Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 2 Number 1
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; August 1966, Volume 2, Number 1.  Submitted with written permission of Current Editor Grayden D. Slowins: REPORT OF THE ANNUAL MEETING


   At the Annual Meeting of the Sebewa Center Association, the Sebewa Center School Reunion voted to merge its activities with those of the Sebewa Center Association.

   In accordance with the constitution and by-laws of the Association, only the office of president was to be filled by election this year.  Robert W. Gierman was re-elected to that office for a three-year term.

   The pot luck dinner was held under the maples of the school house lawn.  After the business meeting, the group drove to Shimnecon where Mrs. Pearl Reed identified the spot near the boulder erected to mark the Shimnecon village as the site of the second of two meeting-houses built there.  After it was abandoned by the Indians it was used as a Town Hall by Danby Township for a number of years.

   At the little clearing at Chief Okemos’ grave, a Blue Spruce was planted but without benefit of any Indian ceremonial dance.  Subsequent visits indicate the tree withstood the shock of transplanting with vigor.

   Elmer Gierman and Mrs. Pearl Reed nicely reviewed the activities of the Shimnecon settlement before the Indians were removed to Indian reservations.  Mr. Frank Mortimer of Morrice, Michigan (now one of our new members) brought his well displayed collection of Indian arrow heads and other artifacts and gave interestion interpretations of the different pieces.  Mrs. Howard Meyers showed the collection of Rex Lumbert of Grand Ledge.  Mr. Lumbert’s collectilon includes those formerly owned by the late Albert Sayer and Charles Evans.

   At and near the time of the Annual Meeting, several new memberships in the Association brought the total around the 220 mark.  As the new year starts after the June meeting, we have to re-establish the membership list with the payment of the 1966-1967 dues.  To date, some 82 persons have paid the second year dues.  We shall contact as many as possible with the distribution of this issue of the RECOLLECTOR, hoping to firm up the new membership list to the status of the old one.  If you are not reached directly, won’t you please send the dues to our secretary-treasurer, Mrs. Lucille Meyers, R 1, Sunfield, Michigan 48890?  The amount is $1 per person or $2.50 for the family including all the children.  To those who have already paid, many thanks for your interest in maintaining the project.


YOUR MONEY’S WORTH:

   A good portion of Sebewa Township is now a part of the Lakewood School District.  Some $2,003,373.00 of Sebewa’s state equalized valuation is included.  The most of the tax payers are aware of this at tax collection time.  The school system is usually justified as a proper method of educating the youngsters.  There are other benefits of such a system and if you do not participate in any of the adult activities, you may be wasting part of your tax-dollar. 

   The Lions Club travelog series is one of the opportunities open to you that would not be available without the Lakewood system.  The season tickets for the travel series will soon be available.  Locally Elmer Creighton of the Sunfield Club and Maurice Gierman of the Lake Odessa Lions Club should have the tickets when they are ready.  Watch your local paper for the announcement.


THE SEBEWA CENTER SCHOOL BELL

   The bell at the Sebewa Center school house was hung in the first week of December of 1885, some two years after the building was erected.  We should like to have seen the scaffolding, ropes and pulleys and other paraphernalia used in putting the bell in place.  Probably not all the comment and conversation in connection with the installation work would have been suitable for these pages.  Surely the school Marm was not left out of the chatter.

   Once the bell was in place, we can hardly imagine that the first ringing was a mere ding-dong.  If it did not raise the goose-flesh of pride among the children of the community, there must have been some emotional reaction to the tones so much deeper than those of the neighboring dinner bells.

   We doubt that anybody who had his childish enthusiasm for play wilted by the recess bell will ever forget it and perhaps even yet, would give that let-down response to the sound. 

Now, after some twenty trips up the ladder through the scuttle hole and the trap door in the roof, we have the mounting weakness corrected and the bell is ready to ring.  If you can overcome the old community bogey of the bell being a distress call to help to quench a fire (never did we actually hear a bell used that way), give the rope a tug and see if you have an urge to run for your old school seat.  Certainly those who so often answered that call would give odds they could identify the tone of that bell from any of one hundred others. 

