THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the
Sebewa Center Association,
APRIL 1996, Volume 31, Number 5. Submitted with written permission of Editor
Grayden D. SLOWINS:
SURNAMES: BROWN, SEARS, HALLADAY, GATES, CARPENTER, INGALLS, DICKENSON, KELLEY,
CROSBY, TOLE, LOTT, WARREN, INCH, SCHWAB, SHOWERMAN, CLINE, OAKS, AUSTIN,
NEWMAN, EVANS, POTTER, NICHOLSON, GIERMAN, BENEDICT, HEMINOVER, CHURCHILL,
REYNOLDS, SHAEFER, PHELPS, SNYDER
EDLA SEARS BROWN, 81, widow of A. H. BROWN, mother of Christine, Harold, and
Richard BROWN, sister of Frances, Verle, Wallace and Arlene SEARS, daughter of
Edna & Roy SEARS, son of Wilmont & Anna Jane HALLADAY SEARS, daughter of
Rosabella GATES and Abel C. HALLADAY, son of David & Nancy CARPENTER HALLADAY.
Rosabella GATES was daughter of Ezra GATES & Elizabeth INGALLS GATES, daughter
of Jonathan INGALLS, Sebewa’s soldier of the Revolution.
JOHN C. DICKINSON, 76, husband of Ramona CRANDALL DICKINSON, father of Roselyn
MEYERS, Sharon PURDY, Linda, Lyle, Thomas & James DICKINSON, brother of the late
Ray DICKINSON, Ruby FERRIS, Gladys TITUS, Charlotte DRAPER & Ida Mae LEETH, son
of Frank & Rosa KELLEY DICKINSON. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corps,
worked at A. C. Spark Plug, served in the U. S. Army Air Corps in WWII, farmed
in Sebewa, owned & operated FELL’S Motel, worked at FULLER’s Furniture and at
real estate sales, was Sebewa Township Trustee and on Berlin-Orange Fire Board.
MILDRED L. CROSBY, 97, widow of George, mother of Nancy Lehman, daughter of
Charles & Nora Ann TOLE LOTT. She farmed in Sebewa, retired at Fort Myers,
JON R. WARREN, 53, husband of Cheryll GIERMAN WARREN, father of Matthew &
Michael WARREN, brother of Eleanor BARBER & Julie PACKEY, son of George & Beulah
INCH WARREN. He resided most of his life in Ovid, served in the U. S. Air Force,
and was an attorney in Genesse County. He received the Genesse County’s
Attorneys’ Civility Award.
CLARICE LUCILLE SCHWAB SHOWERMAN CLINE, 81, wife of Richard R. CLINE, widow of
Robert E. SHOWERMAN, mother of Louise HILL, Ralph, Joyce, Robert and the late
John SHOWERMAN, sister of Rose Ella HUBBEL, Sarah Jane JANE, and the late
Francis and Garland SCHWAB, daughter of Mylo & Armeda OAKS SCHWAB. She was a
rural teacher, bookkeeper at All-In-One Feeds and Portland Co-op Elevator.
ORRIN CHARLES AUSTIN, 79, husband of Elaine, father of Phillip and Rodger AUSTIN
and Delores WOODEN, brother of Lura PROCTER and late Wayne AUSTIN, son of Orrin
& Marilla NEWMAN AUSTIN. He was retired from General Motors.
HARRIET A. EVANS, 90, wife of Herbert, mother of Janey CARTER, Harold and Ronal
EVANS, sister of Alta LYNCH and Nellie WOODCOCK, daughter of Glen & Nellie
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF IONIA (with front page photo):
Organized February 24, 1864, this bank reorganized as the State Savings Bank of
Ionia in December, 1896. It was originally located west of CORNELL Alley on the
north side of the middle block of Main Street. In 1904 the State Savings Bank
absorbed the Ionia County Savings Bank, which was located in the building shown
above on the northeast corner of Main and Depot Streets, and that became a
branch. In 1905 the Wellington C. PAGE private bank was absorbed. During the
1920s the main office and the branch were combined in the above location. In
1952 the building was completely remodeled and the name changed to First
Security Bank. In the 1970s it became Independent Bank Corporation. See April
1992 issue for the history of the Webber Brothers Bank, which we now know as
Ionia County National Bank, but which was really Second National Bank.
