Monday, February 11, 2008

Woodlawn Cemetery

Take Huron River Drive, go east past the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center and the National Guard Armory, and between Carton Avenue and Brown Drive, you will see a break in the trees. As you drive past, take a quick glance to your right. There you will see an open field, with a small wooden cross on the far side. This is the final resting place for about 150 persons, but there is no sign, no maker, only headstones to mark the graves. This is Woodlawn Cemetery, one of the abandoned cemeteries of Washtenaw County.

The Rev. Garther Roberson, of the Second Baptist Church of Ypsilanti, founded Woodlawn Cemetery in the early 1940’s, primarily for the parishioners of his church. The Rev. Roberson died in 1955, and the property passed to Estella Roberson and a Mrs. Booker Rhonenee. The two women soon after declared bankruptcy, as they were short of assets and since then both women have died. The Woodlawn Cemetery Association had failed to file the appropriate corporate papers and no money was set aside for perpetual care of the grounds. The last burial in Woodlawn may have been in 1965. There are no records of who is buried there, when they were buried or where in the cemetery they are buried. Today no one is sure who owns the property, and it has an assessed vale of zero. Ypsilanti Township has someone cut the grass a few times a year.

Today Woodlawn Cemetery is a snow-covered field, with the walls of a maintenance shed, its roof fallen in long ago, standing on the far edge of the grounds. A stack of used tires is on the ground nearby. The air is silent, but for the wind.


Laura said...

Haunting and beautiful writing. Thank you.

I could feel the cold wind (shiver!)

Jan said...

I learned about the situation at Woodlawn through the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County. The society did a reading in 1981 but a number of the stones found back then are now missing. I'm familiar with the area and have driven down Huron River Drive many times and never noticed the cemetery.

I am working with a local Boy Scout troop to see if we can initiate a service project to clean-up and erect a sign for Woodlawn or otherwise honor those buried there.

I would be interested in contacting someone who might represent the church or association to get their help.

Jan Tripp
Ann Arbor, MI