Plymouth, Michigan History: The Stone, and “Eulogy for Elise Emrick”

Here are two new thoughts for local history:

First, when construction or digging is going on, especially in certain places like along Ann Arbor train or in Hines Park, the historical societies might benefit from the free archaeology digging. Foreman and workers might be asked to keep an eye out for interesting objects, from Mammoth bones to settler’s trash, and coins even occasionally appear. If people from the historical societies have time, they might pop by certain sites on Sunday afternoons to see what can be seen.

The second thought is about cemeteries. The philosophy of cemeteries has not changed in a long time. We wish we had the stories of these people’s lives, even available in a small shed at the sites, with pictures and stories. For example, my sister reports that a grave in South Lyon says “Killed by the Cars.” When she looked it up on line, it said the fellow was hit by a train, failing to drive his wagon over the tracks fast enough. Brief biographies could be commissioned, or done by the Wikipedia method. The old Polish cemeteries have pictures set in the stone sometimes, and it is said that St. Hedwig’s downtown has stories. In our Pearl street cemetery, the records list causes of death. If I remember these things correctly:  A Mr. Lyon, related to the Lucius Lyon, the Michigan representative from whose family South Lyon takes it name, is said to have fallen on a pitchfork. The first wife of the founder of the Gunsolly house, where Gunsolly Mill is in Hines, died at the age of 24. There are stories of many of these, like Edwin Holbrook, the child of Henry, who is at the highest spot on the hill.


The Stone                  page 1

Eulogy for Elise          page 9

An Inquiry into Plymouth History: The Mystery of the Black Stone of the Potawatomi


Mark A. McDonald



It is in wondering about things told and shown by longtime Plymouth resident Elise Emrick that I first learned about the mystery of the black stone. Elise showed me Indian things found on the property of Emrick Estates, on North Territorial Road near Beck. These included spear and arrow heads, and an old Indian well made of a barrel in the ground, uncovered and reburied there by Paul Emrick, near the spot where she herself helped build a stone and concrete bridge which still stands along what should be called Emrick creek. There the riverbed exposes stone that may have been useful to the Tonquish band and other more ancient bands that lived nomadically or semi-nomadically in our area before the coming of the Europeans. On the 1807 treaty Map, in rough agreement with the 1826 John Farmer map, the old Potawatomi trail passes Ridgewood, down North Territorial, up Angle Road, past the Potawatomi Trail in Kensington, and on to Howell. Tonquish Village is indicated as having been just north of where Eight Mile crosses Grand River and the north branch of the Rouge, with Tonquish Plain in Nankin Township. The neglected and abandoned cemetery near Ridgewood road, at the north end of Tonquish creek, rests on a mound that looks more like an ancient Indian mound than does anything in the area, and thousand-year-old Indian graves were found about one mile away, at Ann Arbor and McClumpha roads. Her story set me on a search for knowledge of the pre-history of Plymouth, Michigan, and it is on this journey that one finds the mystery of the black stone.

The Tonquish band of the Potawatomi are the last of the Native Americans who left our area for St. Joseph and Walpole Island in the early decades of the nineteenth century, just before the first settlers of Plymouth arrived in 1824-1826. In various treaties, including the 1807 Treaty of Detroit and 1819-21 Cass treaties, the land in southeastern Michigan was sold to the U. S. Government. The Potawatomi were allowed to remain until the lands were needed, with small areas reserved for Indian villages. Chief Tonquish was killed in 1819 by General McComb, near the historical marker and the spot where he was buried, just upstream from where Tonquish creek meets the Rouge on Wayne between Joy and Warren roads.

In the book called Tonquish Tales, Helen Gilbert weaves alluring details regarding the stone into stories of the Tonquish band. .Mrs. Gilbert relates that according to old legends, the Potawatomi “worshipped at a secret shrine near Plymouth… Their altar, a masterpiece in carved stone, is supposed to be extant somewhere in our area.” Mrs. Gilbert suggests three places where the altar might be. These are: 1) the site of the old Presbyterian Church, where Indian bones were found when European graves were moved to Riverside Cemetery; 2) the old cemetery at Ridgewood and North Territorial; and 3) the nearby hill at what was the fifth hole of the Fox Hills country club. European settlers, unwilling to disturb the Indian cemeteries with plow or shovel, often built white cemeteries in the same spots. This seems to have occurred in at least three places in our area. The story of Mrs. Gilbert favors the Ridgewood area along Tonquish Creek, and so it is here that I began to look.

The stone, according to Mrs. Gilbert,

…seems to be in two pieces. One is a fire pot. The larger piece, the pot’s base, is a solid rock of hammered stone, intricately carved around its perimeter is a winding snake…In the background is a large sun and a number of stars. Scattered among the stars are (other) symbols…The favorite symbol of the Potawatomi is the decorated fire pot itself. It will hold what they believe is the immortal fire of the Gods. It has been said that the word Potawatomi means “keepers of the fire.” Nowhere in their nation, so it was believed, does the fire ever die out. This is their sacred altar, shrouded in the mystery of Plymouth mound.

There is a story told by Simon Pokagon, in his very beautiful book Queen of the Woods, about the discovery, in southwestern Michigan about 1600, of a copper pot in the roots of a tree. This was called God’s Kettle and kept as a sacred relic, hidden in an obscure place, and used only on great feast days, for boiling maple sap into sugar. From this earliest instance of Michigan archaeology, the Ottawa Chief relating the story accurately concluded that “this country was once inhabited by a more civilized race than ours.” These may be the Indians whose copper mining in the Upper Peninsula, from about four thousand years ago, was not known by legend to the Algonquin. The Algonquin seem not to be the descendants of the mound builders, but to have entered the area from the Northeast. David White, of the Walpole Island Heritage Center, relates that prior to contact with European trade, the Potawatomi had a method of boiling maple sap in birch bark, and that afterward, copper or brass kettles would be used.

