This group which is one of several over many years probably has under a dozen active members and the rest, perhaps a couple hundred, are readers of a two to
three sheet monthly news letter. (If they provide me with an accurate figure I wll gladly update this here.)
The active members of that group and the Warren Historical Commission maintain a historical gallery and show cases at the Warren Community Center on Arden and have done a good job of this. In the past they have held a few informational meetings and done a few good things. (If they will send me a list I will include it here.) Recently though the officers in 2011 made a big mistake. See below.
Past members of this group include Pat Hallman a Washington Michigan historian and historical activist who did much good work and was largely responsible for rescuing the Bunert One Room School. Judge Don Binkowski as president and others rescued two log cabins and got them placed in a historic park along with our old train station. Those were later accidentally burned by homeless trying to stay warm in the winter.
Warren historical societies have been around off and on for decades as evidenced by occasional mentions in local papers. But they did not record their own histories.
Past historians were Gerald Neil, Harold Stilwell, Pat Hallman, Mike Grobbel, Jack Schram, Tom Turmel, Anna Kluck, Dorothy Cummings, Bert Hazen, the Allens and a few others. (Let me know who I have missed so I can add them.) The most active single person who has recorded the most Warren history appears to be Wesley Arnold a historical researcher who has probably done more historical research on Warren than anyone else in Warren or even Macomb County. He is also a college professor and has written about 43 books, twenty on Warren area history. Those books are published and available free so that future generations may have access to our local history. He was one of the most active members and a life member. He volunteered a lot. He gave them copies of hundreds of pictures and copied hundreds of pictures for them and gave them CDs of those. He was also the Warren Historical Society photo-historian for several years. Wes stated he was no one important rather he was only a humble historian preserving our local history for future generations so it will not be lost. He insists that everything he records be as accurate as possible and has stated that if anyone discovers an error in his work, upon proof, he will gladly correct it. He also declares that the truth must be told in recording history. The ladies in the historical society objected to him reporting that the Japanese had mistreated and tortured prisoners of war and tortured, raped and mistreated thousands of innocent persons. Another issue because he had personally witnessed some recent history and reported on it they took issue with that also. They therefore stopped selling his history CDs which they had made money from. They appeared to want him to make history soft and fluffy and more of an entertainment item. His idea was rather to research, record and write accurate truthful history and to help preserve our American Heritage, freedom and way of life that thousands of fellow soldiers fought and died for. He stated that now as an old man preserving our way of life and freedom is the purpose of his life.
One repeating historical problem is that people fail to record the local history. The result is it becomes unknown. Example when was the first Warren historical society. Answer we don't know they did not bother to record it. There have been several Warren Historical Societies thru the years not just one. It appears they were mainly social clubs because we don't see any histories they did. It is the same with Warren Historical and Genealogical Society. They have finally produced a couple of booklets and a very small limited book at last. Wonderful. But this group has failed miserably to record Warren's history. Ask them about the history of their own group and especially look at the failure of the several Warren Historical Societies to preserve the histories related to Warren Union Cemetery. The two churches involved were even worse in their negligence. This is inexcusable. So the old humble historian has to tried to do what they should have done but now much of the records and knowledge has been lost.
One of the old Warren Historical Societies held fund raisers and got volunteers to maintain Warren Union Cemetery when the Methodist Church decided to abandon it in the 1960s. It is nice that they cared about the weeds but what about talking to the old families so we could have known who was buried there. It sponsored a clean up fix up on Aug 12, 1978. No it was not the first, that was a hundred years earlier. Cleanups-fixups were held yearly in May starting in 1979. The Warren Historical Society because of its work was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from Keep Michigan Beautiful in 1988.
