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Ionia County Sebewa Recollector Items

Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 31 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 Center Association (Ionia County, MI);
JUNE 1996, Volume 31, Number 6. Submitted with written permission of Editor Grayden D. SLOWINS



PHYLLIS JANE SEDORE, 77, wife of Neil, mother of Linda AUSTIN, Elroy & Frank SEDORE, sister of Malcolm & Marshall TASKER, daughter of Roy TASKER & Rose SCHNABEL, daughter of Margaret SHOTWELL & Peter SCHNAUBEL, son of Marina GRENIC & Martin SCHNABEL, son of Regina & Anton SCHNABEL Sr.

MADONNA A. HILLEY, 72, mother of Terry, Tom, Linda, Jack & John, sister of LaVern & Lawrence ELDRIDGE, Marie WICKHAM, Madeline BUEHLER & Margaret GENDER, daughter of Pearl McLEOD & Eddie ELDRIDGE, son of Jay ELDRIDGE & Sophia SLOWINSKI, daughter of Louis SLOWINSKI, son of Daniel SLOWINSKI Sr. & Anna SCHNABEL, daughter of Regina & Anton SCHNABEL Sr.

MEMORIAL FOR ROBERT WILFRED GIERMAN:Saturday, May 18, 1:30 PM at Rosier Funeral Home in Sunfield, then committal of ashes at Sunshine. Park at HUGGLER’S , next driveway east, and walk thru woods or ride shuttle to site of service.

(Photos on front of this issue of GOGEBIC COUNTY COURTHOUSE, BESSEMER, MI. which was built of Lake Superior red sandstone in 1888, and of ONTONAGON COUNTY COURTHOUSE, ONTONAGON, MI.)


He was born July 11, 1881, in Portland, in a little house close to the sidewalk just beyond the southwest corner of Powers Park, last occupied by the PROCTOR family and later burned by the fire department. He lived the next 10 years or so at 230 S. Lincoln Street, where his mildly eccentric, cigar-smoking, four-times-married Grandmother BUDINGTON was a counter-balance to his narrowly religious mother in his upbringing. His mother ran a millinery store down town. His father, Tommy, seemed to have a variety of occupations.

Early in his career, Clarence Budington KELLAND was a successful journalist with the Detroit News. He became editor of the American Boy in 1907 and built it into the leading juvenile magazine of its day. In 1913-1915 he was lecturer on juvenile literature and writing at the University of Michigan. From the 1920s through the 1950s KELLAND was one of the most widely read and highest paid authors in America. He published 60 novels and more than 200 short stories in his 61 years of writing. He saw his books adapted to radio and movies, and lived to see some of them on television.

He turned out 10,000 words each week and published a body of work amounting to more than 10 million words. His comic Yankee characters endeared him to millions of readers of the old American Magazine and Saturday Evening Post. Booth TARKINGTON & F. Scott FITZGERALD may have been more celebrated, but a new serial by KELLAND in the Post caused the greatest stir. Sinclair LEWIS, Ring LARDNER, and others put down the small towns; but KELLAND stayed and stood for the common man and the sanctity of the individual.

He also defended the cause of free enterprise against FDR and “the blighting hand of the New Deal”. It was not rampant materialism that was rendering America a wasteland, it was that “life-term candidate” and the insidious socialism of his programs. KELLAND served as Republican National Committeeman from Arizona 1940-1958, and was Executive Director of the Party for a term. He returned to Portland in 1929 for the village homecoming, and in 1944 when he was leading the Presidential campaign of New York Governor Thomas E. DEWEY, a small-town boy originally from Owosso, MI.

When he wrote of Portland, he recalled those years from the beginning of the 80s to the middle of the 90s, before speed came into the world – as the serpent came into Eden – and destroyed tranquility forever. “I was born in an era and a locality where leisure was almost as immoral as dishonesty, and every time I loaf for a day I have to rub liniment on my conscience.” Yet, according to KELLAND, “Mother was the only person in Portland who was ever in a hurry. I do not think I ever knew a more ambitious person nor one so bent on improving the state of her family morally and financially”.

