Field Trip Friday : Oakhill Cemetery (South), Grand Rapids, Michigan

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.

Thomas R. Dilley explains the history of the Melville mausoleum, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Thomas R. Dilley explains the history of the Melville mausoleum, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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.

Brown mausoleum, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Brown mausoleum, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The headstone for “Brave” Claire Hall remembers her heroic death. She died while saving a drowning friend. She was seventeen years old.

Claire Hall headstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Claire Hall headstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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.

David Wolcott and Delle Colby Kendall tombstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
David Wolcott and Delle Colby Kendall tombstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Detail, Kendall tombstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Detail, Kendall tombstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lastly, sometimes the smallest stones tell the biggest stories.

Lieut. John J. Nardin headstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lieut. John J. Nardin headstone, Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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