IONIA IN 1897 – 1898 by Ralph BENEDICT:
My father built a house on Lincoln Avenue at the head of Cyrus Street. He was a
mail carrier who had started when city delivery first came to Ionia. He worked
at that for 32 years. I was born there in 1893. One of my first memories is of a
dark evening in October, 1897, when the fire whistle blew. I could hear it
plainly, although it was a mile away on Jackson Street (at the Pere Marquette
car shops). I went out to look and there it was, a red glow in the sky that got
bigger and bigger and finally started to die down. Father came home late for
supper. He had been at the fire, which was at the flour mill on the corner of
Main and Dexter.
The mill was (originally) powered by water from West Creek, which came from
across Lincoln, ran under the brewery, and then into a pipe that surfaced again
beyond the railroad tracks. There was a drain hole in the brewery floor and a
tap where water could be drawn to fill the sprinkler tank wagon. This creek was
to make headlines about 10 years later when the county went dry and the brewery
has some unsold beer that the government impounded.
One July day they came to destroy the beer by dumping it into the creek through
a hole in the floor. At that moment the sprinkler man began to fill his tank –
not knowing that he had a cargo of watered beer – and started to sprinkle with
it. This strange fact was duly noted in the local paper and it came to the
attention of the national wire service, which let the rest of the country know
that Ionia was the only town in the nation that sprinkled the streets with beer.
Now we came to 1898. I was 5 years old and two things happened. The first was
that I got to see the departure of the men going to the Spanish-American War.
The second was that I had to go out and start battling the establishment, in
this case the school system. This I opposed to no avail. The base of operations
of the establishment was on Union hill. The high school sat at the corner of
Lincoln and Union, with the grade school on a slight elevation 150 feet south.
It was three stories high with two cupolas on top and a two-story wing to the
north. Between them a one-story building served all sanitary needs. A fence from
this building to the grade school kept the boys’ and girls’ playgrounds
separated. Piles of three-foot wood stood waiting for the furnace. Nearby was
the janitor’s house with a bell tower where he rang the bell to start school.
His name was SISSON. The kindergarten was in the basement of the north wing,
which was to be my home-away-from-home for the next year. I spent nine years in
that building and had ample time to improve my knowledge of Ionia by talking
with people to hear what they said and did, and to see other things that the
whole town was engaged in.
The corner of Main and Jackson could be considered a suburb of the business
district, which was two long blocks away down Main Street. About 1902 the wood
block pavement was taken up, and a mile and a half of brick pavement was laid on
Main Street, which was a vast improvement.
The business district on the south side of Main started at HUDSON Street with
the Methodist Church and its clock tower and steeple. Down HUDSON Street and
across the first tracks was the Grand Trunk station. Across from it was the
railroad water tank standing beside the pottery buildings.
Facing the street was the gas plant, which was soon torn down, as it was too
small and a much bigger one had been erected on STEELE Street. Across the tracks
on the (northwest) corner of HUDSON and ADAMS – then called Front Street – stood
the HUDSON House Hotel. That is now a parking lot. Up the street on the corner
Jim FANNING had a saloon, also known as the Methodist saloon, a name not popular
in some areas. It was a two-story frame building that was moved up Main Street
to Mill Street, where it became a grocery store for many years. This was done
when the MORSE-BABCOCK law building was built in 1904. Next there was a small
house on the land now the home of the telephone building. A motion picture
theater named the Royal occupied one of the two stores in the next building. The
other was a meat market with the usual sawdust on the floor.
Back of this building on KIDD Street, Alexander T. MONTGOMERY had a livery
stable with horses and rigs for hire. It also housed three hacks of which one or
two met each train. His brother Frank had another stable next door. Across the
street stood the BAILEY House, a three-story (four actually) hotel with a bar
and dining room. The Ionia Theatre occupies that site now. DONOVAN ran a candy
store next door. ENGELMAN’S saloon was next and then a barber shop. The ground
floor of the next building at BROAD Alley was the Post Office. Across the alley
(on a lot owned by A. BROAD) was PECK & PECK stationary store, later WHIPPLE’S.
