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.
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.
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: