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Potter Cemetery

Biographies

The Friends of Potter Cemetery Need Your Help!

    The Friends of Potter Cemetery Association is a new, non-profit group, incorporated in the State of Michigan, and is comprised of direct descendants of the Potter and Chapin families who are buried in the cemetery.  Our sole purpose is to renovate Potter Cemetery (a.k.a. Swan Creek Cemetery) located at Labo and Swan Creek Rds., Ash Township, Monroe County, Michigan.  The cemetery is in deplorable condition with headstones broken, tipped over, even missing, many fallen trees, weeds and gopher holes.  Our goal is to clean out the fallen trees and weeds, restore the headstones, put up a fence, a flagpole and a light.  We also plan to place a marker for Royal L. Potter, one of our family's and Ash Township's Civil War Veterans.  It is our belief that the time has come to return the dignity and reverence to Potter Cemetery and to our family members, as well as others, interred there.  We are asking any other descendants of those buried there to search your attics, closets, files for any papers pertaining to the cemetery.  We are especially interested in burial right deeds or plat maps showing locations of the graves.  If you are not a descendant of someone buried there but have information regarding the Potter Cemetery we'd like to hear from you as well.  We realize this restoration is an ambitious project and although we are, at this time, a small group we are very determined in our cause.  Anyone with information or wanting to learn more about or join our group is encouraged to call Mark Armbruster, President at (734) 261-6108 or Sue Donovan, Member, at (734) 675-5162.

In May 2001 the Board of "Friends" decided to drop the plans for a flagpole and light at Potter Cemetery. This decision was made primarily due to concerns of the surrounding property owners.

History of Potter Cemetery

    In June 1860, Royal L. Potter and his wife Mary Ann Chapman Potter of Ash Township, Monroe County, Michigan deeded about 1/2 acre to the Trustees of Swan Creek Cemetery Company for the purposes of a public burying ground.  At the same time John D. Flint and his wife Margaret Robertson Flint, also of Ash Township, Monroe County, Michigan, deeded another 1/2 acre to the Trustees of Swan Creek Cemetery company for the same purposes.  These deeds were recorded on February 29, 1864 in Monroe county.   The Potter 1/2 acre makes up the west half and the Flint 1/2 acre makes up the east half of what is known today as Potter Cemetery.  The cemetery is located east of Swan Creek Road and just west of Interstate 75.  It is bounded on the south by Labo Road and on the north by Sigler Road.  Today it is landlocked and access is obtained only with the permission of the adjacent property owners.  To date, no recorded easement has been found.

    In 1860 when Royal Potter deeded his 1/2 acre he and his family lived on Swan Creek Road.  Access to the cemetery was either through the back of the Potter farm, over Swan Creek and through the field or on the east side along the "farmer's lane" between the woods and the fields.  Prior to the official deeding of the cemetery, burials had already taken place.  Roswell Flint, the father of John D. Flint, was the first burial, having died April 9, 1847.  Roswell Flint was the original land owner of the east side, having taken out a patent on the land in 1834.   Royal Potter's father, Arvin W. Potter, took out his patent on the west side in 1833.  The second to be buried was Rosella M. Potter, first wife of Royal and was in February 1849.  In all there were eleven burials before the property was deeded in 1860.  The last known burial was in July 1930.  The current list has seventy nine names on it.  This includes six Civil War veterans.  There is also a marker in the cemetery for Royal Potter even though he died in Libby Prison and his remains were never recovered.  Despite the list having only seventy nine names there could be as many as 200 people buried there.  The cemetery was apparently taken care of until the early 1940's.  After that it is unclear what happened to it but no one took responsibility for it and years of neglect set in.  In 1982 descendants of the Potter and Chapin families returned to the cemetery to find it in very bad condition, overgrown with trees, weeds and vines.  Being that it was so overwhelming nothing was done.