A girl scout troop from the May V Peck school help (leader Suzanne Thebert help with clean-up on May 22, 1980. May V Peck was the last burial in the west end. Was in 1980. On June 8, 1982 a “Walk thru the Past” tour and picnic was begun. Dorothy wrote her cemetery story. In 1986 200 letters were sent to surviving residents and current residents requesting contributions. And $3200 was raised. Warren Historical Society voted to contribute all of the profits from their annual Homecoming raffle to the Cemetery fund. In 1986 the raffle made a profit of $1264.
With this the Warren Historical Society in 1986 installed a six foot chain fence around the west, north and east sides, a total of 748 feet. Cost of $2,557,00. Also the front fence was repaired from car crash. Cost $975. Stones repaired in west end $382. Another repair to front fence from another car crash. $208. Monthly summer mowings were begun. Through action of the Warren Historical Society the city was convinced that street lights would help deter vandalism. In summer of 1986 5 new street lights were installed on North side of Chicago Rd in front of Warren Union Cemetery. 1987 clean up at east end as Denise Bourjaily the mower had so well cared for West end.. Chris singletree again hired to repair some broken stones June 27, 1987. Society paid half St Paul paid other. Total bill $260. Homecoming raffle of 1987earned $845. and was donated to cemetery fund.
Dorothy Cummings and Pat Hallman conducted Cemetery Walk Sept 13, 1987. 50 people attended. Souvenir map printed on parchment paper designed by D Cummings and Jerry Schmeisser from Planning Commission. Following death of Harold Stilwell Warren Historical Society voted to install a new sign in h is honor. New sign commissioned $200. Installation free donation from Roger VanderVlucht who owns old Murthum house. In 1987 a young oak tree was donated by Maria Osterloh and planted in the west side of the cemetery by Maria and Dorothy Cummings. In 1987 a young flowering crab tree was donated by Dorothea Peterjohn and planted in the west side by Maria and Dorothy. Dorothy Cummings had a sign painted and tagged the old spruce tree as an Indian Marker Tree. At Christmas time Dorothy put a red ribbon and bow on it. 1987 Mowings total $450.
1988 Dorothy Comings working with St Paul to create an endowment fund for the continuing care of the entire Warren Union Cemetery. Locks installed on all 3 gates for winter 87-88. Since no evidence of vandalism with new street lights was not repeated in future years.
Aug 24, 1988 received Distinguished Service Plaque from keep Michigan Beautiful for the beautification efforts in the cemetery.
1989 the St Paul's Cemetery Trust Fund papers were signed. Trustees: Merle Loch, Marilyn Dopp, & Dorothy Cummings. 1990 Nov 11 New flag pole and flag installed complements of “Woodsmen of America. Work done by Andy Plischenko and June Cox. 1991 May 5 Denise Bourjaily began mowing the entire cemetery. Ray Stilwell had the cemetery sign painted.
1992 Sept 19 Dedication ceremony for Michigan Historic Marker. Representatives from Warren Historic Commission presented the marker. Mayor Bonkowski was present to accept and ministers from both St Paul and Methodist church were present. Approx 100 people attended. However it was later discovered that little research was done on the facts for the marker and some of it was wrong. 1993 June 5 “Matts Lawn Care” took over mowing of cemetery. 1994 July Matt sold business to “Showcase lawn Service” owner Joe Machiniak.
1993 April 28 A time capsule closing ceremony was held at 2 PM to celebrate the Centennial of the Village of Warren. 1994 April The Grobbel group, 4H Garden Club started the Butterfly Garden in the cemetery. They laid out the “flagstone” cement walk; installed a wooden bench; dug up ground and planted some flowers.
1996 October a Joint work from Warren Historical Society and Warren Garden Club cleaned up and replanted the Butterfly garden. This work has been repeated most years since.
Beginning in 1998 Tom Turmel of Warren donated and installed as of 2012 over 30 trees and hundreds of shrubs. Before this time most of the cemetery was only grass with only the few big trees and the new Oak and Crab apple tree. As of 2012 one can see that he has transformed the cemetery into a place of beauty. He has done all of this without pay. Fourteen years later a stone plaque was presented to him and was going to be placed in the flower garden at Warren Union Cemetery but will end up in Tom's personal garden for fear of the Warren Historical Society stealing it. See below.
