Aug 2, 2006

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Butler family monument in
the Riverside Cemetery

Dutcher family monument in
the Douglas Cemetery

Marker on the corner of Butler and Water Streets
commerates the site of the first cemetery.


Starting in the 1830’s, many burials for the earliest settlers took place at a burial ground located just south of the present city hall. This was also the site of native American burials prior to the arrival of William G. Butler. On the other side of the river, Douglas early pioneers were laid to rest in a lot across Center Street from the present day Dutcher Lodge - Douglas city hall building. In the early 1860’s Saugatuck and Douglas established the current cemeteries - Riverside Cemetery near Holland Street and Clearbrook Drive and the Douglas Cemetery which lies along Wiley Road just southeast of Douglas.

In addition to these burying grounds, many graves existed on private property as evidenced by this proclamation in the 1869 Commercial Record…“the (township) Board of Health has ordered the removal of all graves now lying outside of cemetery lots and also those lying in the town alleys. Such graves will be moved by the authorities unless immediately removed by their relatives or friends.”  This edict no doubt enhanced the income of grave diggers and created emotional turmoil for the living.

The oldest recorded death date for the burials in the Riverside cemetery is the wife of William G. Butler, Mary W. Butler, who died in January of 1835 and is interred in the spaces of the Butler family deed, where the present day monument is located. She was no doubt moved from the old burying ground on the Butler Street “flats”. The first recorded burial in the Douglas Cemetery is Erastus B. Pratt who died in 1861 and is in Grave 4 of Jared Pratt’s Deed just South of Wiley Road and West of Dove street in the Cemetery. The oldest deed – which is a lot ownership record - was actually for the Douglas Cemetery, purchased for five dollars and twenty-five cents by Mrs. G. Mack on November 4th 1872. Riverside has a total of 3420 recorded interments, and Douglas has 1813.

The maintenance of both cemeteries and sexton records of all interments remain in the procession of the Saugatuck Township. These records give interesting clues as to family members, lives and deaths of residents and represent an extremely valuable collection of historical source material.
                                                                 by Jack Sheridan


We can be proud - both of our beautiful Cemeteries and historical records are professionally maintained and managed by the Saugatuck Township. The burial records have been digitized by the Township and in cooperation with (a cemetery transcription library) the records are easily searched by going to the web site Enter a surname and select the state of Michigan and - Shazam! - you are on your way to researching family history.

Click on view all to see the Remembering When ...  library

Click here to return to the Pictorial History home page

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