SOME OTHER REPAIRING HAS BEEN DONE ON THE BUILDING:

   The metal roof of the school house and that of the wood shed have been freshly painted.  Some of the foundation stones have been pointed up.  It needs more.  Asphalt caulking on the roof of the furnace room should prevent leaking there until a new roof covering can be laid.


 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SEBEWA CENTER METHODIST CHURCH TO BE CELEBRATED IN OCTOBER:

   In October of 1891 the Sebewa Center Methodist Church was ready for its dedication.  Plans are afoot for some kind of celebration to mark its 75th anniversary in the coming October.  A rather large event denoted its 50th anniversary in 1941 and the 65th was celebrated with a homecoming and community dinner.  Recently steps have been taken to merge the Sebewa Corners Methodist congregation with that of Sebewa Center, leaving the 90-year-old church at the Corners idle.


 BEATING THE ODDS

We offer no insurance or assurances but it seems interesting that of our 220 members during our first year, we lost none by death.


 INDIAN FUNERAL SCENE By M. D. Chatterton; From the Michigan Pioneer Collections

   In 1851 there were but three dwelling houses between Okemos and Lansing and they were of logs.  Asa Proctor lived one-fourth mile west of the mouth of Pine Lake outlet, on the north side of the road; one-quarter of a mile further west, on the other side of the road, just east of the bridge across Cedar River, lived Horace Havens, the place where the writer commenced his residence in Ingham County; about half a mile further westward on the bank of the river nearly ten rods west of where the Botanical Laboratory now stands, was the log shanty of Robert Burcham.  The building was one story high, the roof of which consisted of split logs, hollowed out like troughs and laid according to the English style of tiling houses.  The building was one story high, the roof of which consisted of split logs, hollowed out like troughs and laid according to the English style of tiling houses.  The road leading to the “Middle Town” of Lansing left the plank road at a point near where the frame house now stands in the east orchard of the college farm, and running nearly in a straight line to Burcham’s house, and continuing as now located to town.  The country on each side of the road from Okemos to Lansing as an unbroken wilderness, except two or three acres cleared around each of the log houses. 

  Roving bands of Indians, with their ponies and camp equipage were no uncommon sight to the early pioneer of 1851.  The central figure of Indian history of Ingham County, around which all others cluster, is the noted chief, Okemos. He was not a chief by reason of hereditary descent, but it was conferred upon him by the Chippewa tribe on account of bravery and skill exhibited by him as a warrior in the Battle of Sandusky in 1813.  His prowess had long ceased to exist, and he was known to the pioneer of that day as a harmless beggar, supplicating his daily food from the hand of the early white settler.  Almost any old resident of Ingham County, referring back of 1858, can relate some instance of the chief’s visits to his house for food.  His reputation of being a “good Indian” as well as a noted chief, made him a welcome visitor, although a gluttonous eater.  It was not unusual to see him loosen his girdle to accommodate his enlarged condition by reason of the hospitality of some friendly pioneer.  He did not possess a social nature; it was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to relate incidents of his own experience---questions propounded to him were generally answered by an “Ugh”.

   I remember some time before the Agricultural College was located, while a small boy returning from the summer school as Okemos, I found the old Chief stretched at full length on the floor of our log cabin, sleeping off the effect of an overloaded stomach.  He was a short, thick-set person, and from his general appearance, had been a leader, and any one might claim, with a great deal of propriety, that he, at that time, was an hundred years old.  On the left side of his head, near the top, was an ugly looking scar, four or five inches long, showing what was claimed to be a saber-cut, received by him in battle at Sandusky.

