THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Historical Newsletter from Sebewa; Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI; February 2013, Volume 48, Number 4. Submitted with permission of Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: Strang, Merrill, Rounds
RECENT DEATHS: Barker, Erickson Hickey
Front Page Photo: Gravestones of Clement J. Strang & family
A “STRANG” AMONGST US By Anne Fleetham Dow Merrill:
Part 3 THE CRISIS COMES: In the last issue James Strang had just published “The Book of the Law”. In one chaper entitled “Household Relations”, he wrote in part “Thou shalt not take unto thee a multitude of wives disproportionate to thy inheritance and thy substance; nor shalt thou take wives to vex those thou hast.” Strang, a man of conflicts, had been away from his legal wife and their four children for long periods and was never sensitive to their needs. At one time Mar wrote her husband begging to know his plans, asking when he would return, and reminding him he had promised to help with the children.
King James and Elvira’s first child, Charles J. Strang, was born April 6, 1851. Mary Strang was on Beaver Island when Elvira’s baby was born, however she left with her children in the fall and went to live with her brother in Illinois. Later she and the children moved back to their home in Voree, Wisconsin. She never returned to the Island, although Strang continued to visit her and the children. He always denied there was any trouble in their marriage or that he and Mary had separated.
Strang wrote books and pamphlets defending his right of Divine Rule, and as a part of the Rule, he began to openly embrace polygamy, and made it a requirement for his Church Elders to take at least two wives. However, this practice never received wide approval. Strang did his duty by taking a third wife, Betsy McNutt, in 1852, and a fourth and fifth in 1855. The last two were nineteen-year-old cousins, Sarah Wright, whom he married July 15, and Phoebe Wright, three months later on October 27, 1855. Both fathers objected, Sarah’s father saying “My daughter, I will not forbid the marriage, but I would almost as well see you buried as to marry into polygamy”.
Strang was the father of twelve children, the last four of which he would never know, as each of his four “Spiritual Wives” gave birth after his death. Elvira’s older sons both said their father had an unknown number of concubines on the island that bore children for him. However, Strang never acknowledged any as a wife. The Stangites began on the Island as a nonviolent religious group, but as they found themselves growing stronger and violence on both sides increased, they fought back fiercely, under their leader’s instructions. Strang demanded tithes and taxes from the gentiles, who were on the Island long before the Strangites came.
TROUBLE INCREASES: There were many grievances against Strang, including from the government. Authorities had reason to believe he and his followers had robbed the mails, were land pirates and trespassers on public lands. In 1851 the U. S. War Steamer, “The Michigan” sailed to Beaver Island and arrested Strang, who peacefully surrendered. He was taken to Detroit for trial in Federal Court. Acting in his own defense, with his knowledge of law and smooth talking ways, he was able to convince the court of his innocence. Once released, Strang returned to his Kingdom on Beaver Island.
Strang had assigned land on the Island to members of his church. Some received forty acres, others one hundred and sixty acres. He claimed that God had given this select group the islands of the Great Lakes. One small problem, which did not seem to concern him, the Island was Federal Land, and neither the Strangites nor King James had any title to it. Strang again proclaimed “We are God’s chosen people”. Strang won the State Election and served in the Legislature in 1853 and 1854. In 1856 Strang enlarged and printed an updated version of the “Book of the Law”. “Polygamy elevates man” was one statement he made, thus putting his seal of approval on multiple wives. Strang borrowed from the Mormon doctrines, those policies which suited his purposes, then added his own requirements.
KING JAMES REIGH ENDS: In 1856 the end came! Thomas Bedford had been in bed with another man’s wife. Some authors say the aggrieved husband found them and horsewhipped Bedford. Other sources state that a band of men stripped Bedford to the waist, then lashed him with a rawhide whip, “Forty stripes save one”, was the Mormon limit for adultery. That number was increased and Bedford received seventy-nine stripes. Bedford wanted revenge, as did Alex Wentworth, for he too had suffered punishment for violation of Church Law.
James Strang left the home sometime in the afternoon of June 15 (or June 20), 1856, to call upon the captain of the steamer, “Michigan” which was in the harbor at St. James. As he approached the dock, Bedford and Wentworth fired from behind. One shot hit Strang in the spine and two in the head. The king was dying; however, his death did not come at once. Several days later friends moved him to his parents’ home in Vorhee, Wisconsin. Strang died there July 9, 1856, and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Twenty years later (1876) a daughter had his remains moved to Burlington, Wisconsin. The grave was unmarked for another fifty years. (In 1926) a simple stone was placed over Strang’s remains, stating only his name and the dates of his birth and death. The Strang community realized they had no power without their leader, and the Kingdom of Beaver Island did not survive. God alone was the one who could pick a prophet and he had not done so; neither had James Strang. (March 21, 2013, will be the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Jesse Strang.)
