THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR, Bulletin of the The Sebewa Center Association, Bulletin of The Sebewa Center Association, June 1970, Volume 5, Number 6
OUR ANNUAL MEETING JUNE 13
Following the pattern of the Sebewa Center School Reunion, the Annual Meeting of the succeeding Sebewa Center Association comes on the second Saturday in June. So, on June 13 we shall have the usual potluck dinner at noon or thereabouts, followed by the business meeting and a program at the Center. Ilene Carr and Marcella Gierman are on the refreshment committee.
The main order of business is the election of replacements for the expiring three-year terms of John York and Harlan Leifheit—John as trustee and Harlan as vice president. John Lich and Arlow Aves have been named as a nominating committee. Other nominations may be made from the floor at the business meeting.
DUES FOR THE 1970-71 YEAR ARE NOW PAYABLE
Dues of $1 per person ($1 each for the family of Mr. & Mrs.) can be sent to our treasurer, Mrs. Faith Shilton, R 1, Portland, MI 48875 or gotten to her in any of the usual ways. For the year past we have had 332 members, the same number as the year before. There were several new members and a like number of old members who did not renew their dues. Membership is open to anybody interested in our Association. Two purposes are being served by our organization: 1. The preservation of the Sebewa Center Schoolhouse and grounds in a similar state in which they were used as the community school for 82 years.
2. The collection of local history and community lore as presented in the SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR. To anyone who considers such a dollar well spent, we say “Join Us”.
A NEW HISTORICAL SOCIETY FOR SUNFIELD
During the recent Michigan Week a group of Sunfield people met to consider forming a Sunfield Historical Society. Kent Gibson was appointed chairman for an organizational meeting in June.
IONIA COUNTY’S POTTER’S FIELD
At the new State Park near Ionia is a relic of the past in the form of a potter’s field—a cemetery without markers. It is located near the old County Farm poorhouse and contains the remains of indigents not claimed for burial elsewhere. The story of the origin of Potter’s Fields may be read in the 27th Chapter of Matthew.
SOME MORE LAND CONSOLIDATION
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Leigh have bought a retirement home in Lake Odessa and sold their farm on the south town line. Part of the farm went to Theo Yager and the larger share to enlarge Dean Kimmel’s farm. Bruce Walkington has purchased the farm of Mark Roberts, adjacent to his own and has sold his land in section 17 to John Lich, Jr.
PLAN NOW TO ATTEND THE MEETING SATURDAY, JUNE 13, AT SEBEWA CENTER
OUR TRY AT HOMESTEADING IN NORTH DAKOTA By Verd Rumfield
Grandpa Bowers Peabody wanted us to come out there where he was to take up a homesteader’s claim in North Dakota. He had been there since spring. We left Sunfield on the 20th of October, 1906 and came back the 7th of February next. We took only a few household goods. When we got there we lived in a tent, a 12 by 12 right in October and long enough for us to help build a sod house. Then they took us over to Floyd Peabody’s house a 12 x 16 with siding on studding without sheathing under the siding. We lived there about three weeks and we ran out of food and coal and then we went back over to Grandpa’s and they wouldn’t let us in. So we went over across the creek to Davis’ and he kept us there. It came on a blizzard and we were there three weeks. When it got so we could get out he took us back to Hebron and we took the train back to Michigan.
We helped build that sod house. We took a plow and went out there and plowed the sod and loaded it on the stone boat, drew it up and laid it up like you do brick. We used some lumber for a floor and about the windows and doors. Where we built that we could lie on the floor and look out the window and see the sky through about a foot of the upper part of the window because the house was built on a side hill. We burned coal because you could find it almost anywhere. You could go help yourself whenever you could find it. A lot of it was right up to the surface. We did have a stove to burn it in. We did not live in that sod house very long.
This neighbor, Davis, had a sod house and we stayed there until the blizzard was over. It only got down to 52 below zero! You’d be apt to freeze wouldn’t you? We stayed there until he could get out and take us to the train at Hebron and then we came back to Sunfield. We got back to Michigan and I stayed at Earl Hanna’s , that is Harold Hanna’s folks. Pa and Ma and the girls stayed with Wilkes Mann. That spring Pa rented the Elliott Wyman place in Danby just east of the creek east of the Halliday schoolhouse. I went to school there to Etta Davis, who later married Midge Halladay.