The place of the altar is said to have been near a natural amphitheater, where a hillside winds around, making it a good place to hold ceremonies or address the tribe regarding important Issues. There is a small amphitheater in the hillside along Emrick creek, and so this seemed a good place to look. There are some ancient pines there, though these same trees may be descendants, they could not themselves have been alive nearly two hundred years ago. I looked up and down Emrick Creek, finding some interesting rocks and stones, and all around the cemetery at Ridgewood, without finding any large square carved stone. Mrs. Gilbert depicts the stone as having been placed on a mound within a natural amphitheater, as would have been possible in the hills across from Cass-Benton in Hines Park, where there are also many ancient pines. It is near here that A. B. Markham first chopped wood for Gideon Benton, in 1826. One wonders how much of these hills are natural formations. These may be, like the mounds near Concordia College on Geddes road, places frequented by the ancient groups called mound builders, known to have been in our area about one thousand years ago. A golden apple tree remains on top a hill just as one enters the forest across from Diamond Two, near rock walls that are evidence of some ancient farm. Jack Hoffman, in his history Northville: The First Hundred Years, writes of a local legend that the ancient wall on the shores of Walled Lake may have been built by the Natives of this earlier copper age. A copper knife is said, to have been found nearby.

One day I was alerted to an article in Indoor / Outdoor by Diane Aretz called “Hidden History,” about the cemetery at Pearl and York. Ms. Aretz writes: “When the first settlers arrived in Plymouth in 1825, the cemetery belonged to the Ottawa.” The Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi are three subgroups of the Anishnabeg, speakers of the Algonquin language. The Ojibway are also called Chippewa. Chief Pontiac was an Ottawa. Aretz writes:

The site was their ancient burial grounds, used to perform religious ceremonies. In 1837, after platting the village of Plymouth, Holbrook selected the site for use as a white cemetery. It was established eight years later by the Plymouth Village Society.

I had already begun to look for traces of Plymouth history along the edge of Hines Park and the old village, along the south bank of Wilcox Lake. The cemetery is on the edge of the old village, and the hill is behind the cemetery, between Hines Drive and the old village. The place is consistent with the stone on the hill in the painting and illustration of Santeiu in the book Plymouth’s First Century. The natural amphitheater is the ravine eroded along the edge of the old village. There is even a small mound in the swamp where a speaker might stand. Facing West, the cemetery is on the left hand or south side of the ravine, and old village trash dumps are found on the right or north. Along the Hillside, I found two old bottles and many pieces of old bottles neglected by bottle hunters who had picked up the whole pieces which erode out of the historical Old Village trash dumps. The hillside itself is very interesting, yielding a large Brachiopod (or “winged clam”), and some very large critter teeth low in the humus, near the gravel layer. It was apparently at one time the place where the Rouge intersected the shoreline of glacial Lake Whittlesey when the sea covered the entire metro area east of Plymouth, thirteen thousand years ago. Mastodon and giant beavers were present in Michigan until the earliest residents of Michigan hunted the large mammals into extinction, by 8500 B. C., or 10,500 years ago. Because these trash dumps are down the ravine and in the park, they have been left relatively undisturbed by development, remaining there as a museum for amateur historians and archaeologists. I have piled the pieces of broken glass around the trees so that others might come to muse, rather than step, on them. Old coal, and remnants from coal stoves are found wherever and old homestead once dumped its trash, as local John Papas told me when he saw these. Animal bones, probably from nineteenth century dinners, also remain there.

Below the cemetery, I found an old headstone of a man born in 1796, Samuel Hackett, and rolled it back up the hill. This is the same stone mentioned in the Journal of Ronald Callope. The heroic efforts of Collopy in the summer of 1972 restored the ancient cemetery, which was then fenced to guard against vandals. I marveled at the natural amphitheater of this place, and the semicircle of pines inside the old cemetery. These pines, too young to be those that surrounded the ancient stone, may yet be their descendants, or may have been planted by an early caretaker. The intention of this semicircle of pines seemed to me to suggest that its center is where the stone once stood. Collope was one to experience the mysterious beauty of the cemetery at sunset, as Hudson comments from reading his journal of the project. While these pines are relatively young, a 119-year-old pine just fell in the back of the cemetery this past year, and another of that age has recently fallen. Henry Holbrook, whose son was re-interred there, once owned this land. He lived somewhere nearby, though no house- not even the Hardenberg-Wilcox house, is indicated on the 1876 map. The 1860 map depicts some buildings no longer existing, including one where an old foundation remains at Division and York, and three along Wilcox Lake. Property on the west side of Starkweather, extending north past Hines and almost to the freeway, seems from this map to have been owned by a C. Holbrook by that time. The old village is listed as the property of Holbrook in the picture of Plymouth on page 23 of the 1874 County map book. David White, of the Walpole Island Heritage Foundation, suggests that the spot of the stone would be nearer the grave of Edwin Holbrook, in what seems to be the highest spot on the hill. Edwin Holbrook was reinterred there in 1848, two years before the stone was removed. While there is one other forgotten cemetery south of Plymouth road along Lilly at Park Street, along the shortest portage between the Rouge and Tonquish creek, the cemetery at Pearl and York does seem to be the one famously described in The Story of Plymouth, Michigan by Sam Hudson. In his section titled “The Square Black Stone,” Hudson lists the Pearl and York cemetery, together with the old Presbyterian cemetery, as one of two possible sites for the stone. Hudson relates that Holbrook informs us of a hill visited by the Potawatomi in Plymouth that was “apparently an ancient burial site, where they performed religious ceremonies.” Hudson writes that Holbrook “believed the spot had long been used as a sepulcher. Indian bones found in the spot in 1835 were old and crumbling.” In 1837, when he platted the village of Plymouth, Holbrook selected the site for use as a white cemetery, “believing that it should be kept for the future, as it had been in the past, sacred to the memory of those past.” The Presbyterian cemetery, founded in 1828, was not on much of a hill, and the Village Cemetery is on land once owned by Holbrook. He reported finding “arrow heads, flat stones resembling slate, and some clam shells containing red paint.” Most important, “some skeletons were found on the side of the hill in a sitting position.” The hill, the natural amphitheater, and the erosion out of the side of the hill, fit the description of the area behind the cemetery at Pearl and York. I have found clam shells around the ravine from there, which may have been harvested at the Rouge nearby, across Hines Drive. There, at a bend in the river, are other clam shells from a colony that seem to have survived the damming of Wilcox Lake until just recently, when the Rouge may have become too polluted to sustain them. Hudson writes, “Trees more than 150 years old were on the site in 1835,” a “semicircular growth of huge pines.”

