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Categorized | Post Scripts

Echoes of a bygone era

As I listen to the news about the coronavirus, I was reminded of a similar happening much closer to us in Cedar Springs. In 1884 a Diphtheria epidemic struck this community. The following is from a historical account written by Betty L. Heiss titled “Solon Township Out of the Wilderness” published in 1995.

“The Diphtheria epidemic occurred in1884 while William E. Davis was sexton. This dreaded disease was so infectious that when family members died, burials usually took place at night in unmarked graves. Those in need of the sexton’s assistance would come to the end of his driveway and ring the bell for William, who lived only one half mile from the cemetery. An excerpt taken from a family history written by his granddaughter Leona, relates what happened after her grandfather contacted that malady.

‘…so my grandmother sent the children to live in the barn until he recovered. She would take food to them part way and they would come the rest of the way to get it after she went back to the house. Fortunately, none of them got it, but when they returned to school they missed a lot of children. One family lost five children.’”

From 2004 until 2012 I had the privilege of serving as Solon Township Clerk. As part of my duties I was charged with keeping the records for the cemetery. During this time the Deputy Clerk and I spent many hours trying to put together accurate computer records of the cemetery. What we found out was there were many unmarked graves with the simple notation “baby” on an old oil skin map of the cemetery. I believe we counted nine.

On a second note I was driving through Cedar Springs recently and I couldn’t help but notice how empty it seemed. Hardly any cars and few people. While some people might think it reminds them of a ghost town, I thought of a bygone time. A time when I was growing up in the 50s. A Sunday when everyone went to church, had dinner with the family and no businesses were open.

Maybe God’s trying to tell us something and we’re so wrapped up in ourselves we forgot.

John W. Rideout                                                                                                                                      Solon Township

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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