The Gentiles drove the Saints off Beaver Island. The four polygamous wives were good friends and had lived together on the Island. As with the others, they left with none of their belongings except their children. Later the four would remarry, only two of them to Strangites. Mary Strang did not marry again. As for the men who killed Strang, both said they were glad they had done it and would do it again. Alex Wentworth and Thomas Bedford were never brought to trial. Both men joined the Union Army during the war, Bedford returned to Eaton Rapids, Michigan, where he died in 1889.
In 1883, Elvira wrote a friend: “Father Strang’s (referring to James) folks helped us so that we got along that first hard year.” (Actually, they were living in poverty.) “We stayed in Vorhee nearly two years, lived in Marquette County a year, then went to Jackson County, Wisconsin.” In 1859 (or 1860) Elvira received several letters from family members in Eaton Rapids, asking her to come home. Her father was ill and wanted to see her. She did not have the necessary funds for such a trip. However, her Michigan family sent money and her Stragite friends donated funds so she and her four children could make the journey home. The children were very young, with James not much more than a baby. Charles J. had been born on April 6, 1851, Eva’s birth was April 18, 1853, Clement J. December 20, 1854, and James J. January 22, 1857.
The little family traveled by taking a horse-drawn wagon to the nearest train station, then to Chicago, where they changed to the Michigan Central Railroad to Marshall, which was as close as they could get to Eaton Rapids by rail. Unfortunately, Elvira’s father had passed away before she got home. Clement was the one who seemed to have written the most about those years. He recalled the great amount of sickness in their home, and in the entire area. “We children mostly had the Ague, but Mother had Typhoid Fever, from which she did not make a quick recovery. The adults feared death was just ahead. Mother did not care how soon she was called, except for her children. She prayed and tried to have faith, but the situation was such that she decided, live or die, she must find homes for her children.”
Elvira placed an ad in the weekly newspapers in Charlotte and Eaton Rapids, asking people to take her children, and they did! “A farmer took Charley. Dr. Walter Waltersdorph and his wife, who lived in Charlotte, took Eva. They had a beautiful home facing the Court House from the north in that city. Their own young daughter had just died, making them very happy to have this child. The next to go was James, who was just a baby,” Clement recalled. “Mr. and Mrs. David Grier had been considering adoption, since they were unable to have children themselves. Apparently they did not listen closely to the baby’s name, for they began calling him Charley.” Clement was five at the time and was passed from one person to another for a week at a time. Clement again wrote “After placing all her children, Mother’s mind seemed to rest more easily, finally her prayers were answered and she recovered. She could look after places for my temporary home and clothe me, and thus I was kept in close touch with her, so her mother’s love remained in full function.”
Elvira worked as a teacher, tailor, and housekeeper and in the spring of 1864, was ready to gather her family back, if that was possible. All returned to her except the baby, whom the couple had adopted and considered their own. However, Elvira and her other children could visit anytime they wanted. Elvira bought a small log house two miles east and a half-mile north of Charlotte in Eaton Township. She and the children farmed the five acres, along with three acres they rented in Windsor Township, Eaton County.
In 1865, Elvira met John Baker, a forty-six year old widower with five children. They were married on November 26, 1865. The combined family lived near Dimondale, Michigan, then moved to Onondaga, (Township and small town in the southwest corner of Ingham Count, abutting Eaton and Jackson Counties) and in 1874 to Lake County. John was a friendly and good man, and he and Elvira shared the same interests. They became the parents of two more children: Emma, born April 22, 1868, and May in October of 1874. Elvira desired the best for all the children, wanting them to be educated and to live with the highest standards; for this is how she taught them. When they left home, she wrote long letters to encourage them. In a letter Elvira wrote to a friend, she said “There was one thing James (Strang) did that always caused me to wonder: He never tried to bring his relatives into the church.
Some of Strang’s followers tried to get Charles or Clement to take their father’s place, both refused. Again, from Clement “The teachings of Jesus made such an appeal to Mother that she respected every person who tried to put these teachings into the daily program of life. We enjoyed going to Sunday School at the schoolhouse and were taught to enjoy reading the Bible and listening to all the good things Christian people uttered in our hearing.”
