Possible graves discovered in Pinora Twp.

PINORA TWP. – Several possible grave sites were identified at a rediscovered cemetery in Pinora Township, according to a report released by Farrier Surveying, Inc., based in Kalkaska.

When Sid Woods, a Pinora Township trustee, stumbled upon records of the old cemetery's deed in 2011, the following investigation indicated the presence of two, maybe three bodies buried in section 30 of the township. It was suspected that these were family members of the land's previous owner, Willard Gould.

After a ground penetrating radar survey conducted on July 9 by Don Stocking, senior crew chief with Farrier Surveying, members of the Pinora Township Board of Trustees were presented with evidence of 10 to 14 possible grave sites located within the three-acre plot.

"I never dreamed I'd be doing forensic work," Stocking said as he pushed his GPR equipment across the sandy terrain at the top of a hill overlooking Section 30. "The GPR is a glorified fish finder, more or less. It runs off radio waves to shoot an image into the ground, reflects that image back up and puts it on a recorder. It doesn't really take pictures, it just tells you that there's something down there."

Stocking said he was contacted by Pinora Township Supervisor Victoria Dennett several months ago about the possibility of conducting a survey of the cemetery. As he worked, Stocking placed blue flags into the soft ground wherever his GPR equipment told him there was an anomaly in the soil.

In the end, what he had was a grid of flags indicating several grave sites at the top of the hill, some of which were in the direct path of weathered ATV and other off-road vehicle tracks.

Stocking said the rustic, wooded landscape of the three-acre plot could have caused him a lot more trouble during his survey. He found the majority of anomalies under the sandy terrain at the top of the hill, making it unnecessary to use his equipment at the far reaches of the plot, which ended among tall grass, bushes and trees.

"I've done a handful of cemeteries, but they've all been plotted and much more modern than this," Stocking said. "I'm pretty confident those anomalies are bodies and I'm betting they're buried in pine boxes based on the images. I'm impressed with the images I received. If it was a body in a blanket, it would be more distorted and it wouldn't give you a nice hyperbola."

Other parties involved in the cemetery project are satisfied with Stocking's findings for now, and have no immediate plans to confirm the number of bodies through excavation or other invasive measures.

The next step in this project is a simple memorial for the bodies they have documented, including Gould's daughter and a Pinora resident, said members of the Pinora Township Board of Trustees. Rather than dig up the graves, board members expressed a wish to section off the property so it can no longer be used as a recreational trail by off-road vehicles, which have caused significant damage to the site already.

Two descendants of the Gould family, Margaret and Donald Truax, traveled from their home in Illinois to observe the survey and fill some gaps in their family tree. The Truaxs are long-time history buffs who began searching back through their family lineage about 30 years ago as a fun activity to do with their children, Margaret said.

"I started when my kids were small," she said. "It's really fascinating. The Goulds were an interesting family. Willard was born in Canada in 1837 and came here in the 1860s. And then, when he was in his 50s, he took up and went to Oklahoma, so he was kind of a wandering guy."

The Truaxs were close to discovering the cemetery themselves about five years ago, when they visited Lake County and saw the deed to the Gould property in the courthouse. Being unfamiliar with the area, however, they went searching in the wrong section of Pinora Township and went home empty handed.

The couple was invited to a Pinora Township board meeting earlier this year to discuss Woods' discovery of the cemetery's deed and death certificates in 2011, and the hunt for family history was renewed. Now, the prospect of finding a piece of their family is exciting for them both, and they have pledged to donate a plaque or other marker to recognize the graves.

"Margaret and I, and Sid and his brother, came over to the site and Sid showed us where it is. He also took us to where he thought the homestead probably was up in the woods," Donald said. "I volunteered that, if we found a site, my family would mark the grave with an appropriate memorial. Maybe a sign that would describe what was there."

Members of the International Transmission Company, which has power lines running through the three-acre plot, and the Michigan DNR also have expressed an interest in working with the township to preserve and protect the site from future damage.