When we went to Dakota Pa took up a homesteader’s claim and then when Grandpa wouldn’t let us stay with him, he sold out to Bob Merryfield. Bob was living there and his place joined Pa’s claim at the corners. He married one of Old Tom Van Buren’s daughters. He had a claim there and ours joined right onto the corner of it. The Government owned every other section of land and this was open to homesteading. We were right close there to where Custer drove the Indians through.
The farmers there were raising wheat. They ran their threshers with the old horse-power outfits. Once in a while they would have steam engines to run them. They used straw as fuel for the engines. You’d shovel the straw into the steamer with a three tined fork.
When we left Hebron for the claim we saw a big herd of cattle driven by six cowboys. I think they said there were 4000 head of cattle in that herd coming in from an Indian reservation to take the train for the Chicago slaughterhouses. Grandpa lived 35 miles out from Hebron.
I was born up here across from Roy Spitzley’s on the old brickyard farm in Sebewa on December 4, 1890. Grandpa Peabody lived where Clarence Miller lives. Grandpa had two brothers, Marshall and Bona. All three of the brothers married three of the Wolcott sisters. That house where I was born was lined with brick from the brickyard. Grandpa was a carpenter and he built a house for us down here—a part of it is what England lives in now. Things have changed since then.
SCHOOL TEACHERS IN ORANGE TOWNSHIP 1846 TO 1867
From the record book of the School Inspectors of Orange Township comes this list of teachers certified by the inspectors as qualified to teach in that township. The certification was limited to a period of time and some of the teachers were certified a number of times during the 21 year period covered by the record.
Judging by numbers, it is apparent that there was strong prejudice against married women acting as school teachers. Usually two men served as school inspectors although sometimes there were three signing the record of their proceedings.
It would be interesting to know what families today trace their ancestry to these early school teachers.
Miss Celinda Alderman 5-4-1846, Miss Hannah Jane 6-18-46, Miss Lucinda Barr 5-1-47, Miss Sarah King 6-23-47, Miss Sarah N. Bates 11-25-47, Mr. A. Strickland 12-23-47, Miss Esther Rosecrantz 4-8-48, Miss Anna A. Knox, 5-9-48, Miss Diana Earl 6-12-48, Mr. Alanson R. Cornell 11-18-48, Miss Adelia Taylor, Miss Sarah Coe 4-8-49, Miss Ann Bunnell, 4-25-49, Miss Lodema Curtis 11-26-49, Miss Harriet A. Lovell 12-18-49,
Miss Hester Cole 4-13-50, Miss Catherine Mapes 12-9-50, Mr. John W. Cronkrite 11-12-50, Miss Mary E. McHelvy 12-31-50, Miss Almina C. Martin 5-5-51, Miss Martha Andrews, 5-5-51, Miss Esther A. Elliot 2-25-51, Mr. G. W. Osborn 10-11-51, Miss Martha Dodge 11-6-52, Mr. John A. White 12-5-51, Miss Anna King 12-5-51, Miss Mary White 4-10-52, Miss Adelia White 4-10-52, Miss Celestia Peasley 5-10-52, Mr. Francis Brown 11-6-52, Mr. Thomas Kenworthy 12-16-52, Miss Mae Dodge 1-2-53, Miss Emily Tanner 4-9-53, Miss Lucy Hill 5-2-53, Miss Almira Martin 5-2-53, Miss Uldah A. Taft 5-16-53, Miss Mary A. Rees 5-19-53, Mr. George Burger 11-5-53, Mrs. Alvina A. Shook 11-21-53, Mr. A. T. Rice 11-21-53, Miss Phebe Barnard 12-13-53, Miss Esther Coe 12-17-53, Miss Caroline Ayrs 4-8-54, Miss Mahala Mapes 4-22-54, Miss Catherine Mathews 4-22-54, Miss Hanna J. Smith 4-22-54, Miss Catherine Mathews 4-22-54, Miss Hanna J. Smith 4-22-54, Miss