Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Goats on the cemetery

Goats in the cemetery, what is next? Actually I think it makes sense being a goat owner knowing how fast they can clear a piece of any living vegetation and anything else that looks yummy.
In North Carolina there is a cemetery according to Dick Eastman's newsletter that used goats to clear up to 30 grave sites. The owners of the site said they aren't even sure what they have the site was so badly over grown with brambles and underbrush it was hard to see anything so the goats helped out. It was free labor the goats got a full belly out of it and as any goat owner knows a goat with a full belly is a happy one, its just so hard to fill them up!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What a sad day that this allowed to happen

Reading Dick Eastman's newsletter today there is a article about a judge who ruled in Chicago that the O"Hare Airport can expand to where Bensenville Cemetery is. The judge ruled Friday that they can acquire the 6.3 acre St. Johannes Cemetery that stands in the path of a new O"Hare International runway.There are over 900 known graves that will be transferred in a "orderly transfer". The cemetery dates from the 19th. century.
There seems to be more and more stories in the news about cemeteries being moved, paved, not properly cared for. The worse was grave sites being emptied to make room for new occupants while the previous tenants were just dumped. It is so sad to hear this news it seems to be sacrilegious to me. When I bury a loved one I don't plan on them being dug up moved around so we can expand a building, runway or make room for a housing development. OK I know I get on my soapbox on this subject but it just seems wrong.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Postmortem Photography

Since my co-worker started the subject I think I will just continue with it. I have started a small collection of postmortem photography as many people have. I am often shocked at the price these photos are sold for at swap meets, eBay, and many other places. They even are showing up at photography shows all matted and framed with huge price tags. I remember my art professor telling us that we see art not only through our eyes but with all of our senses including emotions, so maybe that is part of my fascination with it. I also collect cemetery art photos if that explains anything.

The hardest part in this type of collection is looking for the clues. Some are obvious such as the family gathered around the coffin or loved one as they appear to be taking a nap on a sofa. While this seems creepy to us today we have to remember the times. In the second half of the 19th century and first part of the 20th century when this was widely practiced it often was the only time they could get a photo of the whole family together. The middle class was the largest group to take part in this custom so don't always assume only the wealthy took part as many people do.

The primary reason that it took place was because the mortality of young children was so high it was sometimes the only chance the relatives living elsewhere had to see them. It also may of been the only opportunity to get a photo of the person. Grieving also came into play here it was felt that by having a last photo of the deceased could quicken the grieving process and pay tribute to them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is He or Isn't He?

Dead I mean.
Many portraits taken about this time (late 1800's, early 1900's) were taken of individuals and families who may have only gathered in their best clothes for a funeral. We do have one family portrait here in the library where the descendant proudly proclaims that his grandfather is dead in the picture.
I have not such family stories about Great-great-great-grandpa Jacob Gilbert here. But consider these points raised by my co-worker/blogger.
  1. His eyes appear rather fixed and glazed over.
  2. His hands are firmly placed on his legs, but not supporting any weight.
  3. He has a stiff appearance.
  4. His head appears slightly forward on his neck, but pointing straight ahead.
  5. GGGGrandpa Jacob died in 1915. This was within the time frame where such photos were common place.

What do you think? I have no problems with this idea, but it never occurred to me.

What had occurred to me was this picture of the family that married Jacobs grandchildren. The Samis family lost their father, James Henry in 1899, after he suffered an accident and died "attempting to board a freight train." Family story--tried to hop a train to find a job in a nearby city. Fell beneath the train. Lost a limb and died. In this picture, James Henry does not appear, but the whole family is here. Looking somber and mostly dressed in dark colors, was this taken when they gathered for his funeral?

I double checked some of the dates. If this was taken about the time of James' death, the youngest daughter would have been only 9 years old. In this picture, the girl in white is clearly younger, but 9 years old? I'm not sure.

