HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — A group of adventurous souls are unearthing centuries of history at a long forgotten cemetery just off Barry Street after a series of coincidences brought them together.
Take a slightly muddy, mostly overgrown path just off Barry Street about 50 feet into the woods and you will find yourself surrounded by the tombstones of times past. Shackhuddle Cemetery sits on a plot of land situated between homes, once a section of farmland owned by Abijah Edson.
Edson was granted the plot of land in the 1850's by the United States government for his service in the War of 1812.
Two of the people now spearheading the effort to re-discover and preserve the cemetery, Cherie Fuss and Steve Latchaw, were brought together after Latchaw discovered a land deed bearing Abijah Edson's name hanging in the history room of the Gary Byker Memorial Library of Hudsonville.
“It was land that was given to Abijah Edson,” explained library director Melissa Huisman as she showed our FOX 17 crew the framed document.
“He was a volunteer for the War of 1812, and as gratitude he was granted some land here in Hudsonville, and so that's what this document just states.”
Latchaw started researching Edson via any documents he could find. Eventually his search lead him to contacting the Jenison Historical Society.
"Steve had contacted them about looking for information for Shackhuddle Cemetery, and so they gave me his number and I contacted Steve, and then we've been working together," explained Cherie Fuss.
Fuss was brought to the property by her mother about 6 years ago, as many of her own family members are buried on the property.
"In fact, almost all of them that are in there, I can connect to my family,” she said Monday.
“And so, I wanted to find the grave of my 3X great grandmother Polly McCoy.”
They began the delicate process of documenting what remained in the cemetery together, going off whatever scarce records they could dig up.
Last week Fuss found the tombstone belonging to her great grandmother, locating the spot by looking at a picture of the stone that had appeared in a 1986 newspaper article.
From there, the group has worked to locate and begin uncovering the rest of the tombstones.
“We don't want to move any at this point, or use any chemicals on them. We’re just using water to try and read them,” Fuss explained.
“We want to move the brush, the logs out of here. There could be stones under here... we don't know."
Some of the stones have had pieces visible above the ground, while others have been found only by carefully poking the soft ground.
“The condition is so poor that we can't even tell if the stones were in their original place," Latchaw said towards the end of the visit.
"I'm going to map every single stone, so we know where it is right now. So, we have a beginning point and soon, I hope we have an endpoint.”