Grandma Mayme, my great grandmother, lived her whole life in Seville Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. She was born near Elm Hall and died at her home at 6691 North Warner Rd., near Elwell. She is buried in the Seville Center Cemetery, also known as the French Cemetery.
It was not unusual in rural areas for women to join or form groups for socializing and doing charitable work. In Seville Township, the Beaver Creek Ladies Aid Society was formed 09 April 1922. The group’s purpose was to help their local churches, the Seville Church of God and the Riverdale Methodist Church, as well as “to help those who were sick and in need or any other work to aid in the betterment of the community,” according to a 1999 account by Thelma Hamp, who joined “the Aid,” as she referred to it, in 1934.
Thelma tells us the society was named for “a beaver dam built on a creek near Lumberjack Park.” The park, north of Riverdale, was where they held some of their early fundraisers. Thelma remembers:
We had yearly dinners for the road commission, many times, at Lumberjack Park, prepared in our kitchen, which was built on the cabin [in the park] by our husbands and other men for only our use. We had dinners in the large part of the cabin which was used as a dining room. The road commission always enjoyed our meals and looked forward to them each year. The men paid a nice price and always tipped us for our nice dinners. We also sold pies and other food when there were other activities in the park. We also cooked for our husbands and other men when they worked at the park.
The Aid even had an organ to provide music for park events. Part of the funds they raised went to purchase playground equipment for Lumberjack Park, which many of us remember playing on as kids, and cookout stoves so families could picnic in the park.
At some point, the group was told they could no longer sell food in the park, so they auctioned off all their kitchen and dining room equipment “at Mayme Lake’s home.” Thelma’s recollections are a little short on dates, but the auction may have been after 1951 because Mayme Lake was Grandma Mayme’s name after her second marriage, to Floyd H. Lake (1883-1966).
Now the Aid had to have their meetings in members’ homes where, Thelma tells us, “we always prepared enough food so our husbands and other men working in the fields could have dinner with us and they would give us one dollar each for the dinners” to go into the group’s coffers. The ladies also sold raffle tickets on handmade quilts and made and sold rag rugs.
In addition to furnishing equipment for the park, the ladies donated funds and quilts to churches, fire victims, new mothers, and hospital patients. They “mended clothing for those that needed it [and] remembered the sick with fruit, cards, or flowers and helped some in need….”
By 1999, things had changed for the Aid. At one time the group had over 100 members, according to Thelma, but in 1999 they were down to eight. They still met regularly to socialize and raise money by tying off quilts for people. They made scrapbooks and lap robes for people in nursing homes. They rode on a truck in the parade that year that celebrated Riverdale’s 125th birthday. That year, too, they continued their charitable work by giving $50 to the Equipment Locker in Alma, $25 to the Salvation Army, and “a sum” to help the St. Louis Senior Center build a new kitchen.
Fifteen years later, I don’t know if the group still exists, but it sounds like they had a lot of fun and did a lot of good between 1922 and 1999.
Mayme Hundy [sic] is listed after Thelma’s reminiscences as one of the “Members who have passed on.” The list of deceased members includes Ruth (Shong) Grant (1899-1987), whose husband, Otto Grant (1893-1978) was a Hundey cousin. Ruth and Otto were close friends of my grandparents, Harold and Katy Hundey.
The list also includes Clara McCoy. Clara is not related to us by blood or marriage, but she took care of my mother in her home while Grandma Katy worked. Mom was a very young child at the time and tried to call Clara Mommy. Instead, Clara told Mom to call her Auntie. Mom and Auntie remained close, and we would often visit Auntie and her husband Harry when I was a kid. I think I was almost a teenager before I realized Auntie wasn’t really her name.
If you go to the website containing Thelma’s account of the Aid and read down the list of former and late members, you’ll find many surnames that have deep roots in Seville Township.
We are also related by marriage to the Hamps, though I don’t know at this point just what our relation is to Thelma and to Patricia Hamp, who maintains the website for the Gratiot County Michigan MIGenWeb Project (many thanks to her for all the great information on the site!). Grandma Mayme’s sister Celia L. Woodward (1869-1916) married Edwin S. Hamp (1863-1940).
How I’m related to Mayme (Woodward) Hundey Lake:
Mayme (Woodward) Hundey (1889-1971) and her first husband Clarence Rueben Hundey (1887-1949)
Their son, Harold Benjamin Hundey (1907-1987) and his wife Katy Pleasant (Forquer) Hundey (1910-2000)
Their daughter, my mother
“Mayme Hundey Lake,” obituary, Gratiot County (Michigan) Herald, 23 December 1971. Clipping in Donna Hundey Burke Weaver Archive.
Thelma Hamp, “Beaver Creek Ladies Aid Society, Seville Township, Gratiot Co., Michigan: A Part of Local History,” Gratiot County Michigan MIGenWeb Project (http://www.mfhn.com/gratiot/seville/bclas.htm : accessed 31 August 2014).