Sure people had to stand still and stiff for pictures then. They often dressed up for the occasions. Fashions made children look like adults.

So tell me--is he or isn't he? Dead I mean.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just because there is snow don't forget the cemetery

As I sit here trying to put together my don't forget list for Christmas I remembered I have to get a wreath to put on my Grandmas gavesite. There have been years I must admit I forget until it is to late. They look so pretty a spot of color in a white landscape. Some years I have put a poinsetta or a gathering of evergreen. I have noticed some people even put a blanket of evergreen down. They are very pretty but costly. My style is something more simple but enough to say I remember and miss you.
But as with all times make sure your cemetery allows them and pick them back up if they start looking weathered.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Foot Stones

Foot stones are usually about 6 inches wide and only have initials on them. Usually they were not set like the head stone since they were moved to the next burial. The foot stones were generally used more as a marker than a monument.

Head Stones

Markers called head stones are placed at the west end of the burial but can be read from either direction. Most of the older cemeteries have burials East and West burials. Due to tightening spaces many city cemeteries have burials that are going in all directions. Sometimes there is a cement curb around the whole family burial plot. Or fencing would designate where their lot ended. Those who could afford it would have stones carved to designate what family owned the lot.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Forgotten Cemetery

One of my favorite area cemeteries is one that is closest to where I live. Just down the crossroad a couple of miles, it is invisible during the summer. But winter, when the grasses die and the leaves fall, its a different story.
When I was first married and new to the neighborhood, I often noticed this stand of sumac and wondered about the fact that it just stood there, taking up a small patch of a field. In winter when I drove by, I could see something in amidst the brush. It was just too far away to make out what it was.
I finally discovered, with the help of my hubby, was was born and raised in the area that it was indeed a small family cemetery. Just a few stones barely visible from the road.
There is no direct access, except cutting across the field. The family who owns the property discourages visitors.
Such a sad forgotten little cemetery.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dating Tombstones

One way to figure out the the year your ancestor was buried is to examine the material from which the tombstone was made.
If your ancestor has a stone made of slate or field stone (except wood used by pioneer) chances are the stone dates from 1796-1830.
If the stone is flat topped hard marble, dates are about 1830-1849.
If it is round or pointed soft marble with cursive inscriptions, look for a date of 1845-1868.
Pylons and column monuments are usually dated 1860-1900.
Zinc monuments date from 1870-1900.
Masonic four-sided stones began in 1850 and are still in use today.
Granite, now common, came into use about 1900.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surrerrar Cemetery

Surrerar Cemetery is far off the main road it is on a dusty seasonal road that follows the power line in Newaygo County. Several years ago Terry Wantz a local historian and friend ask me to help out trying to find names of people buried there. It is a lonely place but beautiful, it is sandy and forgotten and hard to reach.

The prairie was known as a place that many Native Americans called home and was a large village since it was close to the river where it was narrow and easy passing. It was also a rich hunting ground. Many believe the cemetery started out as a Native American burial ground. We also seen signs of burial mounds in the area. The area was also known as a place where two major trails leading to the Mackinaw area crossed according to maps of Native American trails that were found.

We have the names of about 8 people but that list is uncertain. You can see where several more people are buried by the indentations in the ground. Many people were moved to Oak Grove in Croton when the area was abandoned. Searching in the nearby fields you can see where a old building stood. A lilac tree plated there by someone years ago dreaming of what her new home will become. A few of the families who were the last to leave were English's, Overly's, Saunders and a Mr. Boyd. When looking for information neither the Newaygo County Goverment offices nor the Brooks Township have any records of this cemetery. It is also believe that Mr. Surrarrer was buried here.

Ransom Surrarrer made the first purchase of the land thus its name. On the 1880 atlas shows a Phillip Dickinson and his wife Sophonia Tibbits owning 160 acres on the edge of the prairie. It also shows records that they sold a piece of land for a new school that was to become Dickinson school.

