THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR – Historical Newsletter from Sebewa (Sebewa Township,
Ionia County, MI)
SURNAMES: Spohn, Willemin, Luscher, Wilson, Ainsworth, Cassel, Heintzleman, Gierman, Way, Titus, , Watkins, Schrauben, Slowins, Leik, Stuart, Crapo, Goodwin, Weippert, Divine, McGowan
ELAINE A. (BUGSY) Spohn, 77, born July 15, 1933, died July 30, 2010, widow of
William F. (Bill) Willemin, mother of Dr. Russ (Kathy) Willemin, Denny (Meg)
Willemin, Dr. Doug (Laura) Willemin, Mike (Shari) Willemin, and John (Chris)
Willemin, 15 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, sister of Virginia Ann (V.A.)
(Al) Goodrich, Doreen (Jack) Warder, Diane (Dennis) Goff, Dan (Margo) Spohn,
daughter of Sena Petersen & Paul Spohn.
(WILSON), Joyce Edna, 88, born in Sebewa Township, May 30, 1922, died September
14, 2010, widow of Walter Luscher, mother of Judie (Chuck) Goodman of Portland,
Bill (Karen) Luscher of Buchanan, TN, and Laurel Lee (Jack) Manning of Portland,
five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, sister of Carol Cassel of
North Muskegon and the late Royal and Keith Wilson and Rose Ainsworth, daughter
of Ella Peacock & Victor Wilson.
Marcella I., 90, born August 19, 1920, in Superior, WI, died September 27, 2010,
in Grand Rapids, MI, wife of Wilbur Gierman, mother of Cheryll Warren of Owosso,
Janet (Leon) Rudd of Ionia, Eric (Lorri) Gierman of Jenison, and the late Rev.
George Gierman, daughter-in-law Adrienne Gierman of Traverse City, nine
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, sister of William (Josephine)
Heintzleman of Lowell, Lucille (Wesley) Meyers of Sunfield, and the late Alvin
Heintzleman, Ray Heintzleman, Velma McCullum, Edith Edwins, Ethel Grover, and
half-brother Charles Heinzleman, daughter of Hannah Halverson & Walter
FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Portland Manufacturing Company – Maple Street façade of block-long structure. Located in present-day City Hall parking lot. Load of Terriff’s Perfect Washing Machines In crates ready for shipment by rail.
ALBERT ABRAM WAY and PORTLAND MANUFACTURING COMPANY by Grayden Slowins
A. A. (Ab) Way was a longtime businessman in Portland, born in 1853, died in 1937, buried in Portland Cemetery. His wife Jennie was born in 1855 and died in 1932. Their only child was Nora E. Way (Titus), born in 1879, died in 1954, buried with parents.
Ab was General Manager of Portland Manufacturing Company, with other principle owners being W. W. Terriff and C. J. Warren. The original mill was water powered by a mill race on the east side of the Grand River, at the dam located behind Portland Carnegie (now District) Library. Later its line-shafts were powered by a steam engine whose boiler burned the sawdust, wood scraps, and slab wood. Still later they may have moved manufacturing to the mill located on the race on the west side of the river, parallel to Canal Street, with the building standing at the west end of the upper bridge, where that red-brick water-well pumping station has stood for the past 75 years or so. But for most of its life that building housed R. B. Smith’s flour mill.
Portland Manufacturing Company made home appliances of wood, including Terriff’s Perfect Washers and North Star Refrigerators (ice boxes). Their products were varnished, detailed and stored in a large wooden building torn down about 1940. It stood just north of the concrete building built for Barton Brothers Implements, later used by Zerfas Brothers Implements and they by Bell Telephone and Ferris Implements. The office was on Kent Street and the paint shop, storage and shipping were on the Maple Street end. (See cover photo)
In June 1899, Ab Way bought the 40-acre farm on the west edge of town from the sisters Emma C. Dickson Merchant and Erma L. Dickson, a minor child, paying each $1000. He was a member of Portland Village Commission for many years and served at least one term as President of the Commission, a position often referred to as Mayor. He brought municipal water and lights to his door yard, but never into the buildings. When the factory closed, Ab stored many rejected or excess wood parts and the wood boxes they shipped products in, above the horse barn and left for the next owners. Ab had a nice horse barn/buggy shed/tool shed, plus a good 6-8 cow dairy barn and granary.