Recalling summer Sundays, sitting before church beside his father on the porch, he wrote, “We would listen to the grasshoppers and birds singing Sunday songs, and the trees would be green and the roses red and white. We waited, rather stiff and sweating in our best clothes, and a breeze would move the long grass. Then would come the music of church bells, the Baptist, the Congregational, the Methodist, each with its own recognizable tone. And the bells would spread their sound through the trees and into the house with placid dignity, summoning the several sects to worship. “Maybe you did not like to go to church and were apprehensive about the length of the sermon, but those bells made perfect a sensation of peace and serenity.”He wrote of long days at the swimming hole at Butternut Island in the Grand, of fishing in the summer and nutting in the autumn. He remembered the cracker barrel in McCLELLAND’S or WOODBURY’S General Store, and how the men who gathered around were identified by their vocations: Depot STEVENS, Banker ALLEN, and Druggist CRANE. Nightly his self-educated father read to him aloud from books not standard children’s fare: Shakespeare, Scott, Dickens, Thackery and the like. He developed early a feeling for romantic adventure and Tom Sawyer.

“I was born and brought up in a narrow environment”, he said. “It was one which did not make allowances. Black was black, and white was white, there was no gray or mauve or tan.” Such was the nature of his works. Bad guys were soundly punished. Virtue, courage, pluck, and persistence were rewarded. The hero & heroine lived happily ever after. There were no moral ambiguities. American individuality and free enterprise emerged triumphant.They burned the home in which he was born – a potential national shrine – two years before his death on February 18, 1964. Burning it down got rid of a lot of rats. Clarence Budington KELLAND would have appreciated the sneer in that dogged common sense. END

Ask your librarian to locate a copy of THE STEADFAST HEART by Clarence Budington KELLAND. The story is pure fiction. The names are recognizable as those of local families, but mixed and matched to protect the survivors. The descriptions of Portland geography and scenery (called Rainbow in the story) are amazingly accurate for the 1890s and as we knew them in the 1930-1950s.

In Chapter Three, page 22, he wrote: “The Village of Rainbow was in a valley, as all villages should be, with a clean (before sewers), rapidly-running river passing through its midst and cutting it into the East Side and the West Side.

In Rainbow housewives baked bread, cookies and fried cakes. Picket fences persisted, and in spite of the municipal waterworks, the knowing still carried their pails to JENKIN’S well for the coolest, sweetest water which ever passed down a throat. There was a square at the eastern end of the bridge, where there was a town pump surrounded by an iron railing, and where, on a Saturday night, the band gave its weekly concert.

Main Street paralleled the river, one row of stores dangling their hind legs in the water. Across the river was a grist mill, a planing mill, a manufactory of woodenware and the secondary hotel. The railroad depot was half a mile away, reached by Lafe’s ‘bus’.”

EDITOR Following were pages with “A photograph of Clarence Budington KELLAND in the public library at Portland” and of “KELLAND’S boyhood home at Portland burned in 1962. His second home still stands at 230 Lincoln St. in the same town. At right, his mother at 22. She ran a millinery shop in Portland.”

ALLEN M. WILLIAMS, 1892-1979:
IONIA – Allen M. WILLIAMS, long-time Ionia County Engineer, pioneer of modern road building, and the man who invented the roadside picnic table, died Sunday afternoon in an East Lansing nursing home.

He was 87 years old and had been ill since suffering a stroke late this winter. He had been confined to a nursing home in East Lansing for several months.

Services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. from the First Methodist Church of Ionia.

WILLIAMS served as engineer-manager of the Ionia County Road Commission from 1919 to 1957 and under his supervision Ionia County built the roads and developed the all-seasons road maintenance system that won a national award and was often cited as a model.

WILLIAMS was also for many years an officer and manager of the Ionia Free Fair. He founded and developed Bertha BROCK Park, the Ionia County Airport, and was a founder of Ionia County Memorial Hospital. He served numerous professional and charitable organizations as president, officer and member.

