THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of The Sebewa Center
FEBRUARY 1989, Volume 24, Number 4. Submitted with written permission of current
editor Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: LEAK, GRAY, DODGE, SARGEANT, BRODBECK, CAVANAUGH, GOODRICH, PEABODY,
GIERMAN, WILLIAMS, DOWNING, SINDLINGER, CARR, LOVELL, WELCH
Here below is the picture of Gerald Joynt and Wilfred Gierman on the back of our
1922 $350 new Ford Runabout. Charlie and I drove it to Lake Odessa to High
School for four years. Note the rim for the spare tire. Crates of eggs and
crates of chickens were hauled on the left running board for shipment to the
Detroit Commission House for marketing. The train left Lake Odessa just after
high school morning assembly and we could look out the east windows to see our
produce on its way to market.
OUR DEATH LIST PEAKED AT THE END OF 1988. They were Maurice Leak, and extending
to Lake Odessa and Portland, Duane M. Gray, Dean Dodge, Ila Sargeant Brodbeck,
Elouise Cavanaugh and, reaching to Sunfield, Loretta Goodrich
MY TRIP TO TENNESSEE by Robert W. Gierman:
I’ve almost worn out this story among people tht I see but many of our 470
members are not that close, so, here goes.
Many will recall that Maurice and Vera Gierman sold their house, farm buildings
and 16 acres from their farm, had a sale to dispose of the remaining farm tools,
and took leave with wanted furniture in a Ryder rental truck for a new summer
home at Fairfield Glade, some 100 miles east of Nashville. Come cool weather in
mid October they invited me to make a visit and I accepted. I had my plans to
get up early on Friday, drive the 660 miles, be there for Saturday and return on
I did get up at 4 a.m. and by 4:30 I was on the road, finding my way through
Charlotte to Interstate 69 headed for Fort Wayne. By the time I reached the
state line, daylight had come and WKAR FM began to fade. Foliage was truly
beautiful all the way. The fall colors had arrived.
Through Fort Wayne and on toward Indianapolis I got acquainted with the rest
stops along the road but somewhere along there, my mind buzzed an unpleasant
thought. In my rush to get going I had left my billfold, including my various
identification cards, in my every day trousers, flung across the arm of the
davenport, and here I was, well away from friends, without even a penny or
drivers’ license. I knew there was no point in turning back, for I could run out
of gas going north as well as south.
On past crowded Indianapolis I knew I was going to have to beg when my gas tank
got low. At Shepardsville, Kentucky my time was up and I had to turn off and be
the begger. I found a gas station close by with a modern grocery store and
approached the cashier with my sorry tale. She said “you had better see the lady
at the counter”. Her reply to my now established story was “Every now and then
we get such a sad case and we send them on to the (Southern) Baptist Church”. So
there I went, trying several doors before I found the office in the building out
I was met by a very pleasant secretary, told my story (third time) and was told
I could see the pastor in a moment. When that time came and I started my story
the fourth time I began feeling like I was way down here looking up at him away
up there. He said they sometimes had to help folks out and he asked a few
questions so that I got the impression he was sure he’d never hear from me again
after I got my tank of gas “If it didn’t come to more than ten dollars”.
He called the gas station and I got my fill and signed the book and went on to a
hundred miles plus east from Nashville to Fairglades and found the friendly
faces of Maurice and Vera and Deanna, who was visiting there.
It was a nice trip but I would not start again unless I knew for certain I had
cash instead of a story I had to tell four times to get unstranded. Coming home,
it rained all the way from Louisville, Kentucky. File this away in your memory
the next time you start out.
SOME THINGS I REMEMBER ABOUT SEBEWA CORNERS by Mamie Williams Downing:
I, Mamie Downing, was born about three quarters of a mile west of Sebewa
Corners, on the farm of my grandmother, Barbara Sindlinger. She owned about 50
acres. Her husband had been killed when the horses started up and threw him off
the tank wagon that he was returning to the next threshing farm. My grandmother
kept the farm and raised two girls, Esther and Theresa on this place. She had
her own cows, chickens and garden and did her own work. She rented the fields to
When her husband first got killed, her brother from Saginaw County came to
Sebewa Corners and bought the farm that was later owned by the Knapp family,
right by the mill pond. They stayed there until he got her straightened out and
got her farm running. He worked the farm for a few years and then returned to
Saginaw County. I think his wife died when he was living here and was buried in
the Sebewa Cemetery. After several years when he returned to Saginaw he removed
her body from this cemetery and took it there.
