Rose Center Cemetery

Rose Township

The land that officially became Rose Township in 1837 was likely first home to Native Americans long before that. Evidence for this includes prehistoric artifacts found in the area and the existence of a significant Native American trail that cut diagonally across the land. By the 1830s this trail had turned into a rough road and people began to purchase land along it for farms. That road runs right in front of this cemetery today.

Buckhorn Village

As more people settled in the township a small village began to form where Demode Road intersects with Milford Road today. There was a failed attempt to build a mill there by John A. Wendell. However, Buckhorn Village soon had a small tannery, a store, a blacksmith shop and a hotel. The hotel also served as the post office and a stagecoach stop.

Rose Center

When the Holly, Wayne and Monroe Railroad was built through Rose Township in the 1870s, the commercial center shifted down the road and Buckhorn Village was replaced by Rose Center. Buildings included a depot, stores, a blacksmith shop and eventually the Township Hall.

Rose Center Cemetery

The Rose Center Cemetery began as a ½ acre parcel deeded to Rose Township for a “public burying ground” by John A. Wendell in the late 1830s. According to historical sources the first death in the township was that of one year old Melissa Coffin, the daughter of Alvah Coffin, an early settler. She was buried on the farm of John A. Wendell and it is likely the cemetery developed in this spot. Over time the cemetery was enlarged and it became the final resting place for numerous Rose Township residents.

Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks kept the family farm going after becoming a widow with 3 young sons

Elizabeth Hicks was born in 1820 in Charlton, New York and was the daughter of John A. and Elizabeth Wendell She moved to Rose Township with her parents in 1836. Her father was elected the first Township Supervisor and first Postmaster of Rose.

Around 1840 she married Benjamin C. Hicks who had come to Rose in 1835 with his parents, Benjamin D. and Phebe Hicks. He had purchased 160 acres in section 35, making him one of the earliest land owners in the township. The 1840 census shows Benjamin C. and Elizabeth living on that land with his parents.

Sadly, Benjamin C. died in 1853 leaving Elizabeth a young widow with three young sons ages 10, 8 and 4. His cause of death is unknown. It was likely due to a progressive illness since he left a will behind, something few men in their forties did in those days.

Elizabeth continued to run the family farm and was listed as a ‘farmeress” in the 1860 census. Eventually her three sons all had farms adjoining hers.

Elizabeth never remarried and died of heart disease in 1890. She was buried here next to her husband. Two of her sons, Charles and John, are also buried in this cemetery along with many other family members.

Elizabeth is an excellent example of the hardships faced by pioneer women in the 1800s and the resilience they showed throughout their lives.

John A. Wendell

John A. Wendell served as first Supervisor and first Post Master of Rose Township

Members of the Wendell family were prominent early settlers in Rose Township and Buckhorn Village. Many family members were buried here in Rose Center Cemetery. Prior to becoming a cemetery, this land was owned and farmed by John A. Wendell, patriarch of the family. A story in the 1877 Rose Township history book states that a one-year-old relative of the Wendell family passed away while visiting the family and was buried on this portion of the Wendell farm that eventually became the Rose Center Cemetery. Deeds show the family donating the land as a 'public burying ground'.

Land records of 1836 show a rush of settlers that year, many from New York state. John A. Wendell, whose parents came from Holland, was one of those early settlers. A veteran of the War of 1812 who served as a teamster, Mr. Wendell came from Saratoga County, New York, with his wife Elizabeth after acquiring land from the government. Several of the Wendell sons including Joseph, Everett, Cornelius and William also settled in Rose Township.

John Wendell was an enterprising man and anxious to see the township of Rose develop. Knowing that mills were often essential to the growth of an area, he attempted to build a mill on the Buckhorn Creek. Unfortunately, he ran out of money. He turned the mill into a small tannery which he eventually sold to his nephew A.W. Buell.

From the beginning, John A. Wendell was active in local government. He was elected the first supervisor of the township and served several terms. He was also the township’s first postmaster serving in that capacity from 1838 until his death in 1858. He also served as township clerk and Justice of the Peace during some of his years in Rose. In 1841 he was elected as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Several of John Wendell’s sons played significant roles in the history of Rose Township. Joseph C. became a very successful farmer owning many acres of land. Everett owned the Buckhorn Hotel for a while and also served as postmaster after his father’s death. Cornelius V. ran a blacksmith shop at Rose Corners and later at Buckhorn Village.

John Wendell died as the result of an accidental fall down a stairway at a tavern in Whigville in Genesee County on February 18, 1858. He had gone to Flint to purchase lumber and had stopped to spend the night at the tavern on his way home. He was buried here in this cemetery that had once been his farm land.

Ahasuerus W. Buell

Ahasuerus W. Buell built the Buckhorn Hotel and ran a small tannery as well as a store

John A. Wendell was one of the people who attempted to start a mill in Rose Township. When Wendell’s funds ran low, he turned the mill building into a small tannery. In 1847 he sold the building and the land it was on to his nephew Ahasuerus W. Buell. Like his uncle, Buell had come to Rose Township from New York in the 1830s.

Buell made repairs to the old mill building and turned it into a dry goods and general merchandise store. There was even a small tannery where buckskins were tanned. He also built a small tavern/hotel next to the building. It became known as the Buckhorn Hotel.

Less than two years after building the hotel, Buell sold it to Everett Wendell, a son of John A. Wendell. After selling, Buell built a store across from the hotel near what today is the corner of Milford and Demode Roads.

