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THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of the The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, April 1972, Volume 7, Number 5
Winter threw it at us the week of March 12 in the form of one of those damaging ice storms that seem to come only once every eight or ten years. That is just long enough for confidence to build up the idea that preparation for an extended power outage is unnecessary. When the storm struck and the power went off for so many people and the lights wouldn’t light, the burners wouldn’t burn and heat became a memory it became necessary for the ants to share with the grasshoppers.
Little stories of neighborliness during that emergency keep turning up to disprove that callousness has displaced the obliging friendliness of old. Under the veneer of busy schedules and faces riveted to the TV, Sebewa is still the Sebewa that once we knew.
THE EAGLE SCREAMS
Because amateur detective Oscar Lincoln, alias Welcome Lumbert, has received an X rating for his 67-year-old REVELATIONS OF CRIME the final installment of that preposterous community smear is not being published. Time has not been enough to take out all the sting of Weck’s monstrosity. Suffice it to say that you are being deprived of Weck’s account of 43 more “murders” and two train wrecks.
POLLUTION—YOUR OLD STUFF
In August of 1891 when Lake Odessa was only four years old, the editor of the Wave, Clyde W. Francis saw fit to admonish the citizens with this little paragraph: “Conglomerate masses of filth composed of the mature from the stables and the sweepings from the house, the shakings from the tablecloth, the rakings from the lawn, the chips from the woodpile and the ashes from the grate, the parings of potatoes, the hullings of the fruit, the entrails of fishes and the trimmings of meat, the straw from under the carpets and broken plaster from overhead, coffee grounds and tea leaves, rags and bones, broken crockery, dirty and clean, shavings and sawdust, silk, fat and soot, scrapings of dishes and dishes of scraps, burned out lamp wicks and useless lamps, decayed vegetables and overripe eggs, the deceased families of Tabby and the defunct progeny of Towser, the tin cans innumerable, battered stove pipes invulnerable and every accumulated mass of heterogeneous matter conceivable, all well wet down with soap suds and dishwater. This incongruous and rather nasty accumulation is no mince pie receipt but is that which is found in back yards and should be carted off before we have something worse than a story going the rounds of the people.” What a place to dig!
APROPOS TO THE ARTICLE OF THE DUTCH IN WEST MICHIGAN in our last issue we note that Holland celebrated its 125th anniversary in March. Albert Van Raalte of Rotterdam, a great-grandson of the brother of Dr. A. C. VanRaalte, the founder of Holland in 1847 was a guest at that event.
A contribution from a resident of Lansing to the PORTLAND OBSERVER of December 15, 187?
Having read so many bear stories in the Observer of late, I am forcibly reminded of old times when bears in the woods in the vicinity of Portland were about as plenty as squirrels and so, with the editor’s kind permission, I will relate a little adventure in which your humble servant took quite an active part.
It happened in the autumn of 1850. I was then a young man living with my parents four and one half miles from Portland Village, was tolerable active and strong, and as I had lived in the woods ten or eleven years, did not stand much in fear of wild animals.
One day, I think it was in October, I was walking very rapidly along the road about a half mile from home and had just passed my brother’s house about three rods and was opposite a large field, one half of which had been plowed once but was not free from bushes, while the other had never been plowed at all and the whole field stood to girdled trees. When hearing a slight rustling in the field I glanced around and just caught sight of a large black lamb in some bushes near the fence. At first I thought it nothing but sheep were not as plenty in that neighborhood as they are now and I had taken but a few steps forward when the thought came suddenly to my mind “Why, Mr. Z. has no such lamb, whose can it possibly be in his field?”
And looking quickly around I saw a young bear that would probably have weighed 60 or 70 pounds standing in the bushes as still as a mouse, peeking through between the rails in the fence at me. He evidently thought the second time I looked around that I had not seen him and that if he kept perfectly still, I would pass by without noticing him. I knew from his very innocent look that all he wanted was to be left alone but that was the last thing I had any thought of doing.
Seizing a club that chanced to be at my feet, I leaped the fence at a bound and at the same time uttering a warhoop that would have frightened a Modoc out of his senses. As I struck the ground with my club, which proved to be only a rotten stick, it broke into two and fell out of my hand and as I looked ahead I saw Bruin about two rods ahead streaking it for dear life.
Thinking to drive his cubship up a girdling, I took after him, yelling at every jump. But he wouldn’t tree and so I concluded to run him down and capture him alive. So we took it obliquely across the fields for fifty or sixty rods, he, holding his own or perhaps gaining ground a little where the ground was level and clear of brush.
