By David Fleet
Atlas Twp. — The number of unmarked burials in two township cemeteries is significant.
Last month, representatives from Marquette-based Trimedia Environmental & Engineering began the process of mapping the graves at the historic Atlas and Horton cemeteries.
In September, the township board of trustees, at a cost of $21,000 approved the company for the process to determine the location of unmarked graves and establish the known headstones that have deteriorated or are damaged. Trimedia will then create a web-based interactive map of known and unknown grave sites. That report will be available online in early 2023.
Ken Kaiser, Trimedia manager reported the number of potential unknown burials was high given other cemeteries they have surveyed during the past five years.
In the Atlas Cemetery there were 145 points detected with an estimated 90-100 unmarked graves. Similarly, the Horton Cemetery scanning found 137 points with 70-80 possible unmarked graves.
“The number of graves is much higher than other cemeteries we’ve worked in,” said Kaiser.
Both cemeteries are under the care of the township.
During Trimedia’s work using Ground Penetrating Radar many unmarked graves were found in the Atlas Cemetery, ranging from one-and-half feet to two feet below the surface. The radar produced a hyperbola on the screen, a void in the ground that indicates a grave.
Dawn Bastian from the Goodrich/Atlas Historical Society said the data collected from the scanning will ultimately bring some names to the unmarked graves.
“There’s much research to be done on the cemetery,” said Bastian. “It’s amazing how well the cemetery is set up, the graves are lined up.”
A list from 1932 by Rose VanTifflin inventoried the graves in order from north to south. The first was 1837 Sarah Davison (Manton) and the last Gertrude Hayde 1937.
“It’s difficult to determine who is buried in each grave,” she said. “Prior to about 1900 all the death records were kept in a ledger by the county. After that death certificates became more prevalent. Other records of death were just kept in the family bible or in homes.”