Oakwood Cemetery

Wyandotte, Wayne, Michigan, United States

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Number of Images

55

Number of Headstone Records

77

Description

Also known as Wyandotte Cemetery. It was established in 1869. The website: https://www.downriverthings.com/oakwood-cemetery.html Contains an interesting account of the history of this cemetery Today, Oakwood Cemetery stands at an oft-forgotten area of one of Wyandotte's busiest traffic intersections. Situated several hundred feet from the corner of Biddle and Ford Avenue, this landmark has weathered the storm of decay through the centuries and is tended to by a volunteer staff, slowly cleaning up the cemetery so it may reach the lofty, historic status it deserves. Oakwood Cemetery was established on that land in 1869 by the John Clark family. Almost from its beginning, news reports made mention about the lack of care within the facility. In the publication that would become the News-Herald, reports deploring the cemetery's condition were recorded as far back as 1880. Edwina DeWitt, author of the "Proudly We Record" Wyandotte history book, mentioned that the original catalog of people buried in the cemetery was destroyed in a fire, set by the caretaker himself in a simple fit of anger. Since that time, finding a burial plot in the cemetery was often more involved than simply staking out an area and walking toward that plot. As the 1890s came, legends about cemetery happenings were taking hold. Several people - their names not accounted for - claimed that ghouls were taking advantage of the general lack of upkeep by stealing bodies buried there for use in area medical schools. Without the proper burial records, being able to inform a next-of-kin as to these atrocities was next to impossible. Additionally, an unnamed lady who was a regular on the Biddle Avenue streetcar of the day originally thought Oakwood was a privately-owned cemetery used by Michigan Alkali Corporation to bury the victims of factory accidents - again, without guarantee that accurate records were kept. Cemetery management at the time did not sit dormant; they were in fact aware of some of the supposed happenings and in 1892, they contacted all plot owners, requiring them to appear at a meeting at the Wyandotte Council Chambers to address the need to keep the grounds in good shape (this deed was repeated in 1948 as well). In the first part of the 20th century it was reported that a sturdier fence with lockable gate had been installed around the perimeter; the key could only be accessed by visiting one of the factory buildings of the Wyandotte Chemical Company. Not too long afterward, the fence fell into disrepair, and the cemetery would quickly follow suit. During the Prohibition years (1919-1932), some plots contained unidentified remains, buried three and four-deep, which were reportedly left behind by rum-runners working the riverfront in Wyandotte and neighboring Ecorse. Whether these were the bodies of innocent bystanders or smuggled people from Canada and other countries was never made clear, as none of these mass-burials was authorized by the cemetery caretakers. But the overriding question then was: who exactly were the caretakers? Identifying them was as much a confusing problem as identifying many of the graves on the grounds. In a 1975 News-Herald article, the Wyandotte Beautification Commission - which was part of the city's Bicentennial Committee - could not get more involved in the cemetery's upkeep because no one knew who was supposed to maintain the grounds. Many people had thought the cemetery, which was recording a burial once every five years at that point, was owned by BASF. In fact, BASF had not owned the property at all in spite of making a formal request at one time. They had determined the price they needed to pay was too steep. Over forty years later, many questions remain, but the cemetery appears to be in better hands whose sole purpose is attempting to undo the wrongs of the years before and give those buried there a sense of dignity.
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Oakwood Cemetery, Created by AYoung, Wyandotte, Wayne, Michigan, United States