Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 3 Number 6
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 The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, June 1968, Volume 3, Number 6:



     The Sebewa Center Association constitution calls for the annual meeting to fall on the second Saturday in June, the traditional date of the Sebewa Center School Reunion.  This will be the third annual meeting of the Association.

     Offices in the organization to be filled by election at the meeting are those of secretary-treasurer, Mrs. Luckille Myers, incumbent; and trustee, the position now held by Wilbur Gierman.  Both offices are for three year terms.  A nominating committee consisting of Mrs. Bernice Gunn and Mrs. Leah Cross will present nominees for the offices.  Others may be nominated by any member at the time of the election. 

POTLUCK DINNER with arrangements in charge of Mr. and Mrs. John York and aides they may choose will be at the schoolhouse at noon.  Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Gierman will arrange the program.  The community, all members of the Sebewa Center Association and all former pupils and neighborhood residents are urged to attend this annual get-together. 


     Under a headline OLD PUFFER HEADS FOR GLORY the Grand Rapids Press describes the trip of a smoke and steam belching locomotive from Lake City through Owosso, Ionia and Grand Rapids to Chicago.  Firemen at Ionia refilled her water tank because there are no longer watering facilities in railroad equipment.  The locomotive is one used on the Cadillac to Lake City tourist run and was sent to Chicago to play in a United Artists film production.  The run through Ionia was on May 18.

     If all this does not ring your Sebewa bell, turn to your October 1967 Recollector and reread the article LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD.  The Shay licensed locomotives were manufactured in Lima, Ohio. 


In 1965-66 we recorded no deaths among our membership.  The figures caught up with us this spring.  In mid-April was the death of Clyde H. Smith, 71 and that of Volney Thuma, 53.  On May 14 were the deaths of Ralph Coe, 67 and Robert E. Gierman, 86. 


     The annual dues of $1 per person to the Sebewa Center Association become payable in June.  Dues money has been spent only for the maintenance of the Sebewa Center schoolhouse and to pay the expense of publishing and mailing this bulletin.  With the increased cost of mailing the bulletin to 6 cents apiece, its cost comes close to the $1 membership fee.  That is our reason for encouraging all of the Mr. and Mrs. Group to pay $2 per couple and thus make a little contribution to the upkeep of our oversize museum piece—the schoolhouse.  Since we had a good membership (280) for the past year and were paid off for the wind insurance damage, the Association was able to pay the rest of the building purchase loan and there is no longer any indebtedness.  It will be greatly appreciated if you will get our 1868-69 dues to the treasurer or any other officer of the Association promptly. 


     The Travis School Centennial Committee is sponsoring a homecoming centennial celebration at the schoolhouse on the corner of Sunfield and Clarksville roads on Sunday, June 23, 1968 to mark 100 years operation of that school.  A potluck dinner will be served at 1:30 P.M.  All the old timers of the district and others who have ties with the school are urged to be present for the event.  We suggest you do not wait for the bicentennial a hundred years hence.

     The Centennial Committee is composed of Mrs. Leon Normington, Mrs. Joyce Luscher, Mrs. Myron Guy, Joe Cassel, Mrs. Lionel Normington, Elmer Creighton and Ed Kenyon.  Pictures and momentoes of the past in the district are solicited for display on this occasion.

     In 1867, Andrew B. Travis owned the 40 acres on the opposite corner from the schoolhouse.  Some other large tracts of land in the district were still in the hands of land speculators.  The school district took its name from Mr. Travis.  His family came to the district from Ohio in 1862.  Mrs. (Temperance) Travis was the mother of blind Johnny Smith, who was so well known around the township for his musical entertainments and classes in singing and instrumental music.  Johnny sold parlor organs and made many deliveries in the Sebewa area.  Mrs. Travis died in 1885 and after a few years, Mr. Travis moved from the neighborhood.

     The names of Miller, Oatley, Smith, Ames, Powell, Ostrander, Harvey, Pierce, Treece and others were real estate owners and residents of the district in the late 1860s.

     The Travis schoolhouse was often found useful for purposes other than holding classes.  On February 1, 1876 the wife of Salem Ostrander, a young married lady of Sebewa was buried on Friday last, 28th ult.  The funeral was held in the Travis schoolhouse.  Sunday religious meetings and evening revivals were often scheduled there before some of the area churches were built.

