Eastmanville Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery (Coopersville, Michigan)

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery with a list of those buried in the cemetery.

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery with a list of those buried in the cemetery.

We’re always sniffing out the path to cemeteries!

We’re always sniffing out the path to cemeteries!

Last month, Mira and I celebrated her 12th (!!!) rescue day by visiting a cemetery. Well, not really. We have many really great parks in the area and one of our favorites, particularly for snowshoeing, has a cemetery on the grounds. There wasn’t enough snow this time around for snowshoeing, but we had a lovely hike around the Eastmanville Farm park anyway.

The Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery contains the burial spots for over fifty individuals. They died while the park was being operated as a poor farm. In the years that followed the US Civil War in the 1860s, poor farms sprang up across the US as a way to provide a form of social services to poor, infirm, or elderly individuals in communities.

The Eastmanville site originally began as a farm and then a “Midway” house for people traveling from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven. In 1866, it was sold to Ottawa County and became a poor farm where individuals could go to be cared for in exchange for working at the farm. The stories of the residents tell a varied tale. Some were indigent. Others came to be cared for as they aged. On average, forty people lived at the farm at any given time, with numbers swelling during the winters and during the Great Depression.

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Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery detailing restoration efforts.

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery detailing restoration efforts.

By the time Ottawa County turned the site into a park, the site had undergone a number of changes, including operating as a nursing home, and the cemetery had fallen into disrepair. Volunteers and the parks department researched and restored the site, including placing small markers at the burials that were found. Several signs detail the efforts and restoration.

Four of the original gravestones remain in the cemetery.

Original gravestone for Robert C. Dick (1821-1913)

Original gravestone for Robert C. Dick (1821-1913)

Eastmanville Farm park signs show the way to the cemetery.

Eastmanville Farm park signs show the way to the cemetery.

The park is located at 7851 Leonard Road, Coopersville, MI 49404. Once at the park, there are two parking areas: one in front of the barn area and another larger area off to the left. The cemetery is located north of the parking lots, along the left (west) side of the park. The trails in the park are mainly gravel and natural grass surface, although some of the trails are used by equestrians during the summer months and can get a bit sandy. Signs will point you back to the cemetery and outline the other trails in the park.

For more information on the cemetery and the history of the Eastmanville Farm park, visit the following:

No Person Left Behind

Forgotten Cemetery Gets Recognition

150th Anniversary of ‘Poor Farm’

Input to Output

Wyuka Cemetery, Lincoln, NE

I’m in the middle of taking a Strengths course, which is fabulous, with Becca Syme, but it reminded me that this blog has been neglected and forgotten. For all the input, there’s got to be some output ;) In other words, all the information that is crammed in my brain about cemeteries doesn’t do all that much good if it’s just sitting there. Sharing, in various forms, is a good thing and this blog can be part of that.

I find cemeteries fascinating places. They always inspire a thousand questions and stories in my mind. Sometimes, the answers are out there; sometimes not. Either way, interesting!

My goal is to get back at “touring” a cemetery at least once a month. When time allows, I’ll dig a little deeper into a particular story, symbol, or gravestone or whatever else pops up. When it doesn’t, we’ll still have all the fun cemetery questions to ponder. And, as happens in other spaces, there will be the occasional dog post, writing post (Did you hear that Crime Travel is coming?), and whatever else spikes our interest here in the Mitten.

Wheat and Sickles

Mrs. Sarah A. Carpenter. Died May 4, 1888, aged 54. Coopersville-Polkton Cemetery, Michigan.

Mrs. Sarah A. Carpenter. Died May 4, 1888, aged 54. Coopersville-Polkton Cemetery, Michigan.

Wheat on gravestones can symbolize a long life and/or an abundant, full life. Although the age of 54 seems young now, it was above average life expectancy at the time. Other meanings can include that it represents the body of Christ or the Divine harvest. Often, wheat is symbolized, as it is here, as gathered into a sheaf. A sheaf is created from harvested wheat or other grains and so the symbol may also combine the earlier ideas to mean that the person is being harvested after their full, ripe life to go on to a new life after death.

Sickles or scythes typically represent a life cut off, or death. They may accompany the wheat symbol since sickles were used in the past to harvest wheat. And, of course, scythes are often represented as accompanying the Grim Reaper.