Eloise Cemetery

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Eloise Cemetery was the name applied to cemeteries used by the Eloise hospital complex located in what was then Nankin Township in western Wayne County, Michigan, and is now Westland, Michigan. The patients buried in the cemetery were from the Infirmary Division, the William P. Seymour General Hospital, the T.B. Sanitarium and the Eloise Hospital (Psychiatric Division). The majority of burials were from the Infirmary Division which was the largest of the three divisions, housing up to 7,000 patients at a time. Most burials were of adult males, but there are women and a few infants and children.

History[edit]

The first notation made of an institutional cemetery was in 1892 when the Hospital arranged with Catholic Bishop John Samuel Foley to move bodies which had been buried northwest of the County House to an island in the middle of the reservoir.[1] This move was made to enable the first paving of Michigan Avenue which occurred in 1910. Part of the artificial lake at that time had to be filled in.[2] There were actually two other cemeteries that were used to bury Eloise patients after the turn of the century. The first was on the northeast corner of farmland south of Michigan Avenue and one further south on the farm site facing Henry Ruff Road.[3] The second cemetery is surrounded by pine trees and is the one used from 1910 to 1948.

In effect, this was operated as a "Potter's Field", that is a publicly run place to bury the poor unclaimed dead at the public expense.[4]

In the early days patients were buried by inmates or employees of the institution. In 1937 the contract was given to Charles C. Diggs, Sr., who founded "The House of Diggs" (reputed to be Michigan's largest funeral home at one time) and a politician,[5] to handle burials in the cemetery and transfers to Wayne State University School of Medicine as state law mandated that these functions be handled or supervised by a licensed mortician. Charles Diggs, Jr., then 15 years old, would drive his mother from Detroit to the morgue which was a red brick building at Eloise called the round house because of its shape and they would prepare the body for burial. White sheets were used to line the wooden coffins and, unless the patient had clothing, they were covered in another white sheet. If family or friends were present there would be an interment service; if not the deceased would just be buried by inmates.[6]

About 7,100 people were buried in the Eloise cemetery between 1910 and 1948. These were patients who died at the institution and had no known relatives or relatives who were unwilling or unable to bury them. Only numbered blocks identify the graves. After 1948 all unclaimed bodies were sent to the Wayne State University College of Medicine and no further burials were made there.[7] Burial records in the late 1920s and 1930s were especially problematical or nonexistent. For example, "There were only four extant death records for 1934."[8] The names of over 4,000 of the 7,100 people buried in the cemetery[9] were added to Find A Grave.[A]

Patricia Ibbotson worked as a nurse at Eloise before it was closed. She is also the author of the book, Eloise: Poorhouse, Farm, Asylum and Hospital 1839-1984. She raised money for the historic marker.[9][13][14] She also wrote Detroit's Hospitals, Healers and Helpers which has an entire chapter of captioned photos of Eloise.[15]

From the 19th century, the cemetery was a source of cadavers, after body snatching, which were used by medical students at the University of Michigan.[1] From 1948, the laws were changed so that the hospital became a ready source and bodies were sent to Detroit Medical College.[12]

Present situation[edit]

The cemetery is owned and maintained by Wayne County. It is fenced and there are "No Trespassing" signs posted. The graves are marked by numbered markers and the names of most of the people buried there have been lost to history. However, presently 5500 of the burials are now on FindAGrave.

The site and the adjoining asylum are reputed to be haunted.[16][17]

The field lay forgotten and neglected, especially since the last burial (in one of the three plots) was in 1948; it now stands in the way of other uses, and is seen as a responsibility by Wayne County commissioners who are perplexed over use of the Eloise site.[citation needed] The presence of over 7,000 marked but unnamed graves — and the absence of many supporting records — is potentially an insuperable obstacle to any future development.[citation needed]