     In 1879 we have these items from the Portland Observer:  Miss Luella Stone is teaching a good school at the Travis schoolhouse.  George Thorp’s two girls are down with the croup, one seriously so.  Mrs. Fed Burhans has been visiting friends in Grand Rapids.  Mrs. Emory Jocelyn slipped on her doorstep while carrying two large crocks, and fell.  Internal injuries are of such a nature her life is despaired of.  Last week her husband, while riding on the hind bob of a sled, caught his leg by a stump and broke the leg below the knee.  An unoccupied house on the farm of Daniel Samain in Sebewa, was destroyed by fire on Tuesday night last.  A new harrow and plow stored in the house were destroyed.  The fire was supposed to be the work of someone who had a grudge against the owner.

     Thursday, August 28, 1913 occurred the first annual homecoming of the Travis School District when about 400 picnickers assembled in the beautiful grove on Frank Cassel’s farm.  They came in wagon loads, automobiles, buggies and afoot.  Tables had been arranged and the company broke up into family gatherings and groups and enjoyed a splendid dinner.  After which, the nice program was carried out consisting of a flag drill by a dozen girls, a speech by Lavery, a recitation by Miss England and Miss Ursula Samaine.  Short addresses were given by a few of the old residents.  The day, which started with a light shower in the morning, cleared and was an ideal day for the occasion.  No doubt, many were kept away by the morning shower.  There were in the company, people from Grand Rapids, Lake Odessa, Sunfield, Tremayne’s Corners, and Portland.  The quilt for which the tickets were sold to the number of 200 was drawn by Alfred Wilson of Ontario who invested in a ticket while visiting here and was sold by auction and bid in by Fred Burhans. 


     (Stories as told to Nellie Meyers about 1900 by the elder Benjamin and the third Mrs. Probasco—nee Boyer.)

     When Mr. Probasco was only sixteen years old, he, although not a soldier in the Mexican War bought a soldier’s warrant from his brother, signed by Zachary Taylor and took up 160 acres of land in Sebewa.  It was some years after that he came here from Ohio accompanied by Emory Gunn, Theodore Gunn’s brother, hunting his own land.

      They went to Eleazer Brown to get him to act as guide, which he was accustomed to do but being sick, was unable to go.  He directed them to John Estep, who then lived on the southeast corner of section 15.  Besides directing Mr. Probasco to his land, he offered him a tame deer.  But as Mr. Probasco had no way to take care of it then, he was obliged to refuse the gift.

      His 160 acres was the northwest quarter of section 22.  He cleared sixty acres here and built a log house and the barns, which are still standing, although remodeled.  (This was the barn belonging to Mrs. Bernice Gunn that was destroyed in the tornado of April 21, 1967).

      Mr. Probasco can tell stories of Johnston the Methodist circuit rider and Jackson the Indian interpreter who preached to the whites and Indians at an old log schoolhouse located at the half mile mark on the east side of section 22.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Probasco can tell of the meetings at Meshimneconning.  They had singing books with the hymns in English on one side of the page and in Indian on the other side.  Whites and Indians sang together in their own languages.  The Indians seemed to be good Christians and their prayer meetings and preaching services were good.

     There was an Indian village on the banks of the river just east of Sebewa Corners known as Meshimneconning or “Little Apple Orchard”.  Here there was a mission and school for the Indians.

     Charles Ingalls, Hall Ingalls’ father, who then owned the southeast part of section 15 finally bought out the Indians at Shimnecon.  In payment for their land he built them a sawmill somewhere north of here.  The Indians did not understand running it, some of them were killed and they abandoned the mill.

     Mr. Probasco told how they tried to get the schoolhouse at the center of the township instead of the site a mile east.  One year they fitted up his cooper-shop for a schoolhouse with Luryette Brown (afterwards the second Mrs. Probasco) teaching there.  One day the teacher and scholars became frightened at a huge black snake and sent for Mr. Probasco to come and kill it.  He shot it and for quite awhile and at some distance they could hear it lash the ground with its tail—it measured over six feet.