The achievement for which WILLIAMS became most widely known, nationally and internationally, was as the inventor and designer of the roadside picnic table. The site of the first table, at the intersection of Morrison Lake Road and Grand River Avenue, in Boston Township, was awarded an historical marker in 1964.

WILLIAMS was born in Ludington on January 26, 1892. He graduated from Ludington High School in 1912 and entered Kalamazoo College. He transferred to The University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1916.

After graduation from Michigan, he was employed by Western Hydro Electric Co. and Pruden Wheel Works, both in Detroit. He joined the Michigan State Highway Department as a project engineer in 1918. In conjunction with a 50 million dollar highway bond issue in 1919, he drafted the state’s first complete highway map.

WILLIAMS came to Ionia in 1919 as engineer-manager of the Ionia County Road Commission, about the same time the late Fred. W. Green, later Governor of Michigan, became a member of the county road commission. Between 1919 and 1927, WILLIAMS continued as project engineer for the state highway department as well as serving as engineer-manager of Ionia County roads.

Between 1919 and 1925, WILLIAMS designed and oversaw the construction of the first Ionia County roads on rights-of-way wider than the standard 66 feet, some of the first such roads built in Michigan. During his first years at the road commission, he also pioneered in the use of the straight-blade snow plow, as substitute for the standard V-plow, thereby eliminating traffic tie-ups by reducing roadside snowbanks and facilitating snow removal.

Williams conceived and developed GREEN View Point. Located on what was then M-21, GREEN View Point, named for Gov. GREEN, was the first trunkline scenic turnout. WILLIAMS arranged for the purchase of the land from John WINWRIGHT, landscaped the plot, and designed the marker.The turnout is about 175 feet above the level of Grand River and provides long vistas along the river valley. For many years, before they were common, this turnout attracted visitors from considerable distances, especially in the fall. (The brass marker honoring Fred W. GREEN was removed by vandals a number of years ago.)

Another major undertaking was reorganization of Ionia County Road Commission operations, including the design of its garage at 169 E. Riverside Drive, Ionia. Prior to the opening of the Riverside Drive garage, road commission equipment and vehicles had been housed on South STEELE Street and elsewhere. Officers were located in the basement of the Ionia County Court House. The Riverside Drive facility was opened early in 1928.

The first roadside picnic table, WILLIAMS recalled later, came into existence because he and his family enjoyed weekend drives and picnics. While many locations, he said, were inviting, there were often only stumps, at best, to serve as tables.

He designed a table in 1929 and had Jacob MOORE, a road commission employee, construct it, using planks salvaged from old guard rails. He had it placed at the Boston Township location – Grand River was then new U.S. 16 and a major state traffic artery – and if soon proved popular with motorists.

He had some additional tables built and placed in other locations in Ionia County. After letters of appreciation were received by the State Highway Department in Lansing, B. C. FINNEY, then chief of highway maintenance, investigated and found WILLIAMS was “his culprit”.

After congratulating WILLIAMS and asking not to be the last to know next time, FINNEY ordered additional picnic tables from the road commission on WILLIAM’S design. Over the next five years, the road commission built more than 1,000 picnic tables for the state and ceased only when the demand became too great for it to handle.

Work on GREEN View Point apparently whetted William’s interest in parks. With a good deal of negotiation and with fundamental assistance in time and money from Ionia County Fishing and Hunting Club, WILLIAMS started development of Bertha BROCK Park in 1931 and continued supervision until his retirement.

He told the Ionia County Board of Commissioners in November 1978, one of his last public appearances. “Frank Harkness worked with me on the park. We never cut a tree unless both of us agreed it was necessary. We wanted to keep it a ‘wildwood’ park.”

In 1954, with Federal aid available, WILLIAMS originated the idea of an Ionia County Airport and the county board of supervisors agreed. He directed the development and construction of airport facilities and remained its manager until his retirement.

Elected president of the County Road Association of Michigan in 1934, WILLIAMS contributed to the passage of the Hayden-Cartwright Act, providing federal aid for local highways. He also led a successful fight in Michigan against the attempted reduction of the gasoline tax from three to two cents per gallon and limitation at that rate, through a proposed constitutional amendment.

