October 14, 2014

C2H - 17 days Crocker House Cemetery Walk

On 10/4,  we went on a Cemetery walk put on by the Macomb County Historical Society.  It was pretty awesome.   

We started out at the Crocker House Museum where they had it decked out as a house of mourning, as in Victorian times.  The porch and windows are draped in black.  The mirrors were all covered.

OK, I thought the wallpaper was pretty neat.  Reproductions, but still neat. 

The sitting room with snacks. 
There was a lady off to the left explaining about Victorian mourning clothing.  I had no idea it was a way to tell others your status, more or less.  If the widow was in all dull black, it was a sign to leave her alone.  After a certain amount of time, she could wear shinier black and add purple to her wardrobe.  This tells people that she's coming out of mourning and can be approached and invited to gatherings. 

According to tradition (superstition?) spirits cannot see black or white so that is what people wore.

Under the leaning cross in the parlor below is a child-sized coffin.  There is a glass panel over the face area to allow viewing while keeping the odor down.  The smell is a reason lilies are a traditional funeral flower.  They have a very strong scent to cover other strong scents. 
This is a cooling table used for embalming.  If the person died from a contagious disease, the coffin would be placed in front of the window so people could still view while not getting near. 
Neighbors would bring food over because the family would not cook as long as the deceased was in the house. 
I just liked the polka-dotted dishes on the sideboard. 
Lovely painting of the Titanic hitting the iceberg. 
This wreath is made of out hair - ew!
The plaque below says 
"Most of the hair in this wreath came from the descendants of Dr. Ebenezer Hall, who started a glass factory in Mt. Clemens in 1830. 
His descendants include Letitia June Shook Hall and her daughters and sons: Blanche Hall Parrot, Nelle Belle Hall and Henry and William Hall."
The nursery, which was creepy as all get out!
The other half of the nursery.
After we explored the house, we got on a bus and took a short trip to St. Peter Cemetery.   There are unmarked mass graves here for limbs and stillborn babies from St. Joseph's Hospital, obviously not recent ones!
It was interesting that the actors portrayed just ordinary people.  

Henry Lighthouse 1880 - 1973 was born in Jamaica and moved to Alberta, Canada to be a blacksmith.  He moved to Detroit when Henry Ford was offering $5 a day to work on the assembly line.  He was the first black welder for Ford Motor Company.  He owned a rooming house in Detroit and traded his Canadian property for a bathhouse in Mt. Clemens.  His was the first bathhouse & hotel to welcome colored guests. 

Marie Trombley Frazher 1909 - 2005 (this is her grand-daughter).  She worked in a laundry, then moved up into first the Plaza Bath House, then the Arethusa Bath House as a "rubber" which I assume is like a masseuse. She had lots of regulars. She was married to a man who worked on a freighter on the Great Lakes and then in a hotel in the boiler room. They had 4 children. 

Amiel Charbenau 1896 - 1982  was one of 10 children and arrived prematurely - he only weighed 3 lbs at birth.  He was descended from Toussaint, who was married to Sacajawea.  He attended school up thru 3rd grade and later learned carpentry and electrical work.  He enlisted in the Army for WWI, but was turned away since he was still so small.  He went on a banana diet to put on weight & finally enlisted...right as the war ended.  We got married and had 5 kids and adopted 1.  His 3 sons served in 3 different wars - WWII, Korea & Vietnam.  His wife passed away after 50 years of marriage and he remarried again and 11 years later finally passed on himself. 

Father Van Hoomisen 1855 -1902 was born in Belgium.  He was concerned about those who were ill.  He learned about the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati and worked with them to open the St. Joseph Sanitarium i& Bath House in Mt. Clemens. He himself had heart disease and was admitted to his own sanitarium not long 
after its dedication. 

Mary Moross Prevost 1836 - 1913 Her family did much in the early days of the area - her great grandfather was among the first to settle in Michigan after Serving in the army in 1763, the street Moross in Detroit is named after him.  Her grandfather assisted in building Ft. Wayne and served in the War of 1812.  Her father was an ensign of volunteers in 1827 and known as Twenashas (Heap Big Chief) among the local Indians. Mary and her husband had 5 sons and 18 grandchildren. 
Marie DeSeyne Govaere  1861 - 1943 (I could have listened to this woman talk all day - loved her accent!!)  was born in Belgium and immigrated to the US with her husband and 8 children in 1903.  On December 2, 1910, the Macomb Country Sheriff came to their farm about an animal cruelty report (it was false) and approached the house from the rear door that had no steps.  Mary was there alone with her youngest children and thought he was a robber.  He spoke English and she only spoke Flemish.  She told her 14 year old son to shoot at the door, but it ended up jitting and killing the sheriff.    She and her son were put in jail and tried.  in January 1911, she was acquitted and she cut the bottoms off her dress to pass out as souvenirs to the people in the courtroom.  They made a movie about her story called Mary's Buttons. 

All 6 of the actors were excellent story-tellers and it made for a very enjoyable afternoon. 

I had visited this cemetery before (which is why there are no leaves in some of these following pics) 

The building in the background is the Macomb County Jail.  Yay!


  1. What an awesome day - All that stuff about Victorian mourning is new to me. The idea of keeping a rotting corpse in the house to view it and using lilies to hide the smell is just creepy.

  2. cool tour lisa!! that hair wreath is kinda creepy! : )


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