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Kaila Owczarzak, left, and Nicolette Sheller, Central High juniors and members of the National Honor Society, rake at the entrance to Pine Ridge Cemetery.

Students Help Ready Pine Ridge Cemetery for 150th Anniversary May 26

Central, All Saints National Honor Students Do Community Service Project

May 18, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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About two dozen Central High and All Saints High students spruced up Historic Pine Ridge Cemetery on Saturday.

Meanwhile, local historians are poring over old maps and news clippings to compile more of the history of the burial ground that marks 150 years since its founding by Judge James Birney in 1858.

A brief ceremony with entertainment by singing groups will be held at noon on Memorial Day, May 26, at Pine Ridge. All interested persons are invited to attend and public officials wishing to speak are welcome.

Note: An overflow parking area is being marked off just south of the cemetery proper along Tuscola Road and visitors are urged not to block the driveway of the cemetery.

And, besides two flowering crabapple trees planted at the cemetery entrance on Tuscola Road on Arbor Day by Mayor Charles Brunner and wife Judy Brunner, the cemetery will soon see a new entrance fence and flowers courtesy of the Rotary Club of Bay City.

Historian Marv Kuszmierz tells Central student Krystle Boks about the history of the George Seaman Cemetery adjoining Pine Ridge.
(MyBayCity Photo by Dave Rogers)

Working with Dick Somalski, of Bay Landscaping, the Bay City Garden Club and Bay City in Bloom, as well as the Columbus Avenue Management Board, the Friends of Historic Pine Ridge Cemetery are planning the improvements.

Discovery of old maps of George Seaman's Cemetery, adjoining Pine Ridge, have led historians Alan Flood and Marv Kuszmierz to locate an old road and cemetery plots. Neighbors and other volunteers have helped to clear part of a wooded area that has overgrown Seaman's Cemetery.

Pine Ridge Cemetery was established by Judge James Birney in 1858, the same year he shepherded legislation providing for formation of Bay County through the State Legislature.

The cemetery contains the communities oldest burials, those of the Cromwell Barney family, from the 1840s. Those graves were moved from the community's first burial ground at 11th and Washington.

After the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans group, located a monument at Soldier's Rest. This circular area contains about 170 graves of Civil War veterans and another 30 or so are scattered about the grounds.

After Judge Birney's death the cemetery ended up in the hands of his daughter, Mrs. William Blackwell, who sold it to real estate developer George W. Ames, a charter member of the Bay City Rotary Club. When Ames died in 1931 the five-acre plot went unclaimed and it has been without formal ownership in the intervening 78 years.

Several groups have assumed responsibility for maintenance of Pine Ridge over the years while awaiting a municipality or other government body to assume ownership. The grounds are currently in an uncertain status on the state tax rolls.

Recent availability of grant dollars for historic cemeteries and for community improvement projects have awakened interest in Pine Ridge, especially since it is located on the entrance route to the city. A M-15 Heritage Route improvement grant or National Parks Service Civil War cemetery grant may be sought for the cemetery.

Dozens of individuals and groups have donated funds to help maintain and restore the cemetery and the list of donors is on a sign at the entrance.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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