By Jessica Mathews /

Quite a few surprises, “unexpected guests” and interesting bits of history were learned following the scanning of two historic cemeteries in Green Oak Township.
Clerk Michael Sedlak’s department presented a report at a recent board meeting.

Ground-penetrating radar scanning took place of both the Green Oak Plains Cemetery on Maltby Road, east of Rickett Road, and Lakeview Cemetery on 9 Mile at East Shore Drive in late September. Each grave detected was marked and later mapped out, identified when possible and then recorded for future generations of residents. It was stated that the scanning actually had to be delayed a few weeks due to rainy weather and flooding but even after it subsided, the work was still partially done in the pouring rain and in dark, foggy conditions.

A total of 47 previously unknown/undocumented gravesites were found at Lakeview and based on evidence, many were estimated to be over 100 to 150 years old and some were unusually deep. The oldest known burial was in 1862, although some previously unmarked graves discovered during the scanning could actually be much older. Further, there were approximately 35 gravesites that did not align with headstones or had shifted position over time. That was said to be not totally unexpected as much of the north side of Lakeview Cemetery is on a steep hill and many graves are over 100 years old.

In Green Oak Plains, 26 undocumented gravesites were found - which was also said to be expected as that cemetery is much older with much of the historical record lost. It was stated during the meeting that they expected to find more undocumented or unknown gravesites in Green Oak Plains being the oldest cemetery but they actually found more in the oldest part of Lakeview.

Some graves had shifted over the years and it was reported that the oldest was discovered from 1833 before Green Oak became a township and Michigan became a state. Some previously lost headstones were found and uncovered. Notably, there was a gravesite for an entire family discovered that passed away in 1919 from scarlet fever right before Christmas.

Clerk Department Assistant Andrea Piotrowski McCall was said to have championed the project it was described as quite an involved undertaking that was basically six months in the making beforehand. She told WHMI a surprising amount of unknown/undocumented gravesites were discovered during the scanning process – saying it was a significant amount and she was shocked having only expected to discover a handful.

Piotrowski McCall said when the geologist was doing the scanning, he showed the differences between graves in a vault and then others that they could tell were much older burials because they were put in wooden boxes or family quilts. She said that’s how they were able to tell so many were significantly older because of the way they were buried - which is not how things are done today.

Piotrowski McCall added that she was glad it was done because they now have a lot of information that will help them better serve residents and they’ll know what’s available when people call.

Officials agreed that most importantly, everything is documented so there won’t be any more surprises and the township can now say with confidence that there are over 1,000 plots available. The board commended Piotrowski McCall for all of the work that went into the important project, saying she did a great job and the township now has a solid level of reassurance that everything is documented so plots are not re-sold and remain undisturbed.

Additionally, local Eagle Scout Drake Lammers with Troop 350 recently completed a project in which he refurbished several benches at Lakeview Cemetery and installed a new sign at the entrance. Officials say the new sign and benches are a welcome addition to the historic cemetery and will be enjoyed by residents for years to come.

A detailed report and findings with photos is attached.