Then SHUMWAY’S saloon, Charlie LAUSTER’S grocery market, and one more. The new
WEBBER Block, rebuilt after the old one had burned about 1895, extended to the
corner of Depot Street. The ground floor had WEBBER’S office, Herman VanALLEN
Drugs – later Koss Drugs, Dr. Paul STAMSEN Sr.’s optical shop, and Ionia
Around the corner beside the hardware store on the street, a small portable
building housed a peanut and popcorn stand run by a man named WILKINSON. Behind
this stand, two or three one-horse drays with a driver stood waiting for the
business of anyone that needed some light hauling done. HICKS Bros.’ saloon
completed this block before you came to the Pere Marquette depot on the corner.
Across the street was a junk yard that was later moved to south JACKSON Street
when the Ford garage was built. This is now a parking lot, too.
Up on the corner of Main was a jewelry store. Next door Charles BRADLEY had a
furniture store which he operated along with an undertaking business. He was
assisted by his oldest son Matt, who was learning the business, and by Joe
BOYNTON. When Charlie died, these two continued the business until Matt got his
license and Joe left to start his own funeral business. (Later FULLER’S
Furniture & Rugs started in this location.) Next came the Wellington C. PAGE
Coal Co. and their private bank specializing in money drafts to the old country.
RECTOR’S Bakery was next and beyond him Bay COMSTOCK’S saloon, later replaced by
Mike AGOSTINI’S new Confectionery. The SILVER and GRAFF block butted on CORNELL
Alley. It was a two-story building, home of Nathan SILVER’S clothing store and a
Across the alley (where Dr. Alanson CORNELL opened his practice & drugstore in
1838) stood BATSON’S restaurant. This fell to the wreckers and a new building
was put up, occupied by ALLEN Bros. Racket store and later by GAMBLES.
Next was another clothing store and then George GUNDRUM’S drug store – later
McNAMARA Bros. Drugs. Beyond was J. E. BEATTIE shoe store, G. W. FRENCH Jewelry,
and Tom BUCK men’s clothes, all in the three-store Geo. W. WEBBER block, which
had been the birthplace of R. HUDSON & Son Clothiers – later the J. L. HUDSON
Company of Detroit. West of these stores was a fairly large lot with a house set
back from the street with an ornamental iron fence in front. It was the home of
Dr. T. R. ALLEN, who kept a horse and buggy with driver which he used for his
calls. The buildings there now are occupied by a variety store and TOWNSEND
(JOHNSON) Drugs. Beyond this was Net SPAULDING’S Hardware, which became FATE’S
Market and back to Ionia Hardware. A saloon which is now the Martha WASHINGTON
finished out the block to the corner.
Down the street next to the railroad was an elevator and between the two
railroads was the Pere Marquette freight house. Beyond this was the SOROSSIS
Garment Factory (which moved from Lansing as the Michigan Overall Company). On
the other side of the street stood the new gas plant. In one corner of this
building 30” up is a stone that marks the high water of 1905. South of this a
ways was the Capital Wagon Works (also moved from Lansing and later updated to
HAYES Ionia Autobody Co.). Between the gas plant and the railroad, HALE built a
flour mill, and between the railroads, opposite the freight house, was W. C.
PAGE’S coal yard. Another elevator occupied the northwest corner of ADAMS and
Up on the corner of Main was STEVENSON’S drygoods store. A grocery and meat
market were next west, and then the LIVERTON building, in which there was a
two-lane bowling alley. Later the alleys were moved to the basement and a lunch
counter took their place on the first floor. A high board fence hid a vacant lot
next door, which was later built upon for a garage and later it was the A & P
store. Beyond this lot were five stores, the first being Coney Island and fifth
a bakery. Years later the bakery became a theater and the site is now a parking
lot next to the armory. The armory stands where the old DEXTER flour mill used
to be when this story began.