We turn now to the story of Charles and Clement Strang, the two older sons of Elvira and James; the focus being on Clement, for he lived in Sunfield. Charles was such a little boy when his mother felt she had to let her children go to other families. Recalling this time in their lives, Elvira wrote: “My oldest went to Mr. Perkies, a farmer in Eaton County, but he could not make a farmer of him, and Charlie stayed only three years.” Another source states that whenever Mr. Perkies went looking for him to do chores, Charlie was reading. Charles was nine years old in 1860! In a letter his mother wrote in 1868, she said: “Charlie and Clement are gone to school, Charlie boards away”. In a later letter she begins “My oldest, Charlie boards away.” In a later letter she begins “My oldest, Charlie, the one in Lansing…..” According to the 1870 Census, we find Charlie in Bangor, Bay County, Michigan: Charles Strang, 19, printer, living with James Teaneck family.
On January 31, 1875, Charles married Harriet Eliza Wright. She was born May 3, 1858, in New York, the daughter of Nathan and Phoebe Wright. In 1880, Lansing, Ingham County Census, has Charley being 28 years old and lists him as a printer. Hattie, (as his wife was called) was 22 years of age. Their children were, Cory, 3 years (had measles when census was taken), and Jessie was one. Charles was to remain in Lansing. In 1900 he was living in Ward 4, Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan. In 1910 he was in Ward 5, listed with his wife, four children, and a “roomer”, Thurlow R. Strang, age 20, son of Clement Strang. Charlie and Hattie were eventually the parents of seven children. On her death certificate, Hattie Strang was noted as “Having no occupation”. That strikes us as a strange statement now, “Seven children but no occupation!” Charles died on February 1, 1916, and Hattie passed away on October 9, 1917. They are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.
Much has been written which would suggest that Charles and Clement Strang enjoyed a close relationship all their lives. From the records of Mt. Hope Cemetery we find: Subdivision….Lot 160…Sec. B. Sold to Clement J. Strang of Lansing, Michigan, Valuation $40.00. Sold for $40.00…..Date of Contract April 30, 1890….
Besides the word transfer it reads…Charles J. Strangowns W ½ of lot. There are 10 grave sites in this section.
Later in this study, more will be written on Mt. Hope Cemetery and the burials of the Strang family.
CLEMENT J. STRANG: Clement, as stated earlier, was the third child of Elvira and James; the child who was taken into other homes for a week at a time when his mother was so ill. He may have been the closest to her. They were to have many conversations over the years and he questioned her on the past, his father, and religious matters. Clement is listed as a farm laborer, although he may also have been attending school. In 1880, he was attending school in Oberlin Village, Lorain, Ohio, where records show he was a 25-year-old student on campus. Before he left for college, Clement said to his mother “I am going to Seminary and when that is completed, I will marry the woman I love.”
That woman was Rosabelle A. Norton Rider, daughter of H. and Mary Rider. Rosabelle was born May 7, 1857, in Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. Clement and Rosabelle were married in 1884, and to this marriage were born three children:
Elaine Strang was born May 28, 1886, Silver Creek Twp., Cass Co.
Gyneth Strang was born May 26, 1887.
Thurlo Strang was their third child, born March18, 1890.
R osabelle Strang died April 28, 1890, when Thurlo was just over one month old. She died in Lansing, Michigan, age 32 years, 11 months, 21 days. It was at this time that Clement purchased the lots in Mt. Hope Cemetery, and she is buried there.
Gyneth Strang died in 1901, one year after her mother. Her remains were removed from Olivet, Michigan, on October 22, 1902, and she was reburied beside her mother in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
On November 18, 1890, Clement married Marietta (Maria) Francis in Walton Township, Eaton County. Marietta was born in 1863 in Walton Township. Her parents were Cynthia Paine and Lester Francis. Maria died in 1892 and is buried on Clement’s lot.
Clement’s third and last marriage was to Nevada M. Sutherland, on February 21, 1894, in Lansing, Ingham County. She was the daughter of Elihu Sutherland and Emmerett Jones and was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan, on August 12, 1867. Nevada Strang died in 1936 and is buried on Clement’s lot. Clement J. Strang died in 1944 at age 90.
THE SUNFIELD SENTINEL: In 1889, J. Quinn Rounds established a newspaper in the village of Sunfield and named it “The Sunfield Sun”. In 1895, fire destroyed the printing office, its building and contents, so there are no files prior to 1896. Soon after the fire, Mr. Phares and Mr. Strang bought the paper. On March 12, 1896, the first issue since the fire, of the newly named paper, “The Sunfield Sentinel” appeared. Mr. Phares left on May 2, 1896, stating: “I have sold my interest in the paper to Clement J. Strang.” At the end of December 1897, Clement enlarged the paper to a six-column, eight-page size. On October 7, 1898, Clement announced that Jeff T. Mansil would take over the day-to-day management of the paper, beginning on February 2, 1899. Clement Strang also published the “Gospel Sun”. (I believe it was a monthly publication.)
