THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of the
Sebewa Association (Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI).
OCTOBER 1999, Volume 35, Number 2. Submitted with written permission of Grayden
D. Slowins, Editor:
SURNAMES: Conkrite, Wainright, Fishell, Luscher, Daniels, Yeiter, Decker, Davis,
Bishop, Lapo, Bartlett, Sach, Cross, Staples, Majinska, Trumpower, Rathburn,
Herbert, Slowinski, Coon, Augst, Morris, Denton, Vandecar, Schnabel, Cantant,
Puffer, Carbaugh, Chase, Thuma, Shay
FERN CONKRITE, 104, born March 3, 1895, died July 23, 1999, only child of
Charles CONKRITE & Emma WAINWRIGHT. She never married, had no children, and lost
her business partner, Gertrude (Gertie) FISHELL in 1984. Her parents had lived
on MUSGROVE Highway in the Sebewa side of town prior to her birth, and ran a
store in the FRIEND Block double building. But they moved to their farm in Danby
on the south side of MORRIS Road, just west of Okemos Road at Meshimeneconning,
in time for her birth.
The Indians were gone, but she was a good friend of the Charles INGALLS family
who grew up with the Indians and bought their land. Her grandparents CONRITE had
homesteaded in the same Sec. 21, but around on the Charlotte Highway side of the
Grand River, before Centerline Bridge was built.
Her parents moved back to Sebewa Village on the Danby side (Cornell), when she
was two years old and lived there always after that. After graduating from
eighth grade at Sebewa High at age 15 in 1910, Fern worked for ten years as a
baby nurse, caring for newborn babies and their mothers and helping with the
housework. Some of those babies and are now approaching age ninety themselves!
During this time Fern was pianist at Sebewa Corners Methodist Church and
continued this service at Portland Church of the Nazarene. We heard her play at
her 100th birthday party! She and Gertie ran a wallpaper & paint store in
Portland and also hung wallpaper & painted. Later they farmed on the south edge
of Portland at Okemos Road, and when the I-96 Freeway took most of their land &
buildings, they built a retirement home on Riverside Drive. Then in 1978 they
made one last move to the Senior Citizen Housing on Lillian Boulevard in
Fern was a walking history book of Portland-Sebewa-Danby. We published some of
her memories in 1991, but she made us stop until her death to protect those
still living who might be offended. It is safe to print them now, and anyway we
suspect the members of those families will get a chuckle when we do!
Some years ago Robert Wilfred GIERMAN & I compiled a list of about 12 people
born before 1900 who might get to live in three centuries. Only Iva DUNLAP,
daughter of D. C. INGALL & Ada DANIEL, remains and she is not as sharp as Fern
GALEN D. DANIELS, 70, husband of Wilma YEITER DANIELS, father of
Debra Lynn CRYDERMAN, Bradley L., David F. & the late Duane D. DANIELS, brother
of Arnold DANIELS & the late Kathleen WATERS & Maxine DIPP, son of Edna DECKER &
Lewis DANIELS, descended from Eunice & Andrus W. DANIELS, Sr., who settled in
Sebewa Township in 1869.
HILDRED A. DAVIS, 98, widow of Aubrey T. DAVIS, sister of Opal Dodge & the late
Veda BLICKENSTAFF & Claire LAPO, daughter of Nettie BISHOP & Charles LAPO,
descended from Jacob H. LAPO, who settled in Sebewa Township about the time of
the Civil War.
ROSALIE CROSS BARTLETT, 56, mother of Jerri & Jerry BARTLETT & Amy FIDDLER,
sister of Betty KENYON, Jeneva STRIMBACK, Leonard, Raymond, Robert & Duane &
baby Ralph CROSS, daughter of Velma SACH & Ralph CROSS, son of Della STAPLES &
Leonard CROSS, son of Emma & John CROSS, son of Eli Cross. She was a waitress at
the family’s North Inn Restaurant in Lake Odessa. Buried in East Sebewa
MAUDALINE MAJINSKA, 81, widow of Joseph, mother of Richard, Joseph & George
MAJINSAK, Martha STURM, Mary BERGERON & Jane GASPER, sister of Maxine McLeod,
Maurice & Maxwell RATHBUN, daughter of Susie TRUMPOWER & George RATHBUN. She &
Joe farmed the MAJINSKA homestead in Odessa Township.
MARY HERBERT, 89, widow of Bernard HERBERT, mother of Marilyn HANEY & Kendall
HERBERT, sister of Winnie SHETTERLY, Ione STRACHAN FLETCHER, John & Lyndon
BYRANS. She was a cook at Lakewood School for many years.
Julia CASSEL WHORLEY writes to tell us that Gertrude & Warren LUSCHER had a
daughter, Nellie, younger than Walter & Gerald, living in Alma, MI.
REFLECTIONS ON THE RECOLLECTOR AT AGE 35 by Grayden SLOWINS:
We have had many positive comments about the content of the RECOLLECTOR. Some
people favor the stories of our travels. Others like the genealogy on the
Ephraim SHAY family, the PROBASCO family, and last issue on the LUSCHER family.
For some it is the history and how we manage to connect almost everyone to
Sebewa in some way. Because, it really is a small world after all. If you have a
story to tell, write it down, type it, or word-process it. We can correct
spelling and punctuation if necessary. If it is ready for the duplicator
machine, that is even better.