Grandmother then rented the fields to the farmers in the area but she did her
own milking. That is how I learned to milk, helping her. Also I helped her raise
chickens, at least I thought I was helping. She lived there and raised her two
girls. Aunt Esther married a man by the name of Willis DuBois at Oneida Center
near Grand Ledgge where they lived the rest of their lives. Later my mother
married Lewis Williams, I think about 1898 in Sebewa. I was born to this union
on February 22, 1900.
My father helped my grandmother with her chores but during that year he was sick
with what they called TB. He went to Utah where he was much better. He was so
homesick he came back here and was worse and he died when I was about eleven
months old. Again we were without any man on the farm. My mother and I still
lived with my grandmother.
At that time, as I remember, there were two stores at Sebewa Corners. One was on
the north side of what is now Musgrove Highway and that was owned by Frank N.
Cornell. It was a two story building, the upper part being used as an Opera
House for Sebewa. The lower part was divided. The west side of the building was
groceries, hardware and anything that the farmers needed. On the east side was
dry goods and ladies hats. In the corner of the east side of the store was a
lady who was the bookkeeper. She was sitting at the desk most of the time. The
one I remember was Lillian Alleman. The Allemans were Sebewa residents. She
owned a little building across the road. I think probably that she stayed nights
I do not remember so much about my mother working in Cornell’s store. Around the
corner facing east on Keefer Highway was a store owned by John Bradley. This was
quite a small store but it had everything one would need, groceries, hardware as
well as the Post Office. My mother worked in both stores at different times but
I remember her working in Bradley’s store. She worked in the Post Office.
There was no R. F. D. yet, so all the mail was distributed there at Sebewa
Corners after it was brought in by Star Route from Sunfield as I suppose, every
day. I remember the big barrels of crackers and the shelves of cookies. They had
a glass front so you could see what kind of cookie on each shelf. There were
very few crackers and cookies in packages. The Uneeda biscuits were in packages.
They were a cracker and they were very good and people thought that was quite a
treat. There was a little building built on the north side of the store where
there was an ice refrigerator. I think they kept some meats and ice cream. I
remember having an ice cream cone and probably more than one.
Later the R. F. D. was started and different people took the civil service
examination. Lawrence Knapp who owned the farm just west of the corner of
Musgrove got the mail route that served the area north of Sunfield. The Sebewa
Corners residents still picked up their mail at the Post Office but the people
in the country got their mail in their mailbox beside the road. Lawrence Knapp
was the mailman for many years. Peter Knapp, Lawrence’s father, had a part of
the route for a while. Peter lived across the road from my grandmother in the
place we now call Sunshine. I used to go over to the Knapps and Mrs. Knapp would
warm potatoes for me with butter. I thought those were the best tasting potatoes
I had ever had.
The Sebewa stores were still running. I think the Cornell store burned later and
the other store was sold but kept running. The Odd Fellow hall on the corner was
built several years later. A lot of the men of Sebewa Township were Odd Fellows.
The hall was used for different things. There was a small blacksmith shop
between the Bradley store and the hall. The first house north of the Bradley
store was a house owned by Cornells. It was quite a large house. The Bradley
house was the next one.
On the south side of Musgrove there was a building, an old building that Cornell
used to house his ckickens that he had bought from people around the Corners.
Right on the corner quite a good sized house that was lived in by the Friend
family. I think they used to raise horses. There were several houses on south of
the Friend house and then the Sebewa Methodist Church, built in 1876. That
church was closed in 1966.
On the east side of Keefer Highway there was a farm on the southeast corner
owned by Arthur Halladay with no house there except his house. There were more
houses on the east side of Keefer Highway, more than were on the west. That road
is the division between Danby and Sebewa Townships. I remember the north house
on the Danby side as being used by the doctors of the village. Sebewa almost
always had a doctor. I don’t remember Dr. George Snyder. I thought he built that
north house. He lived there and doctored in Sebewa for several years, in fact I
think he brought me into the world.
