Riverside Cemetery used its first plot in 1836. Then known as Albion Cemetery, its first permanent resident was Harlow Green (1812-1837). He was a millwright – a machinist of sorts – who worked for Jesse Crowell, one of Albion’s pioneers.
The cemetery now houses hundreds of graves, each of which has a story to tell. Riverside is over a square mile, so walking through it takes some time, and it’s easy to pass over many of the overturned, broken or eroded names on the gravestones you pass. Many of these gravestones, however, have fascinating stories that stretch beyond Albion city limits.
One of the first markings you notice when entering is the Sheldon Mausoleum. It was built in 1895 for Mary Sheldon after her banker husband’s death. She was the youngest surviving daughter of Tenney Peabody, founding father of Albion.
Her first husband, James, was a controversial banker. He ruined several families by foreclosing on their homes. There is a ghost story which claims James’ voice can be heard within the mausoleum, still demanding rent from Mary’s second husband.
James Peabody (1829-1903) was the son of Albion’s first settlers and a success story of the gold rush, at the age of 21. His father, Tenney Peabody, came to Albion on Kalamazoo River in 1833. His wife Eleanor named the town of Albion after Jesse Crowell’s former hometown in New York.
The Munroe Mausoleum, was built by Dr. Stephen Munroe, who helped to develop the Duck Lake area. He and his brother James are buried.
James Deacon McGuire (1863-1936) was a professional baseball player for the major league for 26 years for the Washington Nationals and the Detroit Tigers.
Juliet Blakeley (1818-1921) was a pioneer and initiated the first celebration of Mother’s Day in 1877.
Violet Ilean Welburn DeLong (1899-1949), a professional Broadway and Hollywood dancer, was buried in the town she grew up in. She started her career at the age of 16 in New York City. Her tutor became her dance partner, together forming the LeQuame and DeLong duo. They were so popular that while on tour in Europe, they performed for King George of England.
David Duncan (d. 1868) was not well known within the Albion community. A hermit and an alleged drunk, he received a memorable eulogy, despite his unmemorable life: He had frozen to death alone in his home, and no one knew where he had come from.
The cemetery includes two members of Congress, Senator Warren Hooper (1904-1945). He was murdered by the Purple Gang just two weeks into his time in office, just before he was scheduled to testify about corruption and bribery in the Michigan legislature.
Washington Gardner (1845-1928), was the inspiration behind the name for Albion’s junior high school, a Civil War veteran, college professor, Methodist pastor, and a vice president of Albion College, as well as the Michigan Secretary of State.
Samuel Dickie (1851-1925) was a social reformer and national speaker for the Prohibition Movement. He later becoming the US Prohibition Party’s chairman, which caused the Party’s station to locate in Albion for a time. Because he was born in Canada, he was unable to run for the Prohibition Party for the presidency. He was also an Albion College president from 1901-1921, as well an Albion mayor.
Joseph Battersby Duckworth (1902-1964) was the father of U.S. Air Force modern instrument flying. He wrote training manuals for the Air Force for years, and was the first person to fly through the eye of a hurricane on purpose.
Charles Quigg (1859-1940), was a man of the Old West. He was known for riding shotgun on stagecoaches to reach Albion.
There are several Civil War veterans buried in Riverside Cemetery at the Grand Army of the Republic Lot dedicated in 1917. Two Revolutionary War are also soldiers buried there, as well as the first Albion casualty of World War One.
Dr. Henry Slade (1836-1905) was a world-famous spiritualist and slate-writing medium. He entertained royals in Europe, including Napoleon III. He claimed that his wife wrote him letters from the afterlife. He was arrested in London for fraud and was given his freedom after performing a seance during his imprisonment. He came to Albion in 1855, made a fortune of over a $1 million with his work as a medium, all of which he lost before his death.
Gwen Dew (1903-1993) was a photographer and journalist. She and her mother lived in Albion, but Gwen was a world traveler who wrote about her experiences traveling through Asia in weekly columns for The Detroit News.
Riverside is also divided into ethnic groups, with the old German, Russian, Polish and Catholic sections split off from the rest of the cemetery.
The cemetery also includes a potter’s field, filled with the nameless dead buried there. In the shape of a triangle, the field houses forty-six bodies, most of which were infants or widows, stories that we still don’t know about.
Readers interested in taking a walking tour of Riverside themselves can find more information about those buried in the cemetery at http://albionmich.net/riverside-cemetery/.
Frank Passic, a local Albion historian, provided much of the information, with permission, about many of the individuals in this article in his contributions to https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1495/riverside-cemetery