Lost no more

PINORA TWP. — About a year ago Laane Hocquard and her family members learned the recently found “lost cemetery” in Lake County was named by her ancestors, Willard and Lois Gould.

“We had no idea at all,” said Hocquard, the Hersey Township clerk in Osceola County. “Eventually, we learned the family homesteaded here first and then moved over to Osceola County.”

After more than 125 years of being lost among the rolling hills of western Pinora Township due to clerical errors, dozens of township and county officials, community members and descendants gathered Friday, Aug. 19, to dedicate the Gould Cemetery and honor the presumed 16 early settlers who were buried there in the 1870s.

“It has taken about five years to get to this point,” explained Pinora Township Supervisor Vicki Dennett during the dedication ceremony. “It has taken some time to get here, but it was a process to make sure it was done right.”

Dennett explained when local history buff and township trustee Sid Woods located the cemetery in 2011, the township began working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and ITC (International Transmission Company), the electric company, to determine the correct way of marking the cemetery.

“The state had no record of a cemetery even being there, even though it’s on state land,” Dennett said.

Officials faced several challenges, Dennett said, as Woods was able to find the location, but ground-penetrating radar had to be used to find the presumed burial sites.

“The shallowest grave is only one-and-half feet deep,” she pointed out. “Throughout the whole process, there has been a lot of cooperation between the DNR and ITC. Whatever the DNR needed to clear the area, ITC paid for.

“The land will be going back to the state, as we hope to keep the area as natural as we can.”

During the ceremony, Woods said he first came upon the cemetery while looking at old papers on microfilm.

“It referenced the cemetery, and I went to the courthouse and found it. It specifically mentioned Willard and Lois Gould,” he said.

According to Woods, the area immediately west of the cemetery, where ITC poles are now erected, was the main road from Grand Rapids to Traverse City in the 1860s. According to Hocquard, the Gould family left Pinora Township and settled in Osceola County, with Willard later moving to Saskatchewan.

Researcher Shanna Avery, of Chase, began delving into the past to answer the question everyone wanted to know: Who was buried there?

“I started out looking through many land deeds and death records from the immediate area and comprised a list with over 100 names on it,” she said. “It was a lot of trial and error at first in finding out who is buried there.

“I looked for those who were in the closest vicinity of the cemetery and came up with 12 to 16 names of people who could be in the cemetery.”

As Avery’s research continued, she learned many of the families originally settled in the area around the cemetery because of booming lumber industry jobs, but left when work became scarce.

As she narrowed down her list of names, Avery said she found six of the gravesites belong to members of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI).

“I feel it was a deeply spiritual experience for me, and this day represents how much the community cares,” Avery said.

Members of the LRBOI were present during the dedication, and everyone was invited to take part in a pipe smoking ceremony led by Ron Wittenberg.

“Today is about two different communities coming together for a common cause,” he said, as he explained the meaning of the ceremony. “We offer a prayer for all of them, to the Creator and Mother Earth and every direction the wind blows. We are uniting our brother and sisters, and with this, we are together as one, sharing the pipe with each other.

“My brothers and sisters, they passed everything they had onto to us today. Many thanks for this day We cannot be sure what lives they lived, but we wish a good journey to them today.”

Hocquard, the great-great granddaughter of Williard and Lois Gould, couldn’t have been happier.

“It was so beautiful,” she said. “We really appreciate all the work of the township and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

“We really need to thank Pinora Township for the money they put into it, to have the work done to make this a reality.”