One wonders how long the Pottawatomi were in our area prior to 1800. The three Algonquin tribes are said to have separated at Mackinac in the 1400’s, with the Chippewa or Ojibwa going northwest, the Ottawa remaining and the Potawatomi going south along the Lake Michigan shore to settle in the southwest corner of the state, where Markham, on a vacation journey, found them in 1827, at the Cary’s mission, in an area governed by Leopold Pokagon. David Edmunds, in The Potawatomis: keepers of the fire, writes: “Since the Potawatomis continued to keep the council fire of the originally united tribes, they received their name as “Keepers of the fire, or fire nation.” After about 1648, the Indians of Michigan retreated before the advancing Iroquois from New York, sojourning at the edge of Green bay, Wisconsin, with a fort at Michinigan. The Iroquois were allied with the English, against the French. The Iroquois besieged the Potawatomi at Michinigan in the 1650’s. The Potawatomi return to Michigan began about 1686, when, after years of skirmishes, they defeated the Iroquois in defense of the Miami near Chicago. The Potawatomi under the leader Onanghisse formed the core of a French designed alliance which drove the Iroquois back eastward, by 1695. They then “moved back toward the sites of their ancestral villages in Michigan.” The question is whether the Potawatomi were on the Rouge in our area prior to the Iroquois invasion.

It is possible that the Algonquin peoples, and the Potawatomi in particular, were in the Detroit area before the Iroquois invasion, as early as 1500, and this is one question which might be answered by the Plymouth Village Cemetery. In Frontier Metropolis, Brian Dunnigan, tells of two Jesuit priests, Dollier and Galinee, who “separated themselves from LaSalle (on lake Erie) with the intention of pushing westward to visit a people described by Jolliet as the Potawatomi.” The Potawatomi seem to be associated with the Miami in the St. Joseph area, and it is not clear that they inhabited the Rouge before settling at Detroit around 1712. The priests lost the instruments of their ministry in a storm, and so decided to attempt to return to Montreal by way of Lake Huron and the Ottawa River, following a strait that Jolliet had learned from an Iroquois captive, a new rout for returning from the land of the Ottawa to the land of the Iroquois.” Eighteen miles up the river from Lake Erie, probably at the mouth of the Rouge, about where the Detroit River bends northeast, Dunnigan relates:

Dollier and Galinee found a large stone which had been decorated with ‘a sort of face…formed for it with vermillion.’ The rock was surrounded by evidence of temporary campsites of Native Americans of many nations who stopped to venerate the figure before crossing Lake Erie, but there was no sign of permanent habitation. The priests saw the stone as a pagan idol, of course, and they proceeded to smash it with consecrated axes and sink the largest fragment in the river.”


This stone likely remains there in the water at the mouth of the Rouge, and if so, it may soon be found and recovered. The stone would also have served to mark the mouth of the Rouge for river travelers, and may be related to the stone up the Rouge in Plymouth. David White speculates that the stone in Plymouth may be a piece of this stone. He suggests we also look for the Plymouth stone in pieces, and there are some interesting square pieces of black stone in the Old Village millrun.

There is some reference to Algonquian people in the Detroit area when the French first found the strait linking Lakes Huron and Erie. A 1641 French map depicts southeastern Michigan as the home of a tribe called by the French the Chaouanons, and the Detroit area is identified as the land of the Aicteronon. Dunnigan suggests that these were the Shawnee and the Miami, Algonquian tribes usually found further south, in Ohio. They may have been Ottawa and Potawatomi. A 1688 map grimly refers to a “nation destroyed” by the Iroquois in this area, in French called the Aouittanons, a name nearly the same as a tribe depicted as residing in the southwest corner of the state, the Aouiatinons.

The Potawatomi are known for an advanced canoe technology and a superior statecraft and tribal organization, which allowed them to flourish, with an ever-expanding population when the French controlled Michigan. Their loyalty and martial prowess made them valuable allies to the French in their competition with the English for the furs of North America. After 1712, during their war with the Fox, many Potawatomi left St. Joseph for the Detroit River, when they established a village on the north bank, near the Hurons, just up the bank from the mouth of the Rouge, where the Ambassador bridge meets the river today. From around 1712 through the French and Indian war, the Potawatomi are the most prominent French allies in the area. They enjoyed a sort of golden age here until 1763, when all French influence in North America was lost. It is especially from this time that they may have controlled the Rouge River. Pontiac’s rebellion, in opposition to the new British influence, led to the British Proclamation of 1763, according to which all land west of the Allegheny Mountains was to be reserved for the Indians. The Potawatomi are reported to have moved “forty miles back into the woods behind the fort.” Another report places them as having moved, “to Huron River, sixty miles from the mouth of it.” The Potawatomi Wawiachton sold land along the Detriot River, retaining only a small triangle, sold to Robert Navarre in 1771. He also attempted to sell all the land along the river to Lake Erie, but was countered by Wyandot claims to the area. Wawiachton also sold Grosse Isle to Macomb in 1776. The village of Tonquish retained on the Rouge in the 1807 treaty may have first been settled about this time, when the Indians left Detriot after Pontiac’s rebellion. The suggestion is that the Potawatomi then moved up the Rouge, from the mouth of the river, rather than up the Huron.