2003 April “Showcase Lawn Service” sold business to “GDM Lawn care” owner June Mead.
In 2010 a Memorial to all veterans and those who died on attacks on our country was donated anonymously by families. It urged our young people to be Vigilant and be prepared. We think it filled a need because people forget and many youngsters were too young to remember the events or not born yet. And young people need to know that our country can be and has been attacked more than once. Also we should honor all veterans and those who died in the attacks on our country. Not just people who served in the military. We lost over 400 policemen and firemen on 9-11. Shouldn't there be a rememberance of this for future generations. Well one was donated without cost to the city and there was lots of room for it in this old cemetery. And it was there a long time not hurting anything, doing no harm. And it was doing its job of educating visitors. I saw many parents being children to that spot while I was doing research. Unfortunatly the village veterans memorial did not do this job, did not mention all veterans or those who died in attacks on our country and only honored those interred here. Us veterans and those who knew firemen or relatives who died at Pearl Harbor or on 9-11 feel the newer memorial was nice but a little shortsighted. Those folks who placed the new one ripped out the old one even though it was in a different place, and that upsets us veterans. What a shameful act.
In 2011 the Village Commission had extra money in its city account and since it was use it or lose it decided it was going to donate a memorial to veterans interred in the cemetery. It was placed in the cemetery with great fanfare, The dedication was June 15, 2011. Old time military band (5th Michigan Regiment Band) playing, mayor speaking and the Warren Police Honor guard. A tent was set up for shelter. Lots of guests and publicity.
This brought a lot of attention to this old cemetery. Perhaps partly as a result some persons donated four memorials to our soldiers and a Children's memorial. The majority of descendants of the early Warren families live out of town and in other states. The families who donated these memorials were probably from out of town and they made the donations anonymously. My guess was this was done to put the emphasis on the message and on the memorials rather than on who donated it. It may be noted that they consulted historian Wesley Arnold's big website for the names of the soldiers buried there and other information because that is the only source available and he probably had given them his web site card when they visited the cemetery. They also quoted him on two stones. Another factor was that the historian had spent many hours in that cemetery doing research taking measurements etc. During the time he was there he stated that several people visited and he gave them a tour and his website card. He also stated he had often suggested that a memorial was needed naming our soldiers and he would like to see an unknown soldier memorial and that there were hundreds of children buried there without markers. He tells of one woman visitor who did not live in Warren who may have recently lost a relative who was very interested in the idea of these memorials. It is not polite to ask women for their name and addresses at first meeting so no notation of hers was made.
Now the officers of this group appear to be good people and have done many good things. However they made a big mistake. Perhaps they got carried away in their desire to control all things historical. Perhaps it was jealousy. It was rumored that they were very upset that the historian's name was quoted on two of the stones and that their permission was not obtained to place them in the cemetery. (However they did not own the cemetery. and there was no policy regarding placing of stones as families had always just placed their own stones.) An insider in the group reported that they were very upset about these memorials that they could not take credit for. Perhaps they just wanted to take credit for all major things historical or whatever but here is the story of their big mistake. It appears the three got themselves all worked up over this and got two men to steal/remove the stones from the cemetery.
