JD Allinder

Highland Cemetery

In Posts on July 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Starkweather Chapel

The crown jewel of Ypsilanti is Highland Cemetery located at the corner of River Street and Clark Road. It is a gorgeous, 100-acre property filled with mature trees, rolling hills, and winding paths. Designed by James Lewis Glenn in the garden (or rural) style popular in the nineteenth century, Highland was dedicated on July 14, 1864. Highland is really the most beautiful and peaceful spot in the city, and its highest point offers panoramic views of the Huron River, the church spires and rooftops of downtown, and EMU’s campus beyond. The gravestones provide glimpses into Ypsilanti’s rich history, and I enjoy reading them, trying to connect the dots and paint pictures of people’s lives and their relationships to each other. Gravesites of note include Frederick Henry Pease, a professor of music at EMU and after whom Pease Auditorium is named; the Quirk family lot, patrons of the arts after whom EMU’s Quirk Theater is named; and Mary Ann and John Starkweather. After John’s death, Mary Ann was left with a small fortune. She donated her home at 130 N. Huron to the Ladies’ Library Association, contributed funds for the construction of Starkweather Hall at EMU (originally the Student’s Christian Association, now the Office of Graduate Studies), and funded the construction of Starkweather Chapel at Highland Cemetery, designed by Detroit architects George Mason and Zachariah Rice.

Highland Cemetery is hands-down my favorite walking spot in the city, and I’ve been visiting two to three times a week for over ten years. Jane enjoys Highland as much as I do, and we often take our lunch break walks there. It’s about a mile from our house in Depot Town, so the walk to and from offers a good warm-up and cool-down for both of us. The cemetery is home to an assortment of creatures including foxes (I once witnessed a mother fox nursing her pups), raccoons, groundhogs, deer, owls, hawks, opossums, and a variety of songbirds and insects.

The best part of Highland Cemetery is the 100 or so acres of undeveloped and unused land. The back of the property is bordered by a thick woods, and there’s a small opening between two small, tattered lion statues. This is the doorway to a secret world.

Footpath EntranceJust beyond this entry is an old Native American footpath – about half a mile long – that winds through the woods and down to the Huron River. There’s a flood plain before you reach the river, and this time of year it’s virtually impenetrable (though Jane and I plow through it getting muddy and scratched). Once you reach the river, you can follow deer paths south along the bank for about a mile. These paths are extremely difficult to navigate and are filled with overgrown brush and fallen trees. Jane and I stay off the deer paths during the summer – they’re more trouble than they’re worth – but will return again in the fall when we’ll work on carving out our route. (I’ve been working on clearing this path for a decade. So far, Mother Nature is winning.) As far as I know, I am the only person who uses these woods. I guess I kind of feel like they belong to me in a way, or that I have stewardship over them.

Hiking north in the woods is a little easier – they’re not as dense – but you’ll run into a lot of mud except in the dead of winter. Beyond the north woods are about 15 acres of meadow and wetlands. It was on the meadow that Jane treed a groundhog yesterday.

Treeing JaneI felt sorry for the little guy (the groundhog, not Jane). I didn’t even know they could climb trees. The grasses and wildflowers on much of the meadow are as tall as I am this time of year, but the family who manages and lives on the property keeps small trails carved out. I’m not sure why they do this. Is it just for Jane and me? (We are the only people who walk back there, and they always wave to us.) At any rate, I have the highest regard for the caretakers. They’ve always made my dogs and me feel like welcomed additions to the landscape.

Cemetery Jane

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  1. I don’t think I’ve ever been up there, John. I’m going to have to check it out!

  2. Great report. FYI: a baby fox is called a “kit”, rather than a “pup”.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Myrl. I’ve never heard of a kit before. I appreciate you expanding my vocabulary. Just an FYI – I did a quick search and found that a baby fox can be called either a kit, pup, or cub. Also the adult female is a vixen and the male a reynard, dog, dog fox, or tod.

  4. […] today. We were walking in the field behind Highland Cemetery, and I’m not sure why, but I instinctively knew it was time. I took off her leash. And she […]

  5. […] “grally” – a disused alley that’s returned to nature – and down to Highland Cemetery. Jane ran off-leash for thirty minutes or so, never straying too far, always keeping an ear out for […]

  6. […] walking – and spent a couple of hours running through the streets and parks. We ended up at Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti Township where the snow seemed especially deep. Jane ran and ran full force and I […]

  7. […] in a flash, and Jane and I took a glorious, full-speed march through the neighborhood and down to Highland Cemetery. It was really heavenly. For the first time in days I could breathe without discomfort. Jane had a […]

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