THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, February 1978,
Volume 13, Number 4; submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden
THE SLOWINSKI SETTLEMENT by Grayden D. Slowins:
On December 9, 1977 a landmark home in Berlin Township was severely damaged by
fire, due to a faulty new fireplace and chimney. Long known as the home of "The
Old Maids", it stood on Harwood Road just south of Portland Road. This was the
home of Michael Slowinski, son of Daniel and Anna (Schnabel) Slowinski. He was
born in Posen, East Prussia, on September 18, 1844 and died in Berlin Township,
Ionia County, Michigan on May 1, 1917. He was married to Josephine Kloss, born
in Prussia on October 2, 1850, died in Berlin Township on November 24, 1927,
daughter of Adam Kloss and Mary Krimrick.
After serving three hitches in the German Army fighting against Denmark, Austria
and France, Mike and two of his brothers, Chris and Louis, took advantage of the
armistice with France to sail out of Hamburg for America in the year of 1870.
They landed in New Jersey and worked there at their construction trades for two
years, saved every cent possible to send for their families, and brought them to
Ionia County in 1872.
They came to section 25 in Berlin Township to the home of their Uncle Martin
Schnabel, who found them a log cabin on the Henry Houserman farm next north. The
men worked in a logging camp in the Stanton-Sheridan area that winter and in a
shingle factory in Sheridan in the summer. About 1874 or 1875 they bought land
in section 36. Mike got the N1/2 of the NW1/4 and later added the next 40 acres
south to make 120 acres.
Mike was a carpenter and Chris a stone mason. With their brothers and
brother-in-law they built their sturdy barns with wide cut-stone foundations.
Next they built frame houses to replace the first log structures. They worked on
many of the fine brick and stone homes and public buildings in Ionia city and
County in the 1870s and 1880s.
In the Old Country they lived and worked on land owned by overlords. Their
meager homes and stables were usually of adjoining buildings. The stables were
kept as clean as the houses and the manure was carried to country fields each
day in a basket on a shoulder. They had raised wheat, oats and barley, kept a
cow, a sow and a few sheep on the small plots allotted their own use. These
plots, just as in the Russian dominated countries of today, was where the
highest production was.
In this country they specialized in small grains, sheep, hogs, a few cattle and
horses and an orchard of apple trees. They lifted themselves by their bootstraps
to become respected landowners in the American community.
Theresa, Agnes and Anna were Mike’s old maid daughters and Josephine’s nephew,
Leo Fialkowski, was their hired man. Leo was the last member of the community to
come over from the old country and was always called “The Dutchman”. Mike gave
the south 40 acres to his son, Tom, where he raised two sons: Al, who sold
insurance and real estate in Ionia and is now deceased, and Richard, who
recently retired from the Arnold Machine Shop in South Ionia. Neither had
children, so this line is now at an end. Now, with their story, the house dies
My grandfather was Daniel Slowinski, son of Chris and grandson of old Daniel,
the father of the immigrants.
A LETTER---A BIT OF NOSTALGIA FROM MADISON
To Mr. Grayden D. Slowins, January 13, 1978 - Dear Sir: My aunt, Mrs. Kenneth (Statsick)
Smith, who resides near the Lakeside Cemetery, sent me this clipping some time
ago (the clipping was from the IONIA COUNTY NEWS concerning a photo of the Ionia
County Board of Supervisors of 1892-94 and Grayden's efforts to identify the
board members pictured) and I have had a desire to answer it for some time.
Adam Fender was my grandfather. I am the son of Warren Fender. I went to the
Goddard and Bretz schools. I have seen my granddad together with his daughter,
Dora Everest, spend many hours on the assessment rolls of Sebewa Township.
I happened to be born in the house where Karl Eckhard lives or did live, the
first farm north of the railroad, west side, from Woodbury. My parents then
lived on what was known as the George Fletcher farm, the first one south of what
was then the West Sebewa Store. (Clyde Avery's farm)
My Dad passed away January 6, 1925. We then lived just north on the west side of
the road from the Hemple farm. (M-66) Leon Williams also served as supervisor of
Odessa Township. Even then politics seemed to play its part. My folks were all
Democrats and Granddad was supervisor many, many years but Dad never made it in
Odessa. It seemed it always went Republican because Leon Williams always won.
The Karl Eckhard farm at the time of my birth, 1906, was owned by my maternal
grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Statsick.
One of George Schneider's daughters, Etta, was my schoolteacher at Goddard. At
the Bretz School, Hazel Rogers was teacher for a time and Velma Deeg also
taught. In my eighth grade we had a teacher from Portland whose name I have
forgotten. In the first three weeks she was so homesick that all she could do
was stand by the window and pine her heart out. She quit and Etta Schneider
finished the term.
I worked for Grover Cook on the farm the summer of 1925 and then worked for my
uncle, Ray, in the South End Garage at Lake Odessa. It is now a grocery store. I
drove the hearse for Weed and Wortley. Mr. W. Wortley's daughter, Madge, married
Maynard Leak. The Leaks lived across from the Sebewa Baptist Church.
In 1927 I married Coral Rairigh. Her dad, John, of Woodland ran a threshing
machine (now extinct). Her brother, Glenn, lived on the south side of the old
Clinton Trail just west of the Ionia Road.
The Lake Odessa High School burned down when I was in the 9th grade. Mrs. Fender
and I celebrated our golden anniversary last June 25, 1977.
Lots of luck and good wishes, Harold J. Fender, Madison Heights, MI