Catherine E. Walker 4-25-54, Mr. James Harvey Corwin 11-4-54, Mr. John T. Gould 12-2-54, Miss Rosette C. Ramsdell 12-11-54, Mr. C. M. Fulington 12-18-54, Miss S. E. Scott 4-14-55, Miss Elizabeth Maxim 4-14-55, Miss Nancy Bird 4-14-55, Miss Nancy T. Havens 5-7-55, Miss Jane Youngs 5-7-55, Miss Nancy C. Taylor 5-7-55, Mr. A. T. Rice 12-1-55, Mr. Henry Bassett 12-1-55, Miss H. S. Johnson 12-12-55, Miss Ellen Badger 5-24-56, Miss Kate Mathews 5-29-56, Miss Jane Tone 6-7-56, Miss Eliza Jane Hunt 1-18-56, Miss Martha Crane 11-1-56, Miss Howard 11-1-56, Mr. Frank Jackson 11-1-56, Mr. Joseph Jackson 11-1-56, Miss Hester Lydia Simmons 4-11-57, Mr. F. W. Harkins 4-11-57, Miss Electra Priest 4-25-57, Miss Dunam 5-2-57, Mr. B. A. Miller 10-16-57, Mr. Rudolphus Brown 11-28-57, Mr. Herbert H. Yates 11-28-57, Mr. William S. Bates 11-28-57, Mr. H. H. Goodwin 11-28-57, Mr. Franklin Allen 11-28-57, Miss Joanna Crawford 4-10-58, Miss Martha Williston 4-12-58, Miss Minerva Kneeland 4-1?-58, Miss Adeliza Bliss 4-26-58, Miss Marian North 5-1-58, Miss Frances Holmes 5-1-58, Mr. William Long 11-6-58, Mr. James McLaughlin 11-6-58, Mr. John S. Bennet 11-6-58, Miss Sarah Reynolds 11-6-58, Mr. Lewis C. Simons 11-15-58, Mr. Charles E. Soule 11-27-58, Mrs. Elva Williston 4-9-59, Miss Harriet A. Thomas 4-9-59, Miss Emma M. A. Bartlett 4-9-59, Miss A. Adell Murdock 4-9-59, Miss Hellen A. Bartlett 4-9-59,
Miss Lucinda Isham 4-27-60, Mr. Simon F. Town 11-3-60, Mr. Ebenezer Soule 11-3-60, Mr. Lewis B. Kneeland 11-3-60, Mr. William Sumner 12-8-60, Mr. Robert Hopkins 12-31-60, Mr. George L. Taft 1-2-61, Mr. Amos Nichols 4-13-61, Miss Henrietta Leonard 4-13-61, Miss Lizzie Brousseau 4-13-61, Miss Mary A. Welch 4-27-61, Miss Elsie Howe 4-26-61, Miss Ellen Smith 5-4-61, Mr. William W. Daniels 10-22-61, Mr. Amon Otis 11-2-61, Mr. Melzar Canwright 11-2-61, Mr. John Waring 11-12-61, Mr. Nathan J. Crane 11-2-61, Miss Mary E. Clark 5-10-62, Miss Cecillia A. Bunnell 5-12-62, Mr. Levi Wheelock 11-1-62, Miss Lucy Delapp 12-6-62, Miss Harriet E. Frost 12-6-62, Miss Mary M. Hall 12-6-62, Miss Emily McKeough 3-13-63, Miss Ella Patrick 4-11-63, Miss Ellen Humphreys 4-11-63, Miss Ellen Kinney 5-12-63, Miss Allever Crane 11-1-63, Mr. Edmond Van D?? 11-7-63, Mr. Charles Riker 11-7-63, Miss Sarah A. Soule 11-7-63, Miss Anna P. Utter 11-7-63, Miss Lovina Parker 11-21-63, Miss Laura M. Keyes 12-3-63, Miss Martha Sullivan 4-9-64, Miss Adelia A. Clute 4-9-64, Miss Julia Olmstead, 4-9-84, Miss Jennie M. Riker 4-9-64, Miss Minerva Bartlett 5-10-64, Miss Lucy A. Titus 5-10-64, Miss Agusta Murdock 11-9-64, Mrs. Anna Steel 11-9-64, Mr. John McQuillen 11-9-64, Mr. James Douglass 12-10-64, Miss Ellen M. Killmartin 11-4-64, Miss Abba Badger 4-8-65, Miss Mary Campbell 4-8-65, Miss Margaret Hackett 4-8-65, Miss Eliza Johnson 4-8-65, Miss Eunice Barber 4-8-65, Miss Adaline Howe 4-10-65, Mr. Chancey Crosby 4-17-65, Miss Sarah Fullington 10-7-65, Miss Eliza Fullington 10-7-65, Miss Estelle Kendrick 10-26-65, Miss Alice Butler 11-4-65, Miss Lydia A. Keefer 1-2-66, Miss Susan L. Warner 4-14-66, Miss Edwina Barber 4-20-66, Miss Hattie N. Kinney 4-23-66, Miss Maggie Provines 4-28-66, Mr. Wm. C. Turner 11-3-66, Miss Anna Dorin 11-21-66, Miss Amanda Phillips 11-21-66, Mr. Edward Barber 11-27-66, Miss Belle Guyberson 4-11-67, Miss Jane Compton 4-13-67, Miss Drusilla Wolverton 4-13-67, Miss Vira King 4-24-67, Miss Mary Taylor 5-7-67, Mr. Thomas Steel 8-9-67, Mrs. Amy Steel 11-25-67, Miss Caroline Warren 12-2-67, Mr. Parliamer N. Thomas 12-2-67.