The Potawatomi were allied with the losing side again in the Revolutionary war, and yet again under Techumseh in the War of 1812, some helping the British against the Americans, contrary to their old French alliance. The three loses, in combination with the effects of European civilization, reduced and weakened the tribe. Tonquish, siding with the British at the start of the War of 1812, participated in the massacre when Captain Nathan Heald attempted to evacuate Fort Dearborn, which was the name of the fort at Chicago. Topenebee and Pokagon did not join in this attack. Some of the Potawatomi fought with the Shawnee Techumsea and with the British against the United States in the war of 1812. This war had ended only four years before the shooting of Tonquish.

When the first settlers arrived in Plymouth, six or seven years after the shooting, local contact with the Algonquian was already rare. Both Markham and Holbrook had a generally favorable view of those they met, though Markham’s cabin was robbed of food on one occasion. A bear shot by Markham on his trip to Indiana in 1826 was turned in for cash at Ann Arbor by two Hurons. Losses in three consecutive wars had reduced the Native Americans to poverty, in stark contrast to the time, just a half century earlier, when they had flourished.

In the Salem Township chapter of the History of Washtenaw County, it is reported that “at this early day” when the first settlers arrived after 1825-6,


…the red man and their squaws roamed through the brush in quest of game. Deer, bear, and wolves were here in large numbers, yet the Indians, not satisfied with the rich food which such game afforded, would visit the houses of those settlers at intervals, begging for bread and tobacco, and often causing alarm in the homes of these Eastern women, who were not accustomed to see the barbarians in their wild state.

By the time of the Black Hawk war around 1832, there were a few, but very few Potawatomi remaining in our area. Many were consolidated to St. Joseph in 1827, a few years before the Chicago treaty and the removal to Kansas. Still, just to the West in Green Oak Township, as Hildreth Bakhaus relates, Jarvis Gage hunted with the Indians after 1837, “and paid them two quarts of corn for each skin they tanned for him.” Baukhaus writes: “The Indians old ferocity was gone, and they kept their promises to live peaceably with the white man

The decision of the governor of the Michigan Territory, Lewis Cass, was that the natives and the newcomers could not live together. Like the policy of Andrew Jackson, opposed by John Marshall and the Supreme Court, the Indians were to be removed to reservations west of the Mississippi. In Worchester v. Georgia, the Supreme court ruled that the national government and United States treaties, and not the states, were to determine the relations between the United States and Indian nations. Hence the removal of the Cherokee by the state of Georgia would be unconstitutional. Henry Clay called the removal “a stain on the nation’s honor.” It is this decision that Jackson refused to enforce when the president is said to have replied “The Chief Justice has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” While Jackson may not have said these exact words, his defiance of the Supreme court is the classic example of the difficulties of federalism and the separation of powers in the interpretation and enforcement of the constitution. As part of the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, Leopold Pokagon was able to convert treaty money into deeded property, buying land around Dowagiac, near St. Joseph in the southwest corner of our state. Pokagon is unique among the Indians in the use, in 1841, of a state judicial order to avoid the removal policies of the executive branch of our government. His fate is an example that shows the possibility of a more just alternative to Indian removal, in which the Native Americans would have become citizens with civil rights, property, the vote, and representation to secure the natural rights. With a few exceptions, the removal occurred in Michigan’s own version of the Trail of Tears, recounted by Mrs. Gilbert in a newspaper article. There she describes the last visit of the Plymouth Potawatomi to their “village of the dead,” to say goodbye to their ancestors before being taken to Kansas.

Holbrook describes a scene in 1835 when thirty or forty Indians appeared on the hill, “before a square black stone some three feet high, somewhat resembling an altar.” “This stone,” Holbrook relates:

…remained always on the hill and was called Bab-o-quah. They would recite very solemnly some verses or story, which appeared to be directed by one of their prophets, as though worshiping the Great Spirit. They would smoke a pipe, after which they would proceed on their way.

The ceremony occurred at about sundown, or else at sunrise at certain times during the year, though they would not tell Holbrook when, nor would they talk to him about the meaning of what they were doing. David White tells of a four-foot long stick in the Cranbrook museum with markings that may track the movement of Venus, and might provide clues to the Algonquian calendar. Holbrook speculates that the place “may have been the ossuary of some distinguished chief rather than a regular Indian cemetery, such as existed at Ypsilanti and about five miles west of the present site of Plymouth.”­ Because it was within the semicircle of pines and because he had seen the seated bones coming out of the side of the hill, Holbrook accepted the tradition that the grave was that of “Old Chief Roundhead, and possibly his ancestors.” Hudson writes: “Chusco, the Ottawa prophet, said the bones of Roundhead were buried on the hill at Plymouth, but, owing to the fact that the French priests did not want Indians to bury bones in other than ground that they had consecrated they refused to talk much for fear of the black robes (priests).” Hudson writes that Roundhead died in 1760, and this date would fit with the time of the influence of French priests. There was a Wyandot Chief Roundhead who fought with Col. Proctor and the British in the war of 1812. On the 1807 and the 1860 map, there is a Wyandot village south of Nankin, in East Huron Township. This Roundhead died in 1812 near the Raisin River, and may then have been brought to Plymouth for burial or reburial. A picture in the Dunnigan book shows him parading a captured American general before the British colonel Henry Proctor after the battle of the Raisin River. A town in Ohio in Hardin County, which was his early home, bears his name. Because Roundhead is Huron, and the stories of Plymouth mound are Ottawa, and Tonquish was apparently not, as far as is known, re-interred there, it is difficult to connect the Plymouth Mound with the Potawatomi in particular. The witnesses to the Helen Gilbert account, in which the Potawatomi ceremony connects them to the stone and mound at Plymouth, become important. Her source may be the Topash band, now in Kansas.

In 1845, the Plymouth Village Cemetery, or the old Baptist cemetery was founded at Pearl and York, with 1 acre of land and 120 plots. In an August 14, 1975 article in the Observer and Eccentric, Hudson notes that Donaldson Craig, who cared for the cemetery until 1931, is cited as saying that this indeed was the place where Indians conducted worship services before a stone altar. A Plymouth Historical Society description of the old cemetery, shortly after Mr. Craig turned over its care to the city, identifies the northeast corner of the hill as “the place where the old Indian Chiefs conducted their worship.” The place was an ossuary rather than a regular cemetery, where the bones of distinguished chiefs were re-interred. Two similar places with square, rough stones were near Flint, Michigan and “at the mouth of the Rouge.” It is possible that the stones at the mouth of the Rouge and at Plymouth are related, and even that they indicate that these were Algonquian places long before the 1700’s.