     This brought out another story.  It seems he measured the snake by a tin horn six feet long.  He brought the horn with him from Ohio and when on his way from Charlotte to Sebewa he astonished the natives by playing a tune at every settlement.  He could play pretty well and the horn could be heard a distance of three miles.  Every man, woman and child within hearing ran out to see what was coming.

     All of this proved that the old time settler had a taste for fun in the wilderness.  They used the horn to call the men to dinner; when somebody got lost going after cows—to help them find their way home; and it was also found to be invaluable at shivarees.

     They tell how if the door was left open and the woman of the house was busy, when she looks up she might be surprised to find an Indian standing, wrapped in his blanket.  He would always ask for something to eat and being supplied, if anything was left, would put it into his wamus or hunting shirt.

     The Indians used to make a good deal of sugar.  They did not put much of it into cakes but stirred it off mostly.  To hold the sap they used troughs made of hollowed logs or the bark from logs.  Once at Shimnecon a visitor saw a papoose in one of the troughs taking a bath in the sap.  A buyer of one of their cakes of sugar found a coon’s foot in it.  Probably it was put in as we put in butter to keep the sirup from boiling over.  Nevertheless, their sugar looked and tasted nice.

    Mrs. Probasco tells how she used to go after cows alone when a young girl.  Having no fences, all the cattle in the country ran loose in the woods.  The only way to distinguish them was by the sound of the bells.  She would start out after she heard the right bell.  Soon she would lose herself in the woods but always pursuing the sound of the bell until she found her cows.  She would then follow the cows home.  Sometimes the cattle would take a circular route and she would come home in the opposite direction from which she had started.

     Once when she was after cattle she found a bear’s nest in a hollow tree.  Another time she found a fawn in the road, picked it up and carried it home.  Her father would not allow her to keep it so she gave it to a neighbor girl.

     Deer were very plentiful and could frequently be shot from the windows.  Mr. Probasco tells how he used to kill deer easily after he moved to the northeast quarter of section 22.  There was a high rail fence along the north side of the place that the deer did not care to jump.  So he would chase the deer down that section 22 he had a yard partly fenced off on the north side of the road.  One day he heard a drove of hogs barking and making a terrible noise.  His wife told him he had better go see what was after his hogs.  When he went across the road he discovered a big bear.  It would stand up on its hind legs and then drop down on all fours a little closer to the pigs each time, trying to get them to make a grand rush so he could grab one.  Mr. Probasco shot at it but, having only a revolver, he had no effect but to scare the bear away.  The next morning about fifteen men including the Lapos and Baldwins scoured the woods but found no sign of the bear. 


     Jacob Probasco and Mary Shay were joined in the Holy Bond of matrimony on the 19th day of January in the year of our Lord 1813.  Jacob Probasco was born on the 12th day of October A. D. 1793—died July 30, 1840.  Mary Shay was born on the 27th  day of June A. D. 1795.  Their children:

 1.  John born February 6, 1814

  2.  Priscilla November 39, 1813

  3.  Phebe, February 24, 1818 

  4.  Henry, Jan 9, 1820

  5.   Sarahan Feb 22, 1823

 6.  Uzel Dec. 19, 1824

 7.  George March 3, 1827

 8.  Ephriam April 8, 1831

 9.  Benjamin April 8, 1831

10.  Mary Jane  July 22, 1833

11.  Melissa Cordielye Nov. 27, 1835 


      On Thursday, May 2, 1968 there was organized in Lake Odessa the Lake Odessa Area Historical Society.  The purpose of the Society, to quote from the newly adopted constitution, is “to preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge and encourage appreciation of the history of the Lake Odessa area”.  The Society considers using printed or near print materials, manuscripts, microfilm or other photographic processes, tape recordings and artifacts pertinent to the Lake Odessa area to further its purpose.

     Chosen as officers of the new group are President, Robert Reed; Vice President Donald McDowell; Secretary Mrs. William Eckstrom; Treasurer Mrs. Cecil Hershiser and as directors Dr. Nathan Schreib, Mrs. Walter Reed, Sr., Delos Johnson, Robert Jacox and Charles Morrice.  Robert Jacox and Lyle Dickinson were named as co-chairmen of publicity.