The next one I remember was Dr. Moore. He came after Dr. Snyder removed and went
to Mulliken where he practiced for the rest of his life. Dr. Morse married a
Sebewa girl, Nellie High and they lived in that same house. He later removed to
Lake Odessa and practiced there the rest of his life. The next doctor was Dr.
Crawford, who lived in that same house. When he left, he went to Sunfield where
there was one other doctor. He stayed there the rest of his life.
There were no stores on the Danby side of Keefer. If ever there were, it was
before my time. West of the Knapp farm was a grist mill and a flour mill. I
think it was a good flour because everybody used it. They used to come from
quite a distance to get flour there. There was a small house right in the yard
of the mill, which was used to house helpers in the mill or they rented the
house to someone else. As I remember, the mill was owned by the Lowe family.
They ran the mill for several years.
The house the manager lived in was just west of the creek and dam. It was a
nicer building than the other little house. The little house was later moved
away by Gordon and Rachel Binns over onto Keefer Highway on Sebewa Creek. Later
Howard Knapp bought another house and moved it in and landscaped the yard.
Howard passed away last winter in Florida. On the farm they built a big chicken
coop and delivered eggs into Lansing.
Across the road and a bit west was a camp grounds owned by the United Brethren
denomination. In the summer they had two weeks of camp meetings. At that time
everybody went to the camp meetings both Sundays. I think they had a cafeteria.
The meetings were in big tents with benches for seats, at least before they
built the tabernacle. I suspect they used gas for lighting. They had a barn
where they could care for their horses.
There were several churches in Sebewa Township, the Methodist at Sebewa Corners,
the United Brethren just west of the Halladay school, the Sebewa Baptist church
on Musgrove Highway, the Church of God nearby and the Church of Christ at West
I attended the Sebewa Fractional District Number One (School?), the High, being
at the High family farm. My Grandmother’s farm was in the Halladay district but
the distance to that schoolhouse was quite a bit more than to the High, so
grandmother got her farm annexed to the High district. I started school at the
Sebewa High. I would go with my mother in the morning when she went to work and
wait for the rest of the crowd to go to school. I went there until I was eight
years old when my mother married again to George Snyder, a son of Dr. George
Snyder. We moved to about three quarters of a mile south of Sebewa Corners and I
went to the Halladay School until I graduated from the eighth grade. Sometimes
we would want sardines or bologna for supper and I would walk to the store and
The Sebewa Cemetery was a little west of the corner on Bippley. The school on
Memorial Day would march over there and place bouquets on the Veterans’ graves.
There were several veterans buried there. The Baptist Cemetery behind the
Baptist Church was also kept up by the Sebewa Township Board. As I remember when
I was little, the sexton lived on the Danby side at Sebewa Corners. He was Dan
Collingham, sexton for many years.
I made a mistake on the churches; there were two more churches than I listed.
One was the Sebewa Center Methodist Church which is still running. They share
their minister with the Mulliken Methodist Church. The Christian Reformed used
to be a very active church but it has been closed and the building is used as an
antique shop and they also finish antiques. The Christian Reformed people attend
churches at Lake Odessa and Ionia now.
My mother used to do quite a bit of sewing for people, especially for families
that had girls. When she was not working at the store, that was her occupation.
When Mother remarried, Grandma sold the place to Joe Bliss. END
GOING TO JAMAICA WITH A PURPOSE by Kendall Carr
This is Kendall Carr’s account of his and seventeen others efforts to repair
damage to churches suffered in hurricane Gilbert last August. Jamaica is located
south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. It is the largest Caribbean island after
Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) 4232 square miles,
population estimated at over two million. Kingston, on the north side of the
island, is the capital, population of 112,000 plus. It is on one of the finest
harbors in the West Indies. The island has large deposits of bauxite, the ore
from which aluminum is made. Sale of bauxite, tourism and tropical agriculture
are the exports.
Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, conquered and settled by
Spaniards under a license from Columbus’s son in 1509. Spanish exploitation
decimated the native Arawaks. It remained Spanish until 1655 when Wm. Penn,
father of the Pennsylvania Wm. And Robert Venables captured it and in 1670 was
formally ceded to Britain. A huge sugar industry was built up in the 1700s.
Slavery was abolished in 1833. In 1962, Jamaica won complete independence from
Britain. The language is a creole English.
HERE ARE KENDALL’S WORDS:
It was a project through our church for a man to go with a group. The United
Conference had it set up and had already sent another crew there in November. We
started talking about it about the first part of November. Our one worker soon
turned into two and that soon became three. Dale Collier was the first, the
second was our pastor Kevin Cherry and finally, with a little persuasion, I
became the third. We were the team from the Sunfield U. B. Church.
Ticket arrangements were made by Dale Collier’s wife. We flew from Lansing to
Dayton on Piedmont and from there to Miami on Eastern. Then Eastern Airlines
took us to Kingston, Jamaica. Kingston is the capital of Jamaica. We were told
to be prepared to sleep on the church floor. We each arrying a sleeping bag, one
traveling bag filled with canned and dried food and another bag filled with our
clothing. When we got there we did not have to use our sleeping bags because we
had a nice home to stay in. There were two ladies who cooked our big variety of
food. We did get tired of the food, a lot of macaroni and cheese.
The project was to be working on churches where roofs had been blown off by
hurricane Gilbert. We replaced two church roofs, one school roof and a ceiling
in a church and some work in a parsonage. One church was in Kingston and two
where in the adjacent mountains. The Conference rented a big van-bus to
transport workers and all the materials we needed at the job site. Sometimes it
took two trips to get all the men and materials there. The driver was a
Jamaican, pastor Warren. He did all the driving and all the running around for
Every day after work we would return to Kingston, have our supper and then split
up to the home assigned to us for the ten days. Four of us stayed in one home,
three in another and the others similarly in other houses. There was some
language problem. They talked English but faster speaking with a little bit of
slang mixed in. It took me a while to really catch on to it. They would talk
more clearly when speaking to us. It was fun. We had a good time trying to
understand each other. After two or three days we did pretty well together.
There were some workers from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio and even one from
Canada, our crew leader. All had the same time of three hours, going through
customs and immigration. We had to be very patient. They checked all our tools,
hammers, screw drivers, tin snips and such. We did not need a passport but had
to show a birth certificate.
We did not see many of the tourists for which the island is noted. We got down
town in Kingston and found it impressive in some locations. They had nine stores
but also nearby were trashy stores, sometimes just across the street. People
dressed nicely but often we would see these same people standing in front of a
fenced in lot with a very poor shack for a dwelling.
The downtown area was nicely decorated for Christmas, Christmas trees decorated
with lights, an inviting place to hang around with your friends. The temperature
was in the 70s and to us not reminiscent of the Christmas season. They hung
lights on trees they had around there with no pines or spruce that we were used
to. They had some poinsettia trees that they decorated. There were coconut
palms. Outside of town the bananas were just recovering from the hurricane
The city had a big cement factory, a coco-cola factory and battling plant and we
could see that a lot of people worked at the harbor where the ships came in.
There were a lot of contractor type of people to repair homes and such. We had a
good reception and nobody showed any disrespect for what we were doing. Many
expressed their thanks for the Americans coming so far to make the church
repairs. They were impressed with our ability and the speed at which we did the
work. The largest church we worked on took us about three days. They said it
would have taken them three weeks if not longer to do the same job.
The building materials had been sent over from USA in a big container. There was
steel roofing to be used in replacing the old steel. It was fastened by quite
long screws. It was easy to work with but first we had to tear off the old
steel. That was work to do that but we had good materials to work with. We had
electricity there but up in the mountains we had to use a gas generator to power
our electric screwdrivers. I think all the Jamaicans were impressed with how we
worked together and how we worked to make something that looked bad came to be
looking pretty nice when we got done.
