This past weekend the West Michigan Genealogical Society, of which I am a member, celebrated its 60th anniversary with a tour of one of Grand Rapids’ oldest and most historic cemeteries. Oakhill Cemetery came into existence in 1859. It was designed as a park cemetery and is filled with fascinating monuments and history. The tour was led by local historian Thomas R. Dilley. His new book, The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is due to be released in a few weeks by Painted Turtle press.
Following is a photographic selection of some of the monuments found in the cemetery.
Dating from about 1870 the Melville mausoleum is the oldest mausoleum in Grand Rapids. In crumbling condition, cable wires are used to help prevent the structure from further deterioration.
The Brown mausoleum designed to resembled an Egyptian pyramid was built around 1895. It is one of only a few such structures in the country. It cost about $45,000 to build; Dilley estimates the cost to build it today would be about forty times that amount.
The headstone for “Brave” Claire Hall remembers her heroic death. She died while saving a drowning friend. She was seventeen years old.
Carved from a limestone boulder, the tombstone for David Wolcott Kendall and his first wife Delle Colby Kendall is among the most unusual. A genealogist’s dream, the monument is covered with symbols and even some early family genealogy.
Lastly, sometimes the smallest stones tell the biggest stories.
Settling In is a new documentary currently under production by PBS station WDCQ out of Bay County, Michigan. Scheduled to air this fall, the program will look at immigration to Michigan’s Bay Area. It will feature scenes from and interviews with members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Frankenlust. The producers have recently released this preview of a clean-up event at St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery:
More information, as it becomes available, will be posted on this blog.
What did the vegetation consist of at the location of Frankenmuth prior to European settlement? It was a beech-sugar maple forest. The answer was easily found using Michigan Natural Features Inventory’s “Vegetation circa 1800 Maps.” These maps show the vegetation growing in Michigan at the time of the General Land Office cadastral surveys taken between 1816 and 1856. According to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory website, “Surveyors took detailed notes on the location, species, and diameter of each tree used to mark section lines and section corners. They commented on the locations of rivers, lakes, wetlands, the agricultural potential of soils and the general quality of timber along each section line as they were measured out.” From theses notes the Michigan Natural Features Inventory created color-coded maps for each of today’s Michigan counties. The maps include township section outlines and numbers making it easy to locate a particular location. They can be accessed here.
“No doubt you have been curious for some time how large our Frankenhilf colony will be. Do not be disturbed when I tell you that as of now my family is the only one that will go there.”
-Carl Gottlob Ammann
Carl Gottlob Ammann (surname also spelled Amman) and his family were the first settlers of Frankenhilf, known today as Richville. Frankenhilf was founded in 1850, the fourth and last of Pastor Wilhelm Loehe’s mission colonies in the Saginaw Valley. Three letters written by Ammann were preserved and translated, and this typescript is now available for free download on FamilySearch.
The first letter relates the settlers’ journey across the ocean and onward to Frankenmuth. Ammann discusses the settlement at Frankenmuth, the defection of his fellow colonists, the procurement of provisions, and the selection of the site of his family’s new home.
“During the winter many Indians on the hunt camped near us…They are civilized to a certain extent, but they have no permanent residence.”
Gottlob Ammann’s second letter to his parents tells of local Native American population, the construction of a road from Frankenmuth to Frankenhilf, the clearing and planting of the land, and the construction of his family’s new log cabin home. He also explores his and other settlers’ adaptation to life in America.
“There will always be a Christmas tree decorated with homemade confections.”
Pending Christmas plans are outlined in Ammann’s 1852 letter. He exchanges family news with his parents and discusses the burgeoning church which meets in his home.
Details found in the letters help paint a picture of early life in Frankenmuth and Frankenhilf. Mentions of other early settlers in the area are also sprinkled throughout the texts. They are a worthwhile read for those researching family in this area.
Ammann, Carl Gottlieb; Vollmer, George, translator; Hock, Albert L., translator. “Letters of Carl Gottlieb Ammann: the first settler in Frankenhilf, 1851.” Typescript, n.d., FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 17 July 2014), Family History Books.
Ann Bernthal (1861-28 September 1861) was the daughter of Rev. Georg Bernthal and his first wife Maria née Von Renner. Little is known about Ann. Transcribed church records note she died the same day as her mother. Her grave marker reads she was 8 months old. She is buried at Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery, Bonfield, Pilot Township, Kankakee County, Illinois where her father was minister.
Maria (Von Renner) Bernthal (about 1840-28 September 1861) emigrated with her family from Prussia, arriving in the United States on 23 June 1855. She married Rev. Georg Bernthal in 1860 in Kankakee County. Maria was the sister of August Karl Woldemar Von Renner who was a college classmate to her husband. Prior to her marriage, she resided with her parents in Bremen Township, Cook County, Illinois where her father farmed. Maria is remembered to have died from a rattlesnake bite. There is no extant headstone to mark her grave.
Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, Pilot Township Cemetery Book (Bourbonnais, Illinois: Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, 1997), 20 & 24.
Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), Ann Bernthal marker, personally read, September 2012.
”New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 April 2014), manifest, Bark Copernicus, 23 June 1855, list stamped 540, “Erste Cajute” [First Class] line no. 4, Maria von Renner, age 15; citing microfilm publication M237 (Washington: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 153.
”Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900,” database, Illinois Secretary of State, (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/marriage.html : accessed 13 July 2014), entry for George Branshal-Mary Renner, 30 August 1860, citing Kankakee County, Illinois [Marriages] Vol. 00B, license no. 00000427.
“Jubilee Celebration and Most Remarkable Tribute to Lutheran Pastor and Teacher,” The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 15 August 1909; digital images, Ancestry.com , Historical Newspapers Collection.
1860 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Township of Bremen, p. 73, dwelling 572, family 548, Woldemar Von Renner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 July 2014), citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 169.
Lavon Wilcox, compiler, Pilot Township (n.p.: Kankakee County Bicentennial Commission, c. 1976), 69.
Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), grave markers, personally read, September 2012.
While recently vacationing on Prince Edward Island, Canada, I waded in Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is named for the same saint as St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth. Interestingly, I’ve observed that Frankenmuth locals tend pronounce the name of the church in the English fashion, while visitors use the German pronunciation.
St. Lawrence of Rome was a third century Christian martyr. When asked to turn over the treasures of the church to the government, he brought forward the poor, crippled, and widowed as the church’s treasures. More can be read about the life St. Lawrence at AmericanCatholic.org and Wikipedia.