Let the exhume resume

It’s high time we find out if there’s anything below Grand Haven’s Central Park.
Jul 15, 2014


Before it became a city park, the plot was the city’s first cemetery. The first burial took place there in 1837. Even before that, it was part of a Native American cemetery.

But, as Kevin Collier explained in a recent “Strange Grand Haven” column (June 30, “Central Park final resting place for bodies left behind”), the cemetery fell into such disrepair that it became the shame of the city. The last burial there was in 1867.

In 1883, the city mandated the removal of all bodies from the park, Collier noted. In 1886, as an incentive for people to have their family members’ graves moved from Central Park, the city offered free gravesites at Lake Forest Cemetery to relatives who would exhume and rebury the dead themselves.

But not everyone took up the offer, for various reasons — and perhaps because there was no family member left who cared about a long-forgotten grave.

After a time as a city dump in the late part of the 19th century, the city turned the old cemetery into Central Park. Human remains were found during the park’s construction and for many years after.

Do any remains remain at Central Park? Some say yes.

Local historian Bob Beaton is one of them, and he’s offered to help.

“Our society does have some basic principles and procedures for the burial and maintenance of the dead, right?” Beaton wrote as a comment to Collier’s column online. “It would seem, at the least, we should scan the park and find out exactly what the situation is. I'd pitch in some money for that and do what I can.”

It may take some sophisticated equipment, but there are ways these days to scan the park grounds and get a picture of what lies beneath.

The city should get behind this effort. Perhaps local funeral homes could assist in some way.   

It’s a way we can honor our ancestors and early Grand Havenites that may be forgotten in unmarked gravesites.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty, Fred VandenBrand and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.




Leave it alone !!!!


Agree with gordbzz. If we want to honor their memory, we should leave them be.


Bob how about paying the whole freight if you think its a good idea?


Good Lord, does the tribune do this just to start a debate?



Barry Soetoro





Shouldn't you be out pollinating something? With fewer of you bees around these days you need to step up your game and take up the slack for your fallen & MIA brothers.


No, I'm good, just got done pollinating your wife.


Ha! Nice try Bee, but you'd be wasting your time. My wife is way past the pollinating stage of her life. She doesn't even like bees and if you were to try to get that close to her you'd more than likely end up on the receiving end of a rolled-up newspaper. Heck, she doesn't even like honey..says it's bee poop! Go figure.


That's what she tells you.


No, that's what I've observed over the last 35 years or so. I wouldn't pull your little wing, I'm trying to save your life! If you knew how many bee carcasses I've had to scoop up off the window sill and dump in the trash during that time.......


Absolutely! It creates more "hits" to show current & potential advertisers.


yes, after you think about, i don't think they are actually talking about digging


"It’s a way we can honor our ancestors and early Grand Havenites that may be forgotten in unmarked grave sites". Of course they have been forgotten. Any one that probably knew them has also long ago past away. That is the way it works in life. If you found out that your great, great grandmother buried your great, great grandfather there. Would you really want to go down there with a Backhoe and dig him up? They could be honored in way that would be more appropriate than looking for their grave sites not even knowing who the individuals are. You talk as if finding graves sites buried possibly far underground would accomplish something. They were buried, and put to rest by people that knew them and loved them. How would having a bunch of strangers digging them up honor them?

Back to the Wall

Ground penetrating radar is a common, accessible technology. I don't think it needs to be done, but it can be done quite easily.

A century ago, before the establishment of public parks systems, cemeteries were used as public spaces and picnic grounds. There is no disrespect in using the land above the alledged graves as a park.


What I would love to see is what lies under the Musical Fountain. I have heard MANY times that the dune simply covered over an old railroad freight house that is under the fountain. With the way the fountain has started leaning a bit in the past several years, it seems possible that something down there collapsed. I would love to see if the rumors are true; it is very possible.


Just leave well enough alone. If Grand Haven thinks it has problems with remaining bodies, read about the interesting issues Chicago has with Lincoln Park, which was the old city cemetery until 1869. Not only are remains still being found in the park and the zoo, but in the back yards of area houses. Some estimates put the number of remaining bodies at ten thousand! How's that for a cheerful day in the park?


I'm glad that Mr. Beaton has a passion for History. And while it may be mildly interesting how many and where graves are located in the park, it seems like it would be like poking a sleeping dog. If remains are discovered, then what? I have no interest in paying to relocate the remains of someone who died 30-years before my family even came to this country, especially when people who might have actually known them declined 100 years ago.
Not to mention it's a very nice park that many volunteers have created over the years. I don't want to see their efforts undone.
As it sits, there are intriguing rumors of long forgotten graves...Wooooo...good Halloween fodder. If you actually identify some graves, people are going to feel obligated to do something and then the trouble will start.


Nice Halloween story, but let,s move, please


Oh for heavens sake, who cares where some bones are located. Maybe that is where they hid Hoffa!


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