   The only conversation I have any distinct recollection of falling from his lips, was his account of hunting deer and wild turkeys.  The former, he said, were not as difficult to capture as the latter.  The seeming hesitating disposition of the deer, when approached, was to stop and investigate the situation to see if it really was an Indian or not.  He said the deer would seem to say “Guess ‘taint Ingin;” while the turkey was of a different nature; he never stopped to reason or investigate, but would seem to say “Ingin be God” and was out of site.

   The Old Chief had three papooses, two boys and a girl, John and Jim, the girl’s name I have forgotten, or never knew.  In the summer of 1852, while some Indians were camped on the south bank, at the rapids in the bend of the river, about eighty rods east of where the college buildings now stand, the daughter of the chief died.  Three or four hundred Indians immediately assembled to perform their funeral services over the dead child of their distinguished leader.  They constructed a rude drum y cutting off the end of a hollow log and stretched a deerskin over it, upon which the Indians kept a constant thumping night and day while the body remained in camp, in order to attract the Spirit of the Great Father to this spot, and he would take charge of the departed one, and safely conduct it to the “Happy Hunting Ground” of the good Indians’ future home.  During the night of this performance, in company with those much older, we visited the camp to witness the scene.  A number of Indians, with their squaws, collected around a fire and performed a sort of dance, without any seeming regard to order, and gave vent to the host horrid groans, screeches and gesticulations imaginable; echoes of their wild hideous cries and lamentations reverberated through the dense forest.  The moving bodies before the light of the funeral pyre reflected ghost-like shadows in the inky darkness, which seemed like the cast of Dante in describing his Inferno.  The Old Chief sat in his tent, silent, sad, mournful and alone, the pictorial embodiment of grief.  This hideous ceremony lasted the entire night, and we remained for about hours, the unmolested spectators of this strange drama, and, as we informed, until their natures were exhausted, and the morning daylight appeared.  My father’s house was only about eight rods from the camp, and long after we returned home, we could hear the thumps on the drum, and the groans of the mourners; and we could still see the light reflected on the trees surrounding the scene.

   My father and a hired man, at the request of John and Jim Okemos, had prepared, the day before, a long, narrow, straight rough board box as a coffin.  The next morning, in company with them, we went to the camp with this rude casket.  Indians fast asleep were seen in all directions, lying in the leaves about the camp.  Nothing had the appearance of intoxicating liquors having been used.  The dead body was lying upon a bed of leaves, finely and gaily dressed in a short skirt, moccasins on its feet, its neck, wrists and ankles were decked with strings of beads; its glassy eyes, wide open, staring at us as we passed along.  After the body was placed in this rough box, our hired man, Mr. Solomon Bruce, made an attempt to nail down the lid, but was stopped by an Indian who said “She could no get out”.  So an Indian peeled some bark and tied the cover to its place.  It was then put in a canoe made of elm bark, and in company with two other canoes, proceeded down the river to Shim-ni-con, an Indian burial ground near Portland, Ionia County, while the large company of Indians took the more direct route to wait the arrival of the body.

   This strange event formed an impression upon my young mind that time will never erase.

   December 5th, 1858, the Old Chief died near DeWitt, Clinton County, and was buried by the side of his daughter.


   Michigan’s first state fair was held in Ann Arbor on October 1, 1839.


 THE PEACE CORPS, Part IV, By Richard W. Thrams

   This is India—not much else to say.  It’s just India.  To try to explain what and how is about like asking a 5-year-old child---not when it will snow but why.

   With that as a start I shall try to explain a little of what an Indian city is like.  Streets are one-lane by American standards.  This means two-way traffic by all motor vehicles, bicycles, rickshaws, bullock carts, cows, buffaloes, goats, people and sometimes camels and elephants.  There are no sidewalks except in some of the modern parts of the city.  Most all streets have a gutter but that is for human waste.  Everyone uses them.  Why?  Very few buildings have plumbing and inside toilets and there are not many new buildings in the small cities.

   If you know where to go, you can buy almost anything that has been made in the world in the past one thousand years!  And that is very many different things.

