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Ionia County Sebewa Recollector Items

Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 25 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.

THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association. OCTOBER, 1989, Volume 25, Number 2. Submitted with written permission of current editor Grayden D. Slowins.


THE SESSIONS SCHOOLHOUSE – Here is the triumph of the final restoration of the exterior of the old Sessions Schoolhouse. With the fine new Ionia High School and Heartland Institute now opened, it would seem it might be a long time before people would be asked to spend time inside the old building that was closed for school operation in 1898, so long ago that only John Adgate, now near 94, remembers visiting school there as a tad when he was too young to attend school. All the rest have passed on, leaving their descendants aplenty in the Ionia environment and scattered about the country.

After riding in the parade at Saranac as Mr. Saranac in the Bridge Festival parade, John Adgate arrived at the Sessions Schoolhouse September 9 to help celebrate the restoration of the building by talking to the group of some sixty people about visiting the school where his older brothers and sisters were in attendance. It seemed that when his mother had her fill of his enthusiasm, he would be sent across the road to the schoolhouse to be with the older children.

It has been said that the small building accommodated as many as thirty-five children. A wood stove was central with a smoke pipe through the midroof. The walls were lathed and plastered and the children’s desks were around the room.

Since the building was replaced by a larger brick schoolhouse to the west, it had varied uses as a holding place for people with communicable diseases to a place to shelter sheep. It was then that the wooden floor was replaced with concrete and a big hole in the stonework was made for easy entry for the sheep from the south side.

By 1918, under the prodding of Bertha Brock and the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ionia County Board of Supervisors decided to restore the building as a relic as it was recognized as the oldest cobblestone schoolhouse in Michigan. The work was done, windows were planked closed, and the door also of plank was nailed shut. A marker of bronze noting the restoration was placed in the window to the north east. Shortly there came vandals and the marker was stolen, leaving the DAR with the feeling that nothing could ever be safe in that location.

In 1959 the Board of Supervisors again repaired the roof and then sold the entire County Farm to the Department of Natural Resources for use as part of the Ionia Recreational Area. Because the building is recognized as a State Historical Site, and a National Historic Site, it is protected from demolition by any person, owner or other. Because of this recognition, Steve Dice of the Ionia Recreational Area had figured that the DAR did not own the building. It is now established that the title to the building and the lot passed to the DAR with the purchase of the County Farm property.

Noting the condition of the roof and the door I asked Steve to see if he could get it in his budget for repair. This was tried and failed to be approved. Then Steve said if local people would pay for the materials he would get volunteers to do the work. Last year a group of men from Saranac replaced the roof with care to keep it like the original pattern, but that left the creaky old door as was shown in Dick Evans “Along the Michigan Road” in 1988.

I prevailed on Sherm Pranger to make the door repair. That turned into a project for Sherm’s grandson, David Vollinck, to do the work to earn his Eagle Scout Badge in the Saranac Boy Scout organization. They did a beautiful job. That left another project for Dan Zander another Saranac Boy Scout to earn his Eagle Scout Award. It was the painting up with masonry of some of the stones that had loosened, then with the mowing of a parking lot getting a loud speaker system by Ralph Bartelt who also served as chairman we were ready for the ceremonial program Jerry Roe, a State Historical Commissioner gave an enthusiastic report on this and other ventures in Historic Preservation, recognized people whose near relatives had attended the school and everybody had coffee and cookies that were provided.

The Ionia County Retired School personnel, the Historical Societies of Lyons, Portland, Sebewa, Lake Odessa, Ionia, and Saranac and Boston provided the funds for the restoration along with several private donations.
Fortunately Monroe McPherson had in his collection of Historic Ionia a picture of the bronze medallion that filled the window though later stolen. From that picture we were able to get another like it and David Vollinck securely fastened it to the door as is pictured here. It seems that about once in thirty years the building needs a restoration. We hope that the youngsters as yet unborn will respond when that time comes. Robert W. Gierman


On the first day after my 80th birthday things started out well. Maurice and Vera had been here for ten days, visiting around the community, playing golf and seeing old friends, and attending our Sebewa Center Association free ice cream social, which was twisted around to be my 80th birthday party. Many of you missed that event because it got late before my surprise came, with all kinds of well wishes and the presentation of the Special Edition of the Recollector. More than 20 people waited out the affair before driving home.