The stone may have been placed where the cemetery is now, or it may have been behind the cemetery, where there is now a large square hole. It would be more likely that the acre set aside for the Village Cemetery would be next to, rather than around, the black stone, if these indeed coexisted there for five years, from 1845-1850. Depressions in the ground there may indicate graves from prior to the founding of the Plymouth Village Cemetery. One depression is filled with sticks, with a metal pan with stones in it on one side, characteristic of Potawatomi graves. A piece of cloth as from a blanket is visible where an animal has burrowed on the other side. There are also remains of a very old fence, some sheet metal and much older metal below it, coal and an old stove burner. There are markings on the trees from an attempt to harvest maple sap. Maple syrup is one key to our mystery. These things, the metal, stove burner and evidence of making maple syrup, may be related to early twentieth century visits to this place by the Potawatomi or Ottawa. The railroad had not yet come down what was Division Street, and the Wilcox Mill had either just been built, in 1845 by Holbrook, or was being built, in 1850 by a Mr. Rogers, to be sold to Holbrook. Henry Holbrook is the second key. In a Plymouth centennial newspaper article preserving the memory of Mrs. Charnock, an early Old Village resident, Holbrook is said to have lived on the north side of a street which ran east and west, near Main street, across from Mrs. Lyon, and across from Mrs. Charnock in 1853, when she was only seven or eight years old. Mrs. Charnock lived “…on the street that went over to the burying ground which Henry Holdbrook gave to our part of the town for a perpetual burying place.” Holbrook, then, lived either at the Hardenberg-Wilcox house or, as is most likely, on Pearl or Division and Main, now renamed Holbrook Street. Mrs. Charnock later lived with the Hackett family, which indeed has members buried in the Village Cemetery. Samuel Hackett, whose stone was in the valley, appears in one set of the Village Cemetery records as having lived from 1787-1860. Irwin Hackett, Nelson and Theodore Mason, a son and a younger brother of Mrs. Charnock are said to be buried there, though only Theodore, who “gave his life to free the slaves,” appears in the cemetery records.

Hudson, citing Holbrook, writes that in about 1850, someone removed the dark slate-like stone. The Algonquians may have lacked the means, to move the stone unseen, and thought in any case that the stone should always remain there, though the threat of development nearby may have incited them to do something. Hoffman describes the wooden sledges used on early farms to move stones and barrels of syrup. As David White points out, they need only have had the purpose, and they once moved the stone to the top of the hill. Leopold Pokagon did have a single axle wagon and had visited the area after the death of Tonquish, though Pokagon died in 1841. The Potawatomi of the St. Joseph area have no public knowledge of the stone having been taken there, and a journey down the Chicago road would seem unlikely. The Potawatomi of Walpole Island, just across the border in Canada, similarly have no public memory of the stone being taken there or elsewhere. Moving the stone would be quite a project, if it is a square rather than a thin rectangle. If the stone had been moved by European Americans, as by the early caretakers of the Baptist cemetery, or for use in the building project of a nearby settler, it is likely that Holbrook would know of it. He was vice president of the Village Cemetery Society from 1846-1850, when it was resolved that the dead be moved from plots not paid for to public lots. There is no confirmation that this was ever done. Riverside Cemetery was not established until 1880, and so the public lots in 1850 may have been the Presbyterian cemetery. At Riverside along the Rouge are two square black, though not slate-like, stones that are three by three and one half and three by four feet, one with a square end which might have been the top. These are the best candidates of all the stones I have seen in my search. Though no carved pictures are obvious, one of these stones has a layer which looks a bit like the winding snake in the description of Mrs. Gilbert. This stone seems to have been used for part of an old bridge on the Shattuck property, and has metal bolts inserted into the rock, secured by some kind of metal, melted into the drilled holes. Yet what remains as the most likely of all possibilities is that the Potawatomi buried the stone or hid it somewhere nearby.

Citing the Julia Gatlin Moore Papers, Mrs. Gilbert relates that in the spring of 1927, a group of Native Americans celebrated the centennial of their removal with solemn rites at a branch of the Rouge adjacent to Ford Field in Dearborn, Michigan. At that time, they came into the Plymouth area and “removed something pertinent to their celebration.” She speculates that they may have dug up the stone altar and taken it with them. Two broken shovels were also found behind the Plymouth Village Cemetery, which may account for the large square hole. Yet these shovels seem more recent than 1927, and are mentioned in the journal of Collopy. Remnants of a stove burner and sheet metal were found in the ground, near the depression with the old metal pot with stones in it. Mrs. Emrick describes how she and Paul Emrick– who’s ancestry included an Indian woman of the Ohio Valley– put bails on potato chip cans and collected maple sap, which was then boiled using sheet metal to set the can on the coals. A wooden hut near the cemetery fence at Pearl and York, like one found by Dr. Bowen long ago at the cemetery on North Territorial, may indicate that Potawatomi or Ottawa have visited both these places in the past century. Such huts are said to mark Ottawa cemeteries near Mackinac. David White also adds that the Indians would leave the materials for harvesting maple sap in the woods at the site, for later use. This appears to have been done at the Pearl and York site sometime in the past century.

The stone on the hill remains the central mystery of Plymouth prehistory, connecting local questions to the broader world of national and human history. We do not know who put it there, what it meant, whether it was engraved, whether it was movable and moved up and down or always remained there, and especially, what became of it or where it might be. Both the Algonquians and the city of Plymouth have a great deal to learn from one another, and one wishes the Potawatomi or Ottawa would somehow come to share in the care of these two places, informing the city of the importance of that area. Both might benefit from a careful study and preservation of the area suited to a cemetery. It may be possible just now to establish the existence of graves there, as with a sonar search or other methods suited to the reverence due a cemetery. It may also be possible just now to set aside the ancient differences of nation and religion that have kept this matter obscured. By this we might fulfill the intention of the Declaration and the First Amendment, recognize a grave misfortune, right an ancient wrong, and return the stone to its place in Plymouth history, keeping this amazing hill and hillside sacred to the memory of all of those past.