South beside the railroad was SCHEIDT’S blacksmith shop and between the tracks
was a lumber yard. Beyond this was HEARSEY’S planing mill. On the other side
down by the river was the fairgrounds. Opposite the lumber yard a stockyard used
to load cattle into freight cars. This land between the tracks was later to
become the site of the REED furniture factory. On the corner of Main, Ted CALLOW
built the CALLOW House Hotel about 1900. This had a succession of owners until
the REED company, which had no more use for it, had it town down. It was later
the site of a gas station. That completes the south side of Main Street.
The north side started with the Courthouse, Dr. DEFENDECKER’S house, and the
Baptist church. Behind it on KIDD Street was the fire barn, which had a 40-foot
tower on the back used to dry hose. This burned down and it is now the site of
City Hall. On the corner was the Episcopal church. Across the street was a house
and lot which became the site of the Post Office.
The PERRONE building occupies the site of another old theater. Stage shows would
occasionally play here for a week at a time, with a different play every night.
On the corner of Main was a two-store building, one of them being a Variety
store. The other store was run by Charlie JACK, who sharpened lawn mowers,
repaired bicycles, and had a stock of Edison cylinder records. He had a roller
outfit out front which you could put your bike on and ride ten miles without
moving ahead an inch. Next came the TOWER Block, then Henry VOELKER’S barber
shop, where he employed three barbers besides himself. It had a tile floor and a
cabinet that contained a number of his customers’ own private shaving mugs with
brushes. He was assisted by a colored man named William PEARCE, who kept the
floor clean, shined shoes, helped the customers on with their coats and brushed
them off with a long whisk broom. He also took care of the bath house. At that
time there were numerous single people who rented a room that contained just a
bed, a chair, and a small dresser, with no bathing facilities except a pitcher &
bowl. With the coming of the safety razor, Henry’s business declined. He closed
up shop and went into the real estate and insurance business. He was succeeded
in that business by Al SLOWINSKI upstairs in the WEBBER building and it is now
part of the CARR Agency.
Next came a grocery store and another bakery. Beyond the alley was a three-story
building with the Masonic Temple on the second and third floors. Downstairs
Henry BOWERS operated a cigar stand and ice cream parlor. He made his own ice
cream and it was the best you ever tasted. Out front on the pedestal with wheels
on it stood a wooden Indian holding a bunch of wooden cigars in his hand. This
was our favorite hang-out when we were downtown. Next door Pat WELCH ran a
saloon. Beyond him was a poolroom and lunchroom, a grocery store, the electric
office, and the State Bank on the corner. The electric store later became the
home of the RACKET Store, owned by the ALLEN brothers and moved from the
southwest corner of CORNELL Alley.
Back of the bank was the Sentinel printing plant, with George KUHTZ’S laundry
between it and what is now the Plaza Hotel. Across the street was a two-story
brick double building and a couple wooden ones used as a roller skating rink. On
the corner was the National Bank. Its president was Herbert WEBBER. The last two
years of my school days I was janitor at this bank for two dollars a week, which
kept me in spending money. The next store was the gas office.
Next to this Mike AGOSTINI ran a fruit market. When local option closed Bay
COMSTOCK’S saloon across the street, Mike bought the old building and replaced
it with a new brick one that he occupied for forty years. Mike’s old building
and the gas office were replaced by a two-story building that the ALLEN brothers
moved their Racket Store into and turned it into a department store. This they
operated for some years until J. C. PENNEY took it over.
Next door was the Family Theater operated by Mark MOORE. It was started with
silent movies and a piano player in the pit, plus an occasional vaudeville act.
Upstairs was the press room of the Daily Standard before the merger. A store
called the Sugar Bowl was located where Corcoran’s west half is now, and John &
Fred YOUNG’S hardware finished the block up to CORNELL Alley. The hardware store
was the only store in town that did not have a ceiling. The ceiling joists had
nails driven into them from which pots and other bulky articles were hung for
sale. When a ladies dress shop took over this store years later, a ceiling had
to be put in.