After we had finished the one church in Kingston we mowed the lawn with
machetes. Some of the Jamaican young boys helped us do that. They enjoyed that
and made fun of us for the way we cut the grass. We had a good time together;
they knew we were not used to using machetes. I brought one home but I’m not
going to use it to mow my grass. That Washington Gardens Church with the new
roof and yard cleaning looked pretty nice. Another crew was scheduled to come in
for painting in late December.
Roads there were generally paved though sometimes rough. One think we saw a lot
of was dogs. I think they have burglary problems as each family seemed to have
from one to six dogs, mostly three or four. The homes were enclosed by fences
and often the gates were left open or the dogs could jump the fence. The homes
had burglar bars on the windows. Sometimes when we were walking down the street,
the dogs would start barking and we would have up to ten following us. There
were also a few cats, roosters and pigeons in their back yards. The pigeons were
for eating. We were told that after the hurricane the birds were fewer. There
were some cows and pigs running loose in the streets, pasturing what they could
The people there were mostly black people. We were working with them as
Jamaicans. So far as going any farther than Jamaica, I have no interest in doing
that. Some of the workers were going to Haiti in January on a similar project
and others mentioned Sierra Leone in Africa. But at this point in time I do not
have that interest.
We had to walk four blocks from the house where we lived to the house where we
ate and had devotions. Elderly ladies would stop us and say “boys, you are doing
a good job in coming over here and fixing up our church and making it look so
nice”. They would ask how we liked the weather. There are a lot of different
denominations of churches there and I think at other times they have had outside
help with their buildings.
There were a lot of automobiles there but a lot of people did not have them for
transportation. People just walked to their employment or rode the bus. When we
walked we noticed that several of the homes had no cars. They would walk to a
main street corner and catch a bus to go to market, downtown or wherever. Like
the British, who were there when cars came, they drive on the left side of the
road and the driver sits on the right. They drive at a pretty good speed.
Going up and down the mountains was an experience for us. The traffic on the
narrow roads, the horn honking going around blind curves and people walking the
edge of the road all drew our attention. The roads were busy. On Saturday our
whole work crew took the day off and Pastor Warren, a black Jamaican, drove us
across country to the northeast to Ichos Rios, a tourist center and exporter of
bauxite. The countryside was mountainous. We saw some banana groves and coconut
groves as we did not see in Kingston.
I bought a newspaper, read it and found it much like ours. They had a lot of
papers and a lot of paper boys selling papers when cars stopped at a traffic
light. The mountain people live quite differently from the city people. Their
homes are shacks made from wood, steel, cement or whatever they can find. They
do some terracing but not a lot. Many make craft articles and catch a bus going
to Kingston and try to peddle their products to make money that way. They have
electricity in some spots but water has been a problem. Water is brought up to
mountain people in big tanker trucks. The people stand at roadside stopping
points with their pails and other vessels to get what ever they can handle. They
lug water to their homes over their heads. We were careful not to drink the
water. We had water shipped from Miami in gallon plastic jugs. None of us got
sick from impure water.
The local people wanted to sample our water and wanted our empty plastic jugs.
Rev. Kevin Cherry and Dale Collier were along with me on the trip. Rev. Cherry
did not want to climb but busied himself cutting boards and picking up the
things we threw down.
Coming back to Miami we again had to go through customs with a list of the
contents of our bags. Rev. Cherry had listed the coconuts in his baggage and had
to give them up. I did not list mine and brought them on home.
Ten days was long enough to stay away and it was good to get home.
JOHNNIE WELCH AND HIS GIRLS; Continuing Myrtle Candance Welch’s Story
At the time of Sylvia’s death, Ray and I owned the John Deere Implement Store in
Sunfield. We stayed with Johnnie and the girls the night of the funeral,
remaining for several days with Ray driving back and forth daily to work. We
didn’t know whether to just come and leave them alone or stay on.
One morning as Johnnie and I were watching Ray leave for town, Johnnie turned to
me saying “Jim, this is not treating Ray right. It’s time the girls and I start
building our lives together. The longer we put off being alone, the harder it
will be”. He was right. That is just what Ray and I had been wanting to hear. We
knew it was just what they should do but until Johnnie decided, we couldn’t
leave. Next day we came home.
Juanita could cook very well for a girl her age and with Lucille’s help the
house looked so nice and neat. All of our family were very proud of them.
