The Story of the "Old City Cemetery"

The story of the "Old City Cemetery" begins in 1853 with Ebar Ward buying land from John Biddle for the future site of the Eureka Iron Works. The plan was to build the iron works along the Detroit River, located in present day Wyandotte. With the iron works underway, the iron works began to establish a village around it, helping establish hotels, grocery stores, housing, churches, and social halls for the "complete fulfillment of village life". However, with all their planning, it became obvious that they had forgotten that people don't live forever; they needed a cemetery. 

Ebar Ward addressed the cemetery demand by "setting apart a plat of three acres near the river bank to be used by the citizens as a free public burial ground". The plat was on property owned by the iron works in Section 28, the northern border at what is now Northline Road. Northline Road was the only thing separating the two cemeteries. But unlike most cemeteries which are owned by churches, states, or counties with stipulations that the land can't be sold or developed for another purpose, this cemetery land was owned by a company, the iron works. 

In 1869, the three acre plat "Old City Cemetery" reached its capacity for plots. To address the issue, land owner J. P. Clark fenced off land on his property; filed a deed, and recorded the "Plan of Oakwood Cemetery Near Wyandotte" to create a new cemetery. Oakwood Cemetery was established right next to the "Old City Cemetery" and "was just above it on the river front". Online Northline divided the two cemeteries. With the "Old City Cemetery" at full capaicty, Oakwood and Mount Carmel and became the cemeteries used through the 1870s and 1880s. 

So what happened to the "Old City Cemetery"? Villagers started realizing the it was not a private or religious cemetery and they began exhuming the remains of their family members and transferring them to the Oakwood or Mount Carmel cemeteries. Over time with more and more vacancies and the iron works business decreasing, the cemetery deteriorated. People began to think that only the poor were left buried there - or people who had died of smallpox, diphtheria, or typhoid. 

In 1891 the Eureka Iron Works put its land, including the "Old City Cemetery", up for sale. The next year R. D. Taylor bought the land for his expanding Davis Boat & Oar Company bought. What happened next was unconscionable. Per the Detroit News " Mr. Taylor laid out a new street, passing along the edge of his ground" and then posted the following notice on a tree: "Notice: All persons having relations interred here will please remove the same as soon as possible, and those in the road immediately."

The Detroit News continues that "There was a great commotion in the town...women would go out to find the weed-covered spot where their husbands and children, dig them up, and gathering the mouldering bones in their aprons, bear them away to the new [Oakwood] Cemetery." With citizens objecting and approaching the Attorney General Fredrick Ellis and the City Board of Health becoming involved the removal of people who had died from contagious diseases were completed under the direction of Health Officer Cahalan. 

The recognition of the "Old City Cemetery" as a burial ground ended in 1893. Though traces of it remained and the community remembered it, it disappeared from all subsequent city, state, and county maps, directories and records.