On Saturday afternoon, Oct. 8 the Saline Rotary presented a cemetery tour at Oakwood Cemetery as a part of Saline’s celebration of its sesquicentennial. Various local actors, many of them Rotarians, dressed in 19th century attire and impersonated various Salinians of the past.
The “ghosts” arose from 11 graves to tell the story of their lives. These included people of some fame, but mostly ordinary people who lived interesting and sometimes tragic lives in the area.
James Monroe Rosse (1830-1909) was an emissary for President Abraham Lincoln who sent him to Utah to help deal with the “Mormon Problem.” At that time, the Mormon’s had established a mostly independent state called Deseret and Lincoln wanted to make sure they would align with the Union, not the Confederacy.
Sidney Tripp (1836-1896) served several years as a soldier in the Civil War and later became known as the town drunk. He died after falling down a flight of stairs at a Saline saloon.
George Shaw (1843-1893) was a prominent farmer in York Township whose life ended after he lost control of his horses and he and his wife were dragged down Maple Road. The wife survived, but she ultimately had to give up the farm.
Fannie Friis (1881-1969) was listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the only female mill operator in the country. She was proprietor of Saline Mill for several decades.
Sarah Toliver (1839-1896) was born in Canada but came to Saline with James Toliver whom she married in Canada. James had escaped slavery with the help of the Underground Railroad and passed through Saline on his way to the Detroit River crossing. He liked Saline so much that he returned with his wife when it was safe.
Wealthy Kellogg (1828-1922) was the wife of Charles Pope. Her husband was committed to a Kalamazoo insane asylum in 1860. Her cousin was a clairvoyant doctor who claimed to be able to see inside his patients to diagnose their maladies. She was involved with the women’s suffrage movement.
The actors representing the various people of the past did an admirable job and the many visitors seemed to find the event both fun and enjoyable.
Girl Scouts served as guides for groups of 10-12 people who would visit one grave at a time. Jim Roth, a director in the Saline Area Historical Society, dressed as a soldier from the War of 1812. He along with Ginger Winter of the Rotary gave the opening talk to cemetery visitors.
Saline historian Bob Lane was also in costume, complete with a top hat. He talked to visitors about the stone crypt in the cemetery.
Even some visitors came in nineteenth century attire. Erik Grossman and his daughter Lauren showed up dressed in family heirlooms. Lauren’s dress was worn by her grandmother Ruth Hagen at Saline’s centennial. The program was offered by Saline Rotary Club.
On Sunday, October 9, another event took place at Oakwood Cemetery. Members of the Saline Area Historical Society dedicated a new plaque at the former site of city founder Orange Risdon’s house.
Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads served as the emcee for the presentation. Mayor Brian Marl talked about Orange Risdon’s life and contributions to Saline.
Jim Roth spoke about Risdon’s house and how they identified the exact spot that it had once stood. Historical Society President Doug Elfring spoke about the history of Oakwood cemetery.
When the speeches were done, the four men lifted a cloth, uncovering a new historical plaque mounted in front of the home site. The site is on a hill in the northwest corner of the cemetery, not far from Michigan Avenue and the Saline River.
Taking time to read the sign will provide an interesting history lesson to visitors for years to come.