SOME OF THE SCHOOL INSPECTORS OF THE PERIOD WERE:
Charles S. Andrews, P. H. Taylor, A. H. Hall, John Brown, Alex Dalziel, Isaac Sailer, George Burger, J. Ramsdell, Mason Hersey, A. W. Dodge. Aaron Amiden, John S. Bennett, Otis Churchill, William Long, Gabriel Hissinett, W. C. Sumner, Charles Lewis, I. M. Wolverton, Nemiah Bennett, J. E. Van Doren, Edmund VanDoren, Amon Otis, Samuel Riker, George Jourdan, Wm. Price, Henry Price, Cyrus ?yrs, John A. White.
Volume 5 Michigan Pioneer Collection
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS AND INCIDENTS OF THE EARLY DAYS OF RICHLAND AND GRAND RAPIDS Read June 7, 1882 By Mrs. F. L. Withey
In the spring of 1833 my father, Myron Hinsdill, came from Hinesburgh, Vermont to Richland, then called Gull Prairie. This journey was made by the Erie Canal then by boat from Buffalo to Detroit, from there to our destination by teams, one of which Father brought with him.
The journey was enlivened by the usual incidents of travel in Michigan at that time—getting fast in the mud, having to pry out the wagons, jolting over corduroy roads, frequent getting out to walk over some bad place, etc. Most of the towns were mere stopping places. Ann Arbor was noted as a mud hole. My mother used to tell that as we stopped here the landlord came out to assist in unloading the family. As he took out four little girls, one after the other, he turned to Father in rather emphatic language inquired what he had brought them here for.
We were warmly welcomed by the family of Elder Knappen whom Father had known in Vermont, some of whose family had preceded us a little time. There we remained until a place could be provided for us. Father set about building a log barn for his horses. When this was up and roofed, Mother proposed we should occupy it ourselves and relieve the Knappens. Accordingly a floor was laid, a stick chimney built and we took possession with two pieces of furniture brought with us—the latter I still number among my household goods. In this primitive way, my parents, who left a fine old homestead at the east, commenced life in Michigan. Very soon, a young woman, who came with us to assist Mother, accepted an offer of marriage from some man in want of a housekeeper and Mother, who was a frail delicate woman was left to struggle with four small children and fever and ague without the common conveniences of life and a house hardly a shelter for when it rained, oh how it did leak! Every dish was put to use to catch the water. As the warm weather came, we did most of our work at the fire out of doors.
One incident of this style of living I well remember. Mother had prepared the bread ready to bake in a tin oven before the outdoor fire and had gone to bed to have the regular ague shake, which came daily at the appointed time, leaving an older sister and myself to keep up the fire and watch the bread. Childlike we were soon busy at play and were only aroused to a sense of duty by seeing two great hogs walk off with poor Mother’s bread.
The contest here with ague was fearful and ague usually had the best of it. At one time of our greatest distress a cousin of Father’s, a young man, came to see us, and proved a Good Samaritan indeed, for he stayed and took care of us when we were all sick.