On February 21, 1897, Clement and his wife, Nevada, were received by letter, as members in full connection of the Sunfield Methodist Episcopal Church. The Reverend N. E. Gibbs was the pastor. The church was located on the corner of First and Logan Streets. It had previously been a school on the corner of what are now Grand Ledge Highway and First Street. When the new brick school was built, this wood building was purchased by the Methodists and moved to the location mentioned above. There it stands yet today, the oldest building in town. On the same date her father and stepmother were received, oldest daughter Elaine Strang of Sunfield was also received. She was baptized on July 10, 1898, and was received in full from probation. (The above information was taken from church rolls.)
In the 1900 U. S. Census, Clement J. Strang, his wife Nevada, and Clement’s two children, Elaine and Thurlo, are living in Central Lake, Antrim County, Michigan. Clement is listed as a minister of the Congregational Church.
In 1910, Clement and Nevada are found in Austin, Travis County, Texas. Both are teachers in a private school. Ruth Strang, born May 20, 1903, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, is listed as a “Michigan Foster Child” and made her home with Clement and Nevada and took their last name.
In 1020, the Strangs, along with Ruth, were living in a rented home in Benzonia, Benzie County, Michigan. Clement’s occupation is listed as “A Keeper in the County Infirmary.”
One author described Clement this way: “He lived a life of service to his fellow man…a life of genteel poverty. He taught physics, chemistry, botany and zoology part time in Benzonia’s High School. He was an instructor for two years in North Carolina and a year in Texas before going to Benzonia. Three years were spent in the Science Department at Buchanan, Michigan. A commendable record was achieved by him as School Commissioner of Benzie County.” And this author goes on to say “In all the years devoted to teaching Clement found time to preach as a Congregational Minister. He also wrote a scholarly work entitled “The Living God”. Ten years were devoted part time to this book, however it was never published for reasons unknown.”
Bruce Catton, famous Civil War author, also wrote a book entitled “Waiting for the Morning Train”. On page 137, he writes “Clement Strang was a pillar of the Congregational Church. He served on the faculty of the Benzonia Academy for several years. He was a Congregational Minister and taught classes in Science.”
Clement and Nevada remained in Benzonia, Benzie County, Michigan and are there in the 1930 U. S. Census. Clement is 75 years old and Nevada is 62. Nevada died on August 7, 1936, in Benzie County, at age 69. She is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.
MT. HOPE CEMETERY: When I went to the cemetery office asking where the Strangs were buried, the only person on duty went to the files, pulled some papers and said “I’ll drive my car and you follow, because you could never find it on your own.” With that, she locked the office and we drove deep into that huge cemetery.
Clement Strang’s family has rather small headstones facing east. The first stone on the right is that of their little daughter, Gyneth 1887-1891, then first wife Rosabelle 1857-1890, next is Clement J. 1853 (should be 1854-1944), next is third wife Nevada 1867-1936, lastly second wife Marietta (Maria) 1863-1892 is listed as buried on that lot, but her stone was not found.
Facing west is a large family monument with the name STRANG cut across the top, and “Woodmen of the World Memorial” in a circle on the side. The west half of the lot was deeded to Charles J. Strang, and his headstones say: Father 1851-1891, Mother 1858-1917, Nina (which could be what we deciphered as Maria in the records) and Frank 1887-1944.
In 1944, Clement J. Strang was in Yankton, South Dakota, where he died and was brought back to Michigan for burial in Mt. Hope Cemetery. His mother, Elvira Eliza Field Strang Baker and her second husband, John Baker, lived in Lake County, Michigan, until the late 1890s, when their home went up in flames. After the fire the Bakers lived with relatives, first with her brother Albert, in Eaton Rapids, then with her stepson, Warren Baker, near Rockford, Michigan. According to Clement, his mother was living with Baker’s daughter, Helen Baker Paine, at the time of her death. Elvira was sick only a few days before she passed away of Bronchitis on July 13, 1910. She was one month short of her 80th birthday. John survived her, as did six children, twenty-one grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.
As we mentioned in the first issue of this story, older maps of Eaton County show a Strang home just east of the southeast corner of the intersection of Strang(e) Highway and Oneida Road. We have not researched at Eaton County Register of Deeds to see whether Elvira or one of her sons lived there.
We have an interesting article written by Clement J. Strang himself, which he read to the Algonquin Club of Detroit on March 13, 1944. We hope to include it in our next issue or soon thereafter.
