Lost cemetery discovered in Lake County

SWEETWATER TWP. — An area once thought to contain at least two graves may actually hold 30 to 50 graves in what once was a platted cemetery.

Bruce Micinski, president of the Lake County Historical Society, made the discovery of the what could be a township cemetery on Wingleton and Dexter roads near Kinney Creek as mentioned in the May 31, 1957, issue of the Lake County Star. 

"I came across information pertaining to the possible cemetery when I was looking for information about a Civil War veteran, Nathan Lucas," Micinski said. "The article from the 1957 Star interviewed his son, Jesse Lucas, of Chase, who said Nathan homesteaded in what was then Elk Township in 1875 and later became Sweetwater Township in 1908. Jesse also made reference of the cemetery his father was buried. This is surprising information because we only knew of two graves being located there, Nathan's grave and an unmarked grave."

Excerpts from the article are as follows:

"A lonely tombstone, set in the brush and oak leaves along the north side of an old logging road on the Kinney Creek association property is all that remains of what was at one time a platted cemetery containing the graves of 30 to 50 persons, according to Jesse Lucas, 82, of Chase, son of Nathan who is buried under the old marker. The inscription reads: 'Nathan Lucas, Co. E., 1st Mich. Light Artillery.' Alongside the tomb is a small American flag.

'That was Sweetwater township cemetery,' Jesse recalls. "and it's about all that remains of the thriving settlement that occupied the region in the logging days. Nathan, my father, lived in Carleton Centery, Barry County and was called into the Union Army from there during the Civil War. After the War, the couple moved to Reed City where my father ran a meat market.

'In 1875," Jesse continued, 'they moved to Wingleton and homesteaded 160 acres of pine six miles northwest of the cemetery. Wingelton village was started when I was 18 as a logging village. It had a good waterpower sawmill and a population of about 500 persons on the east side of Wingleton Lake. A narrow gauge railroad brought logs in."'

The article continued to say of Nathan's nine children, three were buried near their father in the cemetery. Nathan died of a heart attack in 1984, and his wife, who died many years later, was buried in Baldwin. The Daughters of the American Revolution wanted to move Nathan's grave into Baldwin where it could have better care, but the family refused permission, saying it was Nathan's wish to be buried where he was.

Sid Woods, local historian and sexton of the cemeteries in Chase Township, said he thinks it is very possible there are 30 to 50 graves in the cemetery where Nathan is buried, because when he had visited the Civil War veteran's grave, he noticed many places where the ground was sunken in, indicating possible graves.

Micinski wonders if the 30 to 50 other people buried in the cemetery lived and worked in the old logging communities of Wingleton and Stearns Siding. He also wonders if the cemetery was located in the 160 acres Nathan homesteaded. Micinski said Jesse Lucas referred to the cemetery as Sweetwater Township Cemetery in the article, but there is a Sweetwater Cemetery in existence on Crooks Road.

"There are a lot of questions at this time, and more research needs to be done," Micinski said. "If it is a larger cemetery, it would be nice to see it be respected. If we researched who might have been buried there, we could maybe get a plaque with their names."