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Published: Monday, 9/3/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Township in Michigan spruces up its historic graves

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ALLEN, Mich. - Charles Caldwell doesn't know anything about Cpl. Phillip Fox of the 7th Michigan Infantry.

But when the Civil War veteran's gravesite in South Allen Cemetery needed a U.S. flag on Memorial Day, Mr. Caldwell was there to honor the soldier's memory.

Planting flags on veterans' graves is just one part of Allen Township's attempt to spruce up dilapidated burial plots in the community's three cemeteries.

“This whole project started kind of as a maintenance and cleanup idea,” said Mr. Caldwell, a trustee for the rural township of 1,600 people. “It then turned into more of a `Let's honor our ancestors and show some respect for our heritage.'”

For years, some graves in the township's cemeteries have been overlooked. Some plots are overrun with weeds, while others have been vandalized. A few headstones have deteriorated after a century of weathering.

Township board members this year decided to restore headstones and gravesites, where some of the community's founders are buried.

Work is under way to raise and repair headstones that date back more than 100 years.

The northern Hillsdale County township has taken ownership - and financial responsibility - of the restoration project.

Township officials hired a Jackson County couple to repair about 30 headstones in Allen and Sand Lake cemeteries. Restoration of gravestones in South Allen Cemetery is set to begin next year.

Most residents support the project, which will only cost about $900, Township Supervisor Wendell Kratzer said.

“A lot of people spend more money than that for less,” Mr. Kratzer said. “We felt the people of the past should have recognition, and their headstones should be fixed up.”

Hank and Lucy Carothers of Pulaski, Mich., about two weeks ago began digging out sunken foundations and sealing together the cracked and broken inscribed stones.

The couple uses an epoxy to glue the stones upright into the foundation and wooden pegs to secure them while the sealant dries.

The process leaves headstones erect, a far cry from the leaning and crumbling stones there now.

“This is important for future generations. Maybe somebody will care about these people and want to know about them,” Mrs. Carothers said.

The couple began refurbishing gravestones about four years ago, when they began taking care of cemeteries in Pulaski Township, where Mrs. Carothers works as deputy clerk.

“Hank and I are genealogy nuts, and we found it frustrating to find our family gravestones in such disrepair,” she said. “Few of these people have relatives to keep up their graves, so we sort of become their surrogate family.”

The couple hopes to finish the work in Allen Township's cemeteries soon.

Though township trustees see the restoration as a one-time project, Mr. Caldwell said residents have expressed a desire to keep their cemeteries in better shape.



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