SMITH & SMITH Stationery (also wallpaper, paint & bulk chemicals) was on the
other side of the alley. Back of it a one-story brick building housed a steam
laundry. Next a row of nine buildings housed a jewelry store, clothing stores,
the State Bank which was fifth from the alley, a furniture and undertaking
parlor, and a harness shop. The store which G. W. FRENCH Music occupies today
was the original home of Thomas A. CARTEN’S department store. It dealt in
drygoods, rugs, carpets, and women’s ready-to-wear. It had been expanded into
the store west of it, and an addition was built facing STEELE Street. John
WAGNER’S clothing and Charles IRELAND’S Hardware finished the block. Further
north up STEELE Street were two blacksmith shops and across from them Dr.
On the Main Street corner was Bert LAMPKIN’S Clothing store, later HILER & BAIRD
and then just HILER’S. The Elks bought the three-story building next door and
behind, for their temple, and remodeled the top two floors. Before the Elks
bought this building, they held forth on the third floor of the WEBBER block.
The first floor housed a pool room, later a restaurant, and finally HILER’S took
it over as part of their store. The remaining stores consisted of a pool room, a
restaurant, newsstand, a low building, a shoe store with cobbler shop in back,
and Susey AGOSTINI’S block with a barber shop, his fruit stand, and a saloon.
Beyond DALLAS Alley was another saloon then MANSFIELD & HOAG feed store. They
kept grain and hay which they sold to people in town who owned driving horses.
Their main business was putting up ice on Prairie Creek pond, which they peddled
to homes during the summer. The coming of electric refrigerators made their ice
business obsolete. The automobile did the same for their hay trade. Their place
of business became a garage (later Orson E. COE garage) and the first gas pump I
ever saw was there. A few more stores and a vacant lot finished up the block. Up
Dexter Street was the American Hotel, now the Ionia Hotel, mostly a rooming
Some of the buildings show little change in appearance. The stone ornamental
window caps and tin cornice at the roof line look the same as when they were
build. Usually only the ground floor has had a face lift. (Editor’s note: Ralph
wrote this about 1976, when he was in his 80s. He may have a few stores out of
order and they may not all have been there at the same time. But he had a
terrific memory! If anyone knows if or how Ralph BENEDICT, or Helen BENEDICT in
the story that follows, was related to any of the many BENEDICTS in the Ionia &
Portland area, past or present, please write.) END
ANOTHER BENEDICT: My mother, Helen Frances BENEDICT, was born
November 29, 1883, on the farm across from Portland Municipal Dam. There were
two or more houses on the farm, and the one she was born in at the top of the
hill has been torn down. My grandfather was George M. BENEDICT and he sold the
land to Portland where the dam was built. She attended GIBBS School on Peck Lake
Road and graduated from Portland High School June 19, 1902. After high school
she taught three years, 1902-1905, at the GIBBS School. The railroad ran along
side the school and the trainmen would wave at the children as they went by. My
father, Peter David HEMINOVER, worked for the railroad, thus they met, and were
married in October 1905.
Frances CHURCHILL REYNOLDS and Helen CHURCHILL SHAEFER were Mother’s age and
Nettie Jane PHELPS a little younger. Mother was a Suffragette in the march down
Woodard Avenue about 1920, and served on a jury just before her death on March
10, 1932. She had an older brother, Dale BENEDICT, and a younger brother, Don M.
BENEDICT. Her mother, Junia BERNARD BENEDICT (born in North Plains) preceded her
in death February 14, 1932. In 1938 my father and I moved from the farm to the
house Mother had inherited in Portland, until his death in December, 1944.
Enclosed is a photo of Mother and her students. Signed: Marijune HEMINOVER
SNYDER, P.O. Box 697, Overgaard, AZ. (Photo shows students and teacher of GIBBS
REPRINTED FROM PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER, MI: “SIMONS SAYS by
Nan Simons – SPIRIT OF SEBEWA SAGE LIVES ON IN SUNSHINE FOREST:
My Thanksgiving celebration was tempered by a long pause for honest reflection.
So many of us blandly remark that this holiday offers us an opportunity to
‘count our blessings’.
I noted all the items on my usual list – good health, good friends, a loving
family, a job I enjoy. But this year was different because of the loss of
someone who touched what a famous poet once referred to as my “gypsy soul”.