Aretz, Diane. “Hidden History.” IndoorOutdoor, October 2004.

Bakhaus, Hildreth M. “History of Green Oak Township,” in South Lyon Aria Centennial, 1973.

Clifton, James A. The People of the Three Fires. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Grand Rapids Inter-tribal Council, 1986.

Collopy, Ronald. Plymouth Village Cemetery. Plymouth, Michigan: Ronald Collopy, 1972.

Dunnigan, Brian Leigh. Frontier Metropolis. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001.

Edmunds, R. David. The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

Gilbert, Helen. Tonquish Tales. Plymouth, Michigan: Pilgrim Heritage Press, 1984.

Gilbert, Helen. Tonquish Tales II. Plymouth, Michigan: Pilgrim Heritage Press, Copyright filed.

___________. “Tragic trip to Kansas brings death to hundreds.”, December 8, 1983.

 History of Washtenaw County, Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & co., 1881.

Hoffman, Jack. Northville…The First Hundred Years. Northville, MI: Northville Historical Society, 2005.

Hudson, Sam. The Story of Plymouth, Michigan: A Midwest Microcosm. Plymouth, Michigan: Plymouth Historical Society, 1976.

__________. “The Beginning of Riverside.” The Observer and Eccentric. July 24, 1975.

__________. “Much History in Cemetery.” The Observer and Eccentric. August 14, 1975.

__________. “Prominent Settlers in Deserted Graves.” The Observer and Eccentric. August 24, 1978

__________. “Abandoned cemetery was started by pioneer.” The Observer and Eccentric. August 31, 1978.

__________. “Fate of cemetery still unsettled.” The Observer and Eccentric. September 7, 1978.

Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wayne County). Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1967. First Published by Beldon, H., & co., 1876.

Kerstens, Elizabeth Kelly. Plymouth’s First Century: innovators and industry. Chicago,Il: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Mason, Ronald J. Great Lakes Archeology. New York: Academic Press, 1981.

Pioneer Resident of Plymouth Writes of early Village Days. Plymouth Mail, April 17, 1936.

Pokagon, Simon. Queen of the Woods. Hartford, Michigan: C.H. Engel, 1899; Reprinted, Barrien Springs, Michigan: Hardscrabble Books, 1972.

Van Kerckhove, Alan. The Plymouth Area Greenway. Plymouth, Michigan: Dietrich, Bailey and Associates, undated.



 Plymouth History article II: Eulogy for Elise Emrick

A speech delivered December 10, 2012 at Station 885 in Plymouth

Butter the Big Side of the Bread

Elise told me a saying of her father that I think of now every time I spread anything on a slice of bread: “Butter the big side.” Though we may have never noticed, a slice of bread from a loaf has a larger and a smaller side, and we spread the sweeter stuff on either one side or the other. The saying is a proverb as well as a practical teaching: Let the sweet stuff exceed the necessary just a bit, rather than fall short.

I did small jobs for Elise, ever since my brother did some painting for her many years ago, and I was working with him. Whenever I would come to work, she would begin by feeding me, some fruit in a bowl or some jelly toast, and we would talk for a bit.

Her generosity was everywhere across her table, but was especially shown in the care she took for her sister Dell, so that Dell could stay in her home in Melvindale. Elise is one of those rare jewels of humanity. Her conversation spread such sweetness over our necessary work, and was for me a gateway to the grace and decency more possible for the people of a more innocent time, in a way comparable only to the hospitality of my wisest teacher and his wife, when they would have us to visit for dinners.

Paul Emrick, the husband of Elise, was so present in her home that it seems strange to me to think that I never met him. His picture there in the hunting knickers would greet each guest. We would often receive the sense that he was watching over her- if only through the rippling effects of the days of his life- and that we might help him to look out for her. This is not so strange if we remember that the guardhouse at the entrance to Emrick Estates was built with slate that came from the roof of a restaurant where they dated, and bricks from the old street in Plymouth by the Mayflower Hotel where they walked even in their courtship.

To be taught by the great people in her life was possible in part because of the way Elise would tell a story. She would not only say that this or that occurred, but would transport her listener to the very scene, reciting dialogue and events in such amazing detail that the story would come to life. So she would often have me rapt in the air of pre-World War II Detroit, at its peak in the Twenties and Thirties, when it was a living and very beautiful city, walking with her old French mother to the market with the wagon, and the French cooking that would follow, or playing on dump trucks as they dumped trash into the river, or sneaking food from the cellar for the Hobo’s by the railroad, or watching her mother set sandwiches on the trash can where the hungriest would find them, in what must have been near to the Great Depression. I can almost see her face when, at twelve years old, she would drive the family car to get her brother at the factory, or on her first date with Paul, when she followed him in ordering what turned out to be raw oysters, because she did not understand the menu, or having a minor wardrobe malfunction while diving on a date to a swimming hole, after which Paul joked that now he would have to marry her.

In closing, one of the many stories that we should all collect and remember is that of when Elise asked her old French father why, when he poured the wine at dinner, he would first pour a bit in his own glass, then fill her mother’s glass before proceeding around the table, adding a bit to some water in the glasses of the children, before returning to to pour his own last. Elise had watched him do this for many years, without understanding what he was doing. The mystery, it turned out, was that he poured the bit in his own glass first in case there might be a bit of cork floating in the top of the wine in the bottle, so that his wife and others would not be troubled by it, and he could watch for it, knowing it was there.

When I learned of her passing, I went and looked long out my picture window, and thought: “So this is what the world is like without Elise.” But this is what the world is like, sweetened by Elise! There are many many more stories, though I fear I have already gone over the edge a bit. In honor of her and her great heritage, Let us butter the big side of the bread!