Many families had moved here since it was a logging area and a days trip from Grand Rapids but this area was developing and many families moved on to more fertile land.

Terry has worked for several years keeping the area neat and trimmed up. Cutting the grass over the burial site. Putting a fence along the edge to keep Orv's off the burial area. Building and installing a sign and putting benches to rest on. It was a job that he took on as a sign of respect for his ancestors the Dickinson's.

The spelling has changed many times over the years from Serrarrer, Surarrer, among other spelling hence you will see spelling changes depending on the source used.

Cemetery Serendipity

I find it amazing how often one can be gifted by the spirits of cemeteries.

I don’t mean to sound mysterious, but many times I have driven into a strange cemetery and found, to my amazement that when I look up, there is the stone I am looking for. Or even a family member I didn’t even know was buried there.

When my co-worker and I attended a genealogy conference in Monroe MI several years ago, we left early with plenty of time to kill. We took the scenic route, as boss lady doesn’t like to take good roads or expressways if there is a back way to go. We got to Napoleon in south east Michigan, when we both thrilled to the sight of their cemetery with the dry stacked stone fence all around it. We had to stop. (Sadly, this was apparently just before I got my digital camera as I have none of the great pictures in my computer.)
We got pictures of some great gravestones, and there was a huge Civil War veterans memorial and we were just having a great time. When we went around the newer sections, I saw a stone with the name Cross on it. I laughingly said, maybe that’s my long lost uncle or something, knowing full well I had no one in that area.

Imagine my surprise when I mentioned it to my father later. He replied that my Great Aunt Flossie Allen had married a Cross who was a teacher in that area. I later found her obituary and by golly! She was buried in Napoleon.
It happened in Copemish when I drove in and found “Stiver” staring across from the passenger window.
It happened again just down the road when I saw Hubby’s family in a stone that read “Walsworth” just as I was exiting the cemetery
So given all of that serendipity, why can I never just walk up to my great- and great-great-grandparents graves in Chase? I've been there lots of times, but I have to seach each time I go.
Do they just like hiding?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

cemetery plot costs

I just recieved this email from a friend and had to share:

It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial rates and blamed it on the cost of living.

so true!

Eco Friendly Coffins

Anyone who knows me, realizes that besides genealogy, my second passion is knitting. And I have become a yarn snob, preferring pure wool. And now I find you CAN take it with you when you go.
A company in England, Hainsworth Coffins, has come up with the ultimate in natural coffins: the woolen coffin! And for those who think they are allergic, they even have cotton coffins. When I saw the article in a knitting magazine last night, I could not believe it. But if you follow the link, you will see they are quite attractive, and biodegradable. Apparently the wool coffins are made with a cardboard framework. What a warm and fuzzy way to go.
I only see them offered in Great Britain--I wonder if they would be legal in the US?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hungerford Cemetery

I don't understand why we have such scary views of cemeteries after dark. It must be due to television and movies but I never have felt that fear. I am fascinated by them regardless of the time of day.
Last night driving home from Big Rapids we drove by Hungerford Cemetery Northeast corner of Newaygo County. It is a pretty little cemetery on a gently sloping hill in a wooded area. Very peaceful and serene. I wanted to stop and look around and my Mother and Husband thought I had lost my mind (not the first time). OK so it was dark and opening day for deer season but it looked to pretty and peaceful. I just really wanted to stop. I have gone by it before and always thought how pretty but never felt the urge to stop so strongly. It must of been the time of day. I plan another trip to revisit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A few symbols used on gravestones

As you walk through the cemetery take the time to stop and look at the stones. The symbols on them signify many things.


