CEM1450_134152888803The Redford Cemetery as photographed in 2012 by a FindAGrave member

Redford Cemetery

Other names: Bell Branch Cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery 
Founded: 1831
Michigan State Historic Site: June 13, 1986 (receiving its marker in 1988) 

In 1831 Israel Bell, a Pekin Village commissioner, gave one acre of land to the village for a cemetery. Originally called Bell Branch Cemetery, after the river and the settlement founded by Bell in 1818, its name was changed to Redford Cemetery after Pekin’s modern name; Redford Township. Additional acreage obtained in 1849, 1854 and 1883 expanded the cemetery to 10 acres of which half is in Redford Township and half is in Detroit. A wrought iron fence was built for the cemetery in 1886 with money contributed by Redford Township citizens. Among those buried here are Israel Bell and many war veterans, including two from the Revolutionary War (Ephraim Dains Sr. and Darius Smead), and many from the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War I.

In 1939, Clarence and Marjoria Beavis made a list of every burial at the Redford Cemetery. Marjoria was the granddaughter of Redford’s 5th settler, George Norris, who arrived in 1828.  The lists recorded by the Beavises were eventually compiled into a book that is available for purchase through the Redford Historical Commission or the Redford Cemetery Association. 

cemetery norris1978 Redford Observer Photo of George Norris's Tombstone

According to Lois Carpenter, a past Historical Commission board member, “If you’re interested in very early Redford History, walk through the cemetery, read the names – Bell, Blue, Green, Hendry, Lyon, Perrin, Pierce, Prindle, Smith, Wilmarth – and you’ve got the beginning.” 

The State Historic Marker was finally achieved after years of research and documentation by the Redford Cemetery Association, including Helen Gallagher, Olive Hopp Swanson, Lois Harrison and many others. Gallagher stated previously, in a 1992 Redford Observer article, that five generations of her family are buried in the Redford Cemetery.

Gallagher’s mother, Olive Hopp Swanson, is credited with the idea of pursuing a Historical Marker for the Cemetery. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1986 before she could see that dream realized. Swanson is buried in the cemetery along with Gallagher’s grandfathers, David Chavey and Henry Hopp I. 

11043818_134711366701A beautiful memorial of Mrs. Swanson’s headstone, photo taken in 2012

Many of the burials of Redford’s pioneer families belong to farmers, many of whom never made it to the age of 50. During the days of the pioneers, Europeans came to the area to purchase cheap farmland. This explains the diverse genealogy of Redford’s ancestors, which includes: French, German, Polish, Irish, English, Swedish, along with many others.   

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Since 1933, the historical 5-acre parcel (Redford’s portion) of Redford Cemetery is maintained by the nonprofit Redford Cemetery Association. Today, there are about 2,000 graves in the cemetery and only the decedents of Redford’s pioneer families are able to be buried there. According to a trustee of the Redford Cemetery Association, some of the older tombstones have been purposely buried or covered in order to protect and preserve them. 

117775830_138039971846Photo taken in 2013, “Redford’s First Teacher”

In 1999, one of the tombstones went missing for approximately a week, ending up in someone’s front yard in Waterford. Ironically, the yard had been decorated with fake tombstones for Halloween, so the owner didn’t even realize right away that a thief had added a real tombstone in with the decorations. The stolen tombstone belonged to a 9 year old boy by the name of Frankie Bryant, who was buried in the Redford Cemetery during the 1880’s. Thanks to the records compiled by the Beavises, the name on the tombstone was easily found under the Redford Cemetery list of burials. Once the tombstone was identified, it was then returned to its rightful place back at the Cemetery. 

11057476_134271787151The once stolen tombstone photographed in its proper place in 2012

In 2010, the Redford Cemetery received a notable mention as one of the 60 cemeteries featured in Boneyards: Detroit Underground by the Detroit writer, Richard Bak.  

cemetery grave 19yr oldThis photo taken in 1992, depicts the tombstone of a 19 year-old young
man by the name of Franklin H. Cromer.

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