Death of a Cemetery

“At the end of the fight is a tombstone,
white with the name of the deceased…”
The Naulahks
Rudyard Kimpling

Meredith, Michigan cemeteryIn Meredith, Michigan lies a cemetery, or more correctly, a former cemetery.  Like the town itself, little remains to mark what once may have been the burying ground for those whose lives ended in this town in the northeast corner of Clare County.

Meredith was once home to nearly 2,000 people and sported a three-story school, an opera house, a roundhouse for the numerous trains that rolled into town and saloons to help slake the thirst of the lumberjacks that came to the area in the mid- to late-1880s to cut the massive pines that once grew here. Now, Meredith is home to perhaps 300 hardy souls who enjoy the solitude this town offers.

Marker of Ebbie Coffill in Meredith, Michigan cemeteryFor nearly 20 years this town prospered, grew and was the home of not only lumberjacks but storekeepers, laborers, and railroad men and their families.It prospered. But once the lumber was cut, the jobs, like the trees that brought people to this north woods town, disappeared.

And so did the people.  They too left to find new jobs, taking with them memories and leaving behind the graves of loved ones like Edna Ross, who died  in 1885 at the age of 10 and was buried in one of two local cemeteries.

Now, Edna’s stone is one of two that can be seen in one of those cemeteries. The other visible tombstone lies some 40 paces away and belongs to a Ebbie Coffill, age unknown. Between the stones, trees grow and weeds flourish over ground where families and friends once mourned the passing of loved ones.

Rumor has it that stones that once marked many of the other graves. Unmarked stones the size of pillows that the families picked out to mark the site where their loved ones would lies for all eternity or until the resurrection, while they, the living, would moved on in search of jobs and better lives.

Did they know that someday, the cemetery would fall into private hands and that a the future landowner would sell those stones to a landscaper and placed as an attractive marker in someone’s yard? That someday, no one would ever know that a mother, father, son or daughter was buried under that spot. That nothing would be left to mark their passing or no one remember their lives.

How many cemeteries are there like that in Clare county? Or in Michigan? No one knows. And they may always remain hidden unless a shovel or a piece of excavating equipment disturbs them as the living go about their lives.

Although the fact the cemetery is gone may be sad for us the living, the fact the cemetery is gone may not matter to the dead. They are gone from this world and may not care. And if they don’t, should we?

Categories: Clare County, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Death of a Cemetery

  1. Mistyshusbandusingheremail

    Ive seen a few old cemetaries in Clare county.In many,there are a few stones with the rectangular indention behind it of a grave sunken in when the old pine box rotted and caved in.Then when you get an eye for those sunken graves you start to find them all facing the same way,in some cemetaries they are all over the place.a few headstones but many,many graves and in those cemetaries at least,the case is that only those who could afford,or their children could afford a stone,got one.The rest got the old wooden cross with information carved or painted onto it.The majority that is.The cross later went the way of their pine box ,which created the tell-tale impressions in the ground,the only lasting symbol of their final resting place.Is Meredith the same case?The lumberjacks wouldnt have had stones,only the relatively well off for those days.Can you give exact directions to the cemetary? Would love to find it.Thanks

  2. Thanks for the info. I am new to this and don’t have the “eye” for noticing things like this. I’m finally starting to notice old railroad beds or foundations when I stumble across them on my walks but I’m still a rookie there too.

    As to the Meredith cemetery, it’s on private land and I was taken there by a local who I met through the owner of the general store at the north end of town. I believe to get to the cemetery we went past the township hall in town (sorry I don’t remember the exact directions). That road led to a private road and the tombstone we saw and the cemetery was not too far down that private road. Although the cemetery is on private land it’s quite a ways from anyone’s home and from what I remember, one could get out and walk to the cemetery and back to the car in a minute. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
    Marty

  3. mistyshusbandusingheremail

    Thanks for the directions..there is also Garritys cemetary where those deemed unfit for burial in Meredith got sent.Usually the roughest of the lumberjacks,murderers,thieves or less than desirables as judged by the community. The chant on the way to burial was “Ashes to ashes,dust to dust,if meredith wont take him,Garrity must.” Hamilton twp.,arnold Lake rd. then Trout ave. south,straight up the hill on the dirt ,dont follow pavement to the right. On the left at top of the hill.

    • I heard that quote before but didn’t know about that particular cemetery. Knew there was supposed to be a second in Meredith but don’t know if that was the one on Garrity property or not. Thanks for the info. I will check it out once the ground clears (with the way the weather is going might be sooner rather than later).

  4. james blackburn

    This cemetery used to be on my uncles property. There is also several grave sites that was on my aunts property as well. Which was walking distance from here. My understanding that one of these was a native American burial site

    • Thanks for your comment. I have heard there are two cemeteries in Meredith and I just got to see the remains of the one. Not sure where the other is. Too bad your kin don’t still own the property. Would love to have you show me around. As for the cemetery being an Native American burial site, anything is possible but I’ve not heard that story. From what little I know, there were no real large Indian communities in Clare. On one of my posts is a map from a book that shows what traces of early people had been known in the county in the 1920s. Not sure if any of them were in the Meredith area. That’s not to say there couldn’t be others and perhaps the site you refer to was one of them. Best regards, Marty

  5. dan brown

    i have lived in meredith for awhile andi knew someone whos father was a lumberjack here and there was only one cemerty at meredith

  6. I agree Meredith has a fascinating history. Glad you want to learn more. I have a place up here come up weekends. I found the history of the area so fascinating I started the blog and got involved with the local historical society.

    Although there are no books specifically about Meredith, there are a number of books on Clare County including Timber Battleground by Forrest Meek and a new book on Harrison that includes information and a few Meredith photos. The Harrison book is for sale at the Harrison library (the librarian is one of the authors so she would be happy to sign it). The other book is available for reading at the library. We also have some information on Meredith at the Clare County Historical Museum. We are open on Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m. during the summer. No charge for admission (although donations are accepted). Go to clarecountyhistory.org for more information.

    Marty

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