JEROME JOSEPH BARKER, 95, of Pewamo, widower of Helen Bengel Barker, father of Jim Barker of Ann Arbor, Bill (Doris) Barker of Pewamo, Tom (Rita) Barker, of DeWitt, Judy (Dave) Roach and Cindy (Mark) Wohlfert, both of Westphalia, and the late Janet (late Dave) Cook; grandfather of 20, great-grandfather of 23; brother of Alarta (Dick) Thelen, Marvin (Sandy) Barker, and the late Ralph, Florian, Bob, and Elmer Barker; son of Louis & Mary Fernholz Barker; was born in Westphalia, August 13, 1917, married August 27, 1941, died October 18, 2012, after seven years at Green Acres of Ionia and Laurels of Fulton. Jerome was a loyal employee at Pewamo Hardware/Davern Equipment Co. for 45 years, beginning near the end of high school and retiring at age 62 to care for his wife, Helen, who had Multiple Sclerosis for many years.
We remember him in 1941, as a clerk in the hardware and Allis-Chalmers parts department, when our father got our first tractor and attached plow, cultivator and mower. Soon Jerome became machinery salesman and continued the rest of his time there. They took in horses and mules and horse-drawn tools in trade, all through World War II and after, always having something to ease the price pain. The horses and mules were trucked to hill farmers of Kentucky and Tennessee. Much of the horse-drawn equipment went to Mennonite farmers of Ontario, Ohio, and Indiana. He was a Pewamo Village and Lyons Township fireman for 38 years, Fire Chief for 35 of those years, and Pewamo Village Clerk for 41 years. Jerome was such a well-known fixture to farm families in the area of Lyons, Portland, Danby, Sebewa and Orange Townships and surrounding territory, that some of our kids thought his name was actually Pewamo, like the Native American boy after whom John Blanchard named the town. Buried in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Pewamo.
NANCY ERICKSON HICKEY, 63, of Lake Odessa, wife of Michael Hickey, mother of Chad (Jamie) Hickey and Ann (Tal) Thompson, grandmother of Reece Thompson and Conner and Garrett Feighan, sister of Paula (Steve) Schray, Carol (Doug) Henton, Mark (Vicki) Erickson, and Janet (Vince) Pennington; daughter of Ronald & Marjorie Erickson, born May 29, 1949, died November 24, 2012. Nancy started her career after college as a clerk at Fisher Body. After starting her family, she returned to work part time, including Odessa Township Clerk, 1974-1990, Odessa Township Assessor and in Ionia and Eaton County Equalization Offices, 1990-1996, and Ionia County Treasurer 1996-2012. Her work as Odessa Township Clerk included administration of Lakeside Cemetery, and digging or back-filling an occasional grave with the family back-hoe until the Township had a back-hoe available. Nancy served as Secretary/Treasurer of Lake Odessa Fair for many years. She co-founded, with Evie David, the Lakewood High School Project Graduation event. She was a charter member of Lakewood Area Choral Society and played the organ and piano for St. Edward’s Catholic Church since 1974. She served with Friends of the Library, Habitat for Humanity and Swifty’s Place (A playground in memory of a boy in town who was killed). Nancy was an avid walker every day since 1996, with her Court House walking friends and others, usually six miles a day on breaks and Lunch Hour. Buried in Lakeside Cemetery.
CORRECTIONS & ADDITIONS AS ACCUMULATED: On the cover of the October 2012 Volume 48 Number 2 issue, it should have read MT HOPE CEMETERY, not Grand Ledge Cemetery. On the December 2012 Volume 48 Number 3 issue, it shows an “E” on the end of STRANG, which the family did not use, just the road signs, maps and some stories had that added, although it is pronounced the same either way. And now on the cover of February 2013 Volume 48 Number 4 issue, it was meant to say CLEMENT J. STRANG FAMILY. On top of that, for those of you who receive our Christmas card, some people questioned if we were in our grandpa’s buggy that was restored before the 2011 card and on parade in Chelsea on the 2012 card. No, our sister, Donna Slowins Eder is seen in the buggy, because she and her husband Jim Eder had it restored. Hopefully that is all the corrections for now!
BACK ISSUES: We offer full sets of the 286 back issues, almost 48 years worth of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, in 3 binders, for $60 including packing and shipping. Most are on the Internet, but many of the earlier years did not transfer too well. An original printed copy is better!
CURRENT ISSUES: It is our aim to publish 6 issues per year, and the cost is $6.00 per year, for paper, ink and postage, due by July 1st.
Grayden D. Slowins, Editor
Last update May 27, 2013