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A Helping Hand for Historic Oakwood Cemetery

Rich Egger

Even a cemetery can use a little love sometimes, and the group "Friends of Oakwood Cemetery" plans to put a little love into the grand old graveyard in Macomb.

It has so many noted people in it, many with statewide reputations, a few with reputations... of national impact

Author and historian John Hallwas, who is on the board for the Friends group, said Oakwood is generally in good shape and that the city does a good job of maintaining it. But he added it’s not uncommon for historic cemeteries to have “friends” groups that assist with the upkeep.

“We formed this advocacy group to promote the cemetery, to advocate improvements when they’re needed, raise funds for the cemetery also … (and) to acquire a richer compilation of historical information about the cemetery and the people buried there,” Hallwas said.

Hallwas considers Oakwood to be one of the most historic cemeteries in the region. He said it was laid out in 1857 by William Randolph, who was friends with Abraham Lincoln, and more than 200 American Civil War soldiers are buried there.

“It (also) has so many noted people in it, many with statewide reputations, a few with reputations that really had some kind of national impact,” Hallwas said.

“Ruth Tunnicliff is one, who developed the serum for curing measles.”

Hallwas will lead tours of Oakwood on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25. Both tours begin at 10:00 am.  The cost is $10.  Tickets can be purchased at several Macomb businesses or at the cemetery at the time of the tours.  The theme is “Troubled and Violent Stories.” Hallwas said they will visit the graves of those who died from murder or suicide.

Credit Rich Egger
William Randolph's grave (the white marker on the left)

“And of course that begins with William H. Randolph himself, who was murdered November 4, 1864. The guy who lays out the cemetery gets buried in the cemetery way before he dreamed that would take place!”

Hallwas said “Friends of Oakwood Cemetery” plans to hold some sort of cultural event every Memorial Day weekend.  He said the cemetery was once a huge gathering spot when the holiday was known as Decoration Day in the decades between the Civil War and the Great War (World War I).

Rich is TSPR's News Director.