But when we reached that part of the field that had never been plowed, which was thickly covered with bushes and tangled brush, he was a few feet ahead of me, just enough so that I could not by any possible effort reach his hind leg or the fur on his back. The brush did not seem to impede his progress in the least while I was obliged to stop and give up the chase.
For a moment or two I gazed after him in the bushes and fairly gnashed my teeth. But when I began to get over my excitement and take the sober second thought, I though perhaps, after all, it was as fortunate for me as for the bear that I did not overtake him; that it was barely possible that I might have found that 60 or 70 pounds of live bear meat, claws and teeth thrown in a man thing to handle without mittens on. But I have always felt sorry that I did not have an opportunity to try it and have always believed and do still believe that HAD I got hold of him that he and not I, would have been the captured party.
REGISTER OF FUNERALS J. H. BERA Sunfield
A graph is on the next page showing 1901-1914 statistics from Henry Bera (1901-1908) and Bera and Mapes (1908-1914) Register of Funerals; Median age at death graph, Median age at death 1972. West Michigan Deaths—Statistics from THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
GRAPHS SHOWING AGE AT DEATH CURVES of a period of 70 years ago compared to the present day. The median age was determined as the point where as many died before that age as died afterward in the group under study. Early in the century it was 61 as contrasted with the modern 69. The difference is shown largely in the death rate of infants and the 20-50 year age groups.
DOING THE TRADING—THEN AND NOW—HERE AND THERE By Zack York
During my childhood the routine of farm living was enlivened by the weekly trips to town—Portland, Sunfield, and sometimes Lake Odessa—to do the weekly trading. Shopping was called “trading” because that was the nature of the operation.
The wooden crates of fresh eggs and the can of cream in the back seat of the Ford (we rarely used the buggy although occasionally we did drive the team on the “lumber wagon” when my father took a “grist” to the mill) provided us with the legal tender to trade for the groceries needed to supplement the necessities provided by the farm. If Mother was careful (she was never extravagant) there might be a stick of candy or a bag of peppermint or corn candy for us kids to share.
The eggs would be transferred to the store crates and the cream taken to the back room or dropped off earlier at the creamery. Then the items from Mother’s grocery list were called off and the clerk would collect them and deposit them on the counter before Mother. As she finished the list and meditated thoughtfully in case something was forgotten, the clerk would terminate this stage with the inevitable “—and will there be anything else?” and assured that “I guess that will be all today, thank you”, the tally would be made and the total cost deducted from the value of the cream and eggs to determine how much Mother “had coming”. The transaction completed, the groceries would be deposited in the empty crate with the overflow in a cardboard box to be carried out to the car.
Merchandising had changed considerably by the time I was in high school. Chain stores appeared (we debated the topic in my senior year in high school) and the small home-owned grocery struggled to keep solvent. Self-service and the push cart became commonplace and the trotting clerk with the long pole to topple the cans and boxes from top shelves to be caught easily by the expert clerk were replaced by the self-serving customer and the checkout clerk.
This has all been brought vividly in mind to me and my wife as we have “settled in” with Sarah, our 12-year-old, to live in Thames Ditton, a typical old English village fast disappearing or changing in the London scene. Though only fifteen miles from the heart of London, it is typical of quaint old English villages becoming swallowed up or surrounded by burgeoning suburbia.
Dating from the first of the 16th century, its first settlers worked at the palace of Henry VIII in nearby Hampton Court on the banks of the Thames River. It is typical of hundreds of English villages clinging to many of the old ways and viewing with alarm the threats accompanying the arrival of high-rise apartments, super highways and the population explosion.
Each morning the English housewife walks to the village to do the shopping for the day. Where the American housewife usually shops once a week and lays in a supply from the supermarket, the typical English housewife shops for each day’s needs. Food for noon, tea, supper and tomorrow’s breakfast must be purchased stored (often unwrapped) in her shopping bag and carried home to be stored, if the home is lucky enough to have one, in the “frig”.
She stops at the butcher’s for meat for her steak or kidney pie, at the green grocer’s for vegetables and fruits, at the provisions store for staples and at the pastry shop for “sponge” tarts, bread or biscuits (cookies) and on the way home she may stop at the stationer’s, the chemist’s or the Post Office.
In each shop she doesn’t browse about but “cues” up and waits her turn for the shopkeeper to get the item she wants. She wouldn’t dream of picking over the apples, pinching a tomato or examining the lettuce for the best head. She may reject the choice of the clerk but the clerk selects the produce for her.
