A walk into history

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Weiden and Jane Ladley, curator services director for the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, led the nearly two-hour walk highlighting the Civil War veterans buried at the Grand Haven cemetery.

Ladley first pointed out the grave of Dr. Arend VanderVeen, who immigrated to the United States in 1847 and studied medicine at Hope College. He was called into the Union Army when the Civil War broke out in 1861.

"Because of his knowledge about medicine, he was automatically whisked in as a surgeon," Ladley explained. "About 21 years old, he was doing (battlefield) surgeries. He was known as the 'Kid Surgeon.'"

VanderVeen was credited in being involved in 18 battles and served the entire war with a Michigan infantry unit. After the war, he earned a medical degree before returning to Grand Haven, where he set up a practice. It is his old house with a third-story cupola that sits across the street from Grand Haven City Hall.

Alicia Reenders pushed her 8-month-old daughter, Emma, in a buggy on Wednesday's tour.

"I love history and I'm always walking through the cemetery," the Grand Haven Township woman said. "So it's kind of interesting to learn about the people who have been buried here."

To see more photos from the tour, click here.

Weiden said there are about 110 Civil War soldiers buried at Lake Forest Cemetery, and the walk highlighted 25 of them. She and Ladley discussed well-known names such as Akeley, Boyden and Ferry, and many lesser-known men who served during the War Between the States.

Weiden also pointed out the Civil War memorial built by the local Grand Army of the Republic chapter of Civil War veterans. The chapters paid for the burial of soldiers who couldn't afford it themselves, she said.

After leading the group up the hill to the famed Ferry plot, Weiden talked about Noah H. Ferry, who was 32 when he was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. She said it is unclear if Ferry was first interred at Grand Haven's first cemetery — which is now Central Park — and moved in the 1870s, or was buried at Lake Forest Cemetery before it was a cemetery.

Weiden said 1,547 Ottawa County residents served the Union Army, with the majority from the Grand Haven area.

Ladley said the Sons of the Union Vets of the Civil War is a statewide group with local members who are currently compiling a database of veterans and where their graves are located. They are also funding new markers for graves as they find them, including several popping up at Lake Forest Cemetery — noticeable by their old-style white marble that has obviously not deteriorated as the ones from the 1860s.

Reenders encourages people to attend the next walk.

"Definitely, especially if you're interested in history or family members," she said. "Personally, I'm always walking through the cemetery, wondering what people's stories are, and then you get to (go on) things like this."


WHAT: Civil War cemetery walk

WHEN: 6 p.m. May 10

WHERE: Lake Forest Cemetery; park in the chapel lot off Lake Avenue and meet outside the cemetery office

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