAND REVIEW we find the following items:

   John York has a radio instrument installed and is receiving messages.

   Mrs. Christine York celebrated her 68th birthday at the home of her son, Harry, September 7th.  Her other children, Mrs. Eli Hissong and family, Ernest York and family and Millie Smith, of Ionia, sister of Mrs. York being present.  A bountiful dinner was served by Mrs. Harry York, after which Mrs. York was entertained by radio messages.  A picture was taken of herself and seven grandchildren. 

   Going back in memory 44 years, this seemed as if John’s might have been the first radio receiver used in Sebewa.  Memory also brought up the name of Loid Stinchcomb, who at that time lived a half mile east of the Sunfield Road on the Eaton side of the Ionia-Eaton County Line.  Mr. Stinchcomb now lives in Battle Creek. He has given us this account of the early disturbance of the ether:  EARLY RADIO IN THE SUNFIELD-SEBEWA AREA

   Your efforts to revive and record the events of the area are to be commended.  I read the No. 1 issue of the RECOLLECTOR with avid interest.  The article about Chief Okemos, recalled many pleasant hours spent in the Old Swimming Hole at Shimnecon.  My father used to relate how the Indians traveled past our old home enroute to the summer camping grounds along the river.

   Regarding the 1922 radio which you mention—I had forgotten who I made it for.  I now remember that Mr. York lived just north of the Gierman area.

   I started an interest in “Wireless Telegraphy” as it was known when I was about ten years old.  A neighboring friend, Mr. Leo Dilly, had obtained a few odd parts a year or so previously and had rigged a receiver and a small transmitter and needed someone to “ham” with, so he picked on me.  He gave and sold to me some parts and we haunted the local telephone office for odds and ends—we unwound old Ford magnetos to get the ribbon wire for aerials and used old Ford spark coils to operate the transmitters.  I scraped up enough money to buy a pair of wireless headphones.  The receivers were pretty simple, using a tuner made by winding wire on an old oatmeal box and a galena crystal with a light wire touching it as a detector (actually this was a device to rectify the signal put out by the spark coil so the phones could pick it up and convert it to sound).  This was about 1916 and there was no such animal as voice communication by wireless at that time.  Dr. Lee de Forest was still experimenting with his 3-element vacuum tube, the audion, which made voice transmission possible, and it was not available to us.  The old crystal detectors were so sensitive that if someone entered the room or jarred the table, everything stopped.

   It was quite a thrill when I first heard the Arlington time signals at high noon and first heard Leo’s spark coil transmitting in International Code.  The Naval Station at Arlington was a powerful transmitter and maintained contact with ships at sea.

   When World War I was declared, we had to give up transmitting.  However, both Leo Dilly and myself were registered with the U. S. Government as qualified amateurs to be called upon for assistance in emergency.  We received certificates as members of the Amateur Radio Relay League.  After the War, radio had grown, newer and better equipment had been developed and was made available to those interested.  We picked up some of the new vacuum tubes of the deforest type to take place of the old “cat whisker” crystal detectors.  They were a great improvement, but kept us broke buying dry cells to operate them.

   By this time, 1919, I was just starting High School and WWJ was now on the air.  I believe that there was a small station getting stated in Lansing.  With the vacuum tube receivers being more sensitive and powerful, it was possible to pull in WWJ and it was another great thrill when I heard the first voice and music.  We were also able to get KIKA from Pittsburgh on occasion.  Usually when some visitor wanted to hear the radio, the signals faded out or the stations were off the air.  But many times the reception was O.K.

   The parts for the York set were ordered from New York.  I believe it was the old Murdock Co.  A condenser of the rotary type with a handle on the top for adjusting the receiver to the wave-length of the transmitter, a vacuum tube for rectifying the signal and amplifying it and head phones for listening almost made the set.  The rest was a so-called bread board for mounting, wire connectors, terminals and batteries to operate the tube.

  It was a pretty crude affair by today’s standards!  But it worked.  I believe the whole outfit cost $20.  The tubes were expensive, around $6, which was money back then.  The condensers cost about $6 also.  Head phones were about $5.

   You might recall that the Dilly Farm was just east of my home and over the road in Sebewa township.  They sold the farm around 1917.

   From THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Robert W. Gierman, Editor, R 1, Portland, Michigan  48875      


Last update January 31, 2013