WILLIAMS recognized the gasoline tax as a major source of highway funding and believed in it as a form of use-taxation. The gasoline tax permitted tax levies on real property for highways to be discontinued in Michigan.

In 1940, WILLIAMS won the first place award in the BETTER ROADS magazine contest for excellence in county road management. The competition was open to all counties in the United States in the 20,000 to 50,000 population classification. The award brought many highway builders and supervisors to Ionia County to inspect the local system.

During the 30 years between 1927 and 1957, Williams and the Ionia County Road Commission gained a wide reputation for excellence in trunkline maintenance, particularly in speedy snow removal and ice control. The road commission was among the first county commissions in Michigan to hold a contract with the state Department of Highways for trunkline maintenance and has kept its contract since 1925.

WILLIAMS was twice an announced candidate for state highway commissioner when the post was elective and partisan. He announced his candidacy in 1941 but the Republican nomination went to his friend, LeRoy SMITH, Wayne County engineer, who was defeated.

WILLIAMS announced again in 1943, but the Republican nomination went to another friend, Charles M. ZEIGLER who was elected.

WILLIAMS was elected president of the Southern Michigan Road Commissioners Association in 1953. He was elected president of the American Road Builders Association (ARBA), county and local roads division, in 1955. He organized and presided over its national highway conference, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. in 1955.

Re-elected president of ARBA for a second year in 1956, WILLIAMS organized and presided over its national conference on Mackinac Island that year. More than 1,000 engineers from all over the U.S. came to see and hear about the Mackinac Bridge, then under construction.

In 1956, WILLIAMS became active in the West Michigan Tourist Association, was named to its board, and continued active in its work until his death.

He was named a life member of the Michigan Engineering Society in 1969. Active well into his 80s, WILLIAMS addressed the Michigan Asphalt Paving Association in 1975, showing movies of Ionia County road operations in the 20s and 30s.

In 1976, WILLIAMS was named “Michigan Tourist Ambassador” by Gov. William G. MILLIKEN, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to Michigan’s travel industry, in particular the picnic table”.

In 1977, he addressed the Michigan Highway Engineers conference, sponsored by the Michigan Department of State Highways and Transportation, for the last time. On Nov. 21, 1977, WILLIAMS cut the ribbon opening the last section in I-96, 12 miles of the JEFFRIES Freeway in Detroit. He was invited to do so because he had been project engineer on the last gap of U. S.-16, completed in 1926, and had cut the ribbon then.

Under appointment from Clarence S. JOHNSON, then mayor of Ionia, WILLIAMS did fundamental work in establishing the Ionia County Memorial Hospital. He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees and administrator for the hospital, from 1943 to 1949.

He was variously director, secretary-manager and president of Ionia Free Fair Association, between 1938 and 1964, serving 12 terms as president. Under his direction, brick removed from Ionia’s Main Street were used to build part of the fence around the Fairground’s race track.

WILLIAMS was past president of the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions; of the Southern Michigan Fair and Racing Circuit; of Ionia Rotary Club, and of the Ionia Boy Scout Council.

WILLIAMS is survived by seven children: Miss Kathleen WILLIAMS of Midland and Mrs. Honor BARIT of Indian Wells, Calif., Richard of West Bloomfield, Ben of Lansing, Keith of Traverse City, Robin of Gaylord and Colin of Saranac.Fourteen grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren also survive.

The mother of the WILLIAMS children, Mrs. Esther ACKERMAN WILLIAMS, died Dec. 21, 1970. WILLIAMS married Mrs. Hazel WILLIAMS of Ludington, the widow of his brother Harold, in July 1972. The second Mrs. WILLIAMS died in March 1979.

The family will be at the LEDDICK Funeral Home Monday
from 7 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.

Memorial funds have been established for The University of Michigan College of Engineering Scholarship Fund and for the Ionia County Historical Society.

Burial will be in Lakeview Cemetery, Ludington. – R.C. GREGORY



Last update November 15, 2013