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Mt. Hope Cemetery remains the largest and most populated Lansing graveyard. Many of the initial burials were transfers from earlier necropolises. Untold numbers remain undocumented.
According to Jesse Lasorda, a member of the Ingham County Historical Commission and award winning historian, at least 115 burials in the pauper’s section are without identification. He believes these are transplants from earlier cemeteries and possibly lacked markers before they were removed. Until 2008 the 61 children buried in the Boy’s Vocational School plot were not identified by name. Lasorda was part of a project that restored their marker and added the names of the deceased.
Another of Lasorda’s exploits was helping restore the veteran’s section at Mt. Hope. Funds were supplied by the VA. The process involving sundry private citizens and local Sons of Union Veterans posts took several years to complete. Some stones were replaced in 2005 and the operation completed in 2007.
Included in this enterprise was the formal recognition of previously unidentified graves of African American Civil War Veterans and the restoration of others. Among the many veteran’s graves honored by this project were Turner Byrd of the Michigan 102nd U.S. Colored Infantry, and Benjamin Thompson of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry . Both men were buried in family plots at Mt. Hope that did not receive the recognition of their service during the Civil War. James Dabny an African American sailor in the U.S. Navy needed his decrepit veteran’s stone replaced.
Mystery surrounds a fireman’s plot grave marked “UNKNOWN FIREMAN”. It is dated Dec. 24 1880. After decades of research his identification is still unknown. However, it has been determined he was removed from Oak Park and reinterred at Mt. Hope on the marker date. He passed many years before. There are also known graves in the fireman’s plot who have no documented connection to firefighting.
In 1905 calamity struck when lighting hit the chapel, engulfing it in flames. The building was a total loss. However, the vault was only partially ruined and the lone body was saved from the conflagration. The chapel was rebuilt and eventually demolished in the mid 20th century, a victim of neglect.
Lasorda enumerates local automakers, REO, Oldsmobile and Duplex Truck all used Mt. Hope roads as a test track. At some point in the second decade of the 20th century he states the cemetery board of trustees put an end to that practice. “[B]rakes would fail, other mechanical issues, and they would run into headstones.” says Lasorda.
At one point Mt. Hope had a water tower and resting station (privy). In recent years the 1909 wrought iron fence was replaced with fencing minus the spear like points. It was in desperate need of repair and there were problems with deer impaling themselves.
Deepdale Cemetery, a private burial park outside the city limits, began in 1920. Evergreen Cemetery, east of Fenner Arboretum, opened in 1931 as a city cemetery operating simultaneous to Mt. Hope.
The City of Lansing commenced stewardship of it’s most recent cemetery, North Cemetery, in 1969, ten years after the area’s annexation from Delhi Township. According to Durant’s History of Ingham and Eaton Counties Delhi purchased the land as a cemetery from Joshua North “about” 1842 for fifteen dollars, making it the oldest continuous cemetery in the city.
Past and Present of the City of Lansing by Albert Cowles
History of Ingham and Eaton Counties by Samuel Durant
Lansing Republican (August 8, 1878)
Lansing Daily Journal (June 19, 1905)
Lansing State Journal (January 1, 1932)
Lansing Daily Lansing State Journal April 17, 1949)
Lansing State Journal (August 9, 1953)
Lansing State Journal (May, 30 1978)Journal (June 20, 1905)
1859 Topographical Map of Ingham County
Story of Parks and Cemeteries by H. Lee Bancroft Superintendant of Lansing Parks 1949
A Sesquicentennial Guide Book of the Railroads of Lansing & Ingham County From 1862 to 1987 by Henry A Reniger , Jr
-Dave V., CADL Local History Librarian