   In the evening, most of the hogs are out going through the garbage that is piled up somewhat in several places on each street.  These piles come and go out there will be some for a long time to come.  Indian hogs have the appearance somewhat of the pictures you have seen of anteaters—the long snout, a short neck and bellies almost dragging the ground.

   The night traffic is a little wild.  Most large vehicles have only half of their headlights showing---the other half is painted over so as not to blind the bicyclists, the rickshaw men and pedestrians.  Then, of course, there are no tail lights and scarcely any vehicle has turn signals.  With this in mind, picture yourself coming to town on a bicycle at 7-9 P.M.  These would be some of the things you might pass and hope not to hit---buffaloes, cows, people, trucks, buses, rickshaws and donkeys.  You never have time to look back.

   Most Indian shops handle only one item such as fruit, bread, cloth, nails or whole grain.  Some of the newer stores have grain and canned food.  Some shops have fixed prices but in most of them you have to bargain and haggle.  This becomes quite hectic at times, especially if you know the value of the item you wish to purchase.

   Next is the part that we, as westerners, do not care for except to see and not talk much about.  Almost all of us have never seen it or smelled it before coming to Asia.  Early in the evening, housewives prepare their cooking fire with cow dung for fuel.  Sometimes the dung is mixed with grasses.  This makes a heavy smoke that burns the eyes so that tears come.  Then to see little kids follow the cows and buffaloes around and grab up the manure---is something almost beyond description. 

PART V

TRACTOR EVALUATION PROJECT, ALLAHABAD AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE, ALLAHABAD, UTTAR PRAIESH, INDIA.  In the Tractor Evaluation Project, made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, we are trying to find out what the Indian farmer will do with a tractor and how much supervision is needed to make its use a success.  The tractors we are using are 4-wheeled and 2-wheeled of Japanese manufacture.

   The 4-wheeler is powered by a 7 horse-power kerosene-burning engine.  The2-wheeler uses 5 horse-power gasoline-burning engine.  The other tractor we are using is a 10 horse-power diesel of Swiss manufacture.  With each tractor we have a complete list of implements we thought might be used here in India.

   We have single- and two-bottom plows, rotary tillers, rotary harrows, seed drills, reaper binders, steel-wheel cultivators and ridgers.  There are also trailers with pumps and some hoses.  Those are the main items we use.  There are some rice implements also.

   Our staff consists of the officer in charge, six Indian engineers and four Peace Corps Volunteers.  Our volunteer from New Jersey left the project to raise chickens.  He was not too well suited for the project—largely from the lack of experience.  Of the other men, one is from Southern Minnesota and the other is a Montana rancher.

   The three of us have had a wide variety of agricultural experience and are familiar with assorted agricultural ideas and practices.  However, our familiarity with rice culture is very limited.  Rice is India’s principal crop.  Here at Allahabad we have a wheat-growing area.

   The time it takes to get equipment here from its point of manufacture is a major problem.  The 2-wheeled Japanese tractors came with one set of implements for five tractors.  For each type of tractor we have, there is a set of five, giving us a total of 15.  There are several other tractors we have used for data collection, but on these we are limited by a lack of implements and spare parts.  Spare parts become a big problem here.  Everything has to be imported at 100% duty.  It takes four to six months in transit before the materials arrive here.

   We have placed several of the tractors with farmers.  Many became quite keen on what the tractors can and will do.  Two different farmers are plowing land they would not normally plow until after the Monsoon storms in June and July.  With the early plowing, the farmer will be getting a second crop off his land in a single year.  In some parts of India they are harvesting three crops in a year now.  The big problem in Indian agriculture is supplying water between the heavy annual Monsoon rains.  Much work needs to be done in developing quick maturing varieties of rice and wheat.

   With proper irrigation and short maturing crops, the food production problem of India would be partly solved.  That sounds good, but very little work is being done in either area.

   To make tube-well irrigation most economically, the farmer needs electricity and if the electricity comes from hydro sources, the dams will provide channel irrigation.  The Indian farmer is waiting for the government to bring electricity while the government is waiting for the farmer to increase food production, so that more taxes will be available to build the dam.