Our Physician was Dr. Deming. The music of wolves was a common entertainment at night. Sometime during this season we had a narrow escape from a violent storm that passed through the region and blew a large tree, which stood in front, onto the house, crushing in a part of it. Mother saw it coming in time to gather us into the back part near a small window from which we were taken out unharmed but badly frightened. A Mr. and Mrs. Baker, riding through the woods during the same storm, were killed by a falling tree. A baby sister that died in November was buried by their side. I understand that those graves have an enclosure near the center of the present cemetery of Richland.
That winter we lived in a house owned by Deacon Gray, more uptown, that is nearer the center of the prairie. Of this winter I recall but little save going to meeting on an ox sled. How this happened I don’t know as my father had horses.
The next spring Uncle Mitchell Hinsdill came with his family to Richland. The two brothers had located farms adjoining just west of the prairie. Father had a piece cleared and wheat in when Uncle Sam came. They both commenced to build on their farms not far apart. Uncle’s house was done first as much as houses were usually finished in those times and both families moved into it. Here in September a brother, Chester B. Hinsdill, was born. Before cold weather our house was ready and we took possession although it was not plastered and blankets served for doors for a time and a carpenter’s bench was part of the furniture.
My mother’s mother, a dear old lady over seventy, came and spent the winter with us. It was a comfort to Mother but Grandmother mourned over our hardships and most of all that we little girls must be brought up in such a place without opportunities for schooling.
Our winter evenings were enlivened by visits from our neighbors who often came several miles for the purpose. The refreshments were generally hickory nuts of which the woods had yielded in abundance. Father often read aloud for our entertainment evenings. I have a vivid remembrance of his reading Cooper’s Leather Stocking. The evening he read the scene of the shooting of the panther over Charlotte’s head, Mr. Foster Gilkis was with us. He almost comes before me as I recall it with his peculiar “hmm, hmm”.
Sometime that winter Father went to a point where those large hollow sycamore trees were to be had. Mother and some of us children went along for a visit and came home in the bright moonlight, riding inside the tree as it laid lengthwise on the sled. These trees were much used as smokehouses, corncribs etc. Several large specimens were standing near Kalamazoo a few years since.
During the winter of 1835-36 Father made a trip on horseback to the Grand River country. Here the spring before, his cousin, Hiram Hinsdill, had gone with his family. Father seems to have been captivated by the prospect, the fine rapid river and the high hills seemed more like his old New England home. He fancied it would be more healthy and was quite ready for a change. Accordingly he let his farm and soon after sold it and the last of May or the first of June 1836 started for Grand Rapids.
This journey was much through the woods by blazed trees—no sign of road and took several days. On the way, as we were stopping for the night where we found a log house without floor or roof, the stage passed us with Mr. George Cougarshall bound for the same haven.
Temporarily we stayed at Mr. Hiram Hindill’s until the building known as the Old National, which Father had purchased of him, could be made habitable. Our first move was to a new barn just in the rear of the new house for, be it remembered, that just as fast as people could find a place to shelter them, they must make way for later comers. As soon as a few rooms neared completion, we moved in. That summer was mostly a holiday for us children. We gathered flowers everywhere, strawberries on what was Prospect Hill leading altogether a bohemian life. We had a school for a time. Miss Page, afterwards Mrs. Judge Bacon of Monroe, at the importunity of several families who had young children, acting as teacher. It held its session in a new barn a little to the southeast across the street from the present Morton House. Being built of boards set up endwise with a floor of boards laid down without matching, no school committee was vexed with the matter of ventilation.
Here I had my first struggles with Webster’s spelling book. This summer we used on pleasant Sundays to cross the river in a canoe to attend service at Mr. Slater’s mission chapel. He preached in the afternoon in English and occasionally came over to the east side and preached in a log house built by a Mr. Lincoln. That fall the mission was removed. I remember Mrs. Slater coming to bid us goodbye.
The great event of that autumn was the first Indian payment in October on the west side of the river. About 1,500 Indians waited for nearly three weeks for the specie to come to pay them. The chief amusement of the white people was to go over to visit them. Father took us children. Their campfires, wigwams, men decked out with paint on their faces, feathers in their headdress, long strings of beads, their pieces of tin strung together around their necks, tin bracelets on their arms; the squaws not less brilliantly attired in their fine embroidered petticoats, blankets, leggings and moccasins to match; the temporary shops of piles of goods, the white fleecy mackinaw blankets, these objects mingled with the bright autumn landscape made a picture well calculated to live in memory.
