Press enter after choosing selection

Dexter Historical Group Restoring Cemeteries

Dexter Historical Group Restoring Cemeteries image
Parent Issue
Copyright Protected
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

DEXTER - Digging around in old cemeteries may seem like a rather grim task to some people, but to members of the Dexter Área Historical Society, their work provides both a historical and gratifying experience. Present plans cali for the restoration of the oíd Scio Cemetery on Hurón River Dr. west of Zeeb Rd. and the old St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery on Dexter-Townhall and Quigley Rds. in Dexter Township. Mrs. Joseph McAllister of 8415 W. Huron River Dr., Webster Township, secretary of the group and instrumental in its formation, explained the society is restoring cemeteries because it wanted a project that didn't cost too much and would allow the society to restore and preserve historical area buildings and sites. For the past two weeks, about 10 members have been working at the Scio Cemetery. The restoration is done only on Saturday mornings. The workers wear old clothing and provide their own tools. "The cemetery is in horrible condition. All of the markers have been knocked down and there are cans and bottles strewn about. There is also heavy underbrush," she said. Mrs. McAllister said some of the underbrush and dead trees have been removed and the litter picked up. About a dozen markers have also been found so far. She estimated it i would take about a month to restore the cemetery. An old thorn tree located at the rear of the cemetery has a history dating back to 1832. As the story goes, a naval off i c e r , Capt. Elias Hayes, came to Scio Township from Massachusetts in 1832. This was one year after the former Scio Village was organized. The cemetery was part of the oíd village then. Hayes had served with distiction during the War of 1812 as a privateer. When he arrived in the township, he brought with him a thorn tree he had acquired while traveling in the Holy Land. In later years, another thorn tree was planted in his memory in the cemetery. Although Hayes is not buried there, he did live on Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd. Mrs. McAllister said a headstone is imbedded in the old thorn tree. The marker carries the name of Robert Seymour, one of the first in the area who died in i 1840. : She noted t h e half-acre cemetery is located on the former Benjamin Waite Farm. The cemetery is now surrounded by an orchard. Waite was Scio Township's first supervisor and held that position in 1843, 1848 and 1850. In the late 1930s, the farm was bought by the late Walter Laubengayer of Ann Arbor. Shortly thereafter, his wife began restoring the burial grounds. Mrs. Laubengayer is now a member of the society's board of directors. Since the 1930s, the ownership of the property has changed hands several times. The cemetery was later set aside as township property. Mrs. McAllister said because the cemetery has not been maintained in recent years, it has been considered as being abandoned by the State Cemetery Association. However, the township clerk has given his permission to the society for the restoration. She said most of the information about the cemetery was compiled in 1931 by Mrs. I Charles Chamberlain and Mrs. W. F. Jerome, former area residents. Mrs. McAllister believes the last person was buried in the cemetery in 1864. However. she doesn't discount the possibility of someone being buried thero since then. The oldest marker goes back to 1838. The old St. Joseph Cemetery is estimated to be about the same age and size as the Scio Cemetery. Work on the former is expected to start after the heavy frost because of the heavy concentration of poison ivy on the grounds. The original St. Joseph Church was completed near the burial grounds in 1846 but burned down in 1854. The church was later rebuilt in the Village of Dexter and also includes a graveyard. n Mrs. McAllister said the old cemetery is not in bad condition and could be restored in one weekend. The society's membership now numbers about 100, most of whom are from the Village of Dexter, and the townships of Dexter, Scio, Webster and Lima. However, a few members are from Ann Arbor and one from Detroit. The organization, formed last July, is representative of all vocations and age grbups. It meets every other month at I different locations in the area. During the sessions, a pioneer family or a historical place or thing is honored. The next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 ai. the Wylie Intermedíate School Library. The speaker will be Richard Wilson, a gradúate student in American Studies at the University of Michigan. He will talk on 19th century architecture in Michigan with special emphasis on the Dexfer area. Individual society memberships cost $3, students, $1.50 and family memberships, $5. "Anyone interested in the history of the área can join the society. We haye a lot of enthusiasm and people cali me up all the time asking me what they can do," she said. Frank Wilhelme of Ann Arbor, who was also instrumental in forming the society, is president of the group. He is also a director of the Historical Society of Michigan. Other officers include Thomas Morcom, vice president; Mrs. Charles Van Aken, corresponding secretary; and Mrs. Earl Lefstad, treasurer. Members of the board of directors besides the officers are James Hollister, Bruce Waggoner and Mrs. Robert Hoeft. "Years ago, there were no cemeteries as we have now. People were just buried on family plots. These old ' cemeteries have accurate dates of people who used to live in the área," Mrs. i lister said. This December, the society plans to hold a Christmas bazaar, one of four moneymaking projects it intends to sponsor. Proceeds from these activities would help pay for administrative costs and stationery. The funds would also be set aside to acquire a museum which would house the organization's records and' data. I The group also plans to locate some of the markers and get a plat to determine where some of the graves should be and put the markers by the proper graves. Also planned is a sign at each of the cemeteries explaining the history of the burial grounds. A long-range goal of the society would result in establishing a historical route in the area in observance of Dexter's 150 anniversary in 1974. "We are trying to involve all of the people. We wand people to become more widely aware of the area." Mrs. McAllister estimates] there are at least 20 old cemeteries in the area. This means there could be a lot of restoration work in store for the Dexter Area Historical Society.