   One of these days the first step will be taken and the second will follow!

PEACE CORPS – KUMBH MELA – PART VI:

   The Kumbh Mela is not an everyday affair nor even yearly—every twelve years it is held.  There is a Mela (fair) every year but this is the Grand-daddy of them all.  The Mela date is determined by the astrologers from the position of the stars.  The positions are just right every twelve years and these are the big bathing days.  The Mela has a different name in each of the twelve years.  In this cycle there were six big bathing days.

   The  Melas are held at the confluence of India’s two most holy rivers—the Ganges and the Jumna.  I am living about one mile from this spot.   Our city, Allahabad, means great holy city or city established by the gods, according to the Hindu religion.

   I was very lucky to be here at the time of the Mela.  It is one of the things that I shall never forget.  Nearly 50 million people came here during a 6-weeks period.  Most came by train or bus and the rest by bullock cart, on camels, afoot and some rich folks flew in.  The airport is about seven miles away.  Many people also came by auto or jeep.

   The railway station had well over 100 thousand people around it most of the time.  That may be difficult to imagine---the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl crowd around a railway station.  But here the people are coming and going at the same time.  I just cannot begin to tell what it is like.

   The railway station was an unbelievable space—day or night it was filled with people—for three or four blocks the people are sitting and sleeping.  Now try to see yourself going from one place to another.  It may be like trying to put all the people of Detoit in Sunfield.  It can be done, for I have seen it.

   One day in the city it took us nearly an hour to move a hundred yards to cross a street intersection.  This was walking and pushing our trusty bicycle.  Trying to drive at this time was nearly impossible except in early morning.

   Most of the bathing days started at 11:30 P.M. and lasted until 3:30 A.M. when the stars were just right.  As we are living here, we thought it best to go down to the river on the biggest day of them all.  We took a boat to where the waters of the two rivers meet.  This is called the Sangram.  The water there was not deep, as in several spots you could see the soil through the water.

   The fun starts in getting to this spot where the water is not so deep—it takes some doing.  There are boats of all sizes and shapes competing for the space and for the last 50 yards it is a real battle.  All the boats have a long rope and the boatman try every way possible to get their boat through.  Several men take the rope and try to pull the boat through while most all of its passengers try to push the other boats out of the way.  Everybody finally gets there and out again.

   To be completely bathed, one has to be entirely under water four times.  This is quite a feat for little old ladies and babies but somehow almost everybody came out OK this year.  A few boats turn over and several people die; but what can you expect with that many people in one place?  When everybody gets back into the boat they put on dry clothing without a thought of the onlookers.  I was asked by several people if I was going to take my bath.  I got wet enough sitting on the edge of the boat.  The event this year was in January—the coldest month of the year.  On this day the temperature was in the low 60s or high 50s with a slight wind. 


OLD LETTER DEPARTMENT:  From Joseph Hayes to John Shipman, Jonesville, Michigan

Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, April first 1854:

   Dear Brother:  I have taken my pen once more to write a few lines to you.  Know that we are all well at present, thanks be to God for all his mercies to us.  We hope these lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing.

   It was so long since we heard from you that we did not know whether you were in the land of the living or not until we received a letter from Rebecca Havens, for which we were very much pleased to hear from you all once more.  We were very sorry to hear you were suffering from an attack of rheumatic pains, but we must remember that age will bring on infirmities.

   Jane Laird is still living and enjoys pretty good health.  She lives mostly with her son, Robert.  William Hayes’ family is somewhat scattered.  Robert lives in Philadelphia.  Thomas, James and William live in Lewisburg.  Thomas deals in grain buying and boating it away.  He, in company with two others have erected a large steam mill, which is now in operation.  James is keeping store.  William is a doctor.