The squaws were exceedingly deft with their needle, you would often see their petticoats ornamented a quarter of a yard deep with narrow ribbons of different colors sewed on in patterns, most neatly done. Their bead and porcupine quill work was often a marvel of ingenuity. It is a great pity that some really fine specimens have not been preserved. The sight of Indians, of course, became a familiar one to the early settlers. I do not remember that we ever had serious apprehensions of trouble from them. A seat by the fire when they were chic-sa-naw (cold) or a generous slice when they were buck-a-tah (hungry) generally insured a friendly feeling.
The summer of ’36 seems to my recollection a long one. The arrival of so many strangers, the rapid changes, the hurry of people to get some place to live before the cold weather, the feverish excitement of speculation, crowding so many events into the space of a few months seem in memory more like so many years.
To recall the state of things I extract from a letter of Father’s to a brother-in-law dated April 23, 1836. “I have applied for five lots of pine land up Grand River but there is such a press of business at the land office one cannot know under six or eight days whether a man get it or not and if two men ask for the same land in one day, they must agree which shall have it as it is set up at auction. There have been four or five hundred people at Bronson for a week past, all waiting to get land. If I get the pine land, it will cost about $2.25 per acre and a great bargain at that. If land buyers increase as we have reason to expect when navigation opens, there will not be a good lot in the territory at congress prices. And then I see no good reason why land will not be worth $10.00 per acre”.
The resort of people to every device to supply food and the common necessities of life was only equaled by their ingenuity for entertainment. During the ensuing winter debating societies, singing schools, masquerade parties—anything to divert themselves was in order. Among the most conspicuous of these were the meetings of the Grand Rapids Lyceum. This society was organized in a room over the old yellow warehouse used as an office by Dr. Charles Shepard on Waterloo Street. Its moving spirits were C. H. Taylor, Noble H. Tenny, William A. Richmond, C. I. Walker, George Martin, W. G. Henry, Simeon M. Johnson and others who came in a little later. Its public meetings were held in the dining room of the National, the gathering place for everything. The society was ably maintained for many years and started the valuable libraries. Some of these books are still doing service in our present public library. It should have an article by itself by an able pen for here was brought out the intellectual force and forensic ability that was conspicuous on the platform, the stump and at the bar years afterward by many of that little coterie of then young men.
And the women of that time were no whit behind the man for all true womanly grace, intelligence, refined manner and accomplishments of head and heart. A long search might be made in vain to find nobler specimens than were collected at every social gathering, “Phantoms of delight” truly to many loving hearts.
Among other amusements I might mention, the singing for the benefit of newcomers of Michigania by my sister, Ellen E. Steel, afterwards Mrs. P. L. R. Pierce, then a miss of thirteen. Her clear rich voice is still remembered by many who heard her in after years in various church choirs. Mr. W. G. Henry and my father had both belonged to the Vermont Militia and brought with them their training suits a bright scarlet coat with brass buttons to be worn with white pants and a long scarlet feather in the hat. Mr. Henry’s plume was tipped with black; my father’s with white. These played conspicuous parts in various costume entertainments and came to be a most Christian end as both coats were made up by fair fingers into emery balls and sold at various fairs for the benefit of the Congregational Church.
The higher interests of religion and education were not neglected as appears from another letter of Father’s dated Grand Rapids February 25, 1837. “We have two schools in our house, one instructed by my sister, who came out here last fall, the other by Mr. Smith of your village (Casnovia, N.Y). We have had most of the good custom. Strangers from most all parts of the Union visit our place and are much pleased.
“Property has advanced one third or more since you were here, so much, I thin, people are crazy. Society has improved very much. A Presbyterian Church was formed with 22 members and ten added since and we have as talented a society of young men as can be found in your state. Provision is very high; flour $15 a bbl., oats $1, potatoes $1.25, pork $14 per cwt., butter 37 ½ cents and other things in proportion. Board $4.50 per week—cash, plenty, most of it paid out for land.
“I have had more silver and gold in my house this winter than a pair of horses could draw”.
As this extract gives such a picture of the times, I give it entirely.