On August 8, 1999, one of the three remaining country schools in Ionia County,
COON School, had a reunion, and asked for anecdotes. My grandfather, Daniel
SLOWINSKI, Jr., attended COON School about 1880-1883, when he was 6-9 years of
age. With only three years of schooling he became one of the most prominent
farmers, orchardists & local government officials of his day.
He served for 25 years as Treasurer of the DURKEE School. As Berlin Township
Highway Commissioner, he tackled the seemingly impossible task of cutting State
Road down over the big hill into Ionia with a team of horses and a slip scraper.
He was elected to the first Ionia County Agricultural Stabilization Committee on
September 6, 1933.
During his first year at COON School, the teacher quit over the weekend to get
married. On Monday morning the School Board came to school and said to Bernice
LOWREY, who was in the 8th grade, “You are the teacher now”. That girl was later
Mrs. Jack AUNGST, grandmother of Beulah DANIELS. She taught him well. Grandpa
could read & write, do addition, subtraction, multiplication & long division. He
read the old Grand Rapids Herald front to back every evening of his adult life.
His only regret was that in only three years schooling, he never got to study
WE RECENTLY LEARNED THAT ARIEL MORRIS, last teacher at Sebewa
Center School, has made a gift of $5000.00 to HALL-FOWLER Library in Ionia. It
is to be used for adult books-on-tape and for the children’s library. More of us
could make such gifts in our lifetime or as a bequest. Ariel is the daughter of
Arthur DENTON & Cora VANDECAR, daughter of George VANDECAR & Agnes SCHNABEL,
daughter of Mary CANTANT & Michael SCHNABEL, son of Anton & Regina SCHNABEL. She
is a remarkably talented painter & photographer, as well as teacher, world
traveler, and historic preservationist. She & her husband, Lynn, plus George &
Caroline VANCE, put up the $50,000.00 front money that saved the BLANCHARD House
from the wreckers’ ball so it could become our museum.
THE HUGGLER writes to ask about history of the PUFFER family
whose farm included his land on MUSGROVE Highway in E ½ SW ¼ Sec. 24 Sebewa
Township. All we know about the PUFFERS came from our good friend, Fern CONKRITE.
Nancy CARBAUGH CHASE PUFFER was born March 27, 1855, died February 21, 1940, the
daughter of Esther CARBAUGH, who lived at S ½ SE ¼ Sec. 1 Sebewa on part of what
is now the Joe & Doris PUNG farm.
Nancy married George W. CHASE, born August 7, 1858, died December 4, 1904, and
they farmed in Sec. 24 until his death. Later she married a man named PUFFER and
lived in the village of CORNELL on the east side of KEEFER Highway, where Jim
BEDELL lived after her death and Susan FYAN KRUGER has replaced the house with a
Nancy & George are buried in East Sebewa Cemetery. It is unclear how the farm
came to be the Clare MURPHY farm in our lifetime. I don’t know that the MURPHY
family ever lived there. The last resident tenant farmer was Kenneth LANCASTER
and then Clarence (Mick) BAILEY worked it from the KNAPP farm. The stone fences
give indication of the problems in farming there.
OUR TRIPS THIS SUMMER by Grayden SLOWINS:
………We strolled the new Mackinac Crossings Mall, which incorporates as a
restaurant the old railroad depot built by Sam THUMA, father of Sebewa’s Ray
THUMA, over 100 years ago. Ray was born in Mackinaw City in 1885 and his
lifelong friend, George COFFMAN was born in Pewamo about the same time. Both
started school in Mackinaw in a two-story wooden schoolhouse also built by Sam
but demolished in recent years. Ray’s family eventually returned to their
agricultural roots near Pewamo and George ran a drugstore, funeral parlor &
railroad-watch repair shop in Mackinaw…..
…….Mid-July we drove the Motorhome to Harbor Springs for their “Ephraim SHAY
Days”. We have written quite a bit about this Sebewa boy in recent issues. We
toured his steel-sided octagon house and saw movies & slides of his locomotives
with their helical-geared drive wheels and the railroads he used them on. After
chatting with the local SHAY buffs, we tracked Ephraim’s logging & tourist
railroad bed thru the woods & countryside.
The roadbed has almost been obliterated by the current boom in housing
construction. We wouldn’t have found it without a guide sketch. We saw a couple
of red-brick two-room country schools in the area of Harbor Springs & Cross
Village that appeared to still hold school. We wonder about that. By the way,
that morning coastal drive thru Good Hart to Cross Village was breath-taking,
especially with a few local fast-drivers on those curves & cliffs!
……Then we cut over to US-131 and stopped at Haring Township, just north of
Cadillac. This is where Ephraim SHAY went when he left Sebewa & SHAYtown, and
where he first developed the locomotive he had been dreaming about. The current
owners of his farmland, George & Mark ICE, father and son, told us at Harbor
Springs about having built a replica of his locomotive and now re-building his
trackage, so we had to stop and see it. In a year or two they will be giving
tourists rides, by appointment only, since they have other business. They also
plan to take their prototype SHAY Locomotive to Harbor Springs for “Ephraim SHAY
Days” next year.