26 thoughts on “Plymouth, Michigan History: The Stone, and “Eulogy for Elise Emrick”

    • I know where the stone is, but what a shame I am compelled to leave it there along with the other artifacts they used for their ceremonies. The chief’s wife was buried their along with the stone and the artifacts by the respect and great loss of her husband (The Chief) and her son, the tribes respected them by leaving the stone and the ceremonial artifacts with her. You can believe this or not but she is a territorial spirit now and she protects her grave and all the ceremonial artifacts including the black stone, because I met her and she showed me. I found my answer even though it gave me a chill I found my answer. God Bless you brother, Norman Slater

      • Good to hear from you! I’ve been treadin’ water, pretty smoothly in the summer, trying to garden. I am the lamest farmer, growing vegies for rabbits! Write down what you can, and keep thinkin’! Like dreams, they have meaning. Maybe the Pottawatomi will become interested someday. Walpole Island did not respond. My friend Chris wanted to visit our hill in Plymouth, where the stone used to be, and soon we will go!

  1. When a home was being built on Mercedes Lane in Salem Township, circa late 1993 or early 1994, a ‘body’ was found while digging the septic or basement. Michigan State Police contacted UM Anthropology Dept who later determined it to be a Native American approx 3500 years old.

    • Wow! I never heard about that. Where is Mercedes lane? 3,500 years is older than the 1000 year old ossuary found at fox hills there by Ann Arbor Trail. A U of M Archaeologist from the forties places a dot for a 10,000 year old site at * mile just east of Napier, but I never learned the story of that find. We think we find very old tools, like not the kind Pottawatomie made in the 17 and 18oo’s, but old stone age, like the mammoth hunter guys, but we are not sure.

  2. Mercedes Lane is between Curtis & Gotfredson on the north side of N Territorial. Very close to Fox Hills Country Club.

    When it happened, I think there was a small blurb in the AA News or the South Lyon Herald. Don’t know the address of the house but it is the last one on the right hand side. Two homes were being built around the same time; don’t recall the name of the owner where ‘body’ was found but it was NOT Snodgrass.

    • Wow! North Territorial is of course a very ancient trail, for example branching up angle road to the Potowattomi trail in Kensington. The square roads are from the white guys, while all the irrational roads are ancient trails. (There is of course that nice old map of the trails, horse roads and coach roads, in the set of Salem history maps.) North Territorial goes past Emrick Orchard/estates where Mrs. Emrick’s husband Paul found an Indian well buried by the crick- and it is still there, under the road. There is apparently exposed flint there. How ancient might the trail of North Territorial be! A copper knife was found at Walled Lake, but there are very few traces even of the Mound Builders, who came up to mine copper and run around the woods of Michigania. But 3,500 years is older than the Mound Builders!

  3. Thank you for sharing but I believe there is more to the story then what the white writters want us to believe. First of all why would they murder the only two chiefs of the Patawatami tribe leaders in one swift move and two, who is the wife of chief Tonquish and what happened to her? According to tradition the women was a jewel and well treated amung the tribes so well loved that her mate would be willing to sacrifice starving to death for her well being. This begs the question if they are so well loved would they not be entrusted with sacred artifacts and if so hide them well to keep their rivelries at bey even unto death waiting for the right time to reviel what holds to be the most sacred to their people until the right time in history to reviel them. Her nae and what she new was burried with her until now. The rest of this story will come to light when I finish my research with Mr Mcdonald. I have shared some interesting information that might just be what we have been seeking all these years….the truth. Norman Slater

    • I am not very good at this stuff. I need to find a shamon who can help me understand what is going on. I need to get answers. I am thinking of just going there and doing it. I need a plan. But I also need to find out who she is and why she went out of her way to show me that particular spot. We need to get together and pay the owners for the time and just do it. I will do it myself if I have to. Sorry I misses your call, I have copd and have pain and take norco for pain and am out until tuesday so I need to have my doctors subcribed medicine in order to get around unless you can help me with that, ill have to wait my friend. let me know. It sucks but its reality. call me.

      • I’ll call tomorrow, or you can call me any time. I set a message to the Pottowatomi chief, he’ll get it tomorrow, but they may not understand. The Dowajiak are slow, but the Walpole Island Pots sent Mr. Whit a couple years ago. I will go with you, and show you all I have found. You are right about the wife of Tonquish! I think, anyway. Remember, you do not have to know, and what you experience is not disturbing. One foot in front of the other. I’m sure they will let us dig, and with the Chief would come. We are taking an argument to the Supreme Court this week !

      • Not to burden you my friend but I need the name of Mrs Gilberts husband, I think this would serve greatly.

      • I don’t remember, but I’ll look. I don’t remember her mentioning that in Tonquish Tales I or II. Simon’s Queen of the Woods is so beautiful, and I have a copy. She was alone in the woods at the age one learns language, so she learned to talk to the animals, and could call them like Tarzan! The hunters tried to use her.

  4. These comments are moved from the Contact Information page, where they were originally posted-MM

    Norman Slater
    January 13, 2017 at 6:43 am EDIT
    I know where the black stone is, I don’t think you will believe me but a women spirit visited me and shook me awake and said she had something to show me, a couple of months later while I was working on an old abandned house she appeared in daylight as my wife of all things and showed me in the backyard, this is off of Inkster rd on one of the back roads, one of the first roads from the 1800s I did some research and found that this was the area where the Potawatomi lived. She showed me where to find the black stone and a kettle with a snake and a sun and stars. as far as I know they were the keepers of the fire. This has great mistical meaning. believe me or not. but I swear to you that this actually happened and I know exactly where it is and so I left it alone to wait until there is someone there to dig it up with me because I am a bit freaked out by the whole thing and need someone there with me. The ground has not been disterbed. my name is Norm and I am a Christian man and have no reason to decieve you.

