Cemetery: Hiram Walker's Final Resting Place
many locals, the thought of roaming the streets of Detroit in search
of historical sites is out of the realm of possibilities. However,
for those who have a passion for places that provide connections
between the Border Cities, Detroit offers a wealth of possibilities.
This time, we explore the Historic Elmwood Cemetery, located in
Detroit's near east side, directly across the river from Walkerville-
and the final resting place of Hiram Walker, founder and patriarch
historic Elmwood Cemetery is located within easy reach of the
Windsor-Detroit tunnel, a two mile hop from the man-made forest
of downtown Detroit buildings but few Walkervillians have taken
the short journey to its majestic gates.
January, the Art Gallery of Windsor sponsored an alternative tour
of Detroit, to explore some of the city's rich heritage, including
Elmwood. The attraction for me was the fact that Hiram Walker, founder
of Walkerville, was buried here, but the bonus was the discovery
of a hidden treasure trove close to home.
Cemetery is the oldest continuous non-religious cemetery in Detroit.
In the Spring of 1846, a number of Detroit residents conceived the
idea of establishing a cemetery in the then suburbs of the city,
and 42 acres were set aside. The landscape was modeled in the garden
style after Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Mass., and today covers 86
history of Elmwood is fascinating, and is superbly chronicled in
Michael S. Franck's "Elmwood Endures: History of Detroit Cemetery.
According to Franck: " The cemetery's archaic stone monuments
are an artistic treasure. Detroit's pioneers and warriors now sleep
along those peaceful banks- their names, etched in stone, have been
given to parks, expressways, streets and buildings [in Detroit]."
partially wooded, somewhat hilly expanse of land off east Lafayette
Blvd. near Vernon and Mount Elliott is fascinating for its topography;
the rolling grounds transport us back to an earlier era, similar
to those first seen by Cadillac in 1701. Parent's Creek, which runs
through the grounds, is famous for a battle fought on July 31, 1763
during the French and Indian War. Chief Pontiac's Natives defeated
the British Regular Redcoats, under the command of Captain Dalzell.
The battle was fought across Parent's Creek- thereafter dubbed "Bloody
entrance gatehouse off Monroe was erected in 1870 at a cost of $5,900;
as you enter, you must pass through a stunning Victorian Archway
made of quarried limestone in a late Victorian Gothic style. According
to Franck, "(in the gatehouse's office) lie priceless records,
a wealth of information for historians and genealogists interested
in Detroit and Michigan history."
first thing that struck me was the size of some of the monuments
on the grounds- huge markers unseen on our side of the river dominate
the landscape and every marker tells a story. Many of Detroit's
well-heeled citizens are buried here commemorated by such lavish
monuments as Senator Zachariah Chandler's forty foot high obelisk
next to the Elmwood Chapel- the cemetery's tallest. Erected in 1880,
the four-ton monument is supported by a fifteen foot concrete base.
landscape is in fact not natural but the result of a careful garden
design. More than sixteen hundred trees and shrubs, representing
over seventy species are planted here, carefully chosen to bloom
throughout the spring, summer and fall- a reminder of death as a
natural process. A massive honey oak tree at the entrance is thought
to be the oldest on site- bearing witness to the French and Indian
silent city contains more than 52,000 souls. Two hundred more are
added annually. Some reflect the tragedy of Detroit's youth violence
and senseless killings- while others are placed in their final resting
spot by caring family members- including Coleman Young, probably
Detroit's most flamboyant mayor.
Franck: "On important holidays, including Memorial and Veteran's
Day, and July 4, Elmwood comes alive with the sound of marching
bands, commanders' calls and volleys from black-powder rifles. History
repeats itself as members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil
War and the Black Historical Sites Committee pay homage to the Civil
War dead who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Each
regiment stands in formation as the bugle echoes against a forest
of stone. Taps stir the souls of all within hearing distance."
Detroit tradition was to purchase entire lots, forming gardens of
graves- as opposed to individual sites. The Walker family
purchased such a "garden" and family members are buried
here, including Hiram, wife Mary and son Willis, of Willistead
Manor's name sake.
1872, Hiram Walker's wife of twenty-six years, Mary Abigail, aged
46, died of heart disease and was buried in Elmwood. The first church
in Walkerville which was located on Riverside erected in her memory,
as is St-Mary's, adjacent to Willistead Manor.
January 12, 1899, Hiram Walker suffered a major seizure, fell into
a coma and never regained consciousness. The news of his death was
flashed across the continent; news and editorial columns in every
important newspaper of the day carried eulogies of the man who made
Canadian Club whisky the most famous brand on the planet.
firm of Hiram Walker & Sons was closed; during the three days
following his death, the body lay in state in the parlour of the
Walker residence, at the corner of Shelby and Fort Street near the
tunnel in Detroit. According to the Detroit News (January 15, 1899):
"At the Elmwood Cemetery, a big canvas canopy had been stretched
over the burial lot to protect the members of the family at the
graveside; the internment was private. As yet there is no monument
or costly tomb on the burial plot."
Walker's plot at Elmwood contains a simple marker- a testimony to
a man who possessed great riches but remained humble until the end.
The family plot is easy to find, marked by a sarcophagus set by
his sons, long after his death, on a hill in section A2, in the
southwest corner of Elmwood.
page: Hiram Walker Supported Industries