    However, in 1998 another generation came along.  Mark Armbruster, the great, great nephew of Royal Potter, along with his girlfriend Shelly Hamilton, rediscovered Potter Cemetery.  Mark had remembered hearing about it from his mother and aunts and went searching.  He found it in deplorable condition, even more overtaken by trees, weeds and vines.  Stones were knocked over, some even broken.  Mark very much wanted to clean it up, to restore and preserve this final resting place of his ancestors and the others buried there.  After talking to family members and others it was decided to form Friends of Potter Cemetery Association in November 1998.  The group is incorporated in the State of Michigan and began as descendants of the Potter and Chapin families.  However, through flyers, the newspaper, word of mouth, the group has grown to include descendants of the Rousson, Manor, Chapman, Kemnitz, Neidermeier, Southworth and LaBeau families as well as a few friends and interested people.  The group has had nine work days so far.   Trees, vines and weeds have been cut down but without easy access it's been difficult to haul much away.  With the use of probes nineteen headstones have been found under the ground.  Another headstone remains outside of the cemetery in the woods.  Headstones have been cleaned and uprighted but still need professional remounting.  Flags have been placed for the Civil War veterans whose graves have been found.  Remnants of the original fence on the south and east sides have been found.   The group hopes to be able to get a new fence.  The association plans to continue its work and would like to take ownership of the cemetery.  According to the cemetery commissioner in Lansing, Michigan, the record shows Potter Cemetery as inactive and abandoned, ownership unknown.  It did not, in 1968 when a survey of cemeteries in Michigan was done, revert to the state, the county or the township.  The group has sought information from various sources, all to no avail.  However, Ash Township has supported the clean up effort as has the Monroe County Historical Commission.  Also supporting the endeavor has been Dr. Guy Woodward, the great grandson of Royal Potter.

    The group is continuing to search for other descendants, especially those of the Tear, Bulger, Cackett, Post, Hawley, Griffy, Colburn, Shippee, Ward, Mattison and McKenzie families and is also seeking information about who the original Trustees of Swan Creek Cemetery Company were or their successors.  Annual membership is available for $10.00.  A legal fund has been established to earmark funds for the eventual court costs the association will incur when it seeks ownership of the cemetery.  All donations will be gratefully accepted.  Interested persons may reach the association by calling Sue Donovan at (734) 675-5162 or Mark Armbruster at (734) 261-6108.  You may also write to Friends of Potter Cemetery Association at 30066 Marr, Gibraltar, Michigan 48173-9426.

These old cemeteries, and the markers and headstones within them, are bookmarks in the story of  Monroe County.  They are part of history and as such should be preserved and maintained, not only for the sake of the generations buried in them but for the benefit of generations to come.
                Monroe Evening News
                February 5, 1999