   Elizabeth Chamberlain has not been in her right mind for some years and there seems very little prospect of her getting better.  Their two oldest sons are in California.  Mary Walker is still living and well.  She lives with her son, Robert.  Brother James still lives with me and enjoys a tolerable good health.  My son, Robert, is living about a mile from Milton, has a small farm of about eighty acres.  They have five children:  two sons and three daughters.  William lives in McEwensville and is keeping store.  They have four children---all sons.  Jane is living at home with us.

   As to John Brown we know very little about him.  We have not seen nor heard anything about him for a year or two.  Joseph has got married about a year ago to a girl by the name of Derrikson.  We have built him a house not far from the one we live in.  I have given him the place to work on shares.

   The Sunbury-Erie railroad passes in sight of us between where we live and where Browns formerly lived.  They have been going on with a pretty strong force of hands for almost a year.  They have been working on some of the sections all winter.  They expect to have it in operation this fall as far as Williamsport.  They are making another railroad from Catawisssa to intersect the Sunbury & Erie at Milton.

   Our last year’s crops of wheat were light, owing to the ravages of the fly.  The corn crops were pretty good.  We had a very dry summer and a very open winter.  We have had very little snow; none of that lay more than a day or two at a time.  We have now had for a week past almost as cold weather as any in the winter.  Everything is dear with us at present.  Horses sell from one hundred to one hundred fifty dollars; cows from twenty to thirty-five; beef by the quarter, seven cents per lb.; wheat one dollar fifty; rye eighty cents; corn sixty cents; oats fifty; potatoes fifty. I have nothing more to write that would be interesting to you and shall conclude with our best respects to you and all the family.

Joseph Hayes to John Shipman, Jonesville, Michigan.


AN INSTITUTION PASSES

   With the adoption of Michigan’s new constitution, the caucua (“corkus” rings faintly in our ears) as a method of nominating township officers has been replaced by a primary election.  Coming as it did, just before spring work started on the farms, caucus usually attracted a goodly handful of interested citizens bent on seeing that township affairs did not suffer.  This was the starting-point and sometimes the stopping-point for individual political advancement.

   More often than not the Republican and Democratic caucuses were held on different days or at least at different hours.  Sometimes the proceedings were spirited rather than routine.

   Under the new system a candidate for township office must file a nominating petition in order to have  his name placed on the primary election ballot.  In case no candidates filed for a particular office, the nomination could be won by write-in votes.

   At the August 2 primary there was a rather larger than usual flurry of write-in votes to be counted.


WHOSE IS IT?

   Many who have traveled M66 have wondered at the activity of the large woodsy lot that was part of Dorr Layle’s farm at the south county and township line.  The construction there is the new brick home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Morlock.  Mrs. Morlock is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Hampel, who live on the old Ad Fender farm in the same mile.  How Old Ad would have relished assessing this and the other new houses of the township, had they been erected during his tenure as Township Supervisor many years ago.


PASS NOT THE BUCK—SOMEBODY MUST BE RESPONSIBLE

   With the death of Sundy Crosslan in an auto collision at Goddard and Tupper Lake Roads July 30 we were brought to take a look at the intersection markings of the township roads.  With a mixture of STOP, YIELD and no markings whatever, it seems we have, at best, a haphazard placement of the signs.  The person who is familiar with the crossings knows well enough what the hazards are on each corner.  The stranger might well be into the intersection beforehe has seen some of the crop-and brush-hidden cross roads. 

As elected representatives of the people of the township, the Township Board would seem to be the proper group to find the authorities responsible for sign placement and exerting the pressure necessary for a proper sign system in the township.  We should not wait for another accident to point up the need.


