Chesaning Township officials consider exhuming graves

Associated Press
Chesaning Township Supervisor Bob Corrin looks over the bank of the Shiawassee River at the edge of Wildwood Cemetery in Chesaning Township, Mich.

Chesaning— Chesaning Township officials are contemplating exhuming dozens of graves at a cemetery threatened by ground erosion from a nearby river.

A line of tombstones in Wildwood Cemetery stands precariously close to the edge of a steep cliff that drops down to the Shiawassee River, MLive reported. The drop-off has gotten closer to the cemetery as water has eaten away at the bank.

Township Supervisor Bob Corrin said officials are watching the erosion closely and preparing to relocate the graves farther from the river’s edge, if necessary.

“We won’t move anything until we see some deterioration starting,” he said.

Two years ago, the township moved two bodies about 20 feet farther away from the river.

Corrin said the erosion began about 15 years ago and that he believes improvements made to the river bank since then will slow or stop the problem.

“We’re just hoping this thing stabilizes itself,” Corrin said.

Several graves from the late 1800s sit very close to the edge of Wildwood Cemetery in Chesaning Township. Portions of the township's Wildwood Cemetery are collapsing into the Shiawassee River due to erosion. This has prompted township officials to start the process of attempting to contact relatives of those buried along the riverbank, so that the bodies may be exhumed and moved to a different part of the cemetery. Some of the graves are more than 100 years old.

The law requires the township to post information in the local newspaper prior to exhuming and moving bodies. If there are no responses officials can seek permission through the court system.

The township is seeking approval for about 20 graves and is compiling a list of graves that might be in danger, Corrin said.

For more than 150 years, the cemetery has existed along the banks of the Shiawassee River, and most of the graves are 100 to 150 years old.