She buys in small quantities and the products are boxed in small sizes. Family size, king size and other large cartons are unknown. In larger towns and cities new concepts of merchandising are attracting the housewife. More alert to the advantages of quantity buying, these ladies drive to Kingston, Wallon on Esher to the new Sainsbury or Safeway supermarkets and fill their shopping carts with name brand American products as well as English versions of the same at cheaper prices.
The old ways disappear with the inroads of the motor car and super “motor ways”, the television (telly) and sounds the knell of much that was typical, customary and charming in the English small town and village. The coal burning fireplaces in Victorian housing explains the chimney pots of England’s skyline. Their demise is evident in the multi-storied apartment housing projects for low income workers where glass and concrete and central heating put out the coal fires and lifted the London fog.
The fireplaces of old houses with the chimney pots are converted to “that North Sea gas” and remain charming and uncomfortably chill in English winters. The surest way to comfort is to wear a sweater and welcome the warmth of English tea.
The English are a hospitable people and they are warm hearted and friendly. Though they resist some of the demands that change makes upon their ways of life, they are flexible and resilient. They were ever thus as the changes since the Romans conquered them, since the Normans came and feudalism passed, as the changes in the wax and wane of kings and Hitler all prove, there’s much to encourage Englishmen to believe that “there’ll always be an England. End
QUIPS FROM THE LAKE ODESSA WAVE
December 13, 1892—Three hundred and odd cats are maintained by the United States government, the cost of their support being carried as a regular item on the accounts of the Post Office Department. They are distributed among fifty post offices and their duty is to keep the rats and mice from eating postal matter and small sacks. Their work is of the utmost importance wherever a large quantity of mail is collected.
December 16, 1892—An exchange paper very pertly remarks “when you get mad and think of walloping the editor for something he has put in the paper, just stop a moment and consider what he might have said if he had wanted to and give him credit for being very moderate.
December 23, 1892—West Sebewa—A sad accident occurred north of the Travis schoolhouse Friday afternoon which resulted in the death of Peter Loi. He was cutting down a tree and it lodged against another tree, which he cut. When it fell a limb struck him on the head, killing him almost instantly.
ESTABLISHING THE PORTLAND CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH IN SEBEWA
By Pearl (Mrs. Cornelius) Huizenga
Although the Henry Kenyon’s had been lured to Sebewa from Pennsylvania and therefore would be known as Pennsylvania Dutch. But as Mr. Kenyon had lived so long among real Hollanders, he was quite fluent in speaking the Holland language.
Among others, Luurt Huizenga learned about the great future in farming that was promised for residents of Ionia County. A visit to the Henry Kenyon farm convinced Mr. and Mrs. Huizenga that this was the place to move with a family of five healthy sons and a daughter. Both families agreed that little more than a “disturbance” could be raised in all that sandy soil of Ottawa.
The move was accomplished after Mr. Huizenga purchased the Merritt Allen farm through the Sunfield realtor, Charles Lundquist. It was on the east side of Sebewa Township and near the Kenyon farm. The house, though vacant at the time had lately been used as a “logger’s inn” and was to stand the family in good stead for many years. Its ample size made it a natural choice for the Church meetings that would be held there.
The Huizengas, like many another family moving to a new area, sought a place of worship that would satisfy their spiritual needs. They attended churches in the area for a few years. However, since more families of Holland descent were now living within visiting range of one another and being accustomed to having worship services in their “mother tongue”, the possibility of becoming a Mission Station was explored. It was during the summer of 1912 that Mrs. Huizenga sent a letter to the Board of Missions of the Christian Reformed Church to inquire about the possibility of a church being organized in the area. Her home was offered as the initial meeting place. The offer was accepted and the meetings began with one service each Sunday in the Holland language. I clearly recall Mother Huizenga telling on several occasions of how the old sewing machine with its removable cover was used as the first pulpit.
The families of Jacob Bakker, T. Plaggemeyer and Albert Van Kampen were among the first to attend the meetings which were held regularly until winter set in. With the coming of spring, more folks had learned about the efforts being put forth by this small group of Hollanders fostering a Christian cause. Their interest made necessary a larger building for the meeting place. In April of 1913 the use of the Pierce schoolhouse was granted rent free to the group. The deserted old schoolhouse is still visible, a mile distant, to travelers on the Clarksville Road.
Mr. Jacob Bakker was appointed as leader of the congregation and agreement was reached to have two services each Sunday in the Holland language. That first winter had many discouragements and there were times of deep depression—even to the point of giving up the whole project. But with the coming of another spring still more families of Holland descent had located in Ionia County and the prospects for the Church seemed much brighter. It was soon evident that still larger quarters would be needed to accomodate the increasing attendance.