On about July 14 five memorials were stolen from the cemetery. That evening the theft was discovered by historian Wesley Arnold and Tom Turmel and the police were called. The police refused to come as we could not give them an address for the cemetery as it has no address. Besides the 911 operator probably thought it was a prank call. Who reports stones stolen from a cemetery? So a police report was made late that night. The next morning Wesley was awakened by the Macomb Daily reporter wanting facts on the theft. It was amazing how the reporter could even know about this. It seems they check police reports in search of news to put in the paper. He requested he meet the historian at the cemetery and show him where the 5 stolen stones had been. During this time News 4 showed up with Bora Kim. It was pointed out that $4,000 worth of new beautiful granite markers had been stolen but we could not come up with any reason as nobody steals memorials from a cemetery. The expensive granite stones could be resurfaced and sold was the only explanation that seemed logical. Later WWJ news radio also called the historian and he could only tell them what I knew. Well soon it was on the Radio. Later that afternoon WWJ news Radio called and told him that a woman (Sue Keffer) had called and confessed to having the stones removed. And they wanted his reaction. It was one of shock. Then the historian called the Warren police to verify this and was transferred to Lt Beck who confirmed that Sue Keffer had called them and told them Warren Historical Society had the stones removed and that they knew where they were. The Warren police not knowing what to do just treated this incident as a dispute among historical society members, so no police action was taken. Sue Keffer later admitted at the Warren Historical Commission meeting that she was the one who had called.
According to the Warren Police, WWJ, and Macomb Daily officers of the Warren Historical Society were behind the stealing of at least 5 expensive memorials from Warren Union Cemetery. They do not own the cemetery or the markers, They did this secretly without just cause, without a public hearing, without notification to the membership or vote, or vote of Village Commission, or notification of City Council or even property owners. They robbed Warren's unknown soldier memorial from a grave and they stole a memorial that listed Warren soldiers who are buried there. This was the only memorial showing the names of these soldiers. Nothing was found wrong with these memorials in a meeting held afterward. And they stole the memorial to all veterans and to those who died on attacks on our country and 9-11 (including over 400 policemen and firemen) and they stole another that honors our flag and yet another that honors those many children and pioneers buried there without markers.
These memorials were causing no harm. There is lots of room for them. They posed no threat. There is nothing disrespectful or wrong about these memorials. They were there to honor men who died and to educate visitors especially young people who no longer learn about history in school. This grave robbing gang actually has a written plan to steal more markers they do not like without notice and several more markers are now gone including an expensive family's epitaph robbed from a grave.
It appears that the persons who did this are now so ashamed of their actions they are now trying to blame others. This was not an action by the historical society rather just two persons. The membership or public had not been informed and The Village Commission did not vote on this.
Taking property that is not yours is called stealing and when it is worth several thousand dollars it is grand larceny. It has been over a year and they have not returned or replaced them.
Disrespecting our soldiers who were killed or put their lives on the line for our freedom is wrong. Stealing memorials that name our soldiers is worse than disgraceful. They are robbing our history left for our young people who no longer are taught history in school. No one should be allowed to steal memorials they don't own out of a cemetery they don't own. We veterans feel that they have disrespected our soldiers, our flag and those who died on attacks to our country. These memorials were donated without cost to the city possibility by out of town descendents of those buried there.
Here is a brief description of five of the memorials ripped out. First Warren's Unknown Soldier Memorial. The
Detroit Society for Genealogical Research had done a detailed recording of Warren Union Cemetery in 1938 which
indicated that there was a soldiers grave marked by a flag in the area where this stone was placed. This historian has
been telling people about this for some time. He was probably one of our many several Civil War soldiers whose burial
records have been lost. Many of us feel that this soldier should not be forgotten to future generations. The records with
soldiers names were destroyed we are told in a flood that destroyed the records in the church basement many years
ago. What does it hurt to honor this soldier who died especially by a nice stone that was donated by a family honoring
this soldier without cost to our city.
