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.