Saturday morning Maurice and Vera hustled around and left for their summer home in Fairglade, Tennesee. I left that morning for Ionia to get my car serviced at 9:30 and did not return until 12:30 p.m., playing around a bit after my car was serviced. I know that my “Meals on Wheels” delivery came at 10:45 but I had arranged with the man to bring the food trays inside when I could not be here at his time of delivery and so he did.

One tray for the refrigerator and one for the toaster oven to keep it hot until I was ready for it. But I had forgotten to check the toaster oven. It was left with the switch on “toast” and when the door was closed, it began to heat and heat and heat. Normally I had left it with the toaster switch in the “off” position and the thermostat controlled things so that the food was nearly kept warm. The result was that when it got to boiling and past it still did not shut off and you can imagine what happened to that corner of the kitchen.

When I opened the back door and saw black streaks running down the wall and air so dense with black (plastic) smoke I could hardly see, I knew I had a fire but no flame. Luckily no doors or windows were left open, so there was as yet no flame. Wilbur also poked his head in and backed off quicker than I and the fire department was called. It took them a little time to get here and all I could do was to sit in the lawn chair and await their arrival. I heard a crash and thought perhaps the ceiling had fallen in. Instead when the firemen put up the ladder, broke the window and inserted the hose, it was evident that the kitchen cupboards with all the dishes, canned goods and other paraphinalia had tumbled to the floor. There was no flame until the window was broken.

Solder on the hinged glass cover to the old recently restored clock melted and dropped the cover to the table. Fans were put in place to remove the heavy smoke. Every little cobweb seemed a rope of soot. Although the fire damage was entirely in the kitchen, the smoke accumulated in the rest of the household was terrific. It was then that I began to hear tales of smoke and clean up going back many years.

Next was to contact my insurance representative. My policy allowed keep in a motel but I chose my house at Sunshine. It was good to have a place of my own but without water there it made for many complications. We arranged for a contractor to repair the kitchen and clean up the smoke damage. He sub-let the clean up, the electrical repair, and the plumbing. A big van was placed in the yard to keep the cleaned furniture and boxes and boxes of books and papers.

Once stacked away in there I don’t know where to look for papers that I need, my tooth brush nor comb and all the other things used in keeping up daily life. All closets were emptied of clothes and taken to Ionia for cleaning. Fortunately for me my washer and dryer kept in operation and I could get by with the frequent laundering I could do.

My routine was to sleep at Sunshine, get up and have breakfast. Make my coffee in a hot pot on my bed, my toast in a new toaster resting on the back of an overstuffed chair, cereal and milk from the refrigerator following by fruit and roll, hurry home for a shower, get back to Sunshine to meet the food man, get home at noon for lunch and the mail and keep out of the way of the help.

Now the kitchen has been refinished, the cupboards in place with soon the new floor cover, move in the range and refrigerator. Walls have been gassed with ozone and repainted so maybe before frost I can get back to some kind of routine.


If my memory serves me correctly that cemetery has been vandalized four different times in the many years it has served the community. Located as it is, well away from any houses, it seems to attract that something that seems to smolder inside many persons who enjoy trampleling on the cares of others.

A few years ago my great grandmother’s stone along with others was snapped over to the ground. These old and somewhat brittle stones seem to attract the distructors. At that time the Amey Meyers, cut in the rock had become well weathered and hard to read, so I took it to Steve Yenchar who is employed by the Lowell Granite Company to cut a new inscription on the back side of the stone. He brought it back with a legible inscription and showed me how to reset it with epoxy where it had broken and there it has stood since---until a time this summer when vandals went through the cemetery again, snapping and pushing over a dozen or more markers including Amey’s.

I noticed that some repairs had been made but Amey’s stone still laid there. I went back there with my weekend visitor, Jacob Peter and his little son and with his help I planned to apply the epoxy and erect the stone as I had previously done with some others. But to my surprise the job had been done. Grayden Slowins with Steve Yenchar had worked through the cemetery and as much as possible restored the broken markers and monuments. Our good wishes to our township government for their timely works. RWG



Last update November 15, 2013