During his last years, Ab had Dick Watkins work his farm, along with the Merrifield/Merchant/Sullivan 20 acres behind, separated by 20 acres split off by the Coldwater, Marshall & Mackinaw railroad grade and creek trestle. Dick lived with his mother in the house between Allie & Emma Esch and Matt & Mamie Schrauben, on the west side of Alton Park. He farmed with a nice team of horses and kept them part time in the Ab Way barn and part time in the Ed Sullivan barn on Ionia Road end of the land, according to where he expected to use them next. He also plowed and tilled gardens and did similar work on the west side in Portland.
In June 1937, Ab Way sold the 40-acre farm to Donald & Crystal Slowins and moved with daughter Nora to the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Ada Philips, on Quarterline Street. He died that same year.
Coincidentally, Donald Slowins also served on the Portland Village Commission and City Council during the years of transition, 1965-1971, and on at least two occasions served as Acting City Manager. After retiring from farming and other employment, Donald & Crystal Slowins developed the east half of the farm with single-family homes and the west half was later developed by others with condominiums and more single family dwellings.
The upper bridge, now called Veterans’ Memorial Bridge, was built in 1889, by the Groton Bridge & Manufacturing Company, of Groton, N.Y., and opened to traffic in 1890. In the 1930s it was upgraded by removing the floor planks, adding more steel bracing below and putting in new planks. This was to carry the US-16 detour traffic while the lower bridge was replaced. It was restored again in 1990 in recognition of its 100th birthday anniversary.
Anthony Leik took the contract to build the icebreaker when the upper bridge was new. He built forms with sturdy rough-sawed lumber and mixed the cement for the concrete bottom, sides and top. As it went up, he filled the center with field stone hauled from stone piles on his farm on Knox Road.
There is no connection with today’s Portland Products Company, which developed from Danby Manufacturing Company, nor with the Portland Manufacturing Company that came after Holly Carburetor Company and before Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW). All the original buildings of Portland Manufacturing are now gone, as are the Ab Way farm buildings, except the farmhouse, which has been remodeled several times, but still contains very modest remnants of its original American Frontier Greek Revival styling, if you know where to look.
UPDATES & CORRECTIONS:
Volume 46, August 2010, Number 1: Concerning Norma Jean David Stuart obituary, Elaine Garlock informs us that Elara Shafer, great-grandmother of Norma Jean, was a daughter of David Crapo, who farmed on Clinton Trail in the center of Sec. 36 Odessa Township. David was a brother of Henry Crapo, an early Governor of Michigan, who also owned land in Odessa Township. Egara & John Shafer’s son Charlie Shafer had two wives. The first was Ida VanBuren, mother of Ewilda Shafer David, mother of Kenneth David and Norma Jean David Stuart. The second was Wilhelmina (Minnie) Augusta Slowinski, mother of Joyce Shafer Carpenter, mother of Michael Carpenter and Kay Carpenter Conner.
Volume 46 October 2010, Number 2: In 1920, Edward (not Edwin) L. Goodwin was wrecking the south part of the old Hinman & Perrigo Foundry in Portland. It was located in the second block south of Grand River Avenue, on the east side of Maple Street. (Not the first block, where Wards’ Garage is located, as indicated.) He apparently never built on that lot, but used it to display his monuments until 1948, when he tore down the north part also, after him monument business was moved to the west end of Grand River Avenue bridge, and Sun Theatre was then built on both lots.
“VOICES FROM THE PAST” & “THOUGHTS WHILE STROLLING ON KENT STREET” Gathered from back issues of PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER:
October 13, 1960:
We have our first experience in bow & arrow deer hunting a few evenings ago,
when we invade expanses of Portland State Game Area, west of Section School, at
end of Towner Road, off Charlotte Hwy. in Danby Twp. Our son Dick is doing
the hunting and we just go along for the ride. Although we see no deer, we
enjoy the beauty of the area. Bright Fall sunshine, trees in full Fall
color, peaceful Grand River, all add to the enchantment.
MARCH 2, 1961:
Nowadays new Michigan-made autos are being shipped to many destinations in the U. S. A. by rail instead of by haul-away trucks. Special railroad cars patterned after haul-away trailers can carry 6 to 9 autos. The railroads are happy over getting back this new-car business, which they years ago lost to trucks, and the truckers are very unhappy about losing it.
1948: Seventy-eight years ago (1870) D. G. (Grif) Weippert lived in
Portland on Smith Street near the old Brown School that stood at the southeast
corner of the school plat, where the tennis courts are now. He taught
school here and at one time boarded with Mrs. Charles VanHouten, on whom he
called Tuesday. While a resident here Grif found a candle-snuffer, which
looks like a small pair of scissors, with an enlarged pocket on one blade.