STATISTICS—CENSUS OF 1880

Number of horses in Ionia County - 11,545

Mules and asses - 101                                      

Working oxen  - 1,075

Milch cows -  9,681

Other cattle – 11,141

Sheep  - 81,666

Swine – 19,736 

Products:

Wool in pounds  - 432, 723

Milk in gallons – 29,188

Butter in pounds – 1, 012,498

Cheese in pounds – 1,742


THEY ROLLED UP THE CURTAIN IN 1907 by Zack L. York

   When the Sebewa Town Hall was painted a few years ago, some rough framing on the ceiling of the stage, with spaced slots were torn out and a roll-up curtain with a tangle of ropes and pulleys was removed.  Thus passed into near oblivion the evidence of Sebewa Center’s Theatre effort spanning some 60 years.  In the winter of 1907 the Sebewa Grange “put on” several plays in the Town Hall to earn money to raise the roof of the structure to provide a second story, destined to be the home of the Sebewa Grange.

   When getting ready to paint the hall, Wilfred Gierman wondered if we should keep the old roll curtain, which was all that was left of the “scenery” built for the early plays.  I, of course, said “Yes!  Of course!”  Sentimental?  I suppose so, but neither of us was willing to see it discarded.  For want of a better place, we stored it in the loft of our garage where it has been since and nearly forgotten until I began writing this story of Sebewa Center’s first Theatre.  I got it down the other day and unrolled it.  The curtain, done in the manner of all roll-up curtains at the turn of the century  and in the style considered highly desirable in establishing atmosphere and authenticity in any contemporary revivals of old melodrama, is in excellent condition.

   From what I remember hearing from my father (Harry L. York) and corroborated by Rob Gierman, (now 85 and one of the only two members remaining of this Thespian group—the other being Asa Cassel) the curtain as well as the other flats were painted by Roy Ralston.  Roy was 16 or 17 at that time and was a “hired man” of my father’s and had acquired from somewhere the know-how to construct and paint the scenery, including the curtain.  He evidently knew his craft, for the curtain is still in good shape, the colors clear—though somewhat faded—and the paint pliable and unflaked.  Painting scenery is an art and a good deal of style and craftsmenship is evident in the execution of this act curtain.

   The center of the curtain is an oval sylvan scene of water, trees and distant hills flanked by advertising signs framed in scrolls and curlycues.  Directly above the scene and in what would probably be considered the most desirable spot on the curtain is the sign which reads:  GEORGE A. CREASER, COMPLETE STOCK OF JEWELRY AND OPTICAL GOODS---10 YEARS EXPERIENCE IN WATCH REPAIRING AND FITTING GLASSES.  THAT IS WHAT COUNTS---GOODS & WORK FULLY GUARANTEED.

   Directly below the sylvan scene the sign reads:  F. N. CORNELL, DEALER IN GENERAL MDSE.  WHOLESALE SHIPPER PRODUCE.   SHOES & RUBBER GOODS---LADIES & GENTS FURNISHINGS.  CORNER STORE.

   On the right at the top was:  MISS FIGG—ALL THE BEST STYLES---WORK GUARANTEED---MILLINERY.  And below was:  HOTEL WALSH—F. E. JONES PROP.  RATES $2.00 PER DAY.  Then E. L. COLE---HARDWARE, PAINTS, STOVES, CROCKERY.  FURNACE---STEAM AND HOT WATER HEATING---PLUMBING AND TIN WORK.  At the bottom right corner appears SMOKERS DELIGHT---AL ROLA 10 CENTS.  ELITE LITTLE GENTLEMENT 5 CENTS.---C. N. SNOBBLE, MGR.  To Snobble’s left was:  LUDWIG HAHL—HORSE SHOEING---CARRIAGE & WAGON REPAIRING, PRICES RIGHT.

The top two positions at the left were taken by:  J. P. TURNER—IMPLEMENT DEALER. To the left of Turner:  FOR FURNITURE—CALL ON---BERA & MAPES---CARPETS RUGS MATTING SEWING MACHINES & SUPPLIES.

   Below Bera & Mapes was:  SUNFIELD CREAMERY CO.---HOME MARKET FOR CREAM---J. W. EATON, MGR.; then SUNFIELD MILLING CO.  STRICTLY STRAIGHT FLOUR—FEED MEAL STONE GROUND---BUCKWHEAT & GRAHAM FLOUR---A. J. HULETT & M. T. SPRINGETT—DEALERS IN COAL.  On the bottom to the right, the last sign on the curtain was:  R. M. BASCOM & CO.—FRESH & SALT MEATS—HYDES (sic) & PELTS.