The church spoken of was soon changed to the Congregation polity, that element predominating and is now the First Congregational Church of Grand Rapids. I remember distinctly the scene of the organization which took place in that same dining room of my father’s—the little company as they stood up, assent to the articles of faith and afterwards celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the bread on a common plate, a pitcher and tumblers for tankard and cups. So true were these early settlers to their faith and training, that same roof sheltered the family, the church, school and Sunday School. While faithful to their own convictions, their conduct was marked by liberality toward others. Every preacher who could lead a Christian service was welcome.
In March of 1837 my brother, Henry M. Hinsdill, was born, the second native white child. Napoleon Godfrey, a son of Richard Godfrey preceded him a short time to claim the first honor.
In August of 1837 our family circle was enlarged by the arrival of an uncle and family, Truman Kellogg. They made the journey around the lakes and up the river. He had previously purchased a farm east of town on Lake Avenue. His house stood on the present site of the Paddock house. Having decided taste for horticulture, he took great pains to procure and set out choice varieties of apples, peach, plum, grapes and all other small fruits. Indeed, for several years, his place was the nursery for all this region. He also planted considerable ground to Morus Malticaulus shrub and commenced the manufacture of silk. For several years they raised the cocoons and wound the silk. The family still possess many specimens of this earliest of Grand Rapids manufactures.
The uncle, although one of the quietest and most unobtrusive of man, was an avowed abolitionist. He took their papers and advocated quietly their opinions. In his correspondence he used paper which had for a heading the figure of Negro kneeling and lifting his manacled hands to Heaven in supplication. The engraving was done by a colored man. Some of the letters from his friends at the South imploring him not to use this paper in writing to them as it actually endangered them are curious reflections on the public sentiment of the time.
There were many persons and families that I well remember and might sketch did such an article permit. The Campaus, Guilds, Windsors and Godfreys were here when we arrived. Many more came that and and the succeeding year. Among others Lovell Moore, W. G. Henry, General Solomon Withey, Jacob Barnes, Samuel Howland, William Holdown, H. K. Rose, Kendall Woodward, Leonard Covell, C. H. Taylor, James and George Nelson, Hosford Smith, Dr. Charles Shepard, Dr. Wilson, Noble H. Finney, C. I. Walker, William A. Richmond, George Cogershall and Deacon and Abel Page and others.
The night before New Years of ’38 we were witness to a custom we had heard some rumors about. A company of men composed of French, Indians and half-breeds masked and dressed in the most grotesque and fantastic fashion with horns and every instrument of hideous noise rushed through the houses of several of the citizens howling and dancing. Everything the house afforded for refreshment was brought out, hoping thereby to hasten their departure but they only threw it on the floor and stamped it down to the damage of the house and the alarm of the housekeepers. So disgusting was the performance and general the disapprobation, it was never repeated. What it meant or where it originated, we never learned. The best French families seemed to know as little about it as the rest of us.
In February of ’38 great anxiety was felt at the condition of the ice in the river. One evening just in the midst of a spirited debate at the Lyceum came a cry of alarm. Everyone started to the scene of trouble. It was an anxious night followed by an exciting day. At midday the ice in the vast body began to move and pile up in a solid mass twenty to thirty feet high, forcing the water suddenly back on the little town so that many barely escaped with their lives. The Almy and Page families were taken from their houses into boats. Mrs. Almy was brought to our house every much excited by her narrow escape. The whole scene, accompanied as it was, with a heavy rumbling sound and the rushing of the water is spoken of by eye witnesses as grand and awe inspiring beyond description.
The spring of ’38 was marked by an event of family interest, the marriage of aunt Mary Hinsdill to a Mr. C. I. Walker. During the summer my father’s mother came from Vermont to visit us. Father spent much of his time this summer looking up and surveying land. In November he was down with bilious fever and died on the 17th. He fell at the age of 39, a victim to the exposure and hardships of a new country. His remains were interred in the Fulton Street cemetery, just purchased but not platted.
In recording this bit of family history connected with the early settlement of our state and bringing to mind many persons contemporary with my parents, I am reminded of what precious material our foundations were laid. If truth, integrity, intelligence and heroism are traits of nobility, truly the pioneers of our fair peninsula were a right royal race.
THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR
Last update April 03, 2013