Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cliff Cemetery

It's time for the other post I promised when writing "Halfway to 118."  Some of you probably thought it was a little strange that we were traipsing through an old cemetery on Steve's birthday.  Maybe so, but we considered it an interesting adventure.  If you ask Steve, he'll tell you it was one of the highlights of his day.  He's really turning into quite the history buff!

One of the many copper mines in this area was the Cliff Mine located between Mohawk and Phoenix.  The Cliff Mine became the first successful mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula after a huge boulder of pure copper was discovered there in 1845.  The community that developed around the mine was sometimes known as Clifton.  What little is left of the old Cliff Mine and town site is accessible from Cliff Drive, a seasonal road that runs about parallel to Hwy. 41.  Unless you know what you're looking for, you could easily drive by the entire area and never realize that something used to be there.  This mining village once had two cemeteries.  There was a Protestant cemetery off Cliff Drive and a Catholic cemetery now accessible off Hwy. 41.  Many of the mine workers were Irish Catholics who had fled Ireland's poverty and poor mining conditions.    

Whenever we drive from Mohawk to Phoenix, we pass this sign along the road.
                                                                                                                                                      
We pulled over on Steve's birthday and looked at the trail opening in the trees.

We had never explored this trail in the past, but Steve said this was the day.  No bugs or mosquitoes yet, so it seemed like a good day to me, too.  We locked up the Traverse and headed down the narrow path.  The village no longer exists, so the small cemetery hasn't been used in many years and has been almost completely swallowed up by the forest.  Many of the grave markers are long gone, but some stone and metal markers can be seen.  Among scattered markers that are broken or illegible, we found some we could read.  It always tugs at your heart when you walk through old cemeteries and see how many children and young mothers died.  We are truly blessed to be alive at this time in history when medical science has helped to greatly increase our life expectancies.

The terrain in this old graveyard is challenging.  It's not like walking on the well-manicured lawns of a modern cemetery.  The winding, narrow path through the trees requires careful, deliberate footsteps and an occasional climb over a fallen tree or duck under low-hanging branches. 


One of the first markers I happened upon was the broken stone of Margaret Wagner who died at age 33 in 1871.

We noticed some broken stones that seemed to have been carefully placed in a horizontal position or propped against a tree.



Several of the broken stones had been lovingly pieced back together.


Steve found the old metal markers to be especially fascinating.


Some thoughtful descendent had probably draped this artificial ivy on this grave marker.

Two areas were surrounded with metal fencing.  This one was large enough to contain various members of one family.

This fence looked large enough to outline just one grave.  Maria's descendents had also marked the site with a list of her descendents.  It shows they placed a value on Maria's life and memory and wanted others to know that she hadn't been forgotten.   

We also noticed the remnants of an old wooden fence that no longer marks a specific area of the cemetery.

Peter Kremer/Kremmer buried both his daughter and his wife and marked their passing with these very pretty stones.


Joseph Schick's family made this effort to remark his grave in more recent days.  We wondered whether he had a marker back in 1884 or had it disappeared?

I read a story on the internet of an elderly woman who was a resident of a local adult foster care home.  She has now passed away, but Joseph Schick was her grandfather.  She would take a yearly trip to this cemetery.  She said she and her father had planted this flowering ground cover on her grandfather's grave many years ago.  This ground cover has now overtaken almost the entire cemetery and is actually one of the prettiest things about it.


We're not sure where the borders of the cemetery are located, but we saw this old stone foundation near the back of the area where you can readily walk.


In the research I did one evening on the internet, I didn't find any definitive answer as to what the stones are from.

It was almost time for Steve's birthday dinner, so we made our way back down the narrow trail toward the road.

One last look back and I noticed this tree in the background with an unusual number and configuration of branches.

We thoroughly enjoyed our little excursion into the forest to explore Cliff Cemetery.

All is well in the Keweenaw.

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