ATLAS TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN — Tucked behind a row of residential properties and Atlas Township’s only historical church is a small, family cemetery that houses the remains of Sally Hebbard, a direct descendant of a military leader on the Mayflower, and Norman Davison, a War of 1812 veteran who served as a part of Michigan’s earliest government.
Formerly known as Atlas Cemetery, Davison originally intended the land to be used as “common grounds,” or public parks and spaces, according to local historian Dawn Bastian.
After his daughter died, he split the property up to make a private cemetery for family and friends.
The property is now the location of some of Michigan’s last standing oak slab headstones, which have been reset multiple times due to wear and tear.
Davison eventually gave the property to his son, Paul Davison, who is recorded as the last known owner of the cemetery.
Paul Davison later moved south and likely never passed on the deed to the property, leaving it unkept and isolated for nearly a century.
Many locals and Atlas Township government officials assumed the private cemetery was kept and cared for by the church that sits in front of it.
When the church changed hands over the years, some would prioritize taking care of the property and others would let it sit.
“I think it is important to respect the people that came before us. They made us who we are today.”