Preserving history: Improvements being made to Bloomer Township Cemetery


Posted by Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:08 pm on Thursday, November 14 2013

 

Bloomer Township Cemetery sexton Ray Everingham talks about maintaining cemetery records while holding an old cemetery layout map written on a window shade. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

 

BLOOMER TOWNSHIP — Only scarce details remain about the life of a Carson City-area Civil War veteran.

Abraham Boyer was born Sept. 19, 1831. He was married twice — once to Elizabeth Shell and later to Harriett Granger. He had two children, Charles and Nancy.

When he was 31 years old, he enlisted with the Grand Army of the Republic with the 5th Ohio Cavalry Company E from June 19, 1863, until he was discharged on Feb. 15, 1864.

Boyer died on March 1, 1908, at the age of 76, and was buried in the Bloomer Township Cemetery. As the memory of his life faded, so did his gravestone — literally. The stone gradually sank into the soft ground and became embedded within the roots and trunk of a white pine tree.

A gravestone belonging to Abraham Boyer (1831-1908) was recently discovered in Bloomer Township Cemetery after the stone sank into the ground and became embedded in a pine tree. Boyer was a Civil War veteran, having served from 1863-1864. He is buried next to his wife, Elizabeth Shell Boyer. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

There it remained, shrouded in pine needles and soil for untold years, until Ray Everingham, the longtime township sexton (one who is charged with tending a cemetery) discovered it while cutting down overgrown brush.

Everingham hopes to cut part of the root of the tree without damaging the tree so he can rescue the gravestone from sinking further into the ground and disappearing from sight.

The rescue of the gravestone is just one example of how Bloomer Township officials are working to preserve and maintain the cemetery for generations to come. The cemetery is a final resting place for at least 725 people, possibly more without markers. Those people include 62 war veterans.

“You’ll see all the roads — Bloomer, Miner, Blackmer … all the local history is here,” said Bloomer Township Clerk Sarah Todd, referring to the many well-known names on gravestones in the cemetery.

 

Reclaiming and restoring

According to Todd, the cemetery was mapped out in years past — albeit on an old window shade in the township hall — but the maintenance of records got out of control. A cemetery committee was created in 2011, comprised of Everingham and Todd, along with Mike Beach and Tara Chapko. An eight-page cemetery ordinance was written and the woefully outdated prices for cemetery lots were updated.

The oldest known gravestone in Bloomer Township Cemetery belongs to Anna E. Patterson, who died on Jan. 10, 1825. She was just 15 years old. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

The township board recently purchased land from Tom Smith, who lives next door to the cemetery, for expansion in the future, when needed. New signs were made, welcoming visitors to the cemetery, which is located at 9765 Miner Road, about two miles south of M-57 near Carson City.

Perhaps most important of all the ongoing improvements to Bloomer Township Cemetery is a computer program.

John Anderson of Six Lakes is a retired computer programmer. In 2001, he was asked to assist an Eagle Scout in documenting a cemetery for a service project. Anderson found he enjoyed taking photographs of old gravestones and documenting the history he found. Over the years, the hobby turned into a small business, InStone Data Services.

Anderson began by creating a computer program for Hillcrest Cemetery in Six Lakes, so Belvidere Township officials could better maintain those cemetery records. He went on to create similar programs for East Montcalm Cemetery north of Greenville, Reynolds Township Cemetery near Howard City and Bloomer Township Cemetery near Carson City.

“As I’ve shared this program with township clerks, I discovered they have a need for a program like that to run a cemetery, to know what lots are available, where people are buried, those types of things,” Anderson said. “As you start looking at more and more cemetery records, you start to realize they’re in pretty poor shape. They’re on paper, there’s a lot of inconsistencies in the data. This gives them a way to put everything on a computer.”

Anderson begins creating a program for a cemetery by tracking down a list of everyone buried in that cemetery. He credits Betty Spooner, who walked through countless cemeteries in the 1970s and compiled a list of names she found on gravestones, otherwise known as a “reading.” Much of Spooner’s archived research can be found online today, which proved to be an invaluable asset to Anderson.

Bloomer Township Clerk Sarah Todd and Bloomer Township Cemetery sexton Ray Everingham discuss ongoing improvements being made to the cemetery.— Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

Armed with a list of names, Anderson then photographs every gravestone in a cemetery and matches the photograph with a name on the list to create a complete record. He also looks at local cemetery records to determine how the cemetery is laid out by lots.

Anderson creates a computer program with all this information, which allows a detailed map of the cemetery to be printed. The map shows whether someone has a gravestone, whether someone is a war veteran and much more.

“When I give it back to them (township officials), they have a full turnkey system,” he said.

Anderson’s personal favorite cemetery? Forest Home Cemetery in Greenville.

“If you’ve never been through that cemetery in the fall, you have to do it,” he said. “It’s just gorgeous. It’s just a beautiful cemetery with old, old markers. It has a lot of character.”

 

Volunteer effort

Much of the ongoing improvements in Bloomer Township Cemetery are due to a volunteer effort by township officials.

Bloomer Township Clerk Sarah Todd and Bloomer Township Cemetery sexton Ray Everingham unroll an old map of the cemetery layout. The map was written on a window shade and has hung in the township hall for years. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

“There are a lot of townships that just let them go because there aren’t enough funds,” said Todd, who is retired as an auditor for the state. “We just want to honor the deceased and the veterans.”

Everingham took on sexton duties more than three decades ago. He’s a factory veteran, having worked at Chrysler until he was laid off and then worked for Electrolux for years, until that Greenville factory shut down in 2006. He was there on the last day.

When he was a young man, Everingham had been doing sexton work at an Ionia cemetery, but was interested in something closer to home. He asked about the job and was hired a short time later when the position opened up. The job has become deeply personal to him. He lives just down the road from the cemetery and has even buried his own parents there.

Everingham said he worked the first 30 years without much supervision from township officials. All he was asked to do was mow the grass. Over the years, he took it upon himself to trim trees and clear brush to make the peaceful cemetery as attractive as possible. He also compiled several books of records, including one book just of war veterans who are buried in the cemetery.

“I’ve just always thought cemeteries ought to be kept presentable,” he said.

Bloomer Township Clerk Sarah Todd holds a new map of the township cemetery. The map was designed by John Anderson, who created Instone Data Services in Six Lakes. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

Everingham said the new cemetery committee and ordinance are a great help to his sexton duties. Before the new map was created and printed out, Everingham only had the old window shade map upon which to base the layout of the cemetery.

Everingham, Todd and other township officials have even more plans for the cemetery. They would like to restore some of the oldest stones that are moldy or crumbling or even broken into two. They also want to mark each grave that contains a veteran or firefighter.

Todd is working to take full advantage of the computer program Anderson created for the township. She even scans in obituaries when they are printed in local newspapers to add even more detail to the cemetery program archive.

“He did just an awesome job,” said Todd of Anderson’s InStone Data Services. “It’s awesome. It helps us keep track.”

For more information about Anderson’s InStone Data Services, call him at (989) 365-3804.

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