     While many stimuli from various sources played a part in forming the new Society, the events that brought about the organization at this time were programs of the Lake Odessa Women’s Club with a bearing on the early history of Lake Odessa.  Old photos of early Lake Odessa were shown and discussed including those from the Page collection—pictures that narrowly escaped the incinerator in the settlement of the Page estate.  Tape recordings of Lake Odessa’s living old timers stimulating reminiscenses from each other  were played for the ladies.  These interesting bits of memorabilia and their slender chances for preservation showed the need for saving a wider view of the past for future generations.  Thus was born the Lake Odessa Area Historical Society.

     Plans are now under way to incorporate the Society as a non-profit corporation under the laws of Michigan.  Membership is open to any person interested in the purposes of the Society.  Dues of $2 per family or $1 per person will be charged annually to maintain membership.  Donald McDowell and Robert Reed will start a newsletter for the membership.

     Any such organization cannot be expected to hold fast to a preconceived outline.  Its activities may vary with the time, its leadership and the wishes of its membership.  Tentative plans call for participation  in the Lake Odessa Fair Parade and maintaining a booth at the fair, presenting historical pictures and other data to interest the public in its historical pursuits.

     It is expected there will be a considerable overlapping in membership of the Society and the Sebewa Center Association.  Lake Odessa was long a favorite retirement town for Sebewa farmers and for as long as the village has existed, there have been close economic ties.  Most of the Lake Odessa merchants as their names are recalled from the past, are well known to many Sebewa residents.  The Laop’s, Braden’s, Leak’s, Bulling’s and several others had Sebewa residents.  The Lapo’s, Braden’s, Leak’s, Bulling’s and several others had Sebewa backgrounds before becoming established on Lake Odessa’s Main Street.  There seems every reason for cordial and mutually satisfactory relations between the Lake Odessa Area Historical Society and the Sebewa Center Association.  L. O. A. H. S. makes no better acronym than S.C.A.  Most of the charitable organizations seem to do better in that respect as C. R. O. P., C.A.R.E and (if you must have another) S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing inAmerica).

     Lake Odessa Village Council has granted the Society permission to hold its meetings in the new Page Memorial Building.  The vault in the building will be available for storing microfilm and records whose loss would be invaluable in case of fire.

     Anyone wishing to join in this interesting venture may call any of the officers or submit dues directly to the Treasurer, Mrs. Cecil Hershiser.

     Greetings, good luck and the most rewarding of efforts from the Sebewa Center Association. 


     October 17, 1876.  The Republicans of Odessa raised a tamarack pole 110 feet high on Thursday last at Odessa Center.  The address was delivered by S. K. Gates of Portland.  Portland Republicans raised a pole of 149 feet and the Sebewa Republicans raised a pole of 137 feet.  Sebewa Democrats raised a pole a week before.  It was a great sport among the partisans to see whose banner would first be downed from these high poles during that presidential campaign year.

     April 30, 1878.  The “settlement” one mile south of the center of Odessa, is growing.  J. M. Probart, now a resident of that town, informs us that they already have two stores and a hotel is to be erected at once.  They also have the foundation up for a fine M. E. Church, to be heated with a furnace, and a saloon is to be started there this week.  The church people will have to work if they make the church influence for good counterbalance the saloon influence for bad.

     May 14, 1878.  Odessa—In addition to the businesses mentioned by Brobart, the “ville” has one millinery, dressmaking and hair dressing shop, cabinet shop, blacksmith shop, sawmill and feed mill. 

     During the past week there has been much excitement about horse racing, which is to be continued on Saturdays.  On Saturday the 3rd, the racing commences on Tupper Street, west of the creek bridge.  As the track was very narrow, one rider met with quite a change.  Instead of standing on his feet, he found himself on his head over ears in mud.  The race was finished later in the day on Doty Street, past the cemetery.  Mr. A. Russell’s horse won the race, which was rather surprising to the community and caused the said Mr. Clark to look downhearted as it is very annoying for these “Franks” to get beat. 

     “ODESSA AGAINST THE WORLD” – old adage. 