In 1854 Buell moved to Holly and opened a dry goods store there said to be the first such store in Holly. In 1857 and 1858 he platted additions to the village of Holly. He held various offices in Holly including school director and township supervisor. In 1863 he was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. While serving as a member of the House he died in Lansing on March 8, 1863. He was buried here in this cemetery. His wife and four daughters, who all died young, are also buried here.

Joel Phelps

Joel Phelps served as a soldier during the Revolutionary War

Rose Center Cemetery has the honor and distinction of having Joel Phelps, a Revolutionary War soldier, buried here.

Joel Phelps was born in 1755 and enlisted in June 1775. He served as a sergeant in a Massachusetts regiment. Sgt. Phelps re-enlisted in 1776 and was taken prisoner by the British in Canada. In 1777 he was wounded. Phelps was then appointed Quartermaster to accompany General Burgoyne to Virginia. In 1779 was he became an issuing commissary and served for a year at Saratoga, New York.

During his service he fought in the battles of Cedars, Trenton, Princeton, Bound Brook and Wyoming.

He married Anner Baney who was born in 1767 and together they had 12 children, seven sons and five daughters born between 1788 and 1815.

He was pensioned in 1818 while a resident of Bloomfield, Ontario County, New York. In 1836 when two of his sons moved to Oakland County, he and his wife accompanied them. His son Aaron settled in Milford where he ran a mill and a distillery. His son Henry settled in Rose Township and was elected first clerk of the township. Joel and Anner lived with Henry.

Joel Phelps died in 1838 and was buried in this cemetery. It would have been one of the first burials. His wife Anner was likely buried here also although no record of that currently exists.

According to historical records, the General Richardson chapter of the D.A.R. of Pontiac located and marked the grave of Joel Phelps in August of 1920.

Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton came to Michigan from New York in 1843 with just $25 in his pocket

Here lies Peter W. Sutton, an early Rose Township settler, who purchased his first parcel of property in Rose in 1846. Born in 1818 in New Jersey, Peter grew up on a farm and attended the local school. His family moved to Genesee County, New York when Peter was 15. He was known to be a good singer and taught singing for several school terms.

At the age of 20, he began working rented land. He married Frances Bird in 1837. Then in 1843, They came to Michigan with their four children and settled in Oakland County. Since $25 was all he had in his pocket when he first reached Detroit, Mr. Sutton rented a farm for three years. In 1846 he was able to buy eighty acres in Rose Township in section 14 and proceeded to clear the timber and put it in a “state of cultivation”. He built a log house and farm buildings by the creek where the family lived until the children were grown. In a list of Rose Township businesses in 1872, Peter W. Sutton is listed as a farmer, stock and grain grower.

Mr. Sutton had added another 40 acres in 1847 across the road in Section 11, and in 1888, he built a 14- room home at wat is now 1905 Davisburg Road. Peter’s grandson Arthur J. Sutton lived on the original farm until 1955 when it was sold to new owners. There was a branch of the Shiawassee River that ran along the west side of the property which was dammed up about 1960 and Lake Braemar was formed.

Frances Sutton died in 1884. Peter remarried in 1887 to Sarah Baldwin, the widow of Julius Baldwin. Sarah was almost 30 years younger than Peter. Some historical records suggest this second marriage caused friction in the Sutton family. That may explain why Peter’s information on this monument was never finished after he died in 1898 at the age of 80.

Many other members of the Sutton family continued to live in Rose Township. Two of his sons, Peter W. Sutton II and Nathan Sutton purchased a 160 acre farm on Milford Road, just south of Davisburg Road. One of his sons, Joseph, owned a farm on Oakhurst Road and around the turn of the century grew potatoes as a business.

Ben East

Ben East worked to gain preservation of and National Park status for Isle Royale

Many of the East family were born, lived and farmed in Rose Township. One third generation East family member, Ben East, became famous.

The East brothers, Thomas and Stephen, and their wives as well as children, came directly from England to Rose Township in 1846.

After arriving in Rose Township, Thomas East and his wife Dinah had more children. His son Darwin East owned a farm on Rattalee Lake Rd. where his famous son Ben East was born. Ben grew up hunting and fishing on his family’s farm.

Ben East began his career as an outdoor writer for the Grand Rapids Press and worked there for 26 years. His work focused on local hunting and fishing as well as environmental threats to local water resources. He worked to gain preservation of, and national park status, for Isle Royale in Lake Superior. He was instrumental in gaining State Park status for Tahquamenon Falls and the Porcupine Mountains.

He wrote a number of adventure stories published in book form and was awarded several conservation awards and received recognition from the Michigan State Legislature in the early 1970’s. He was a member of the Outdoors Writers Association of America.

After his journalism career he returned to a home on School Lot Lake in Rose Township.

Joel McWithy

Joel McWith built a mill along the Buckhorn Creek in 1887

There were at least two early attempts to build a mill in Rose Township but the first successful mill was not built until the 1880s. It was built by Ephraim McWithy. He constructed it over Buckhorn Creek along what is now known as Joel Road. A nine-foot dam was the power source for the mill.

Upon his death his son Joel took over the mill and operated it for many years. He ran it as both a saw mill and a feed mill.

In 1886 Joel married Isadora “Lizzie” Pittenger who had grown up on the farm across the road from the mill. They had three children: Arthur, Edith and Vera. Upon Joel’s death his son Arthur took over the mill and in addition made whipple trees, neck yolks and baseball bats.

Joel died of stomach cancer in 1923 and was buried in this cemetery next to his wife Lizzie who had died of tuberculosis in 1911. Their son Arthur, who died in 1957, is buried near them.

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