I am truly blessed to have known the Sage of Sebewa, Robert Wilfred GIERMAN. Has
a more gentle, unassuming man ever walked this Earth? Not in my lifetime.I met
Robert in the roundabout way I’ve come to know many fine folks. Someone
mentioned his name in connection with an event I might find interesting and,
after a couple of telephone calls, I found myself standing on his doorstep. He
greeted me by saying “So you found me”. Two hours later, I left with the
impression Robert was a treasure well worth the hunt.
Ginkgo trees brought us together that summer of 1993. He was deeply distressed
over the cutting of a female tree planted next to the Portland Congregational
Church in 1910. These trees were regularly imported from China by
turn-of-the-century missionaries – a fact which lead the species to be nicknamed
He felt the tree was significant for both historical and horticultural reasons.
With assistance from Elin and Harry DOEHNE of The Michigan Wildflower Farm,
Robert hoped to cultivate new plants from root, leaflet, and branch cuttings.
These Missionary’s daughters would actually have been genetic clones of the
parent tree since Ginkgoes reproduce sexually. Unfortunately, none of the
What did take root was a growing affection for this soft-spoken man. My
persistent inquiries concerning the progress of his Ginkgo project earned an
invitation to Sunshine Forest.
On a late September afternoon filled with all charismatic color of autumn in
Michigan, we strolled through Sunshine together. Robert created his woodland
park from a stony, 20 acre field his father had insisted was “good for nothing
In a sense, he was right. All that sensational sun nourished thousands of
light-hungry spruce, pine, and maple saplings planted by Robert over the course
of 40 years. Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, we talked of many things as we
toured his forest. He shared his unique understanding of the secrets hidden in
rocks and minerals, seeking out certain stones in the old abandoned gravel pit
to illustrate his thoughts. He whispered the story of a turtle that laid its
eggs deep in the earth of the path we walked, coming up each year from a spring
which slips and slides along his property to feed Sebewa Creek. He led me to the
foot of a huge wild cherry tree shaped like a monstrous tuning fork, looming in
stark contrast to the soldier-straight pines he planted with consummate care. He
hinted at his passionate attention to the history of his township through the
creation and loving stewardship of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR.
There are too few instances in life where a spell is cast and time stands still
to reveal the continuity of creation with a crystalline clarity. My afternoon
with Robert was the stuff of myth and magic. I wrote about my experience at
Sunshine Forest in a column on caretakers of local woodlands. Please indulge
this repetition.“In my mind, God’s first and best cathedrals are forests.
Sunlight streams through this woodland’s lush, living canopy with the same
intensity and radiance of rays through a church window. Filtered by fine
needles, beams illuminate selected spots, dividing dense darkness with glimpses
of divine light.”
I was touched by that light and by the bright spark of Robert GIERMAN’S soul. He
was the spirit of this forest and will rest in its embrace for time everlasting.
His good friend Bill DAVIS will scatter Robert’s ashes among the silent
sentinels of that beloved landscape.
Sunshine Forest has new stewards, the people of Sebewa Township. It was his wish
that the bountiful beauty of this place be shared with all who could appreciate
I would like to walk that path again someday. In the murmur of Robert’s trees
lies a chance to perhaps recapture the mystery of a single moment spent in grace
and harmony – and the company of a fine and gentle man. (Photo of “Robert
Wilfred GIERMAN holding a Ginkgo cutting”)
MEMORIALS: At the request of various persons, a Robert Wilfred GIERMAN Memorial
Fund has been established for the maintenance of Sunshine Park. Donations may be
sent to LaVern E. CARR, Sebewa Township Treasurer, 3098 E. BIPPLEY Road,
Portland, MI 48875.
A MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR ROBERT WILFRED GIERMAN has been set for Saturday, May 18,
1996, 1:30 PM at the Rosier Funeral Home in Sunfield. People will then be
invited to visit Sunshine Park and an informal committal service for his ashes
will be conducted by William B. DAVIS. “Bob GIERMAN stories” will be welcome.
GOOD READING: Ask your librarian for THE STEADFAST HEART by
Clarence Budington KELLAND. The story is fiction. The names of local people are
mixed & matched. The descriptions of Portland (called RAINBOW) in the 1890s are