Potter Cemetery

George L. Barns b. March 24, 1805 d. Aug. 27, 1868 age 63yrs. 5m. 3d.
Benjamin Bulger b. April 23, 1817 d. Aug. 23, 1896 son of Michael Jr. and Rachel (Brown) Civil War Vet
Jane Bulger (nee Labo) d. April 19, 1902 wife of John  
John Finly Bulger b. Dec. 22, 1825 d. Oct. 25, 1907 son of Michael Jr. and Rachel (Brown)
Phoebe Bulger (nee Jarvis) d. Aug. 18, 1866 age 26yrs. 3m. 23d. wife of Samuel
Mary A. Burnap (nee Chapman) b. Nov. 4, 1824 d. Oct. 7, 1911  
Joseph Cackett b. June 8, 1845 m. June 7, 1866 d. June 8, 1866   Civil War Vet
Luther Chapin d. Aug. 16, 1861 age 63yrs. 5m. 28d.  
Mary Brewer Chapin wife of Luther d. April 16, 1885 age 85yrs. 8 m.
William W. Chapin b. June 4, 1829 d. July 12, 1920  
Juliette Chapin (nee Potter) b. May 4, 1838 d. Feb. 4, 1898  
Orvil W. Chapin son of Wm. & Juliette d. June 28, 1860 age 1yr. 8m.
Viola Chapin Dau. of Wm. & Juliette d. Sept. 5, 1851 age 4yrs. 2m. 8d.
Martin L. Chapin b. March 8, 1837 d. Jan. 11, 1902 Civil War Vet
Lura Chapman (nee Bostwick) wife of Joseph d. Jan. 28, 1868 age 68yr. 8 m.
Josiah Colburn b. Oct. 21, 1803 d. Jan. 15, 1886  
Abigail Colburn (nee Foster) b. May 7, 1804 d. March 23, 1896  
Ella G. Colburn dau. of John & Emeline d. Aug. 23, 1869 age 7m. 24 ds.
Cecil Connelly b. June 1, 1875 in Canada d. Aug. 5, 1917 Drowned  
Julia Flint wife of Roswell d. April 12, 1862 age 74yr.
Roswell Flint d. April 9, 1847 age 64yrs.  
Ella Francisco dau. of Joseph & Mary Ann d. Dec. 11, 1860 age 3m. 14ds.
Henry Gretzler d. Aug. 20, 1881    
Clarence A. Grigg son of Oliver & Eva E. d. Jan 20, 1882 age 1yr. 9m. 7ds.
Daniel Griffy b. July 12, 1838 d. Dec. 8, 1892 Civil War Vet
Sarah Griffy wife of Daniel b. Oct. 22, 1844 d. April 26, 1905
Jesse Griffy son of Daniel & Sarah b. Oct. 15, 1880 d.?
John F. Hawley (A Mason) d. Nov. 20, 1867 age 46yrs. 2m. 11ds.  
Tirzah B. Hawley (nee Robertson) wife of John b. Feb. 22, 1829 d. Dec. 17, 1917
Francella Hawley b. Feb. 16, 1852 d. Nov. 20, 1916  
Simon (Samuel) Hawley b. Oct. 23, 1861 d. July 8 or 28, 1930  
Wilhelm F. Kemnitz b. Sept. 14, 1818 d. July 28, 1887  
Augusta W. Kemnitz wife of Wilhelm d. April 23, 1866  
Martha Kemnitz dau. of Wilhelm & Augusta d. Oct. 9, 1860? age 3yr 7m. 18d
Julia A. Kemnitz dau. of Wilhelm & Caroloine d. Sept. 23, 1872  
Bertha Labeau (nee Stein) wife of James b. Nov. 27, 1844 d. June 14, 1882
James Labeau b. Sept. 29, 1834 d. March 15, 1897  
David E. Labo b. 1875/1877 d. Apr 1909 son of James and Bertha suicide
Addie Lacroix dau. Joseph & Ruth b. Dec. 25, 1879 d. Aug. 9, 1890
Frederick Manor b. April 18, 1848 d. July 5, 1891 Civil War Vet
Hazel Manor dau. of  Fred & Margaret b. May 30, 1888 d. Aug. 14, 1889
Elizabeth Mattison wife of John d. May 12, 1882  
John Mattison d. May 5, 1895    
Eliza McKenzie wife of Hugh d. Dec. 19, 1884  
Hugh McKenzie d. Jan.7, 1893    
Anna A. Neidermeier (nee Grundman) wife of Fred d. Jan 5, 1866 age 23y. 2m.
Frederick W. Neidermeier son of Fred & Anna d. Jan 17, 1866 age 3y 3m
Mina E. Neidermeier dau. of Augustus & Evalina b. March 10, 1877 d. Aug. 29, 1878
Evalina W. Neidermeier wife of Augustus b. Sept. 26, 1845 d. March 28, 1883
John Neidermeier b. Dec. 2, 1851 d. Aug. 1, 1894  
Anna M. Tripp Post wife of Abraham d. Jan 25, 1861 age 29yr
Mercy Green Post wife of John F. b. Susquehana Co. Pa. April 6, 1811 d. Frenchtwon, Mich. Nov. 14, 1876
Anna J. Post dau. of John F. & Mercy G. d. May 16, 1854 age 2yr 4m
Arvin W. Potter b. March 16, 1797 d. Feb. 21, 1861 age 63yr 11m. 7 d
Polly Potter (nee Graves) wife of Arvin d. Aug 5, 1861 age 60yr 6m 16d
Harlow Potter son of Arvin & Polly d. March 27, 1849 age 19yr 10d
Edwin D. Potter son of Arvin & Polly d. Nov. 18, 1869 age 44yr 7m 5d
Royal L. Potter Company F. 24th Michigan Inf. U.S. Volunteers - Taken prisoner Dec. 16, 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg and conveyed to Libby Prison at Richmond, VA where he died.
son of Arvin & Polly d. Jan 9, 1863 age 41yr 10m
Rosella M. Potter (nee Chapman) wife of Royal d. Feb. 23, 1849 age 19yr
Elmer Potter son of Royal & Rosella d. Sept. 11, 1849 age 7mos. 7ds.
Charles W. Potter son of Royal & Mary Ann D. Jan 21, 1853 age 20ds.
Nile R. Potter son of Royal & Mary Ann d. Sept. 26, 1855 age 10m. 6d
Amanda R. Potter dau. of Royal & Mary Ann d. Feb. 28, 1859 age 9m
Alexander Rousson b. 1832 d. Feb. 6, 1905/06  
Catherine L. Rousson wife of Alexander b. 1829 d. Dec. 23, 1903/05
Kate J. Rousson dau. of Alex & Kate b. 1865  d. July 24, 1882 age 16yr 10m 18d
Emma Shippee dau. of Christopher & Sarah b. Dec. 5, 1866 d.?
Christopher Shippee b. Sept. 20, 1839 d. Sept. 15, 1878  
D. Shippee b. Oct. 5, 1873 d. Feb. 17, 1874  
Lydia Shippee dau. of Christopher b. Jan. 25, 1854 d. June 30, 1894
Louisa J. Smith d. May 1, 1872 age 22yr  
Benjamin F. Southworth b. Jan 24, 1844 d. Sept. 17, 1882 Civil War Vet
Ezra Southworth b. Jan 31, 1806 d. Dec. 31, 1885  
Letetia Southworth wife of Ezra d. March 29, 1861 age 52 yrs 6m. 9d
Emily Steinbrenner (Kemnitz) b. March 26, 1864 Dau. of Caroline (Eichbourer) and George  
Thomas Tear b. Kirk Andres Isle of Man Oct. 23, 1816 d. Apr 9, 1888 age 72 yrs 5m 17d
Harriett M. Tear wife of Thomas d. Feb. 1, 1878 age 56yrs 7m. 21d
George A. Ward son of John & Mary b. June 12, 1857 d. Jan. 29, 1889
Mary Ward wife of John d. Feb. 23, 1905  
Almira Wheeler dau. of Samuel Raymond
wife of Uriah
b. 1831 NY d. About 1871
Caroline Colburn Wilkinson (Wilkerson) wife of Solomon b. April 11, 1836 d. March 6, 1881
Herbert Wilkinson b. June 1, 1865 d. Feb. 18, 1867  
Martha Williamson (nee Potter) wife of Henry b. Sept. 8, 1841 d. Oct. 1, 1864 age 22y. 20d.