bees - resurrection; risen Christ
birds - souls; flight of the soul back to God
descending dove - Holy Ghost
dove - peace; innocence; purity
fish - Christ
lamb - Christ the Redeemer; sacrifice; innocence


angel - messenger between God and man; guardian angel
hands - devotion; prayer


anchor - hope; life eternal; may signify seafaring profession
anvil - martyrdomarch - triumph over death; victory
Bible - resurrection through the scripture; wisdom
branch - severed mortality
Celtic Cross - circle on it symbolizes eternity
cross - salvation
drapery over anything - sorrow; mourning
crossed keys - St. Peter
portraits- photographs of the deceased
rock - steadfastness of Christ; stability
shell - pilgrimage; baptism of Christ; resurrection
skull - death; sin; with crossbones - mortality
setting sun - deathrising
sun - resurrection; life

Trees and Plants

bouquets - condolences; grief
buds - renewal of life
cedar - strong faith
flower - brevity of earthly existence; sorrow; broken, premature death
ivy - abiding memory; friendship
laurel - victory; triumph; glory
lilies - resurrection; purity
oak - supernatural power and strength; eternity
pineapple - hospitality
roses - condolence; sorrow; the brevity of earthly existence
sheaves of wheat - time; the divine harvest
tree - faith; life; the Tree of Life
tree trunk - premature death
willow - weeping; grief; earthly sorrow
wreath - victory in death; eternity

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cremation Plots!

I find it very frustrating, when typing obituaries into the data base we have here at our local library, that so many people are no getting cremated and there is no place internment place noted. What is to become of cemeteries?
I know sometimes the remains are buried and have a stone, but some many obituaries list no place to go to remember them. (And let us not even get into the little shrines springing up along roads, at the sites of fatal accidents. My personal pet peeve.)
However it appears that Riverside Cemetery in Hotchkiss CO is offering an alternative. They are making available smaller plots just for a memorial stone, whether the remains are buried beneath or not. What a novel idea, as well as a way of preserving the cemetery as a place of rememberance, as well as final resting place.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I keep going back to Maggie's grave site it is a small handmade stone of rough cement high up on the river bank on a mound. It is a very lonely place no one around for miles. I always wonder who is Maggie? Was she a wife, mother a child? No dates but due to the area and the way the stone was made it has to be early. I have talked to the people who own the land and his father knew of the stone when he was a boy so it has to be predated 1900. It is a very lonely place forgotten. A story we will never know but a haunting place that lingers in your soul. Who is Maggie what is her story? I would love to know.

The Indian Cemetery

Notes From Yesteryear
The Indian Cemetery
By A. L. Spooner
courtesy of Fremont Area District Library

Sometimes people traveling out east on Main Street, in noting the Monument in the Pioneer Cemetery, assume that it is the Indian Cemetery. This, of course, is not true, as the Pioneer Cemetery is, as the name implies, the last resting place of many of Fremont’s early pioneers.

The Fremont Indian Cemetery is adjacent to the east end of Maple Grove Cemetery and while its origin might be amusing to some it was tragic to those involved.

When the land around Fremont was opened to settlement, a number of Indians took up farms from the government south along what is now Stewart Street and Warner Ave. One of whom was Henry Pego and another was Wab-e-cake. (Stewart Street was named after Wilkes Stuart an early settler, but the spelling got change).

One spring Wab-e-cake’s squaw made maple sugar, which she took to the home of Wilkes Stuart in exchange for two dozen eggs. These she carried home, boiled them and ate the whole two dozen. Within three hours she died in agony, terrible bloated.

At that time no cemetery had been established for the Indians. There were many of the town folk still suspicious of them. They dress different, their customs were different, and they just didn’t understand them. They certainly were not going to be allowed to be buried in the white cemetery, so Henry Pego set aside a plot of ground to be used for the Indians and Wab-e-cake’s squaw was the first burial. Later other Indians were interred and the plot became filled.

When Henry Pego sold his farm he reserved the cemetery in the deed but later owners failed to do so. With no care the plot soon grew up to brush and briers and became a eyesore. In 1932 the City of Fremont decided to clear the place but the owner at that time objected, saying that it was part of his farm.