Also a memorial based on research by several historians listed Warren area
boys, most of which are buried in this cemetery. Also note this was not a list of buried soldiers, rather a partial list of
Warren boys who risked their lives or gave their lives for our freedom. This was the only memorial showing the names of
these soldiers many of which have no marker anywhere else. Don't they at least deserve to have their name on a
granite memorial in their home town. Why do we describe them as boys. Well just look at the ages when they were
killed. Many were still in their teens when they gave their lives securing our freedom. Many have no marker anywhere
The memorial to all veterans honored all veterans and those who died in attacks on our country.(unlike the Village monument which came months later and honors only those who are interred there.) The gang probably felt that the first memorial to all veterans was in competition with their new memorial and they wanted an excuse to get rid of it. But the memorials were quite a ways away from each other so there was no reason why the first one should be removed. It served a good purpose. It pointed out something that our young people are not taught in school. Most young people can't tell you about Pearl Harbor or WWII or even why or who we fought and many are unaware of events of 9- 11 and that over 400 policemen and firemen were killed there. It gives a message to our young people to be vigilant and be prepared. Another memorial the gang stole told what ideals our flag stood for which many of our Warren boys gave their lives for. It stated "Our flag stands for liberty justice free speech - press maintain our freedoms..." Many of our brothers and parents died for those ideals but now-days many young people have no idea of what our flag stands for. We veterans feel that these memorials filled a need in Warren.
The Warren Historical Society itself has done very little actual research. And not being negative just stating facts, the current officers have actually ignored research by several researchers in regard to Warren Union Cemetery and who is buried there. One could say that it is more of a social club.
The bigger Children's memorial honors the hundreds (according to research) of children and pioneers buried here without a marker. Many of these children suffered terrible deaths. The statement of hundreds is no idle claim but based on research. The officers of the historical society chose not to even look at the research but instead just to put the stone where it will be trashed. It appears that Warren Union Cemetery is a pioneer cemetery with hundreds of children. Many many stillborn, young baby and child deaths were not even recorded and not marked with an engraved stone. The county death records which show 50% of the registered deaths in Warren were those of children prior to WWI only represent a small percentage of actual child deaths. In a research study of the 150 stones indicating a child only a dozen were actually registered with the county. Also most families did not want a stone to remind them of a baby death. There was a stigma about stillborn and day old baby deaths. So families mostly just buried the child quickly and privately. Remember the body did not go to a funeral home. The family home was the funeral home. Most people did not want a marker to remember the sickly and often unnamed baby or to blame the mother who was already guilt and grief stricken. There were no local stone cutters and families did not have money for a child stone. In many cases the baby had no name. A look at county death records verifies this. Even today stillborns' graves are virtually not marked. The sister cemetery in Center Line had good records and shows that for a thousand adult deaths there would be 1,500 child burials because the burial rate was 1.5 for each adult before WWI. Just looking at the remaining grave stones shows there are around 1000 persons buried at Warren Union Cemetery. That would mean 1,500 children without markers. It appears that only about 10 percent of baby and child deaths were actually registered before WWI. The mortality rate for children was very high approx 200 per 1000 per annum and many died of conditions we easily treat today. In those pioneer days large families were the norm and many families had several baby deaths. Diseases like Scarlet fever often killed several children in the same family. One can barely walk around in that cemetery without walking on children's graves as they were buried on top of adult family burials and in the back of the cemetery. Also there are many adult unmarked graves because the early pioneers piled up a few little stones and felt they did not need a fancy marker. Many felt that the resurrection was coming soon as it states in the Bible and that there would be no need for a marker. Most of the early families did not place engraved markers. And they often not only did not have the money for one but there were no local stone mason in the area. There were no local monument companies or funeral homes. Just consider even the first families between 18 to 100 families who purchased lots here have very few markers. Most of those that are there were most likely placed much later by descendants. The Lots were 10x30 providing 20-40 potential burials as babies were allowed above an adult. Shrouds and narrow coffins were common. So there are a few hundred unmarked graves right there. Consider that the cemetery which has 2,600 graves within the current fenced area, (after subtracting ground for aisles and ways) was filled up before WWII as witnessed by families who had to buy plots in other cemeteries farther away. Also many stillborns, pauper burials and even some non residents were buried there without markers especially in the back which was unfenced. (and since has been eroded) Many famous village residents like the Beebes were buried there without markers. Some people with acute psychic senses have told me that they can feel that there are many children there. There was often much suffering and crying involved in a child's dying. And there is other evidence also. But the above research is verifiable. That means at the least hundreds of unmarked graves. Many of us feel these children and pioneers at least deserve to be acknowledged and honored with a small memorial. While I was doing research there over many months, This was mentioned to many visitors.
