Restoration of the Elmwood Cemetery
Village of Lamont, Tallmadge Township

The Grand Rapids Press

Elmwood Cemetery Restoration, Lamont, Michigan, article by Kathleen Beatty

Back to Life

Husband and wife team refurbish a forgotten cemetery.

Tallmadge Township-- For decades, the long forgotten cemetery on a bluff overlooking the Grand River went unnoticed by the hundreds of people passing the one-acre site near Lamont,
unaware of the rich history hidden beneath a carpet of weeds.

But in recent months, motorists traveling Leonard Street NW in Tallmadge Township have taken notice of the unmarked cemetery, where a retired couple have restored some 30 headstones
that have been battered by a decade of neglect.

"We went past it many years ourselves without knowing there was a cemetery here," said 70 year old Henry Boersma, who with his wife, Louise, 69, have made the restoration effort their
summer project.

The cemetery, which is believed to be the final resting spot of Lamont's settlers, was tended by members of a Methodist church until a fire destroyed the church in the 1870's.

It is known to locals as Elmwood Cemetery-- named for the two large elm trees which stood at its center. The cemetery sits on the north side of Leonard just west of 40th Avenue.

With the blessing of the Tallmadge Township board, the Boersmas launched their refurbishing project in the spring and are hopeful they can finish their efforts by snowfall.

Their work has been grueling, to be sure.

With help from friend Tony Van Portfliet, they lifted a six-foot tall stone monument at the cemetery's center, back on its base. They have also reset more that 30 stones, some of which they
pieced together with glue.

"We have an old truck, an old hoist and an old couple," said Louise, a retired medical technician at Butterworth hospital. It takes us about three hours to set each stone. We've put quite a bit
of sweat equity into this."

The Marne couple over the months have reset headstones for the likes of Miner, James and Oscar Clark-- three infants who died between 1849 and 1854.

They can recall in detail the work needed to restore each stone, some dating back to an era when Michigan was still a territory.

Some inscriptions haunt them.

"Farewell, we meet no more on this side of heaven. The parting scene is o'er. The last sad look is gone." reads Mary Cook's 1857 marker.

"Her last words were, 'Good-bye, Thomas, until we meet again'" reads the inscription on a marker of Eliza Woodbury, 32, the wife of a wealthy landowner.

Louise said she trembles at the words inscribed on the 1855 headstone of 79 year old Solomon Cook. "I am the man that hath seen affliction," it reads.

"You get to feel like you kind of know the people," Louise said. "Every day I write in my journal, 'We'll set Eliza today or Little Johnny today."'

When the Boersmas began researching the origins of the cemetery, they discovered it was listed as an unknown cemetery in the Michigan atlas of cemeteries. Until recently,
Tallmadge township officials and the majority of area residents knew nothing of it.

"A few years ago, I got a complaint about it so I went up and looked for it. I couldn't find the place the first time," said Tallmadge supervisor Nancy Heydenburg.

"I've recently gone by and it looks great. It's like night and day.

"I didn't realize they would go to the extent they did."

The cemetery was founded in 1841 on a plot purchased by the former county Board of Health. Many of those buried are settlers from New York.

Because many of the stones are broken, buried and scatttered, the Boersmas have "poked and prodded" the ground looking for the pieces.

The unearthed markers are scrubbed, sealed and glued together, if needed, at the Boersma's home.

They declined to say how much they are spending on the project. "It's a volunteer thing," Henry said.

"It's a worthwhile adventure but it takes a lot of starch out of you when you are 69 or 70," Louise said.

"And like any project, it always ends up bigger than you thought," Henry added. "I lost about ten pounds and two inches around my waist this summer.

oject. "It's a volunteer thing," Henry said.

"It's a worthwhile adventure but it takes a lot of starch out of you when you are 69 or 70," Louise said.

"And like any project, it always ends up bigger than you thought," Henry added. "I lost about ten pounds and two inches around my waist this summer.

"When we are done, we are going to celebrate by going to McDonald's to have a quarter pounder and a piece of pie."


Transcribed by Joan Van Spronsen
Created: 9 January 2013
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/cemeteries/tallmadge/elmwood/restoration.html