Osceola County Genealogical Society presents tour of Gould Cemetery
CHASE — A twisting dirt road coursing up and down steep hills in thickly forested land would hardly seem like a location for a cemetery, but a gravestone now marks a burial ground for 16 graves on the power lines west of Chase.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of people gathered to tour the Gould Cemetery. The presentation was hosted by the Osceola County Genealogical Society and a tour was given by Sid Woods, Pinora Township trustee and local historian who rediscovered the abandoned cemetery a few years ago.
The Gould Cemetery is located in Section 30 in Pinora Township, a location heavily wooded and sparsely settled. The cemetery, which dates back to 1872, is near the quadrant of Pinora, Chase, Cherry Valley and Yates townships and is more than two miles north of U.S. 10 on State Road, which served as main road to Traverse City in the early settlement of the area.
“I first learned about the cemetery when I was research old Star newspapers dating back to the 1870s,” Woods said. “One of the articles mentioned a cemetery on section 30 in Pinora Township, and I didn’t know of a cemetery being there. Next time I went to Baldwin, I stopped at the courthouse to look up the land deed, and I found a warranty deed dating to 1877 designating three acres for a burial ground for a township cemetery by homesteader Willard Gould.
“Further research indicated the cemetery was first used as a family cemetery, with Gould’s young daughter, Priscilla, being the first burial in 1872.”
He learned the cemetery became abandoned when Gould’s land was sold to a lumbering company and was logged off. The land went back to the state, which was sold as a whole parcel with no mention of a cemetery.
Woods said he presented the discovery to the Pinora Township Board.
“It took a while to square things away, and get the location recognized as a burial ground. Four-wheelers ran over the unmarked graves and the state was hesitant about recognizing the cemetery. They were in the process of a timber sale. Finally, the state agreed to block the cemetery off to traffic by putting up guard rails.
“The township hired a company to go over the hill top with ground penetrating radar, which indicated there were more than a dozen burials, and we put up small blue flags to mark each grave. The township paid for a stone which names all 16 possible burials.”
Woods said local historians researched possible burials in the cemetery by compiling a list of those who died in the time span of when the cemetery was in operation and lived in or near section 30. The list of names were then verified with burials in other cemeteries in Chase, Yates, Cherry Valley and Pinora townships by looking in old cemetery records. The number of burials not accounted for in other cemeteries matched up with the number of graves found in the Gould Cemetery.
Some of the names found in the research were Native Americans who lived west of Chase, and were thought to be a few graves off in the woods near the other graves on the hill. The township contacted the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, who conducted a blessing over the cemetery during a dedication two years ago. Descendants of the Gould family also participated in the dedication.
Reed City resident Wava Woods, who was present at the cemetery tour, said she remembered being at the dedication.
“The thing that impressed me the most is when the tribe conducted a pipe ceremony and gave a blessing over the site in all four directions, to the north, south, east and west,” she said. “They invited the public to join in the pipe ceremony. It reminded me of the way we do communion. There were about 100 people gathered there that day, but during the ceremony everything was so still.”
Woods said the township receives inquiries from a few people who ask if they could buy lots in the Gould Cemetery, but the township is just keeping it as a historical site.