Sue Donovan
Friend of Potter Cemetery Association
September 17, 1999

Note:  The majority of the information contained here is from the headstones.   The additional information is from research.

Biographies

UPDATE MARCH 2001

          Since the last update in April of 2000 there have been many developments. Membership now totals 34. A descendant of the Flint family was found in California and has joined the group. Also, a descendant of the Post family has been found and joined.  Both were found through the internet. The association has a lead on the Kemnitz family and the search continues for others.

The total number of clean up days since the effort began is at thirteen. There were only four work days in 2000 (from May - August) because of the restrictions placed on the group by the property owners adjacent to the cemetery. Minimal progress was made. Two bases, for the headstones of children Orvil and Viola Chapin, were found using probes. The headstone of Amanda Potter was also found using a probe. Weeds were pulled, brush and vines were cut back. A representative of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners Cemetery Plotting Subcommittee was there to document and take pictures of the cemetery. In September, after an article in the Detroit News about endangered cemeteries came out, the access to the cemetery was closed to group members by the adjacent property owners. They were very upset with the content and our participation in the newspaper story. There has been no work done in the cemetery since August of 2000.

We now have a complete, professional land survey of the cemetery. It was done by Andrus and Associates of Toledo, Ohio in April 2000. The cemetery is 1.056 acres in size. Additionally, we've been in touch with a gentleman at Inch Memorials in Northville, MI who is willing to give us an estimate to repair the headstones when we're ready.

One of our primary goals has been to become owners of the cemetery. Just recently we reached that goal through successor trusteeship. Seven members of the Friends of Potter Cemetery Association became Trustees of the Swan Creek Cemetery Trust aka Potter Cemetery Trust. The seven are Mark J. Armbruster, Esther M. Armbruster, Dolores B. Benson, Kathy Funkey, Sue A. Donovan, Rochelle Hamilton and Robert Boudrie. Five of these people have blood ties to the cemetery. The other two have been instrumental in the progress of the association. All have been involved since the beginning and all have worked in the cemetery. The eighth Trustee is James Duffy and through an agreement reached with Ash Township, was appointed by the Ash Township Board. All of this was done under the jurisdiction of the Monroe County Probate Court.

Update April 2002

Rochelle (Shelley) Hamilton was named as Director in November 2001.  The State of Michigan required a Director be named.  Shelley is an original incorporator and has been active in "Friends" since its inception.