      December 24, 1879.  Mrs. Harriet Tupper of Odessa township, has been affected for some time past with what she supposes was a tape worm.  Recently she placed herself  under the treatment of Dr. Hess, who succeeded in removing a tape worm measuring nearly 100 feet in length.  Mrs. Tupper is fast regaining her accustomed health. 

      July 25, 1883.  Don Gallop of Odessa, who has taken up some land in Dakota, with his brother, shot 640 buffaloes last winter.  He brought home with him last week 500 skins, which he intends to have tanned. 



      Chief Okemos probably will be of perennial interest to dwellers in the Grand River valley, and every once in a while an specially interesting item about him comes to hand.  The following was obtained by Mrs. Ellis Harry Baker of Lansing through the kindness of Mrs. John Smallwood, also of that city, who cites the story as the old Chief, himself, used to tell it when she was a little girl, living with her  parents on a farm just out of Grand Ledge.  Her parents moved to this farm in 1856 and this incident was told in 1859.

     Before the War of the Revolution, Chief Okemos was a very mean and treacherous Indian, as well as influential leader of his tribe.  A deadly shot, one of the stories told of his remarkable marksmanship was that with bow and arrow he could bring to earth any bird he chose out of the skies, thinking nothing of it.  The news of these feats reached the British officers, and on the opening of the Revolutionary War and the hiring of Indians to massacre the Whites, they found Okemos at the age of 48, leading his men in behalf of the English cause.

     The events that followed added color to the Chief’s life but are far from being anything a white man would be proud of.  While soldiers recruited from farming districts were in the East fighting, the Indians were killing old men left behind, dashing the childrens’ brains out against fireplaces and taking the women captive.  For the early pioneers, things looked quite dark, both at home and at the front.  Yet all through this, our great leader and first President, George Washington, never faltered his faith that God would watch over, protect and guide him till in the end would come peace and independence.  Such an able and God-fearing leader of the Yankee forces was a menace to the British.  They must rid themselves of him.  Consequently Chief Okemos was picked from the Indian ranks for the task of putting Washington out of the way.  Confident in his ability and enthused over his exalted position, he took up the trail.  Day after day he followed at a short distance, through a cleared field of timber, just stumps remaining.  Here in this open place, Washington kneeled to pray.  The opportunity for Okemos was at hand.  Washington, unconscious of impending danger, having placed himself in God’s keeping, seemed to be telling his troubles to the Great Spirit.

      The scene touched Okemos but he advanced closer.  He would take no chances, especially when not necessary.  Now that he was so close that missing was out of the question, he paused yonder, just a short pace was that leader of the Whites whose life the British so eagerly sought.

     He raised his bow, fitted an arrow, took steady aim and let fly.  An arrow sped fast but missed its mark, lodging in the stump near which Washington knelt.  The General never moved.  Okemos wondered, again he fired and again missed, the arrow lodging close by the praying Washington.  Okemos continued firing, till in all nine arrows had lodged in front of Washington, at his feet, over his head, in the stump and nearby, close on both sides.

     Okemos was deeply moved.  He realized that the Great Spirit had touched his bow string, saving the life of the white leader.  Okemos was to become a changed man.  He figured that there must be something worthwhile in the White man’s religion.  No more would he make mockery of it as he had in the past, but he would find out more about it.  Resolving not to offend this white man’s God more, he turned, leaving Washington still on his knees.  He led his followers back home and to peace.  Never after did he go into battle against the Whites.  Learning of this, the British inquired:  he replied “Me no kill no more whites, no, no, Great Spirit no like”.

     Okemos was a Chippawa chief as was his father before him.  There is some argument as to where he was born.  Some think at an encampment where the Grand Trunk railroad crosses the Shiawassee River just east of Bancroft, not far from John Knagg’s old settlement.  Another report states that he came here from Massachusetts.  The chances of that this report is confused with his battles in the East at the time.  The pipe which Old Okemos smoked was all of three feet long.  His people were apt basket makers.  Mrs. Smallwood has in her possession now a basket which is 69 years old, made by Okemos’ tribe.

     Okemos was a religious man, returning thanks at the table, and never allowing his people to gather wood or pick berries or make baskets, in fact, do any labor whatever on the Sabbath.