In that day they were commonly used, because it was more than 17 years before
Portland’s municipal electric plant became a reality. When Mr. Weippert
later moved back to the Sebewa-Sunfield area, he took the snuffer along.
Tuesday he dropped the gadget on the R & O counter and explained its use.
April 22, 1908:
Monroe B. Divine, senior proprietor of Hotel Diving, died at Hotel Burke in Lake Odessa, of apoplexy. He had gone there to visit and was suddenly taken ill.
May 20, 1908:
Professor Onley Waterman, of Utica, MI, is to be Superintendent of Portland
Schools next year. He will receive a salary of $1000 per year.
May 20, 1948:
The Knapp family is repairing the former Carbaugh (Nancy Chase/Puffer/Murphy)
house and will rent it out. (ED: This is the now-collapsed farmhouse
just west of the Bible Missionary Campgrounds.)
June 17, 1948:
Frank J. McGowan was buried in Portland Cemetery with full military honors,
following services at Portland Congregational Church. Bearers, veterans of
First World War, as was Mr. McGowan, were Oliver Tachopp, Ben Sykes, Sylvester
Jenkins, Guy Peake, William H. Harris and Dr. Basil E. Lowry. Death
occurred at the Veterans Facility in Grand Rapids. For many years he was
in the musical entertainment field, including the annual Lowell Showboat.
His wife was the former Ruth Smith, and 20 years ago they became partners in the
Portland Country Club with Mr. & Mrs. Charles (Mary) Lockwood, founders.
Later the Lockwoods bought them out. The women were sisters, daughters of
Mr. & Mrs. Ben Smith and granddaughters of the original owner of that farm,
Laban Smith, Sr. Mrs. McGowan died five years ago. Surviving is one
son, Frank, Jr., recent graduate of Portland High School, and a brother Edward,
of Brooklyn, NY.
March 16, 1941:
Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Evans will move soon from their farm in Sebewa Township to
Flint, where Mr. Evans will be manager of Witherall Registered Guernsey Dairy
March 23, 1941:
Robert Norris (son of Dr. & Mrs. W. W. Norris) has been named valedictorian of the Class of 1941 at Portland High School. Wendell Brown is salutatorian. Others with a 3.0 or above grade average include Edmund Zarfas, Earl Foster, Mary Hathaway, Arnold Whitney, Edys Ingraham, Betty Lou Farmer and Jean Lindsley.
March 30, 1941:
Francis Burger will begin work in a few days on the extension to his garage
which will bring it through to Kent St. It will be built of red brick and
will greatly improve the appearance of Kent Street.
April 6, 1961:
Five veteran village employees were honored, representing 175 years of service to Portland. Oliver (Bristie) Smith of the electric department is the oldest employee in years of service. He is now in his 46th year, having started work Sept. 1, 1915. George Allen, hydro-electric plant operator, began May 1, 1918. Bernard Morse, now village manager, hired in to village Sept. 1, 1924. Chief of Police Jay Clark went to work Jan. 1, 1932. Mrs. Flossie Burger has been on the village office staff since Aug. 10, 1933.
April 16, 1921:
Twelve students will receive diplomas on June 17. The members of this year’s PHS graduating class are: Dana Marie Vunk, Gertrude Sprague, Bessie Mellstead, Ada McLean, Malcolm Robertson, Irma Ginnebaugh, Margaret Pryer, Cornelius Van Benschoten, Ethel First, Christine Rogers, Lloyd Gibbs and Beatrice Miller.
CLASS LISTS – Sebewa Center School (As of 1st day of school each year)
Year: 1950-1951; Teacher: Maxine Torrey
Year: 1951-1952; Teacher Maxine Torrey
Year: 1952-1953; Teacher: Joyce Luscher
SKETCH ON OPPOSITE PAGE: Shows a portion of Portland in 1881. The building located near the Grand River at top center is provided with waterpower by a raceway from the dam which once stood behind today’s Portland Library. This building (Number 8 on the sketch) was the original sawmill and woodworking shop of Portland Manufacturing Co.
The building with the fancy entrance served many purposes. Originally
built as a skating rink by two Belding bankers, it was managed by Monroe Divine
for a time. From the bandstand suspended from the ceiling, the Portland
Cornet Band played music nightly for the skaters. Besides amateurs,
professional skaters and bicycle riders also gave exhibitions on the fine maple
floor. When the skating craze ended, Portland Manufacturing co. had
offices in the Kent St. end of the building and painted Terriff’s Perfect
Washers in the Maple St. end.
FROM: Grayden D. SLOWINS,
Last update May 27, 2013