Gladys Brown, a grand daughter of Eitene Lamarandier (Aiken), made Harry L. Spooner aware of the problem, and together they and other interested citizens obtained quit claim deeds to the city from the heirs of Henry Pego and Fremont became the owner. As stated, the plot is filled. There are Thirty-seven known burials as well as many unknown.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

List of Newaygo County Cemeteries

I poked around in the computer Sandy and I share and found a list of all the Newaygo County Cemeteries as well as the addresses. Sorry for the wonky columns, I can't find out how to post this as a spreadsheet in Blogger.

Cemeteries ----------Township----------Section-----Location
Amish -----------------Wilcox ------------------26--------Poplar & 2 Mile Rd
Ashland----------------Ashland ----------------22--------120th St & Ferris Ave
Big Prairie-------------Everett-----------------13-------See Community Cemetery
Bridgeton--------------Bridgeton---------------13--------Warner Ave & 118th St
Bull--------------------Denver-----------------34--------Baseline Rd & Green Ave.
Christian Plains--------Croton-------------26--------80th Street & Cottonwood Ave
Clark------------------Dayton----------------31--------Maple Island Rd & 48th St
Community-----------Everett----------------13--------20th St & Pine Ave
Crandall---------------Ensley----------------35--------22 Mile Rd & Pine Ave
Croton----------------Croton-----------------7---------Croton Dr & Pine Ave
Culp------------------Croton-----------------10--------56th Street & Chestnut Ave
Curtice---------------Home------------------9----------Walnut Ave & 17 Mile Rd
Danish----------------Ashland---------------24---------128 St & Mason Dr
Davenport-----------Barton----------------13-14-------15 Mile & Beech Ave
Dayton Center--------Dayton--------------17-----------See Jewell Cemetery
Ensley-North--------Ensley----------------2-----------104th St & Cottonwood Ave
Evans----------------Dayton--------------29------------40th St & Fitzgerald Ave
Everett--------------Everett--------------13------------See Community Cemetery
Fremont------------Sheridan---------------2------------See Maple Grove Cemetery
Goodwell------------Goodwell-------------16-----------3 Mile Rd & Cypress Ave
Gowell & Huber-----Denver----------------9-------------4 Mile & Comstock
Hesperia-East------Denver----------------30----------1 Mile & Dickinson Ave
Hiller---------------Merrill----------------12-----------Centerline Rd & Hayes
Indians-----------Sheridan-----------2---------Adjacent to East end of Maple Grove
Jewell---------------Dayton-------------17----------20th St & Dickinson Ave
Lilley-----------------Lilley--------------15-----------Bingham Ave & 15 Mile Rd
Lincoln-----------Lincoln----------16-------3 Mile Rd, 1/2 mile West of Wisner Ave
Maple Grove--------Sheridan-----------2-------East end of Division, in Fremont
Merrill--------------Merrill------------12-------------Centerline Rd & Hayes Ave
Monroe Twp-----Merrill-------12-----See Merrill Cemetery (used to be Monroe)
Mount Calvary----Sheridan----------10--------64th St, 1/2 mile East of Green
Newaygo---------Brooks----------18------------1/2 mile East of M37, Croton Dr
Oak Grove--------Croton-----------29---------------Elm St & 80th St
Old County Farm---Sherman---31----48th st, btw Luce Ave & Croswell Ave
Parkvew----------Ashland----------24--------------120th St, East of M37
Pioneer------------Sheridan----------1------------West of Luce on 48th St
Prairie--------------Croton-----------2-----------56th St & Chestnut Ave
Prospect Hill-------Everett----------6-----------See White Cloud Cemetery
Reeman-----------Sheridan---------16----------Brucker Ave, South of 64th St
Sherman----------Sherman---------16----------Wisner Ave, North of 24th St
Shippy-------------Ashland-----------33-------136th St, West of Wisner
Sitka-------------Bridgeton----------5----------a private Cemetery
St. John's---------Ensley------------11------------104th St & Cottonwood Ave
St. Joseph's-------Everett------6------City of White Cloud, West end of Wilcox
St Mary's----------Croton------------6------------48th St & Locust Ave
St Michaels--------Sheridan--------7---------Maple Island Rd, South of 60th St
St Bartholomew's---Garfield--------13-----------72nd St & Centerline Rd
Stern's-------------Croton----------2-------------See Prairie Cemetery
Stern's Prairie------Croton----------2------------See Prairie Cemetery
Surrerar------------Croton------------35-----------Oak Ave & 88th St
Township-----------Merrill----------12------------See Merrill Cemetery
Troy---------------Troy-------------30---------13 Mile Rd & Dickinson Ave
Volney------------Beaver-----------7-----------Grant Rd & Dickinson Ave
Whipple----------Home-------------24----------Pine Ave & 14 Mile Rd
White Cloud-----Wilcox------6-------City of White Cloud, West end of Wilcox
Woodville-------Norwich---------30---------Pine Ave & Polk St