    January 13, 2017 at 9:21 am EDIT
    I do indeed believe you! This is great! The Copper Kettle is written of in a book about mysteries of Michigan History. It was last seen about 18 30’s when a guy brought it in to put a bail or handle on it. They found it in the roots of a tree, and it comes from the mound builders

    January 13, 2017 at 9:23 am EDIT
    Now, at Ann Arbor trail and Newburg is where a village was, and it may be on the 1807 treaty of Greenville map. I found a shell there with a hole in it, and there is archaeological stuff in the bank of the rive by the waterfall- nice spot.

    January 13, 2017 at 9:28 am EDIT
    One of the graves of Tonquish is right there by Inkster rd. where there are two overpasses, in a certain lot known from the oldest homeowners properties. It belongs to the Potowatomi at St. Joseph. They and the Ottowa should be informed, but the Ottowa do not like white guys, cause they messed with them a lot, all the way back to the “black robes”. In a book by .(its in the notes to my paper there) the Plymouth library, bottom shelf is a book of maps, and on an old map it seems to show a mill there at Nankin mills in the 1700’s.

  5. I am not white or indian or black or hispanic, I am a Christian and as such I am like God (Colorblind) lol, if they do not see spirit as is in their reasoning then the spirits themselves would be Forbearance.

    • Ok, Norm, here’s some stuff: Tonquish is the nephew of Topinabee, the Potawatomi cheif who lived in Cass County, out west by St. Joseph (Gilbert, p. 21). He was himself not Potawatomi, but his wife was, just as you guessed, Potawatomi (Gilbert, p. 19). Tonquish signed his name as a Chippewa, also called Ojibwa, and with the Ottawa, these make the three Algonquin tribes that split up at Mackinac, having come from the Algonquins east of there, the vast tribe stretching throughout Canada and east of the rocky Mountains.and in conflict with the Iraquois. He must have married the sister of Topinabee. Their father was Aniquiba (p. 57) Tonquish took part in the massacre at Fort Dearborn, as did other Potawatomi from the Huron river area, while Topinanbee did not. Topinabee sent Leopold Pokagon, his adopted son and nephew, to preside in Plymouth when Telonga became the next chief of the Potawatomi in this area, and we think this occurred in Plymouth (Gilbert, p. 31). In section 4 of Nankin township, about one mile west of the Dimmik farm, Tonquish and his son were buried, with a protective fence around two graves. I’ll get out my Nankin map, and locate the section 4 and the farm along Hines and the rouge there. This is the grave that was disturbed by boys in 1837, and then they moved the bones. Chris, my friend, thinks they moved the bones to Plymouth, which is where the amphitheater-like place is (p. 26). The Ottawa told Holbrook that Chief Roundhead, a Maimi, was buried there, and Holbrook saw seated burials eroding out the side of what must be an ancient Moundbuilder cemetery, right there behind the Pearl Street Cemetery. Sonar would reveal many graves. This Roundhead is probably the one that died in the war of 1812 (his father had the same name, and a county in Ohio is named after them). The “altar” was supposed to be a “masterpiece in carved stone,” but the Potawatomi did not carve stone, as far as we know, and so we bet the stone was found there by them, having been placed by the mound builders. Holbrook saw the Ottawa there in 1832. Helen writes that the base of the pot is a large rock of hammered stone. “Intricately carved around it perimeter is a winding snake- “symbol of life and power (?).” In the background is a large sun and a number of stars. Scattered among the stars are “symbols of fertility and faith,” though it is always a bit of a joke when outsiders try to explain the symbols of others. But there on page 34, she describes the fire, of which they were the keepers, and this is the pot, of the pot-awatomi! It makes much more sense that the sun and stars were on the pot.

      The stone disappeared in 1848 from that spot, where there is a depression. I think a farmer took it to build a bridge, and that I have found it. The rock I have in mind has a very old iron post in it, set with molten metal, and if this bolt is from 1848, we have our stone, though the bolt may have been set later too.

  6. One source for Helen Gilbert must be Melvin D. Osband (1886)in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection, writing about the death of Tonquish. This Mr. Osband saw the wooden fence there in Nankin when they arrived in about 1825-6. Henry Holbrook saw the seated skeletons, and says 150 year old trees were there in 1835. He says: One day, about 1835, Indians appeared on the hill-some thirty or forty in number-before a square black stone some three feet high, somewhat resembling an altar This stone remained always on the hill, and was called Bab-o-quah. They would recite very solomnly some verses or story, which appeared to be directed by one of their prophets, as though worshiping the great spirit. They would then smoke a pipe, after which they would proceed on their way. There was a semicircular growth of huge pines there…about 1850, somebody removed the dark slate-like stone” (Sam Hudson, p. 24) The stone was in the midst of the semicircle of pines, and they would come there, probably at solstice. There is also reference to another place five miles east of Plymouth, which would be Ridgewood cemetery by Emerick creek, at the end of Tonquish creek.

  7. The source for Henry Holbrook is Donaldson Craig. Holbrook is shown in a scene from 1845 by Wm. B. Grow, Baptist minister, whose church was in the old village across from the Cemetery. Holbrook built the Wilcox house and mill, and Mrs. Harnack knew him and reports. He later moved to Grand Rapids, in 1854, and seems to be the son of the elder Detroit Mr. Holbrook, who also a street named after him there.

    Holbrook, H.B. Recollections. In a collection of papers compliled by Donaldson Craig, 1956.
    There is a 1 1/2 page Donaldson Craig paper on the Pearl Street Cemetery in the Burton Library, but they declined to send a copy out to Plymouth. My one visit there, it was closed!

  8. Hi there, my name is JoElla and I’ve come across your blog because of my interest in the Old Baptist Cemetery. My partner and I walk past it with our dog daily, and we just realized what’s behind the gates. While we were hoping to go to the cemetery, after reading your article I find that it would be incredibly disrespectful without proper authority and leadership. I would love to learn more about the history of this space, (the true history-not just the whitewashed one) and would love any resources or information you may have. Thank you for posting this, and I really hope to hear from you soon!

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