  I was unable to find how much these Sunfield merchants contributed in cash for these spots.  Fourteen advertisements, artistically arranged, well lettered and painted with skill, against a background of painted drapery, swagged, looped and fringed were all proof of Roy Ralston’s artistic flair.  Today’s students in educational theatre, in local high schools and colleges are often less adept.  If too much glue is put in the mix with the powder-paint, the surface will glaze or crack; if too little glue is in the size, the paint will chalk and rub off.

   The rest of the scenery, as I recall, was comprised of two sets of side flats (wooden frames covered with muslin and painted) and two larger flats, making up the rear wall.  These flats were mis-called “flies” by the early Thespians, although it was not until I was in college that I realized that what they called “flies” were “flats”—flies being the space above the stage into which scenery in “real theatre” was flown by use of a system of pulleys and counter weights.  The ceiling in the Town Hall is about nine feet high and the stage is raised 18” from the main floor.  The acting area approximated 10 x 14 feet.  The center supporting post in the present structure, which is dead center and an exasperating obstruction to the sight lines of the audience when my generation put on several plays there, was not present in the early days.  The post was added to support the floor of the Grange addition, paid for by the money raised from the performances of these early days.  Admission was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.

   “Three or four plays” were produced by the members of the Sebewa Center Grange under the direction of Charlie Lundquist, who lived on his farm at Sunfield and Tupper Lake Roads.  Some of the members of the Grange who were in casts of one or more of the plays were:  Joe and Alice Bliss (Joe was usually the villain), Charlie and Hattie Ralston; Elem and Sarah Tran, George Gitterman, Earl Pettingill, Ruby Smith (who taught school and boarded with Minnie Gunn), Dulcie Showerman, Rob Gierman, Cora Gierman (She was usually the ingénue), Harry York, Asa Cassel and Fred Sindlinger.  After playing two nights at the Center the group sometimes “toured”, playing on different occasions sveral of the plays at Sebewa Corners Odd Fellow Hall, Danby Grange Hall, Sunfield (above Louie Hall’s Blacksmith Shop) and to Portland in the old “Opera House” above Kennedy’s (later Lehman’s) Clothing Store and the adjacent hardware store.

   Only two of the titles of the plays remain in the memory of those who were in or saw the plays.  The first one presented was THE OLD NEW HAMPSHIRE HOME.  Another was LIGHTHOUSE NAN.  Recollections of happenings at rehearsals, favorite scenes of plays or accidents during performances are few.  Rob Gierman was a Dutchman in one play.  Once he was embracing Dulcie Showerman in the final scene of one play and they got too far forward so that the roll curtain came down behind them instead of them behind it.

Once Rob drew a gun on a fellow actor and it flew out of his hand, hitting John York, who was sitting on a front-row bench.  Blood ran down John’s face from a superficial wound in his forehead and Mrs. Ida Heitzleman administered first aid by applying cold water to the cut from the children’s drinking supply she was carrying.

   A favorite scene of many was the business of Asa Cassel hiding by playing a scarecrow in a field and snitching from a plate of fried cakes the hired girl had brought to the field hands.  Shenanigans were not unusual.  A favorite one recalled was when one actor, unused to liquor, was plied with whiskey on the sleigh ride to Portland when on tour and was unable to play his role.

   The plays provided entertainment for the neighborhood audiences, money for the second story to house the Grange and, important, too, it was a lot of fun for the men and women who “put them on”.  “Putting on” home talent plays is part of the heritage of most of America’s small towns and rural areas and Sebewa Center is no exception. 


THE UPPER CRUST

   Some wealthy Greenvillites are planning to charter a palace car for an excursion to Yellowstone Park in the spring.  (Portland Observer March 5, 1884)

 



Last update January 31, 2013