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Other Lady--Linda

I'm Linda, the co-worker and general lackey in the Local History Room of our library. I love to tramp around cemeteries and think nothing is more exciting than finding the grave of an ancestor for the first time.
This stone is my great-grandpa's and was taken by a fellow cemetery fan. He shared his pictures with our local history room and I was rather excited to find Calvin Jesse's stone among his pictures in a cemetery quite a few miles away.

Did you notice it says Cemetery Ladies not lady?

Say hello to Linda my friend and co worker who also has a love for genealogy and cemeteries. She can be difficult at times not listening to her boss but she is a valued friend.
I am leaving her the job to tell about herself but I wanted to ask her first.
Sooooo......Heeeres Linda!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you know what the word casket means?

The attempt to draw a link between death and beauty was found in the word for the use of the word "casket" for the coffin it meant jewel box. People began looking at a new type of cemetery in 1831 when the Massachusetts Horticultural Society purchased 72 acres of fields, ponds and gardens in Cambridge and built Mount Auburn Cemetery, a new kind of cemetery. The new garden cemetery was a place that the grieving friends and relatives could find peaceful solace in the beauty of nature.

walking cemeteries and wondering why?

People spend hours walking cemeteries but often we forget the events that have lead up to the actual burial. To appreciate our ancestors their lives and their deaths we need to understand what took place and why. Unlike today, most people died at home 100 years ago. Those who were ill typically did not go to the hospital but died at home cared for by family members and friends. Upon their death the family members prepared the body for burial. Wakes were held at home, after which the body was typically moved to a church for the funeral services, then taken directly to the cemetery for burial. In colder climates such as Newaygo County bodies were stored in tombs until the ground thawed. On many farms the dead were buried in the back yard or in a nearby field.

Hearse used in Cemetery Walk from Crandal Funeral Home

Fremont Maple Grove Cemetery Walk

Every year we hold a cemetery walk through the Maple Grove Cemetery here in the city of Fremont. It is a lot of work but it always is a success. We have a lumber camp cook, legend and lore of death and dying, the forgotten woman, secret societies, early doctors in Fremont, a one room school teacher and a civil war vet. among many other characters. One of the big hits every year is the old hearse from one of our area funeral homes who also provides a person talking about the role of the funeral home over the years and history of embalming. We are already planning our 2010 walk.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A new adventure

I have been noticing this organization named The Association of Graveyard Rabbits. With my addiction of cemeteries and anything connected to them I couldn't help myself but get involved it is a wonderful group with some great sites connected to them. I encourage people to check them out.
Through this adventure I hope to learn more while helping to help promote cemetery care and education.
Lets start this new adventure together and feel free to give me suggestions as we go I am learning too. I have two other blogs but this will be just dedicated to the cemeteries I tiptoe through along my way.