Membership in the group continues to grow and now totals 41 (2 of those were posthumously awarded).  New members include a Minnesota resident who is a descendent of the Mattisons and McKenzies, a Wisconsin resident descended from Josiah and Abigail Colburn and a Washington woman who descends from Benjamin Bulger.  The remaining new members are interested, concerned citizens.

Friends of Potter Cemetery Association became a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization under the IRS codes in March 2002.  We can now accept tax deductible donations.  Fund raising efforts began last year and continue.  There was a successful car wash last August, a candy sale, cookbook sale and most recently a very profitable pizza kit sale.  T-shirts and sweatshirts are available in two designs, four colors and sizes S-XL (larger sizes available in some colors).  Prices range from $15-25.  Contact Sue Donovan.

There has been a headstone on private property in the woods outside the cemetery for a very long time and recently three members/trustees were able to see it, do a rubbing and take pictures of it.  It is that of Phebe A. Bulger, wife of Samuel, and her data is now listed here.

Access to Potter Cemetery remains closed (since September 2000).  In an effort to restore access there were negotiations in May and October of 2001 with several property owners around the cemetery.  All the discussions proved unsuccessful.

The group will continue its efforts to restore access.  The association also plans to continue its fundraising program, planning a car wash in June, pretzel sales, and a garage sale.  Dues remain at $10.00 annually.  Tax deductible contributions are also being gratefully accepted.  The search will go on for descendents, especially those of the Barns, Cackett, Francisco, Grigg, Griffy, Hawley, Kemnitz, Tear and Wards buried in Potter Cemetery.  Anyone with information, wishing to join or contribute may contact Sue Donovan or Mark Armbruster as mentioned earlier.  You can also reach the Association via e-mail at cemeterylady1@comcast.net .

The purpose of the Friends of Potter Cemetery Association and the Potter Cemetery Trust continues to be to restore, maintain and preserve Potter Cemetery.

NOTE:
    DO NOT ATTEMPT TO VISIT POTTER CEMETERY!  DOING SO WILL BE DETRIMENTAL TO THE EFFORT.  THANK YOU.

BIOGRAPHIES

New biographical sketches will be posted as time allows.  These are the latest.

Wilhelm (William) Kemnitz, son of Frederick and Sophia (Voss) Kemnitz, came to America from Bremen, Germany in June 1855, arriving in New York.  With him were his wife Augusta, daughters Emma, Lina and Emily and son Adolph.  Augusta Grundman Kemnitz died April 23, 1866 and is buried in Potter Cemetery.  Mr. Kemnitz then married Caroline Eichbourer Steinbrenner in 1868.  She brought seven children to the marriage and she and Mr. Kemnitz had four children together.  At least two of the Kemnitz children are buried in Potter.  In 1870 the Kemnitz family resided in Berlin Township, Monroe County, MI.  Mr. Kemnitz died on July 28, 1887.  His will is recorded at the Register of Deeds, Monroe County, in Liber 119, page 40.

James Labo, son of Alex and Angelica (Lafant) Labo, was born in Monroe on September 29, 1834.  He married Bertha Stein on January 12, 1861.  They had several children.  Bertha Labo died on June 14, 1882 and is buried in Potter Cemetery.  Mr. Labo then married Louisa Schmidt Nagel in September 1883.  James was a member of Masonic Lodge 300, Monroe.  He died March 15, 1897.  His will  is recorded at the Monroe County Court, Probate Dept. on microfilm, roll 91, file # 5117.

David(s) E. Labo, son of James and Bertha, was born @ 1875-1877.  He married Mabel Allore on October 22, 1901.  They had 2 children, a boy and a girl.  David Labo took his own life in April 1909.  According to the Nadeau Weber funeral home records he is buried in Potter Cemetery.  His headstone, if he had one, has not been located however.

Frederick Manor, son of Julius and Mary (Ladoceur), was born April 18, 1848.  He married Margaret Rousson, daughter of Alex and Catherine (Arzeno) Rousson, on August 25, 1873.  They had five children.  Federick served in the Civil War in Company D, 9th Michigan Cavalry.  He died July 5, 1891 in Toledo, Ohio and is buried in Potter Cemetery.  His daughter Hazel, Born May 30, 1888, died August 14, 1889 is buried with her father.

For information regarding Potter Cemetery contact them directly.
Mark Armbruster, President at (734) 261-6108 or Sue Donovan, Member, at (734) 675-5162.

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