Similar situations exist.[4] In 1989, former, Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young abandoned a plan to expand Detroit City Airport's runway because the adjoining Gethsemane Cemetery blocked the way, and outraged relatives protested. As a result, a few years later Southwest Airlines ended its operations there, citing the city's inability to keep its promises and the need for longer runways to accommodate larger jet aircraft.[18][19][20] Likewise, in the 1980s, the Hamtramck, Michigan Poletown plant was built around Beth Olem, a/k/a The Smith Street Cemetery, a small Jewish cemetery.[21] According to Frank Rembisz, former Hamtramck city council president, to move the cemetery, they needed to get surviving relatives's permission, and would have had to retain "Talmudic scholars from Israel to sift through the earth to make sure there were no remains left." General Motors decided the expense exceeded the benefit, and left it in place.[4][B]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The names were obtained by going through the death certificates on Seeking Michigan website and going through original death certificates in the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library. In addition there were ledgers kept by the hospital on deaths of patients used to record names of some burials.[10][11][12]
  2. ^ Under Michigan law, disturbing a grave site or cemetery is a felony. There are substantial procedures concerning moving or abandoning a cemetery. Cemeteries are protected by Michigan law, and disinterment is prohibited and re-interment is strictly regulated, with requirements for notice and an opportunity to be heard, and for just compensation if there is an objection.[22][23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Keenan, Stanislas M. (1913). History of Eloise. Detroit: Thos. Smith Press. pp. 70, 73, 125, 267, 375. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  2. ^ Clark, Alvin C. (1982). A History of the Wayne County Infirmary, Psychiatric, and General Hospital Complex at Eloise Michigan. Wayne County General Hospital.
  3. ^ Clark, Alvin C. (1982). A History of the Wayne County Infirmary, Psychiatric, and General Hospital Complex at Eloise, Michigan. p. 114.
  4. ^ a b c "Forgotten cemetery blocks development: County perplexed over use of Eloise site". The Detroit News. Roots web. November 1, 1998. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  5. ^ Pearson, Richard (August 26, 1998). "Charles Diggs Dies at 75". The Washington Post. p. B06. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  6. ^ Latzman, Elaine (March 1994). Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes, An Oral History of Detroit's African American Community 1918-1967. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-8143-2465-7.
  7. ^ Ibbotson, Patricia (June 2, 2002). Eloise: Poorhouse, Farm, Asylum and Hospital 1839-1984 (Paperback). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-7385-1954-8.
  8. ^ Ibbotson, Patricia (May 5, 2014). "Eloise Cemetery". dsgr.org. Detroit Society for Genealogical Research. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Eloise". michmarkers.com. October 15, 2007. Michigan Historical Markers Registered Site S0699. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  10. ^ "Eloise Cemetery". Detroit Society for Genealogical Research. Retrieved May 5, 2014. See Jasia (October 2, 2006). "Records for Eloise (Wayne County, Michigan)". Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  11. ^ "Eloise Cemetery". Find a Grave. Ancestry.com LLC. May 5, 2014. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Ibbotson, Patricia; Friends of Eloise (2011). Burials in the Eloise Cemetery, and Removals to Medical Schools, Westland, Wayne County, Michigan, 1935-1943. P. Ibbotson. OCLC 753956594. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  13. ^ Clem 2007 Observer
  14. ^ Ibbotson, Patricia (June 2, 2002). Eloise: Poorhouse, Farm, Asylum and Hospital 1839-1984 (Paperback). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-1954-8.
  15. ^ Ibbotson, Patricia (January 11, 2004). Detroit's Hospitals, Healers and Helpers (Softcover). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-3223-3.
  16. ^ Baldassarro, R. Wolf (February 28, 2009). A Ghost Hunter's Field Guide (Paperback). lulu.com. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-557-05094-9. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  17. ^ wykedeyez (April 7, 2012). "Wayne County Poor House – Eloise Asylum". hauntingamerica.com. Haunting America. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  18. ^ Wilkerson, Isabel (March 30, 1988). "Detroit Journal; Must Cemetery Yield to Airport?". The New York Times. Photo Credits: NYT/Peter Yates. New York. Special to The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
  19. ^ "Detroit Will Spare Cemetery In an Airport Expansion Plan". The New York Times. New York. Reuters. April 1, 1988. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  20. ^ McConnell, Darci; McWhirter, Cameron; Smith, Joel J. (March 20, 2002). "Mayor: Fix or shut Detroit City Airport: Kilpatrick wants $400 million for runway, terminal". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  21. ^ Marwil, Milton (Winter 1992). Cantor, Judith Levin (ed.). "The True Story of the Cemetery in the General Motors Parking Lot" (PDF). Michigan Jewish History. Jewish Historical Society of Michigan. 33: 30. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  22. ^ "Michigan Annotations - Burial Law Project". wcl.american.edu. American University Washington College of Law. May 7, 2014. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  23. ^ "Cemetery Law & Rules: Cemetery Regulation Act: Act 251 of 1968" (PDF). dleg.state.mi.us. Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs State of Michigan. November 4, 2002 [1968]. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

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Coordinates: 42°16′52″N 83°20′21″W / 42.28117°N 83.33918°W / 42.28117; -83.33918