     At this time Mrs. Smallwood was a girl of 10 years.  On coming to the farm home, early one morning, Okemos was invited to breakfast.  She can remember yet, how frightened she was at first seeing him and hearing him tell of his horrible deeds.  Chief Okemos gave his age at that time as 132 years.  He died the following year (1860).

     A boulder has been placed to his memory by the D. A. R. at his grove near the village of Okemos in Ingham county.

     EDITOR’S NOTE:  A number of statements in this article are at variance with the other reports of Okemos’ life.  The sketch is of interest for the way it shows attitude that prevailed among people who remembered the Indians of this area.  Apparently Okemos enjoyed a yarn when he had a ready listener. 

     UP AND OVER  As recalled by Selden Turner in the Grand Rapid Democrat:

The first steamer that ever went over the rapids in the Grand River at Grand Rapids was the Governor Mason .  It went to Ionia and from there to Lyons.  It was high water, very high, and the men that owned it invited General Case and Governor Mason and some other notables from Detroit to come here and take a ride.  The steamer ran up with her steam until she got close to where the dam now is and she couldn’t haul her own.  She could just stand and sag into the shore.  Welel, they got a short of wood and there is where my father had located his preemption and he had a lot of slabs made there.  They cut up all his slabs, got up steam again, got a span of horses, a yoke of oxen, 20 Indians, got hold of a tow line and with the Indians continuing on, we got to the head of the rapids.  The boat made its trip—went up one day and took two days to come back.  We got maimed some way coming back and went over the rapids.  There has never been a boat over the rapids taking a pound of freight from Grand Haven to Ionia and Lyons or any of those places since.  This was some time about 1837 but I can’t tell the exact date. 


     It is not difficult to find written references to most of the people who ever lived in Sebewa.   Glance through the Township records, the U. S. Census, the directories, however inaccurate, and the old news items covering antics and anedotes and there they are.  The people have left a history of sorts and a good imagination can repopulate the area with the varied personalities to be found.

     But what about the horse?  Horses brought the settlers to the area, did the largest share of the heavy work and eventually carried the passing population to their graves.  Sometimes the horses contributed to an early death or permanent injury to their owners.  In the news items we read of somebody losing a horse, a horse was sold or a team ran away.  But it was not fashionable to mention the horse’s name.

     And what horse did not have a name?   So far as memory serves, every horse had a name and he was often called a string of other names that were not properly his.   

     Many horses live in the memories of people who have outlived them.  It seems proper while there is still time, that we skim those recollections and put in print the names of Sebewa horses and some of their characteristics for the benefit of generations whose livelihood is not related to horse muscle.

     So—won’t you, right now, before laying away this paper, jot down the names of horses and their owners or drivers and send your information to me for a composite picture of the Sebewa Horse.  If you have horse stories, include them.  We may be able to use the individual stories from time to time.

                        --Robert W. Gierman 



     While the bridge across Sebewa Creek a mile north of Sebewa Corners was undergoing repairs it was necessary for teams to pass through the stream.

     On Monday, because of high water and numerous large stones in the creek, it was somewhat risky business.  A man named Clark from St. Louis, Michigan accompanied by a Portland young lady friend attempted to cross in a covered buggy.  Clark let his horse stop to drink and the animal, becoming frightened, commenced to rear and pitch and finally tumbled over in the stream, upsetting the buggy and spilling its occupants into the creek.

     Mr. Hall Ingals, who was at work on the bridge, rushed to their assistance and while he assisted in righting the buggy and getting the horse up, the young lady waded ashore. 


     President: Robert W. Gierman, R 1, Portland, Mi  48875

     Vice President:  Harlan Leifheit, R 3, Lake Odessa, MI  48849

     Secretary-Treasurer:  Lucille Meyers, R 1, Sunfield, MI  48890

     Trustees:  John York, R 1, Portland, MI  48875

                        Wilbur Gierman, R 1, Portland, MI  48875    

 If your date book is not filled—there is the Lake Odessa Lions Club Chicken Barbecue on Saturday evening at the Lake Odessa Fair Grounds, June 22.



Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association
Robert W. Gierman, Editor
R 1
Portland, Michigan 48875  U. S. A.


Last update March 11, 2013