It has been over a year and they have made no effort to replace them. These memorials were donated without cost to the city possibility by out of town descendents of those buried there. We are asking that these memorials be replaced. It is the right thing to do.
In 2012 it was discovered that additional memorials had been stolen including a nice memorial Epitaph robbed from a family's grave and others. This has got to be stopped. We are hoping that these folks will realize their mistake and return all of the memorials to where they belong in our cemetery. If they don't our only recourse is to take legal action. But there are a lot of us veterans against a gang of 5. We know that public opinion is on our side as are hundreds of veterans.
I wish the story had stopped here but it gets worse.
In fact they have now ordained that they have the right to rip out any memorial they do not like without notice. No public hearing. No vote of the membership. No consultation with the mayor or City Council.
And they are now also demanding markers have a 42 inch foundation with a requirement of 5-6% aid entrainment using entraining equipment for the concrete foundations for all markers even for a thin flat marker. (bring up the cost greatly to families and may mean bringing in somewhat heavy equipment into the cemetery. This is bad considering the soft nature of the ground.) And this means that the contractor will in some cases be digging into the actual remains of the person buried. Remember this is not a new commercial cemetery this is a pioneer cemetery with lots of babies buried on top of adults and some folks in relatively shallow graves. And their new rules put limits on the days loved ones can leave flowers even forbid families to leave a rose or flower at a grave without a container. There is no problem with flowers now why all of a sudden does this need to be regulated.
And who are they to dictate to loved ones when they can leave a flower at a grave. And why the push for everything to be in containers. That will only cause pieces of plastic, glass and metal to be spread by the mowers which will be unsightly and potentially dangerous to visitors. I know as I am a caretaker there.
And they have outlawed persons leaving a rose on a gravestone of a loved one. Who are they to dictate against this expression of love by a loved one? And the rose eventually falls to the ground and returns to the earth naturally without causing a problem. The problem is this excessive and unnecessary power grabbing regulation. If my dad gave his life for my country how dare they dictate to me that I can't put a rose on his memorial or at least on the spot where it was because they robbed the memorial from the grave.
And they state they will remove it without notice. So if a family lays a rose on a soldiers grave which is now missing the marker this group has ripped out this "hysterical" society may steal the flower also. This is absolutely absurd and unnecessary. This is not their own private cemetery. We veterans have earned freedom to visit it and at least leave a flower there to our loved ones who died securing that freedom.
This power grabbing and excessive regulation for an old, and nearly full cemetery is unnecessary. This is the same group who may have lost valuable records and even got the facts on the historic plaque wrong.
This so sad that they have become so imbued with their own importance and power that they now want to have over families who wish to place memorials. Remember in 167 years we have never had a memorial that was so bad it had to be removed. We have no need for self appointed grave dictators. Families in Warren should not have to worry that expensive memorials they put on graves of loved ones may be removed and disposed of by these vigilantes without notice. They have already done this with 6 and maybe more expensive memorials.
And for historians and caretakers who desire to place a name brick naming the person in the grave (whose name has become unreadable or where there is no gravestone) having to excavate a 42 inch deep pit for a foundation for a simple 2 inch brick is not only absurd but risks actually digging into remains of babies or even adults not deeply buried. This is a pioneer cemetery not a new commercial cemetery and there are many shallow graves and babies buried on top of adults. Arrangements of this nature should be left up to the family and undertaker not a gang of 5 looking to control everything historical acting in secret without public notice.
Well it may be that some families whose memorials were ripped out and at least the veterans will be taking this gang of 5 to court. We know that public opinion is on the side of the families and veterans. And many judges are veterans or their parents were. At this time it is unknown how this disgraceful episode in Warren's history will be resolved.