Sylvia, feeling ill so much of the time, had trained the girls to help her.
Consequently they knew how to do most everything connected with running a home.
The only thing that I thought they did wrong was never talking about Sylvia. If
they only had, their grief would have been easier to bear. I know so many
memories that should have been shared with each other. It is hard, I know, but
the more often you talk about different things that have happened, the easier it
becomes. First thing you know, youmight think something funny and you can even
laugh about it. I have faced so many losses over the years. I try to face them
all in this way. I love to talk about Ray, especially to my children. We have
had many a laugh together about things that happened when Ray was here. It keeps
the memory of him so fresh and precious.
Of course everyone has a special way of facing these things. That was Johnnie
and Juanita’s way, just bottling it up inside. Lucille was always so eager to
talk to me of her mother. She would think of things that used to happen, then
ask me if I thought she was remembering it correctly. Johnnie was very proud of
his girls and they had many happy times together.
When Juanita and Lucille started in High School, they always came here for their
noon meal. I quite often hurried around at noon, baking a big Johnnie-Cake for
Juanita to take home. Her Dad always had Johnnie-Cake and milk for his lunch. I
worked in the store every day.
Juanita quit high school, learned the art of hair dressing, opened up a shop in
Ray’s den here in this house. Permanents were unheard of in those days. Her
trade was called Marcel Waving; an electric curling iron was used. Juanita was
very good and soon she had aplenty of customers. She always went home in time to
prepare her Dad’s supper.
It wasn’t an easy job. Some people’s hair was so fine, like mine, and you would
have to spend about an hour before the waves would stay. Coarse hair was easier
and the wave would stay in longer. She soon had regular weekly customers. I
cannot remember the charge but I think it was fifty cents.
Later on, Johnnie rented his farm, moved in to town, working for Standard Oil
Co., delivering oil and gasoline to farmers. I think he kept this job just one
year. The heavy lifting he was required to do was affecting his back, so he
decided farming was easier and moved back home.
Three things happened around this time. Lucille and Edward Trowbridge married.
Johnnie remarried Daisy VanHouten and Juanita married Wesley Dorin. Lucille and
Edward had two boys: Wendell was born in 1927 and died September 16, 1955. Duane
was born in 1929 and lived in Lansing with his father, Ed. Juanita and Wesley
had eight children: Larry, Kenneth, Mick, Wesley, Jr., Jim, Raymond, Sally (so
much like her Grandma Sylvia) and Dianna. Ethlyn Lucille Welch Trowbridge was
born July 17, 1909 and died in May of 1980. Juanita Grace Welch was born March
22, 1907 and died April 26, 1984.
Johnnie and Daisy. Daisy VanHouten, daughter of Neil and Ida VanHouten was a
brother of Johnnie’s Grandma Rachel Welch. Neil and Ida, near neighbors and
close friends of Sylvia and Johnnie, so Daisy was no stranger. Sylvia always
thought so much of her, I often felt Sylvia would have chosen her to look after
Johnnie and the girls if she could.
Of course, everyone on the Welch side of the family were well acquainted with
Daisy, but to the Lovells, she was a perfect stranger. Upon meeting Daisy, they
all liked her and were happy to welcome her into the family. Even after
Johnnie’s death, we always asked her to our family get togethers.
Johnnie and Daisy had a son, J. W. Welch or Dub, as everyone called him. He was
born October 28, 1928 and was a natural born farmer, just like his dad. When
Johnnie died on September 19, 1945, Dub took over the farm just like a man. He
was only 17, not through High School yet, carrying on for his mother. He was
always so kind and thoughtful of her. Dub graduated from Sunfield High School in
1946. A year or so later he married Zeda Catlin. Her parents, Forrest and Noma
Catlin operated a store in Hoytville for a number of years. Dub and Zeda had two
boys, David and Douglas and an adopted daughter, Pamela. The boys are both
married now and David, living in Florida, has two children. Zeda’s parents spent
their winters in Florida. Soon Dub and Zeda were going down there, too. Zeda
would go first to put the boys in school, then Dub left as soon as his fall work
was done. They bought a home near Naples.