The legal organization took place at the Pierce schoolhouse on June 23, 1915. Although the preceding activities had begun in Sebewa, the new Church was to be called the Christian Reformed Church of Portland, Michigan. A roll call showed nine member-families present plus several others who were interested who were not yet communicant members. At this writing there are only two Charter Members living in the general area; they are Miss Grace Huizenga and John Huisenga.
The North Sebewa Wesleyan Methodist congregation with their church located at Clarksville and Shilton Roads offered to share their building with our people. We met there for some time and then heard of a church building that was for sale for the sum of $300 but if bought, it would have to be moved. The building was located five miles north, near the Riker School.
This quotation from the PORTLAND OBSERVER gives the origin of the church at the original site on the west side of Sunfield Highway in section 10 of Orange Township. “December 8, 1874—The First United Brethren Church of Orange was dedicated last Sabbath with appropriate services, Bishop Edwards of Baltimore officiating. There was an outstanding debt of $800 against the house but after the sermon in the space of about 30 minutes the sum of $1,085 was raised in money and subscriptions. There were several who gave $100 each and two ladies, at least, who gave $50 each. In addition to this a very liberal collection was taken. Immediately after the means were raised to pay the indebtedness on the house, it was, in a solemn and impressive manner given to the great I AM for whose worship it was built. “B.H.” Schenck’s History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties states that the building cost $2,100 and that United Brethren meetings were held in the King schoolhouse prior to the building of the church.
We had chosen a site for our church at the corner of Clarksville and Sunfield Highways. The purchase of the building was made from an old fellow named Jim Crow, who had formerly lived in the Travis District. The next question was, “Who would move it for us?” When the need was made known a young man who owned and operated a threshing rig said he would do the job. The young man was Roll Aussicker, brother-in-law of Isaac Bazan. Early in January of 1922 the moving was ready to begin with Owen Striker of Sunfield engineering the job. The move was made in 64 hours on narrow country roads at a cost of $128.
Mr. Striker was in the moving business and had the equipment and the experience to move such a large building. A large steel cable was attached to the building and strung out ahead to a pulley anchored to a steel stake in the frozen ground. Gerrit Smith says he can vouch for that because it was his job to drive the stake each time. The cable was then returned to the building where it passed through another pulley before being attached to the pull of Aussicker’s Baker steam engine.
Thus when Roll applied the power he traveled three times the distance the church was moved. When the cable was fully extended and the pulleys closed their distance, the hitch was released and Van Kampen’s horse was hitched to the forward pulley to string out the cable for another go after the steamer had backtracked for the new hitch. So it went—hitch and haul, hitch and haul for mile after mile until the Clarksville Road intersection was reached. Rev. J. R. Brink, who had been at the helm of the project since the beginning, stuck right with the men during the whole process, walking the entire distance and many times laying his hand on the slowly moving building as if to steady it.
To bring the building into location, a swing was made around to the east side of the Travis schoolhouse. Elmer Creighton recalls that steam and smoke from the puffing engine clouded the windows of the schoolhouse and caused so much excitement that the teacher dismissed school for the day. Elmer was one of the fortunate ones who got to watch the proceedings as his father had come to see the operation. The final movement of the building was accomplished with a horse and winch.
Next a need arose for a home for the future pastor, who would be serving the congregation. A house was purchased from Ben Probasco from its site two miles south on Sunfield Highway. It was moved onto its new location near the Church in January of 1924, again with Owen Striker doing the job. This time Sam Creighton with his Greyhound steamer and Frank Cassel with an Advance steamer supplied the motive power. Parishioners worked to make the house a comfortable home for its future occupants.
Gradually the service changed to the English language—at first on a share and share alike basis and later the Holland language was dropped. The hardy folks who had the insight and courage to establish a new church would see a vast difference today with modern heat and lighting replacing the old wood burner and the kerosene lamps and now an electronic organ for the music. The Christian Reformed Church of Portland, Michigan, now standing at the corner of Sunfield Highway and the Clarksville Road seems a fitting monument to the faith and persistence of its founders.
Ministers who served this church were: Rev. Wm. Alkema 1925-28, Rev. Lambert Van Haitsma 1929-1943, Rev. Dick Oostenink 1943-1945, Rev. Bernard T. Haan 1946-1949, Rev. Andrew DeVries 1950-1955, Rev. Richard Vande Kieft 1955-1959, Rev. William Vande Kieft 1959-62; Rev. Harmon Kuizema 1962-
THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR
Last update May 13, 2013